“I tried to escape. But escape is like sleep. And when sleep is permanent, it’s death.”
–The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail, Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee
There’s that question: “What d’ya want to do with your life?” I don’t know what to think about it, but the earliest answer I remember giving is, “I want to be friends with Reepicheep.” To be honest, I still do. When I got old enough (or something enough) to think I needed an answer that involved a career, I imagined helping to run a school. The school would be somewhere beautiful, where students could study and then hike off through the hills to climb mountains, make friends, read poetry, get lost, and do some finding. Listening to all that, my friend Mike said, “You want a haven. A wild, safe place for people to grow up without some of the concerns they’ll face when they’re older.”
I thought about that.
I still want that: for myself, for others. I want a spring of water where we can drink for a moment, and remember the simple wonder of drinking. I want a safe, warm fire. I want cliffs to climb with new friends. I want a little grotto where we can rest–and wake up. I think we can find that place. In the play, Thoreau finds it at Walden. He finds it in jail. Last week I found it (a glimpse of it) at Rodeo Beach. I think we can make that place, for ourselves and for each other. I go back there when I laugh with my brother, or move rocks in the creek with my dad, or make art with my mom. There’s a “real world” out there, but this place of wonder, this wild, safe haven, this place is real, too.
Mike pointed out that, sooner or later, students would have to leave school and go into a place where politics are what they are, and hunger is what it is. And they will. As long as there are politics and hunger, they should, because we need their help. But I think it’s important, sometimes, to step back into sanity. To step back into safety. To step back into the magic world of young wonder, family love, and friendship like a creek laughing. We shouldn’t sleep forever–we should sleep sometimes. It’s how we put together yesterday’s lessons, and prepare for tomorrow.
We talk about an escape, but maybe it’s not an escape at all. Maybe it’s our well: we lower ourselves down, and hoist ourselves up, a bucket brimful of water gathered beneath the ground. Brimful of something to give.