The end of the known world
There is nothing remarkable in the photo above. Just some trees on the small hill or embankment on the edge of the forest nearby where I live. But there is something very significant about this place. On Sunday, I was walking along there with my sister and mom on a midday Easter stroll. During that pleasant walk and catching up conversation, my sister remarked that this was a place where she felt was the end of her known world when she was a child. That struck me very deeply and brought back memories I didn’t know I had. Today, I went back there just to take this photo and to think about it.
I realized that I feel the same way about this spot. It looked different thirty years ago. The nearest houses now are just across the street from I took that photo — then the closest house was at least 100 meters away. There is an expressway visible just beyond the trees — then there were just more continuous trees. To the left, there is a new church that blocks the view from that spot now. Then, from that hill on the edge of the forest, I could see far away, far away from what was my known and safe neighborhood. What I could see were just fields covered in different grains and grasses. To the right there was a huge green-house complex covering several acres that would glisten in the sunshine, not there is a huge apartment complex. What was then was so far out there, so foreign, so novel from what I knew as a child as my immediate place on earth. I would go to that hill there on my bike, just to sit and look in the distance, possibly daydreaming, not daring to go any further — I could spend days on end without any supervision growing up, but I had to stay within clearly marked borders of my suburbs. And I was a good kid. There was no chance I could disobey what my mom had told me. And I see my sister did it as well and experienced this place in exactly the same way.
I remember one particular summer day. I was there, sitting with my back against the tree, my bike just laying on the ground nearby when I saw a hot-air balloon floating over. It kept on going, quite low, just clearing the tops of the trees. I could see the faces of people in the basket. And I remember this unique, whooshing sound of the open flame from a propane burner. It floated over the fields with grains trembling in the summer heat, slowly reaching the horizon and then disappearing in the distance. I remember thinking about it and what is out there, what will people in that balloon will see over the horizon line. I wonder if my wanderlust started then and there?
The views from that spot had changed now, distances as well — there are more roads, pathways, and sidewalks. I can get everywhere with ease and convenience. I am not sure if that is the point, though. There is nothing to discover at the end of a paved road — someone already was there and made a mark of human presence. Then, the whole world was out there for me to discover. And I had to make my own paths. Frequently I got lost or had to make detours or simply forgot about going forward. Today, I feel like I am going in the right direction and still have the entire world to discover. And I still have wonderful memories, even of such unremarkable spots like this one. It has meaning to me, and it seems that understanding the importance of this place runs in the family.