Tonight I am going to come clean. Admit a huge psychological problem. Time to tell you the ugly truth.
And the reason I can share this truth with you tonight is: I am almost cured.
But it’s been a long haul, a long road.
Imagine yourself moving to your Little House in the Big Woods. (I am suddenly fascinated with the parallels between this life and the Laura Wilder Ingall’s Little House on the Prairie books that I read to my children before they could toddle. Well before they started kindergarten anyway.) Imagine yourself building an idyllic little cabin in the woods and raising children who ran wild and free building forts and playing amidst the trees.
Really imagine what this feels like. You are surrounded by trees. Trees everywhere. Trees to the left, trees to the right, trees behind you, trees in front of you. You carve out a space for a house and perhaps garage and lawn, but you’re in the forest.
What does this mean? It means there is no visible horizon. You cannot see the sun set or rise, except through the blanket of tree branches. You are always surrounded. Your sight can no longer stretch infinitely to the north or west or east or south. It stops. It stops when it meets trees.
And you have to learn to live in this forest-world, without the gift of a horizon.
So I must tell you the ugly secret. For much of my life here in the wood I have experienced horizon envy. Envy of those who have a horizon. Yes. It was quite painful. In the early years I begged my forest-loving husband “Please can we move down by the water? I must have a view! I must have a horizon!” But my pleas fell on deaf ears. He loved the woods. He couldn’t imagine what his crazy wife was talking about. And I certainly couldn’t articulate about horizon envy.
The years passed. I scurried on down to the lake as often as possible. The kids and I camped on the doorstep of the neighbors for a long stretch. Well, actually we kept inviting ourselves for coffee. Because they were such wonderful people and because (this gets really ugly, I know): they had a horizon.
Until one day I started looking at the Little Things. The tiny plants. The texture of bark. The mosses. The leaves. Really looking deeply. Appreciating what was there under my feet and all around in the forest. Wow! Details that had never before been noticed. Subtle gifts.
The forest came alive and suddenly, one of those days, I realized I was no longer desiring the horizon. Well, not as much anyway. There still is a little bit of horizon envy. It may never go away. Especially when the best sunset you can sometimes view is a reflection in a mud puddle in your driveway.
Pa Ingalls moved his family out to the prairie. They left the Big Woods and moved to a place where the horizon was all they could see. No more being surrounded with trees. They were on the big wide expanse of endless view.
Nope, not me. I’ve decided. I like this woods just fine. As long as there is a lake you can walk to a quarter mile away. There are Michigan mountains in this county, as well. You can climb ’em and admire the horizon all you want. And some of my friends have farms. Fields stretch in all directions around their house. You can go and breathe deep and feel like you are an eagle, looking in all directions at once.
My friend Melinda visited from California once in the middle of our green and leafy summer. She lives atop a mountain. She couldn’t get over the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by trees.
I understood what she meant.
Yet I have learned that sometimes the things we need to see next are given to us in life. I needed to open my eyes and look at the little details, the little things. Some people may need the wider view, to live atop a mountain or beside the sea. Sometimes what we want aren’t the same things we need.
Yep. That’s what I’ve learned from this challenging case of Horizon Envy.