I’ll admit there are times when the urge washes over me. I’m (supposedly) a mature adult with greying hair, a mortgage and too many dependents both inside and outside the home, counting the squirrels. Lately, there’s also a lot of stress and loss and big decisions looming on the horizon.
All the more reason to run away with no plan or destination. Let me count the ways:
- Sand. I have primordial memories of hunkering down inside the pansy hotbeds of my family’s nursery. These were, from my toddler point of view, enormous concrete bunkers with sand in them that I would disappear into and play with my pail and scoop. It is said that my great-grandfather passed away while working in these beds. They found him lying peacefully in the pansies. What a way to go, should I be so lucky.
- Haystack. When I was older, my brother and I had a bank barn to horse around in. But we only found cows, and hay condensed into those square bales neatly stacked until needed over the winter. One year, by some lucky accident there was a beautiful skyscraper of bales that rose a good two stories high, perfectly positioned under an old rope hanging from the ridge beam. We’d clamber to the top, swing out like a trapeze into the dark cathedral of space, let go at the last minute and drop into a soft nest of dried timothy that had escaped its twine. I’d lie there for a long time, enjoying the thrill of daring release followed by a reassuring hug from summer’s bounty.
- Heavy Metal. The teen years were not kind to me. Isolated at the edge of the world and the county, there was not enough room for teenage angst in the cramped modular home I shared with the rest of the family. My version of cranking up the volume to relieve tension was to walk out back to the metal grain silo my father installed to hold the soybean crop until the price was more than laughable. Empty, it was the best amplifier I’ve ever heard. A whisper turned into a roar, and a laugh ricocheted into a cacophony.
- Water. When I couldn’t take it anymore in college, I’d go jump in the river. There were lazy summer afternoons drip-drying on the dock, rocking parties on stony beaches and slow midnight sails in the utter darkness that felt like a womb.
- Auto-mobile. Between studies and teaching and socializing in grad school, I didn’t have time to shave my legs much less grade a pile of freshman themes I kept shuffling around like playing cards (I still have dreams about ungraded papers). When the wind was blowing right, I’d bolt out the door to my VW Bug that was as old as I was, and start driving with no destination in mind. That’s assuming no one had turned on the mute AM radio out of curiosity and drained the battery. (I learned to always park on a hill.)
- Timeout. As a young mother, I’d be literally waiting at the door for my husband to arrive home from work, whereupon I’d thrust our baby into his arms and head out to wander aimlessly through the local discount store. Since money was tight, I never bought anything. Rather, it was a form of walking meditation to the smell of cheap plastic and the sound of muzak, after a long day of nursing, diapering, washing and spitting (the baby, not me).
So, how do you play hooky in the suburbs? Can you run away when no one’s left in the neighborhood to miss you? They’re all at work, or shopping, or carpooling the kids. I could lay out in the backyard and taunt the Great Danes next door. It would sound a little like standing in that silo of my youth. Or I might jump in my car and start driving, only to end up stuck in one of the many road construction jams surrounding my town. My daughter’s sandbox is long gone, and I think I’m allergic to the off-gassing produced by mass quantities of flame-retardant discount clothing. Finding water to jump in would require a major time commitment or the complete dismantling of the fire hydrant outside my house, neither of which prompts spontaneity.
I know. I’ll just sit in my suburban dwelling with the TV off, the Internet disconnected, the stereo silent and the mail uncollected. The dirty dishes fester in the sink, with beds unmade and laundry heaped on the floor. I’ll sit and watch the cat nap and the dog stretch into the yoga pose named after it.
I won’t do a darned thing. Take that, modern life.