"I had dominion over all the earth and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. I saw the earth and its creatures not with the cool eye of the spectator, but with all the passion of a participant in whatever the extraordinary business is that we all of us are participating in, all of us in it together, as it is in all of us. There is no way to recapture fully the wonder and wildness of it." (Frederick Buechner, in The Sacred Journey)
What Frederick Buechner lacks in theological precision, he remedies in his ability to give voice to his remembrances. Here, he remembers childhood, that time when he "knew trees before I knew what a tree was or thought I did, knew the cool rustle and darkness of them shot through with flashes of green sun." He's describing childhood's time which is for most a time of just breathing in Creation, not analyzing it, living in and amongst it, not watching it go by the car window on the way to a glass and concrete building in which we work.
We are busy people, and I am as busy as the next, but I do not want to watch life go by while I fritter away my energy on things that don't last. Yesterday, I moved ten files from the inbox to the outbox, made an equal number of phone calls, responded to twenty or so emails, but I don't know what came of all that, what will endure. What will endure is lunch outside on my patio, watching a male and female cardinal feed and never, never leave each other. Never. That's an image that endures.
And another thing --- what was the last time you just lay down in the grass? Children do that all the time, and I suspect they're richer for it. There's life in the grass -- the color green, the good smell of earth, and the insects that go their way every day unaware of us, just Creation that keeps unfurling day after day after day. When I'm down there on the grass, I feel like I've got hold of the world. I'm resting on something solid, something made not bought.
We grow up and forget what it is to wonder, to live among trees, to wade in creeks just because, to build treehouses and live in them, to run all over Creation just for the pure sweet pleasure of it. Just because. What we need to do is remember that kind of life because I'm convinced it's close to Heaven life.
Childhood isn't really gone, not really past. As Beuchner says: "Memory is more than a looking back at time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still." I don't know exactly what he means, and maybe he doesn't either. But I suspect we cannot grasp what he's getting at, that in some mysterious way all those things that happened back then still live on. We experience them as gone, but maybe it's just that they exist somewhere else.
When we look and listen to Creation, when we rest mind and body on it, when we play for the sake of play, we come close to childhood. We begin to wonder again. Prayer is filled with thanks and wonder and less with the need of the moment.
I remember childhood -- the late summer evening games of capture the flag, our backyard empire that stretched from home to home uninterrupted by fence, pretend games of secret agent and cowboys and Indians, and long, long days filling even longer Summers. They're still out there somewhere.