childhood

Oh, wasted youth

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I have a new favorite song this week … it’s “Lost Stars,” sung by Adam Levine (writing credit to Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Nick Lashley, and Nick Southwood), from the movie Begin Again, starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo.  Adam performs it in the movie, and on the soundtrack, as does Keira Knightley, who had never sung or played guitar before this, which I found pretty impressive.  Actually, I kind of prefer Keira’s version of the song to Adam’s, which is saying something, since I sure do love me some Adam Levine.  Mmm.  Hmm.  Can you say “yum?”

Oops, is that drool?  Ok, let me get back on track.  What was my point?  I was sure I had one.  Oh, yes.  The song.  It’s a beautiful song, and regardless of whose version you prefer, Adam’s or Keira’s, the lyrics are lovely, and I have been singing them just about nonstop this week.  (Not well, unfortunately.)  During which one line in particular in the chorus keeps jumping out at me:  “God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young ….”

Why indeed?  Yet that does seem to be too often the case.  At least if you ask anyone over the age of twenty-five. I remember the iconic scene in When Harry Met Sally in which Meg Ryan tearfully exclaims “And I’m going to be 40!”  To which Billy Crystal asks “When?” and Meg rejoins “Someday!”  At the time I was eighteen, and forty seemed like the dark side of the moon.  Unimaginable.  Some place I couldn’t see from where I stood, and so far off in the distance that I couldn’t imagine ever reaching it.  Now that 40 is in my rearview, I have a different perspective, of course.  Funny how that happens.

Now – I am not old.  I know that.  For one thing, age is a state of mind.  Although in that case, I am sure some of my friends would argue that I am far closer to eighty than forty.  What can I say?  I’ve always been something of an old soul.  But no, really.  I’m not old.  There are no orthopedic shoes in my closet.  I don’t have bifocals … yet. But the way I know that I’m getting older (note I said older, NOT old!) is the way that I find myself saying yes far more often than I say no. Because I figure … why not?  Might as well.  Don’t mind if I do.

This fall, for example, I am going to be driving 1,300 miles by myself, to attend a two day conference on something I know absolutely nothing about by myself.  Along the way I will be stopping in, among other places, Washington, DC, and touring our nation’s capital by myself.  Then I’m going to drive home roughly the same way I came by myself.  Did I mention I am going to be by myself?  I make a point of mentioning it because it’s something I have never done before. I am lucky – I have an immediate family I’m very close to, as well as a reasonably large extended family, and I am close to many of them as well.  I have good friends.  Although by nature I am someone who likes to keep my intimate circle rather small, the point is – I don’t need to go places alone. However, this particular trip is not one that interests any of my friends or family, except one who isn’t able to go, and in times past I would probably have let this deter me.  But I’m not doing that anymore.  This is an experience that means something to me, and I’m going, even though I have to go alone.

Maybe this means I’m maturing, but I choose to think of it as getting in touch with my inner child.  Not that a child would make a 2,600 mile road trip alone.  That would be unwise, not to mention illegal.  But when kids have the chance to do something fun, they generally seize it.  Eating chocolate cake for breakfast, jumping in a carefully raked pile of leaves in the fall, running through a sprinkler in summer, if the opportunity for fun and merriment presents itself, kids jump in with both feet and damn the consequences.  Which is of course why they need parents to look out for them, but that is not the point.  The point is – depending upon where you are in the journey, life is either very long or very short, but every day is a gift, and any kid will tell you that a gift should be opened, and enjoyed, immediately.

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Railroad to Nowhere

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I have always loved railroad tracks, as far back as I can remember, really, but looking back I think it actually started in the first grade. As a young grade-schooler the bus ride home, though only a couple of miles, often seemed interminable. I enjoyed school, but I couldn’t wait to get home at the end of the day, see my mom and baby sister, play outside. (This of course was back when kids still played outside, built tree forts, got into all manner of harmless trouble, and didn’t spend every waking moment staring at some screen or other, though we still enjoyed feeding endless quarters into the Miss PacMan machine at the bowling alley.)

For the entirety of my elementary school years, my bus driver was Mr. Williams, and I will always remember his deep baritone voice singing out “Railroad crossin!” as he stopped the bus at the tracks. Arriving at the railroad tracks meant I was halfway home, that the freedom I’d been anticipating all day would soon be mine.

Now that I live several hours from the town where I grew up and where my parents still live, I cross those same railroad tracks in the final miles of my homeward journey, and often I think of Mr. Willams, not a young man when I knew him, and long since gone to his reward. More often, though, I think, simply, “home.”

Or at least that’s the only reason I can think of that makes any sense when it comes to explaining why my heart seems to gladden when I catch sight of a set of railroad tracks. So when I found a set of rusty, long unused ones on a random drive-about close to home, I had to come back with my camera (and my trusty photographer’s assistant – aka my dog, Tucker) and spend some time there.

There were also these big hunks of metal and old concrete tunnels lying around nearby, and there was something beautiful and poignant about them to me in the dying light of a winter afternoon a few months ago. I’d like to go back again and shoot them again in a different light.

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