Seems the older I get, the more pleased I am to reconnect with the feelings of my youth. You know, such as here, with this guy (here I am taking a break while helping my father do some work in the back yard):
I had to search pretty hard to find a picture of me that wasn't of me dressed in a tuxedo going off to the prom or something, the sort of normal, formal, reason for a parent to take a picture. This was just me having a moment with my Dad, which I think every boy appreciated having whenever he could.
By reconnecting with the feelings of youth, I primarily mean reconnecting with who we were and what our dreams were, a concept I'm not too sure that very many people in our society grasp. I tend to stress it every time I make a presentation to the kids at the school where I work, and I know they haven't the slightest idea of what I am talking about (which means that who they are hasn't been lost, yet), but I continue to stress it, anyway. For example, I encourage them to ask their parents to KEEP the things they write and bring home. "Do NOT let them throw these things away," I say. "Have them put them away in a file or someplace safe and then give them to you twenty, thirty, forty years later. Because believe me, you will get so caught up in the requirements of life that are imposed on you that you will FORGET who you are now and who you wanted to be. And who you are now will be of vital importance to reconnect with when you are much older."
I suppose not everybody forgets these things, not completely, anyway, but they do get put so far back on a back burner that they may as well not exist anymore at all, and they WON'T exist if they aren't brought back to the forefront, again.
It wasn't until about a year ago that I began to appreciate as one of my favorites the Stephen Sondheim song from Follies, "The Road You Didn't Take," some of the lyrics of which I have selected here:
You take one road,
You try one door,
There isn't time for any more.
Ones life consists of either/or.
One has regrets,
Which one forgets,
As the years go on.
The road you didn't take
Hardly comes to mind,
The door you didn't try,
Where could it have led?
The choice you didn't make
Never was defined.
Dreams you didn't dare
Were they ever there?
I don't remember,
I don't remember
You take your road,
The decades fly,
the yearnings fade, the longings die.
You learn to bid them all goodbye.
The Ben I'll never be,
Who remembers him?"
One really ought to hear this song sung (I couldn't find any version on YouTube that was worthy of linking to, here). Sung right, there is hardly a more tragic line in all of musical theater than that concluding one, "The Ben I'll never be, who remembers him?" If not you, then who...and the point is, it IS you (the most precious part of you). Which means that he is dead and unremembered and unmourned even while you are still alive, or pretending to be.
I myself have had the privilege of reconnecting with things that I had written in childhood (thank you letters to grandparents, and the like) and in my youth (things I wrote to parents and friends while I was in college), and all I can really say is that reading those things made me LOVE that guy who was me...but where is he? What can I do to bring him back and make him live, again?
One thing when I was young, I loved reading boys' adventure stories, and when I liked an author, I wanted to read every book he or she wrote. I would come home from the library with my arm filled with a tall stack of books, everything I could find written by a beloved author. It didn't matter if the adventures were in foreign lands, or in outer space, or at the bottom of the sea, or on other planets, or in lands that don't exist at all, I wanted to go there. And, true, as an adult, I have gone places, more than most, but there's still so much more that I could do. I just have to allow myself to do it, make myself do it. And then write about it, oh yes, especially that.
Lately, I have built my home library and a book (two books in one, actually) that I had come across on Amazon.com a couple of years ago and bought to read sometime soon and then had forgotten about, I pulled off the shelf to read last week. It was by an author I had never heard of before, Willard Price, who was Canadian, but who had in real life life travelled all over the world (to 77 different countries), lived a real life of adventure, and had written 14 adventure books for youth between the years of 1949 (one year after I was born) and 1980 (one decade after I graduated from college). He also wrote about as many adventure and travel books for adults, too.
The book that I had gotten was a recent republication of two of his books, South Sea Adventure and Volcano Adventure:
Most interesting to me, since I strongly believe in the meaning of "coincidence," I had been attempting to figure out where to go for my vacation this summer, and for some reason, the idea of going to Micronesia kept running through my head. I had been to, and thoroughly loved, Melanesia (the Yasawa Island Group of Fiji still remains the most beautiful place I have ever been) and Polynesia (if Moorea isn't a dream island come true, I don't know what is!), so I definitely wanted to experience less-known Micronesia and the island in Micronesia that most appealed to me was Ponape, which not only was a still-unspoiled tropical paradise, but also has on one of its satellite islands the mysterious lost stone city of Nan Madol that I thought would be fascinating to see (best toured by boat from Ponape):
So here I was trying to figure out how to arrange a trip to Ponape, when I discover that in this Willard Price book written in 1952, that the South Sea Adventure the boys go to takes place in Ponape! So, humm, yeah, maybe I really should go there! Well, and then after facing nearly every death-possibility available in the Pacific, the boys at the end finally reach safety in the lagoon of Truk, described so beautifully in the book that I now have to go there, as well, since Truk and Ponape are served by the same Continental Airlines "Melanesia Island Hopper" flight.
I truly enjoyed this book and couldn't wait for after work so that I could come home and read another few chapters. The plot is a boy's adventure come true. The two main characters are brothers, Hal (nineteen years old) and Roger (thirteen years old) Hunt (so their ages "bracket" the "teens"). Here is how Wikipedia describes them: "Hal is the typical hero: tall, handsome, muscular, possessing an almost limitless knowledge of natural history and a caring and trusting disposition. Roger, on the other hand, is an ardent practical-joker, often mischievous but just as resilient and resourceful as his older brother." But in this book, their father, who runs a global animal collecting enterprise from their farm on Long Island for zoos, circuses, and nature parks (sorry if all this sounds "politically incorrect" by today's standards), get this, sends the boys off to the South Pacific without him to charter a schooner and collect a series of amazing exotic sea creatures to be shipped back home, and while they are at it, they are given the responsibility by a professor to check up on an oyster pearl bed in a secret lagoon that the professor had seeded with oysters transferred from the famous pearl diving region of the Middle East (that I know to have been the main money-making enterprise of Dubai prior to Dubai's development from oil wealth).
That teenagers could actually run such an enterprise was not at all a surprising concept in the 1950s and earlier eras, and exemplar educator John Taylor Gatto is quite fond of pointing out how America's first great Admiral, Admiral Farragut, was eight years old when he captured a British warship and put its captain in irons in the hold of the ship which he commandeered into Baltimore Harbor, and that Thomas Edison had already earned a fortune writing, printing, and selling news about the Civil War on a cross-country train where he worked in the baggage compartment after he was thrown out of school for being "unable to learn" and that George Washington was earning the equivalent of a hundred thousand dollars a year as a teenager surveyor in Culpepper County, Virginia, and countless other examples of what youth could do and DID do in earlier eras. Now, instead, for most of them, they are locked up in the meaningless prison of high school with no greater future ahead of them than paper-pushing drudgery in "cubicle hell"...if they can be employed at all, nowadays.
I loved being with these two boys in this book, and while I loved Hal, my favorite was the mischievous Roger, who, while sometimes getting into trouble, also often made the most useful discoveries. It wasn't so much "older brother, younger brother", they were equal partners in this adventure, each one contributing different characteristics to the adventure's success. They were for sure the kind of boys I would have admired if I were their age, and would have wanted to be like. Both them were also very funny and I often laughed out loud while reading the book, which I thought was brilliantly written and also rather educational. I kept being surprised that the author had been born in 1887, he seemed to know more than I might have expected, but anyone who had lived in several foreign countries and had travelled to 77 of them couldn't fail to know a lot.
As soon as I finished South Sea Adventure, I wanted to read another book in the series, but it was clear that this adventure led right into Underwater Adventure:
whereas Volcano Adventure, the second book included in the volume that I owned, was really the fourth book in the series. And, I hadn't read the first one, Amazon Adventure, just one book prior to the one that I had read, so today, true to my childhood self, I ordered from Amazon.com ALL of the books, coming from various used bookstores all around the country. I got them only from American suppliers (the most frequent source was the UK, but I didn't want to have the longer-distance shipping) and I got them in the best condition I could unless they were charging huge amounts for them (some of the good-condition hard-bound copies, which I did not buy, were costing several ten dollar bills, and the cheapest edition of the author's autobiography, which I wanted, but could not afford, was being sold for over $300). My Amazon.com order looks very peculiar, with some books costing one cent, and others being as much as just under $10. I spent over a hundred dollars getting these books and feel that I got a real bargain, but half of that hundred dollars is just the shipping costs, since, coming from separate used book stores, I could not take advantage of Amazon.com's free shipping.
I also bought every adult travel book written by Willard Price that I could find following the above-described rules, but there were only very few available, so I was only able to get about four of them, I think it was.
Concerning my idea of reconnecting with the dreams of my youth, it's awesome to not only read the stories of boys whose value system matched my own, but to have the time described match the era of my own childhood. Even the covers of the used books I ordered "say" something to me and remind me of the era of my past, such as these awesome ones:
Seeing these lined up like this, I notice that there is a kind of "Tarzan" feel to them. So, I wonder, does it mean something that right now I am living in Tarzana, the area of Los Angeles were Edgar Rice Burroughs had his estate and is named after him? Every detail of life tells a personal story, I believe, and one must use every sense to "braille" the story that these details tell. In fact, our very survival as a unique person depends upon it.