My neighbor Rick was born and raised on a farm. He lived and worked the land into his forties, when he and his partner purchased the house next door and they made the move into the city.
Within the first year he had bought and planted twenty or thirty column poplars, a couple of feet apart around the edge of his yard as they do on the wind-swept prairies. Also, using leftover red barn paint, he redid the trim of his garage.
The transition into the city has not been easy for him. Up until recently his world consisted of farm, fields, and small town. All the adventures of his life and the formative experiences through adolescence and early adulthood took place outside the city. Here he is a man adrift and the barn paint, the sheltering screen of trees, and even the familiar pair of pickup trucks out front are anchors back to an inner landscape formed over forty years.
Being in an inner city neighborhood, a number of teenagers stroll the streets and now and then hang around the parks close by my house. They run the gamut from bright and clean cut to disheveled and dark. My heart goes out to all of them, and I sometimes find myself pondering what their inner world must be like.
For a great many, the teenage years is a troubled and challenging traverse of the threshold into adulthood. These city kids of today, how different must their inner landscape be from that which Rick navigated nearly twenty-five years ago.
In essence, the journey and the destination remain the same–functional adulthood–but how unalike the passing scenery!
Lately I’ve noticed graffiti scrawls flowering on the walls of our back alley. Is it the teenagers laying claim to their environment? Putting their stamp on their landscape, like a dog peeing on every tree and hydrant within a certain radius?
We have that need to personalize our space, individually and collectively. We hang art and decorations on the walls of our living space, plant flowers in pots or gardens, paint walls and trim and anything else that catches our fancy.
And we adorn ourselves, dress to match mood or role whether recognized or not. We let our hair grow long and free or shave it close to the skull. Tattoos sprout on every nook and cranny of our body.
A continual dance is enacted between outer and inner worlds. Each must fructify the other, lest we stagnate, or gloomily experience the world as tired and washed out.
Life’s inner adventure, the world of emotional and spiritual growth, is ongoing. The confronting and overcoming of challenges, the surmounting of hurdles keeps us feeling young and alive. How vital it is that our environment, our landscape, both inner and outer, remain large and diverse enough to provide the fodder for such a Life’s adventure!