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Posted on June 1st, 2012

Beyond the Wall

I’ve lived in the same house since I was born. The same town, the same street, the same property, the same backyard since 1991. Almost twenty years later, that’s still where I call home. Although I must admit, things look vastly different around here.

If you go down a long black driveway that has two humongous pine trees at the end, you’re coming down my driveway. You’d find a little blue ranch with white shutters, a two car garage, and a quaint little front door that probably had a beehive somewhere nearby. Going in through this door and up the first set of stairs brings you into the kitchen, but keep going- the sliding glass door to the backyard is just beyond there. Upon feeling the fresh air on your cheeks and the thick scent of allergies as you emerge onto the deck, you make your way left to the stairs and venture into the cozy grass; its green blades fluttering in the soft breeze as a butterfly floating in the wind. Tall trees shoot upward all around where you stand, blocking the yard in for complete and utter privacy. There is a house that has property right up against my backyard, but it’s invisible in the lush forests of spring.

The backside of my backyard is a line of trees- thick trees and little bushes overgrown and overflowing the rock wall they sit upon. There is a small wire fence hidden in these trees that you need to use as a step to climb on to get to the rock wall. The rock wall ran the entire length of my backyard, and still does. It was a glorious path to walk upon. The rocks were large and flat, perfect stepping stones to the beginning of an adventure. Even beyond this wall was a tiny trickling stream that tinkled its way along. Across the stream was a somewhat steep hill with its sideways tree branches and overgrown greenery tumbling down the muddy hillside. It was perfect.

This was my sanctuary. After a long day in elementary school, I would retreat to this wilderness in my old worn out sneakers, a pair of pants I didn’t care much about, and a light sweater that already had a hole in it. There was only one spot to get in. The wire fence was bent in such a way that it formed the most perfect step; the branches that fell around it shaped the frame of entry; the giant rock made a plump little stoop to reach into the doorway. Inside this second home of mine was peace and quiet. The only sounds involved the traveling stream and birds flying in and out of trees overhead.

I always made a point to climb one particular tree. It has such ideal branches for stepping and climbing upward. It was strong enough to hold my weight yet wiggled and wavered beneath me just enough to feel dangerous. As nice of a climb as it was, getting down was the exciting part. It involved trusting myself to make the appropriate leap and maintain my balance. It involved trusting the tree to hold me on its loving branch and embrace me so I would not go crashing to the muddy incline and tumble into the dirty stream below. In order to succeed I had to stretch out my short, childish arms so that upon jumping I would be able to grasp this branch; and once I jumped, I swung like Tarzan and wobbled to a halt on the branch below. A pleasant stroll along the gently flowing stream usually concluded my day beyond the wall.

The green flourishing leaves of spring would change to the colors of autumn, browning into a swirl of red and yellow and orange. After spending so much time out in my forest, I invited my older brother to come out and join me. Of course, this only led to some competition… and thus I was off to find a perfect location to create my fort. My first thought was to retreat to my tree that I loved climbing so much. With the right materials it would be perfect because of the way it grew sideways out of the inclined mud hill and leaned over the stream and up. Climbing up the tree would be a great way of escape and a fantastic look out post. Unfortunately my look out post only made my eyes green with envy. There was a giant thorn bush on the muddy incline that apparently had a convenient hole to climb into through the side without getting pricked. It was natural and required no additions to qualify it as a fort. If only I had stopped to see its perfections first…

I immediately decided my tree fort failed; I was to be on the attack instead since I had no place to call home. But of course there was no way to attack either. After creeping along the rock wall and over the mossy covered stone, I stepped gingerly across the stream and decided to move into his fort and occupy with him. There was no way I was going to win anyway, who was I trying to kid?

Once fall had passed, the snowy cold winters led to more excitement and capabilities. Thick sheets of snow began to cover everything, and with puffy snow gear and high boots for protection, the possibilities were endless. The chill of winter left most of the plants dead and lifeless. That included the thorn bush. The smell of fresh cut grass no longer sifted through the air; the crunching of dried autumn leaves changed to crunching of ice and snow. And with my thick clothing I would finally be able to leap over his defenses. Literally. I climbed into my old abandoned tree fort and prepared to make my leap. I was ready to go until I came to my senses and realized it was all together too far away. I then decided to grab the biggest broken tree branch I could find and attack the old fashioned way. Once war had broken out, I was able to climb on top of the evil thorn bush without any fear of getting wounded.

That thorn bush was awesome. It was comfortable with a cushion of snow and the padding of snow gear. I finally came to respect that thorn bush. Or so I thought. The peace that was between my brother and me for the five minutes we laid on top of that bush was gone once he decided to push me over its edge. Of course with my luck I didn’t just fall and get a little muddy or some snow down my back. I got hung up on the thorns. I hear the tear of my puffy pants, and as I hang desperately upside-down from this evil bush, I see a puff of cotton fall and blend with the snow. I find myself staring into the upside-down figure of my brother pointing and laughing at my misfortune. I then see the footprints of his large boots after he has gone and left me hanging, alone, in the cold of my chilly sanctuary. After listening to the silent hum of the winter breeze, I feel an itching in my ear, and after a scratch I find droplets of blood on my glove. I become alarmed; enough so to wiggle myself free and run as fast as I can to the safety of my house.

Years later, after so many changes have happened to my once blue and white house (which is now gray with purple shutters), the appearance of so many other things I used to know has changed. My house is bigger, the colors have changed, the entire appearance of my backyard has been altered since some really tall trees have died and were removed. Now, I could step over that wire fence anywhere I would like; there is no more door way. So many branches and plants are now broken and tattered. The stream is chock full of leaves and is barely noticeable anymore. The tunnel that was created by the plant life over the rock wall is gone. Through some limbs where I knew the door way used to be I could see that old thorn bush, dying and broken, snapped and destroyed. The fort that I saw perfection in was now falling to pieces, and it would probably never be able to go back to the way it used to be. The sad scene leads me to believe that nothing will last forever.

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