The Water Lane was a rough, unpredictable path of mud and loose stones that ran alongside a stream. Thick vegetation lined each side, and tall trees blotted out most of the sun. It was a mysterious place for a child to wonder, and gaze at the flying insects that danced to birdsong among hazy sunbeams and shadows.
The passage ran into a valley, then began to follow the funnel-shape of the land toward the sea. Here the water entered the ground for the remainder of its journey, and the path emerged from the trees, revealing a view of tall pink cliffs bathing their feet in jewelled sea.
The Water Lane and the little beach to which it led, was our territory. My two brothers and me roamed freely, and it was in these young years that I learned to have an adventure.
A prominent memory I have is of our efforts to rear amphibians on a commercial scale.
My eldest brother James has a certain way with animals. Under his leadership, we became fairly successful in our endeavours to productively manage the local frog population. Each spring we took containers to the stream, and from a pool to the side, collected frogspawn. We transported it in convoy up the hill, to introduce to a small pond in the bottom right-hand corner of our garden.
We kept a close eye on the goings-on in this small, dank body of water. Once the black dots in the jelly had completed their intriguing transformation, they tended to fail to observe the boundaries of the pond, and had a habit of roaming far and wide throughout the garden. It was necessary to employ various pieces of equipment to hunt and recapture them. A fishing net was very effective, however the favoured tool was a car tire, in which the poor little beasts seemed to become easily trapped. They would then be escorted back to the murky waters.
These kind of memories are always in my thoughts when I go back to the Water Lane. A little of the excitement and the thrill begins to seep back into my bloodstream. I feel like a child again.
I love children; the way in which they view the world through eyes of wonder and intrigue is incredibly refreshing. They help me to remember that when you boil it right down, life is about enjoyment. When it becomes anything other than this, things begin to go a bit stale.
Recently I have become a little apprehensive about getting older. I don’t know why really, I suppose because I felt that the best, most fun-filled and carefree years of my life were behind me. My hairline also crept back to the point at which it all had to go. That has been a deep burn, unhelped by the seemingly constant need of people to point out my insufficiency in this area, in comparison to the shoulder-length curls that abounded not many years ago.
After a lot of thought though, I’ve come to quite a great conclusion. Becoming less carefree and more anxious, and having less fun and becoming more serious is not mandatory; it is a choice. This downhill journey is, in fact the result of thousands of little choices. How we make little choices everyday dicates the level of youthfulness and joy that we experience, no matter our age.
We choose everyday whether to think negatively about ourselves and others, whether to take a risk or play safe, whether to believe or to be cynical. Each time we pull the lever the wrong way, and shy away from trust and seeing the good, our focus is pulled a little more away from the beauty that surrounds us in people, nature or art, and is placed on self preservation. We begin to believe that life is about survival, rather than about enjoying the overflowing abundance that is available everyday. Aging is then naturally perceived as negative, because if preservation is the aim, we have chosen an impossible vision for our life.
By making good, little choices, everyday, I believe we choose to stay young, and keep our innocence and wonder. On top of this, we can gain all the good stuff associated with growing older, like wisdom, experience and deeper relationships.
If you feel like you’re journeying in the wrong direction, away from childlikeness towards anxious and meagre living, it is never too late to turn around. Start changing the way you make those little choices, start seeing the good.
If you want to be reminded everyday to never let you heart grow old, check out this beautiful A3 print, which inspired this post. Just give it a click to be taken to the Brock & Don store.