Sleep always seemed such a natural thing when you are a child. Curling up under the covers with the smell of clean bleached sheets, and the soft kiss from your mom, giving you that final phrase of the day “sweet dreams dumplin”. That was before, not now. That was long ago when things were simple. Remember simple? Back when you knew right from wrong just by the feeling it gave you. Before you found out about racism, war, and crimes to numerous to mention. Remember when the thoughts that ran through your mind as you drifted off to that other playground of the mind. It might have been where to explore the next day and will it be on bicycle or by foot, will I need a pack or wagon, will I need a snack, a drink. Your dreams would work it out for you, a preview of the next day events. A dream may replace the stranger you meet with a demon, and put in its place a cliff above the ocean for the creek bank you would cross. If it turned into a nightmare then you probably stayed at home and spent the day building that modelairplane that you never seemed to finish, or you would tag along behind mom helping with the home chores. But if the dream went well, out the back door you would go, backpack, bicycle, pocketknife, fishing line and hook, don’t for get old Pepper the puppy you got as a surprise birthday gift when you were three years old. He would jump up and down with every pump of your bike peddles. Your and his excitement feed each other as you sought out the adventure that was so clear in your head.

Down road you and your partner would travel. Country roads didn’t have much traffic allowing you to pick blackberries along the farm fences that lined the road. You always promised your mom that you would bring some home to her. She was good at jams and pies, but somehow they never made it home as you sampled them all away on you journey. Pepper looked at you, licking his slobbering mouth but can’t understand the flavor you were enjoying. You always offered, but he would let it drop to ground and tilt his head in confusion.

Those hot summer days at the creek were paradise. Cold water sliding down green alga covered limestone slabs, crawdads darting just ahead of your fingers as you attempt a capture. Storing that snake down your shirt for safe keeping and feeling its smooth skin against yours as it slithered around. The great races between sticks and leaves when you placed them in the water and watched them rise and fall over the water ripples. There was always plenty of shade from the tall trees that lined the creek bed to keep the hot summer sun from blistering your long playful hours. Remember that deep, dark pool of cool water. You had the rope tied above it to swing out and practice your Tarzan dives. And skinny dipping was the best swimming of all. It was also the place to catch fish, using you hands or stick pole. Moist rich soil along the banks for Pepper to dig and nuzzle through looking for some great find to return to you, his only reward a head pat, ear rub and “good boy!”. After an hour at the pool you would put you clothes back on and venture down the creek with your pants rolled up and shoes tied around your neck “Will we make to were creek joins the river today?” was always the question as the stream banks got steeper and the waters gurgle from the rapid cascading. But as always the banks turn to moss covered vertical rock the forest trees thick and dark and home felt a little to far away. “We won’t make today Pepper”.

The return trip home was never as exciting, of course this started with a trip the country store. I now know that country stores are the same all over, but as a child you thought it was the only one of its kind. First you hit the soft drink coolers, lifter the large door and pushed your hand though the frosty layer of fog that lay just above the bottles. Reaching and staying down further then you needed to cool your face on the vapors while grabbing a favorite drink. Heading over to the lunchmeat counter, picking out the largest pickle from the pickle barrel on the way. Feeling the breeze from the circulating hanging above chewing tobacco display. You have that sandwich made with a quarter in slab of red skin bologna. The man behind the counter gives you a curious stare as the snake in your shirt pokes its head above your collar and taste the air with its forked tongue, the smell of gas from the pumps outside brought in from the summer heat. “Take it outside”, the man would say. Your partner would bark your return from the front door. Pepper would follow you to the front porch rockers in the shade and share your sandwich with him and nod your head at the locals as the came in and out the squeaky screen door. The walk home was more of a time of refection. Looking back it seems almost spiritual. Looking back on the day, the week, taking a census of everything in your head.

Arriving home late to dinner again, your mother would ask you what ask you what you’ve been doing, and your typical response was “ah nuttin”. You would see your Dads eyes below his furrowed brow and just above the newspaper. Studying your muddy pants, stickle burs on your socks and laces, and that sun tanned wore out look on your face. I know now that he was saying to himself “He’s gonna sleep tonight”. That’s the sleep I miss now, the kind I now see my children slumber into. Soft lineless faces that only a dream might disturb, planning the next day’s childhood adventure.

Written By Harmonic