The Back 40


B.L. LietzauI was a terribly shy young girl. Hiding behind my mother’s legs was the safest place I could be when her friends or strangers made notice of me. I grew up living in my older brother’s shadow. My brother was 18 months older than I was. As I became older, I attached myself to his sense of adventure, his boyish fun and my desire to experience life couldn’t keep me hiding any longer. I was a tomboy in bloom.

Comfort can be a state of mind, meant to bring us back to center. My comfort was to be able to breath, or to take flight when feeling closed-in. As a child, my comfort was knowing I am one with nature. It was the escape I needed from others’ converging lifestyles that spilled into my space. My space needed to be pure, as I proclaimed pure to be; free from others toil where I can hear no human, just nature’s voice supporting me to walk in my creed of exploration.

I lived in what I consider open space almost my entire life. Our family’s house was an open floor plan. The kitchen, dining room and living room were not enclosed rooms with walls but rather connected by changes in carpet styles. My parents always encouraged outside play, mostly, I think, for redistribution of the chaotic noise we made and the avoidance of the mystery dirt tracked into the home. My mother was an obsessive cleaner. Her work was never done. Requiring space, indoors or outdoors, was a commodity my soul seemed to crave.

The open land behind my home fueled my tomboyish sense of adventure. My blue and white Huffy bike with banana seat took me to every space of that land. Grasshoppers would jump out from the left and right of the tall grass along the paths and cling to my capris compelling me to pedal faster to get away from them. My brother received a motocross bike for his 14th birthday. I took advantage of his gift. I loved speeding up and down dirt paths and making new ones, daring to go off-track and define my own way.

The same year, my father bought two snowmobiles. These were my childhood joy. They took me to places I couldn’t reach in the summertime by bicycle. We re-defined the summer trails behind my house into winter trails, making shortcuts through the marshy areas and creating bouncy, head bobbing trails over the snow-covered bunches of reeds and cattails. I see a slide show in my memory. The carousel clicks, then a picture appears, a memory of my explorations. A newly found memory, yet an old picture is displayed on the side of my brain. I loved that land, the country next to my house. My body could breathe there.

Wikipedia describes Claustrophobia as “the fear of having no escape, and being closed in.” My need for space is almost a curse. Why is stagnancy my enemy? I need to keep moving and experiencing. I can’t be stagnate, or I feel trapped, without air, gasping for freedom of breath.

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