Claiming the Promised Land

January 24, 2011 | 16 comments
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I went walking today, in the hills between Rocklin and Lincoln:

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Taken from my sad little cell phone camera

I spent hours out there. It’s been a long time since I just made off into the hills like that, to spend a whole afternoon there with no concern about needing to get back for work or some other obligation.

I’m looking for a word.

As a kid, my friends and I spent our afternoons and weekends walking through the hills at the edges of our neighborhood in Cameron Park. We called it “exploring”, but it after the dozenth (or hundredth) time it’s hard to justify that name — since you know all the trails, the rocks, the trees, you’re not really “exploring” anymore. Other words — “hiking”, “adventuring” — also don’t feel right. Hiking implies something more strenuous — a journey, a start and a finish. We weren’t hiking so much as just wandering. We had named the tree groves and boulder formations after the cities from our favorite Nintendo games (Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy 2), and so we’d just go out there and make-believe ourselves to be the heroes from those stories as we traveled from city to city, fighting the bad guys (which mostly consisted of smashing tree branches with our sticks. The oak trees’ outer branches dry out nicely in the summer, and they shatter in gratifying showers of twigs.)

“Hiking” sounds too outdoorsy, too boy-scouty. Our exploring wasn’t so much about that. It was about building a world, a familiar, comfortable, beautiful, and exotic place to visit. We knew the people and places of that world, and we knew our place in it. It was a place away from school, homework, and chores. What we did wasn’t so much “exploring” as it was “inhabiting” or “annexing”.

If you open up my soul, the image at its heart is the hills around Cameron Park. Those hills are my promised land. My ongoing quest for the green hill is essentially a quest to reclaim the relationship I had with those hills (and more importantly, with the people who explored there with me) in my youth.

In contrast to Abraham and Moses, who each received the disheartening news that they’d be dead before obtaining their promised land, I’m just a forty-five minute drive from Cameron Park. I see those hills every time I drive over to my parents’ house. I go walking in them every couple months. The problem is that I haven’t figured out how to “claim” them.

I’m not talking about purchasing them. Owning that land wouldn’t make any difference in my relationship to it. I don’t want the hills for building on, or whatever else a person does with land he or she owns. I just want to walk through them. At length. Both alone and with friends.

So it’s mostly a time thing. Not just my own time, but the time of the people around me. I want us all to have enough time to enjoy pure recreation together. Not just once a year at the family reunion or annual camping trip or whatever. Often. Daily. Weekly, at least.

Perhaps I’m just nostalgic for the simpler, carefree days of my youth, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it. What I’m looking for is a kind of relationship, a kind of community. I want to take the best parts of my youth and then integrate them into life as an adult. I know I’ll never live my junior-high-school life again, because I’m not in junior high anymore. But I hope I can apply what I loved and learned there to my life now, in a way that benefits not just myself, but all those who want to participate in it.

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One more shot, because I can

So I’m still looking for that word. In the meantime, here are a bunch of words from The Little Prince that approximate the word I’m looking for:

***

It was then that the fox appeared. “Good morning” said the fox.”Good morning” the little prince responded politely
although when he turned around he saw nothing.
“I’m right here” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”
“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added,
“You’re very pretty to look at.”
“I’m a fox”, the fox said.
“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince, “I’m so unhappy.”
“I can’t play with you,” the fox said, “I’m not tamed.”
“Ah! Please excuse me,”said the little prince.
But after some thought, he added: “What does that mean—’tame’?”
“You do not live here,” said the fox, “What is it you’re looking for?”
“I’m looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean—tame?”
“Men,”said the fox, “they’ve guns, and they hunt. It’s very disturbing.
They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I’m looking for friends. What does that mean—tame?”
“It’s an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “to me, you’re still nothing more than a little boy
who’s just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you.
And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I’m nothing more than a fox
like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.
To me, you’ll be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world …”
“I’m beginning to understand,” said the little prince.
“There’s a flower. . .I think she has tamed me…”
“It is possible,” said the fox. “On earth one sees all sorts of things.”
“Oh but this is not on the earth!” said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.
“On another planet?”
“Yes”
“Are there hunters on that planet?”
“No”
“Ah that’s interesting! Are there chickens?”
“No”
“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.
But he came back to his idea.
“My life’s very monotonous,” he said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me.
All chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike.
And in consequence, I am a little bored.
But if you tame me, it’ll be as if the sun came to shine on my life.
I shall know the sound of a step that’ll be different from all the others.
Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground.
Yours will call me, like music out of my burrow.
And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder?
I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me.
The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad.
But you have hair that is the color of gold.
Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me!
The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.
And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
“Please—tame me!” he said.
“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I’ve not much time.
I’ve friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox.
“Men have no more time to understand anything.
They buy things all ready made at the shops.
But there’s no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship,
and so men have no friends any more.
If you want a friend, tame me…”
“What must I do, to tame you? asked the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox.
First you’ll sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass.
I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing.
Words are the source of misunderstandings.
But you’ll sit a little closer to me, every day…”
The next day the little prince came back.
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox.
“If for example, you came at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock
I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances.
At four o’clock, I shall be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am!
But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour
my heart is ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites…”
“What’s a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox.
“they’re what make one day different from other days, one hour different from other hours.
There’s a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they danse with the village girls.
So Thursday’s a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards.
But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day,
and I should never have any vacation at all.”
So the little prince tamed the fox.
And when the hour of his departure drew near—
“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It’s your own fault,” said the little prince.
“I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes that is so”, said the fox.
“But now you’re going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes that is so” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”
And then he added: “go and look again at the roses.
You’ll understand now that yours is unique in all the world.
Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
“You’re not at all like my rose,” he said.
“As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one.
You’re like my fox when I first knew him.
He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.
But I have made a friend, and now he’s unique in all the world.”
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
“You’re beautiful, but you’re empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you.
To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you
–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she’s more important
than all the hundreds of you other roses:
because it is she that I have watered;
because it is she that I have put under the glass globe;
because it is for her that I’ve killed the caterpillars
(except the two or three we saved to become butterflies);
because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled,
or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing.
Because she is MY rose.”
And he went back to meet the fox.
“Goodbye” he said.
“Goodbye,” said the fox.
“And now here’s my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,”
the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–”
said the little prince so he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it.
You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.
You are responsible for your rose…”
“I am responsible for my rose,”
the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

It was then that the fox appeared. “Good morning” said the fox.”Good morning” the little prince responded politely…

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince, “I’m so unhappy.”

“I can’t play with you,” the fox said, “I’m not tamed.”

“Ah! Please excuse me,”said the little prince. But after some thought, he added: “What does that mean—’tame’?”…

“It’s an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties…to me, you’re still nothing more than a little boy who’s just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I’m nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you’ll be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world …you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It’s your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”

“Yes that is so”, said the fox.

“But now you’re going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes that is so” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

***

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And then he added: “go and look again at the roses. You’ll understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You’re not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You’re like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made a friend, and now he’s unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

“You’re beautiful, but you’re empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she’s more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is for her that I’ve killed the caterpillars (except the two or three we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is MY rose.”

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox… “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

16 Responses to Claiming the Promised Land

  1. Marjorie Conder on January 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

    This left me with a deep ache, but otherwise wordless. I’m feeling something, just beyond touching.

  2. Dane on January 24, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Thank you, Marjorie. Like I said, I have trouble finding the right words on this topic, but I hope the message came through.

  3. James Olsen on January 24, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    This goes along very well with some of Handley’s thoughts in Home Waters, which Adam Miller recently posted on. It likewise reminded me of one of the greatest lessons my wife and children have taught me: that magic we gained in childhood is as important to our “learning” and progression in this life as the disenchanted realities we plumb in adulthood. I hope that I too can get the integration right and come to dwell on a green hill.

  4. Dane on January 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I was thinking of Calvin & Hobbes while writing this :) It’s such a universal experience, it bugs me that I don’t have a word for it.

  5. MEM on January 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    It helps to explain why my 8-year old son was so disheartened to learn that those who live to adulthood are resurrected as adults. He mourned, “But I want to be a kid again!”

  6. jeremy on January 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. We need to plan a CP trip and explore the hills in depth. Alissa’s never been. :) its at least a start.

  7. Bill of Wasilla on January 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    For nearly a quarter century I had such a place. A wonderful, wonderful place, where, if I were not traveling, I would venture daily, either on foot, mountain bike, or ski, and often with a dog. We would meet fox back there, and hare, too, but most often moose and rarely, bear. Raven was ubiquitous and always clever and taunting. Eagle came by on rare occasion, but this was a place of hill, trees, devils club and berry, not of fish, so eagle was not a regular visitor.

    Yes, I knew every trail, every rise and fall, and what berries to eat and what berries not to eat. This was my place.

    Yet, title belong to another. One from far away who did not know the place, would never know the place, but saw it only as an investment opportunity and one day decided to capitalize upon that opportunity. Now, it is a subdivision for rich people, littered with McMansions – all occupied by people who do not even know where they live.

    They call the place, “Serendipity.”

    Now I most often walk on streets and roads – but very seldom in Serendipity, it hurts too much to go there – and if you visit my blog often enough you might think my neighborhood quaint, still possessed with a touch of country. Raven remains ubiquitous, moose pops up frequently, snowshoe hare can still be found and once in a rare while, eagle passes by. I have not seen bear at all.

    But my place is gone and I mourn its loss.

  8. Dane on January 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    The hill I explored with my friends is now topped with a Catholic church. Not a bad end for it. I like churches, and they’ve left a lot of the surrounding area undeveloped so far.

    The fields I used to explore, before I discovered the hills, are all suburban subdivisions now, except for one grove of trees on each end, that still remain. We called them Cantlin and Charlock.

  9. Rob Perkins on January 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Is the word you’re looking for, “sehnsucht”? Feels that way to me.

  10. Bob on January 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I thought the word or idea was ‘leisure’?
    Sad to say, I’m more hard wired to ‘work’__even useless work.

  11. Dane on January 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Rob, that’s a good word to know. I’ll have to roll that one around in my brain for a bit and see if it feels right.

    Bob, leisure is certainly a part of it, but I hope it’s more than that. Leisure I manage reasonable well, between movies, games, and occasionally sleeping in. What I’m looking for is leisure that brings people and worlds together.

  12. Jax on January 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    “They civilize the foothills
    and everywhere HE put hills;
    The mountains and valleys below.

    They up and take ‘em
    and civilize and make ‘em
    a place no one ‘civliized’ would go

    They civilize whats pretty
    by putting up a city
    where nothing that’s pretty will grow

    They civilize the winter
    and turn right inter
    a place to uncivilized even for snow!

    They civilize left
    they civilize right
    ’til nothing is left
    ’til nothing is right

  13. Kruiser on January 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Yes, “leisure that brings people and worlds together.” As Alan Bloom put it in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, “any notion of the serious life of leisure, as well as men’s taste and capacity to live it, had disappeared. Leisure became entertainment.”

    As I visit the land of my beginnings in the East (I am now a Westerner), I long for it. Our old neighbor has maintained his farm without making it into a subdivision. That was part of my little kingdom when I was a little king. The rolling hills and woods, along with rivers (creeks) full of commerce, lakes (ponds) with naval flotillas, cities (forts) of renown, and even my own little Cape Canaveral for space exploration. I visit there in May each year and find out that the land never changes if you leave it alone. that way, the past stays alive. I was moved to photograph most of it last year, calling it a land study.

    Study as I might, I could not go home again. But maybe one’s youth serves as a pattern for one’s later years. May new worlds are out there waiting to be built. Well spent leisure time might be a good start.

  14. Rob Perkins on January 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    All right then, here’s mine: http://www.parasiticmeme.com/?p=65

  15. Dane Laverty on January 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks Rob, that’s what I’m talking about. From talking to people, I know my experience and memories are unique (even if they are unique to me).

WELCOME

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