I have memories of running away from home at least two times as a child.
The first was somewhere around 2nd and 3rd grade. My memory involves a sunny day, a backpack, saltines crackers and making it as far as the golf course just outside my neighborhood.
The second was in 4th grade and I walked over to the woods in a park close to my house and found some brush to camp out in. When I returned later that afternoon, no one knew I’d even been gone.
There was also that time I moved my entire bed and most of my bedroom into my walk-in closet (you can do that in those old houses). It didn’t last long before my dad vetoed it with authority saying that it was a “fire hazard”. He was big on that, using it several times when he didn’t like the condition of my room.
My need for space (open or confined) may have been a reaction to things going on in my family’s life at the time or simply normal childhood behavior, I am not sure. As the adult child of an alcoholic, I don’t do so well in knowing what is normal or not.
I was once again reminded about one of my favorite books as a child, My Side of The Mountain. It is the tale of a 15 year old boy who runs away from New York City to live in the Catskill Mountains. He lived in a hollowed out Hemlock during his adventure.
Standing in the hollow of that big tree, I remember when I was younger thinking about how wonderful that life would be.
In 4th grade, we had a project to build something. I can’t recall the theme (maybe a book report?) but I made a bow and arrow out of branches from the willow tree in our backyard.
And I wonder if there has always part of me that has longed to live in the wilderness and be a part of the land. To runaway. Is there a longing in all of us?
Wanting to connect with the story again, I reread it recently. I even watched the movie, circa 1969.
The studying of the plants and animals, learning and problem solving, solitude and self reliance. Things I still enjoy to this day.
And of course, like in the book, the realization that although we may long for solitude we are also called to companionship.
I have not outgrown my childhood urges to run away, I must admit. Whether it is work, relationships or life in general, there are times when I just want to say –screw this- and walk away. Hike away…
But I always come back. I am designed to be in communion with others.
Life is hard, but the joy of the presence of others outweighs the temporary peace of their absence.