Swollen was the oft dry creek bed with the rains of El Niño. Turbulent brown waters were tugging at the brilliant broad leaves of trees often too high to be bothered. Humble caps of mushrooms were pushing through the riparian mud, droplets of water repelling off their shiny domes. I, too, uncovered my head to the rain.
Out of the bushes beyond the redwoods sprang two girls: barefoot, soaked, and covered in mud. They were giggling, and seeing a fellow human in me, they beamed.
“This is so cool!”
“It certainly is,” I said.
“There’s a waterfall up the path that way!” one pointed behind them.
“It’s a small waterfall though,” the other one found it important to add.
“I’ll be sure to check it out,” I replied.
And they disappeared.
Their unbridled joy brought out something poignant in me. I thought about my own youth, when I used to walk through the dry creek bed at the south end of my childhood town with my friends, picking blackberries. In the winter, we would wade through that same then flowing creek to the redwood grove that felt no less than miles away, in spite of being a mere stone’s throw. Surely that only happened once or twice, but the way I remember it through the murky waters of nostalgia, it happened every other day.
I looked down at my attire: a rain jacket, rain pants, hiking boots, all covering the gym clothes I had on underneath, with which I often move heavy objects for fun, before I had decided to go on this small detour to check out the creek on my way home.
I feel imprisoned by my age. Imprisoned by my status in this world of Young Man. Imprisoned by a need to stay dry, a fear of catching a cold, an obligation to abide by the rules of acceptable human behavior, a resignation to the idea that this is the world as it has been assigned to us, as we have chosen it, as someday we might grow to love it and look back on our coats and boots with the same loving nostalgia with which we look at muddy feet.