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Friday, November 1, 2013

A Child On a Swing

The darndest things come out of a pen. All my life I’ve been a writer, and yet I’ve never experienced what many writers call “writers’ block.” Getting started is the obstacle they face. With me, I make myself no promises as to what I’ll write. I just get an idea and go for it. Pity anything that stands in my way!

That’s how it worked when an idea came to me a few minutes ago. I was writing in my journal, remembering how it used to be in my childhood when I’d get onto a swing. Robert Lewis Stevenson’s verse in the little book of his poems I loved as a child says it well.

How do you like to go up in a swing, 
Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
Ever a child can do! 

That child in me literally yearns sometimes to get into some of the swings I’ve known and fly away. If I had my way, it’s how I’d like to depart from this life. On one of my favorite swings!

In this day of instant photography, our experiences and memories can be graphically portrayed. I wish, for my own sake and yours, that I could shoot you photographs of my favorite swings, with me in them as I was then, of course. Since I can’t, I’ll have to try in words.

Picture me as a child between the ages of five and eleven. I knew two swings then, any one of the four on the school playground and the other at my country home. The ones at school were a recess thing you had to get to fast before the others. Then you’d pump hard to see how high you could go. I used to aspire to flying over the top bar and coming down the other side. I never made it. 

My home swing was entirely different. I was usually alone there. Daddy had hung the ropes from an over-branching limb of a big tree at the edge of the woods about a stone’s throw from our back door yet down a slope and out of sight of the house. Here I was alone with my thoughts, my dreams, the sheer pleasure of the slow back and forth "die down" after I’d quit pumping. Leaning back to watch tree tops and sky hold hands and dance, my mind would let go of all childish worries. Fancy, bliss and abandon accompanied by the soft straining sound of  the ropes sang to me. If these were punctuated by wild bird songs and squirrel chatter, all the better. This was all that mattered. I knew the meaning of the word bliss on my swing long before I knew of the word itself.

I can’t remember much about that swing down in the woods when I was in high school. Even my younger brothers had grown out of it by then. I had more urgent pursuits at that age. No time to "do nothing."  But when I went to live with my grandmother in Riverside, California, during my college days I loved the canopied sofa swing in her back yard that stood under a huge pepper tree and overlooked an arroyo between me and Mount Pachapa.That was my refuge at a time of my life when I needed the security and peace it offered. You know, that hiatus between adolescence and adulthood?

Years later Wally G. and I hung three swings on our ranch. My favorite of these was a one rope swing with a wooden seat secured by a large knot underneath in the middle. It hung from a high, high branch of a tall tree which stood on a steep hillside. Straddling the rope, I could back up to a point high enough to let go and fly out over the dropping slope toward Mt. Brushy across the river. That swing was the most thrilling of all my swings, the nearest thing to actual bird flight I've ever imagined. But the coziest swing was in the safety of our grassy yard under the huge Sequoia tree. Only a few steps from the porch door, I could run out any time of day or night and let myself go.

I haven’t had a swing since the ranch days to call my own. The nearest I can get to the feeling of one is in the big Amish rocker on my patio. There’s something about rocking and swinging that sets one in tune with the motions of the universe and lets the mind go free. The questions of life, the pros and cons, the struggles, all these fade away when we rock or swing. No wonder babies know the feeling. No wonder children keep it up. No wonder the primal motion of our last days on earth can still resonate on a good swing. Or a rocking chair. Even the thought of them is settling, safe.

It was still dark when I started this blog. I can see the sun peeking through the patio curtains now. The rocking chair is out there. Waiting for someone. Me? 

Bye for now!

1 comment:

  1. what great memories! yes, there is something magical about swinging, something whimsical , surreal perhaps? And that Robert Louis Stevenson Poem is one of my favorites. I had a 45 record of that poem put into song form and played it over and over on my little record player in my room. I still remember the melody but don't ask me to sing it! Hey, Joyce ... we have three swings for the grandchildren hanging from the rafters in our garage. I know just what we will do next time you come over! Love, Julie