As a child
On the way to school
My pants were painted
With daubs of yellow
As I walked through
Fields of nodding flowers
I’m not sure how it all came on…this feeling of loss. I was thinking how as a child, my friends and I would hike across a grassy prairie to Jim Miller Woods in Pleasant Grove, now a suburb of Dallas, Texas. This land on the prairie was the thick, black gumbo typical of this part of Texas, rich and deep, ideal for cotton and any other crop you cared to grow. From our houses the prairie stretched for several miles to the intersection of Bruton and Jim Miller, where the Austin Chalk erupted from the dark soil to support a wide diversity of trees on a bluff overlooking the White Rock Creek Bottoms and the skyline of downtown Dallas. Many of my fondest memories involve roaming these woodlands, digging nodules of iron pyrite from the limestone rocks and watching the gradual encroachment of bulldozers and developers until most of it was turned into a residential area. Fortunately the developers had enough sense to preserve most of the trees.
On the praire that we crossed, the appearance of building stakes were an unwelcome sight. Then with the naivete of youth we would pull up the stakes and hurl them across the grasslands, enraged that anybody would dare to build on our territory. It was merely tilting at windmills, however, and we knew it at the time. Now on the once empty prairie are old residential areas with large trees in the yards of the brick homes, and I doubt if anybody remembers back to when that entire area was open grasslands.
With this on my mind I happened across a website talking about the Pleasant Grove First Baptist Church, established over a hundred years ago, being closed and sold. This was the church that my family attended faithfully for over forty years. I was baptised in this church along with my father and my brother and my sister. I was married in the church. I passed it everyday on the way to and from school as a child and watched it grow. When my father had to work, my mother would take us children and we would walk the long distance to the church in order to not miss a single Sunday. I intimately knew and went to school with many of the members. We all literally grew up in the church. My mother taught in the Sunday School for many years, was president of the WMU and was active in many other capacities. This church whose steps I have not darkened for many years, was, I found to my intense sadness, an intimate and integral part of what I was. I was overwhelmed with memories of that long ago time and was surprised at the depth of feeling I had on learning that it was due to be sold and destroyed. I saw a later newspaper article that said that an arsonist had caused major damage to it.
To top all this off, I came across a cemetery record of a dearly beloved person from that era of my life when I teetered on the brink between childhood and manhood, and then saw the photo and a podcast interview with another beloved one from the past. Listening to her voice brought back an absolute avalanche of memories.
It was as if so many ties and roots from long ago had been severed and I felt liked a drifting raft that had lost its moorings.
“So lonely am I
My body is a floating weed
Severed at the roots…”
Ono no Komachi