Thursday, November 13, 2014

Secret Place

When we lived in Brasil, Caroline and I had a little spot in the semi-circle that Lawton Madeiras Amazonias had carved out of the jungle - a corner of our very own.  It was at the far-upstream end of the cleared area, away from everything else. 

We called it the Secret Place.

The Secret Place was a small opening surrounded by trees.  It had a guava tree.  There were some banana trees in the middle of the clearing.  There was a strange citrus tree that produced inedible lemons the size of grapefruits (the leaves from that tree were used to make a tea that finally broke Caroline's fever during our first year there - our maid told mom about it, and in desperation, she tried it.).  There was a weird tree with fruit that looked like apples, and that could be used to make a pie that was almost completely unlike apple pie.  There was a cupuau tree, a biribá tree (a soursop), and a guanabana tree. 

There was a ten-foot area that had frontage to the river, and there were almost always caymen - jacares - hanging out by the rivers edge.  These two- to three-foot alligator relatives were no threat, and they always ran away when we came near (meaning that we represented more of a threat.... but I never tasted one of those guys, so I am not sure whether they were even edible).

It was no secret.  It was barely a place.  But the Secret Place represented something magical to us.  It was a place where we could get away from the formalities of life - the school classes, the directed activities, the chores (OK, there weren't nearly as many chores as I seem to remember there being.) Mom knew if we were going there, and it was even subject to the occasional grasscutting by Jorge.

But it was a place where we could explore.  It was not safe in Olaria for an eight-year-old to wander in a lot of the places.  Much of the cleared area was wetland, and was unpleasant to wander through.  The uncleared area was off limits entirely.  So was the operational part of the lumberyard, while work was going on.  And the off-limits area extended to the airplane landing strip that had been cut into the jungle two years before (it had never been used, and there was almost no trace of where it had been clearcut).  But we were allowed to go unsupervised into the Secret Place, and check things out, look for fruit, and mostly just pretend we were explorers.

I now work in an office.  The work I do has consequences, and I am required to produce, to justify, to answer.  And I find myself needing a Secret Place, more than ever. Once in a great while, the lock on the stairwell to the roof will be inadvertantly left open.  I never miss a chance to go.  I love to try locked doors, whether at work or at church or.. well, anywhere.  See if there is a place that is not known.  Where I can escape for just a little bit.  To explore.  To pretend.  To get away.

And dream of sunning lizards on the edge of a sluggish Amazonian river, with electric blue butterflies swooping across the clearing.



Crorey Lawton said...

Interesting article on the electric blue morpho butterfly came across my feed today:

aunt Patty said...

Best in secret secret place in the world. Long for somewhere that life passes by and all that enter are hidden come.