When we were children in Cyprus we would take a piece of thread and string jasmine flowers together to make a fragrant necklace. We’d also fold pine needles in on each other to make earrings, and we were intimately acquainted with all the fruit trees, climbing trees, spying trees, ant nests, mole cricket mounds, kitten litters, hiding places, kind and not so kind elderly people, patient and not so patient homeowners, friendly and not so friendly pets, cat poo and dog pee areas, cracks on the pavement to avoid with the bicycle and elevated spots which were good for lift-off, cut-through yards and yards to avoid, abandoned houses and empty lots, plants with luscious blooms, edible parts or interesting feathery seeds, eccentric or creepy neighbours, friends’ houses, relatives’ houses, funny looking houses, houses to avoid if we were in a hurry, doors to knock on if we were thirsty, and the physical and temporal limits within which all of this was to be explored.
In our innocence, we could see through people; their years didn’t so much matter as the layers that had piled up covering their heart. The other-than-human was largely very forgiving, the most frightening among their midst being the wasp, and we used our intuition and our resilience to negotiate shared spaces and play time, and to occasionally bounce back from the odd sting, bite or scratch.
Taking a walk in the old neighborhood, I see no children anywhere. No chalk drawings on the roads, no kicking football in the streets, no bicycles, skateboards or rollerskates. I hardly recognise the neighbours as they limp down the street dragging their dogs behind them, and they don’t recognise me. Lots of them have been long gone. Some of the trees are gone. The houses look tired, the mole cricket mounds and ant nests covered up with concrete, the empty lots built up or for sale, plastic bottles strewn among the weeds now.
Not everything has changed and not all change is bad… It’s just that our presence reminded the older ones to soften their hearts, to drive slower, to laugh at the absurdity of life, to be surprised and delighted at the little things, to spend fifty cents and buy a jar of pine nuts we gathered and cracked with our dirty fingers.
Now I walk around looking for some light and lightness, some confirmation that my child heart’s still there under all the layers of experience and memory, and I feel a tinge of sadness that the innocence has become so introverted, staying indoors, guarded and safe. I understand of course, and I also know it’s only seen this way because of my own predispositions of late. So here’s my little invitation to Beauty, Innocence, Life and Perfection, publicly so that we can all partake of its arrival, once the veils are lifted and the fog clears from our vision.