Behind the Episcopal church of my youth is a walled memorial garden and a koi pond. The Neo-Gothic structure dates from the 1920s, a booming era for South Florida architecture and opulence. After Sunday service, the church served refreshments under wide palm fans and the twisted spines of guava trees. I savored the cheap orange juice and the sugar cookies we were never allowed to eat at home. Crouched on a stone bridge in a white smocked dress with a handful of pellets, I fed my orange, black and white friends over the broken surface of the black pond. The fish bustled for a turn, slipping around and over each other in exuberance.These memories surface like bubbles of unbridled rapture. Childhood time is frozen, crystallized into eulogistic forms. Back then, were they just the fish I loved visiting after the constraining horror of Sunday school?
Sometime in my listless twenties, I found the garden again flattened by the midday sun, sweaty and bland. There were less flowers and the fish were like bullies, a grotesque ball of wrestling pythons. I had lost my wonder.
I return to this concept again and again. The lost wonderment of childhood, the “growing up” that damaged my spirit. While joy is not the sole property of the past, it is something we must recuperate. It is not our lost youth. It is our lost soul. We can leave no stone unturned or else we all die the quiet deaths of adulthood.
In the garden once again, I rest in quiet contemplation.The longer I sit in stillness, the deeper and wider the garden becomes till voices rise once again from the dark waters, koi older than time itself swimming calm circles around the lily pads. How many wide eyes have they seen from their vantage point below the surface, cherubic faces gazing at them with the wonder of a billion earth-bound years?