It’s one of those storybook evenings here in Oklahoma. The clouds are long and low, brilliant white on their face as the setting sun inches its way toward the horizon. There are buckets of minnows and boxes of worms, fishing line notched to red and white bobbers, rippling waves that bounce the pontoons closer and closer to the sandstone shores that form the waters edge, and a father and son.
I’m here with my brother-in-law and my nephew, enjoying the silent places in a hidden cove at the north end of this watery landscape…and I’m listening as a dad and his boy maneuver through the anecdotes of life on the water, of their great love for simple fishing, and of life as father and son.
The son fishes and the father senses it is something more. There are lessons to be learned here, time slows, and much-needed patience presents itself as bobbers float and sink and rest once again. The talk ebbs and flows and eventually settles into a near-perfect stillness.
Fish come and go, released back into their murky homes somewhere beneath us, while we laugh and talk and watch all that lies before us.
The sun draws our day towards its end, and we are all better for it.
We drove to the top of Mount Scott yesterday. It’s about two hours southeast of us and a place I had never visited but often heard about. We took this drive for one reason – my 82-year old grandparents. It is near the epicenter of their 69-year love affair; a beautiful area of the world they visited on teenage dates in the 1940’s. They called us earlier in the week and asked if we would like to visit the place and see it all through their memories. We were glad to – and now more than glad that we did.
As we approached the top of the mountain in our SUV, I asked them what had changed and they looked around for a moment. “Nothing really…except the route up here,” my grandmother admitted. “It was all dirt and gravel roads back then, nothing quite so manicured and perfect and painted as it looks now. But the view, that hasn’t changed a bit. The sky is still blue, the white clouds still roll over us, the rocks and flowers are still the same browns and greens and purples, and those boats there on the lake…right there…they still look like little toys from way up here.” My grandfather, never a fan of heights, added, “Still too high up if you ask me.”
For a bit of an adventure, the kids and I decided to climb down onto the rocks below the scenic viewing path that encircles the top of Mount Scott. These rocks were slippery smooth and the purple flowers that grew between them were enticing to our youngest. The kids took pictures and laughed and poked around, being as safe as three girls in flip-flops standing on the side of a mountain can be.
When I looked back up the path to see from where we had come, I caught a glimpse of my grandparents. They may have been talking, I’m not sure, but they were holding hands and clearly peering out onto the land below, their eyes squinting through the blazing sun that was nearly at its peak in the sky above them. I told the girls to look and to remember what they were seeing. For in that moment, we were transported in time to the teenage chapters of a long-written storybook, to a portion of my grandparent’s lives lived so long ago and yet living now so close to us that all we had to do to read it was drive them up a mountain just off I-44 and Highway 49.
The stories are everywhere my friends. They just keep coming…
My 8 year-old nephew is here with his sisters enjoying a summer vacation with their grandparents, who live near us on the other side of the farm, and we sat and talked for awhile last evening. He has been having bad dreams…well, one bad dream that recurs time and again, and his description of this dream is something like the great classic pieces of literature that have survived the ages! Now, don’t get me wrong about him. He knows exactly how to act his age and he is boy through and through (just ask us about the time he decided to hook one end of a bungee cord to his electric scooter and the other end to our swingset and then took off), but when he began to tell me about this dream he sat up straight and tall in his chair; even his voice went an octave lower than normal. His eyes were focused straight as an arrow, though not looking right at me, but somewhere off in the distance as he shared his story.
It is a simple dream really, no people other than himself and no elaborate sets – just a very deep and very dark lake, a seemingly endless wooden bridge, and a large circle that turns around in the middle of the lake. The bridge leads to the circle, always to the circle, no matter which way you are walking on the bridge. He says, “I just want to get somewhere else and find people, but the bridge keeps bringing me right back to the middle of this big lake and I end up sitting on this circle…thinking and thinking.”
Read his quote there one more time. Do you see it? That is a STORY my friends. He is a writer, a storyteller, a master at describing what he knows…and he doesn’t even realize it yet. My kids and yours are the same. They have stories to tell, things they know and understand that rest rumbling somewhere inside them just waiting to make their debut, to share with someone, anyone, who acts like they want to listen.
Something in the telling of his bad dream has helped my nephew, at least for now. We ended up deciding the stuff going on in his dream could really be quite an adventure after all, so he is making himself a boat out of different objects lying around the house and is going to sleep with it. I imagine you too can see the logic in creating such a boat. If you can’t, ask your kids and I bet they can tell you…all they’ll need is a moment of your time.