Originally published in KC Star Magazine, April 22, 2001
I lie on my back, staring up through the tree branches into the sunlit sky, white light filtered through the leaves. I deeply inhale the slightly decaying smell of autumn leaves. I stretch my arms straight out from my body and laugh. The laugh holds little meaning except for the silly, simple pleasure it brings.
My most favorite and remembered place is my parentsâ cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks. Although my father died more than 13 years ago and my mother has since sold the property, the smell of newly mowed summer grass or autumn leaves still brings back the haunting, pleasant memories of the Ozarks and the family cabin nestled in the woods. It was a special, mystical place where time stood still, allowing me to be any age I desired.
The highlight of certain days would be the drive to the local bait shop for fishing supplies. I would ask the storeowner for âminnersâ and then stand patiently watching his dry, leathery hands fill with small, silvery slivers of light, flipping this way and that, finally launching themselves into the void of space only to fall into a coffee can filled with cold, bubbly water.
Some days I would lie on the dock listening to the creaking of the cables and catwalk as the waves gentled lifted and swelled. I can still recall the gasoline-oil scent of distant outboard motors mingled with the smell of my own suntan lotion. I would lie in the warm sun, a glass of iced tea next to me, deeply engrossed in the latest comic book with a stack of others piled next in line.
Other times my father would let me drive the boat as fast as I could, racing around the lake with my hair flying in the wind. In the evenings I would lie in bed and watch the moonâs beams sparkling over the water and listen to the cacophony of the tree frogsâ song.
Looking back, I now realize this was the life of a true millionaire â a life replete with wealth but without monetary value.
Sometimes I would wander aimlessly in the woods listening to all the sounds around me. I can still hear the water lapping against the shore, the creaking of the boat dock against its moorings. I can hear children laughing, birds singing and the faint mechanical buzzing of boats and lawn mowers â the pleasant sounds of a relaxed life as each neighbor created his own memories. As my body wandered through the woods, my mind soaked in the nutrients of life and replenished my soul.
Whenever the world presses in on me from every side, I pause and remember it all so clearly. It is safely tucked away where rust, thieves or worry cannot penetrate. The roots of those memories are deeper in my heart than those of the mighty oaks that grow so abundantly â¦in the Ozarks.
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither.
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
J.R.R. Tolkien âLord of the Ringsâ