Alone on the deck the other evening, I wondered at what point so many of us began to ignore all the wonder and beauty this brief lifetime holds.
We each arrived in this wondrous place as a clean slate and spent our early years enthralled by the pervasive colors, smells and sounds that charmed our consciousness.
So at what age did that sense of wonder began to evaporate?
When did we decide that conflict, unjustified hatred, biases and self-centered political ideologies--all of which we realize will wind up buried along with us--became our focus of existence?
After all, those reading this likely were fortunate enough to have been born into a country that values individual freedoms and opportunity for those who care to actively seek it, which also means we are free to choose our priorities.
Well before we were adults, we appreciated the magic of all the newness that captivated us. We noticed the smell of fresh-mown grass and the grace of butterflies, the spellbinding colors of flowers and the thrill of catching toads and chasing fireflies. We were enthralled by flashing carnival lights and winter's first snowfall.
Remember the high-pitched songs of new frogs in the spring? The methodical chirping of crickets on warm summer evenings?
In my youth, I never noticed a companion's skin color. He was simply a friend. There was no bigotry or false hatred (still isn't). That early era was an innocent place of enchantment.
Until the hormones kicked in and our attentions were diverted by awakening sexuality and salving tender egos. The simple wonders that mesmerized us so in those initial years faded under pressure of socialization and the demands of expectations.
By this point a lot more was weighing on our hearts and minds than soaking up the world's magnificence. I suspect it was at that point we began taking for granted most about life. We grew up.
That approach to existence grew increasingly relentless as the wonder years faded with the responsibilities and priorities of adulthood. Now we faced the daily challenges of making wise life choices, parenthood, health concerns, employment and mortgages.
Those among us with abundant energy were able to juggle the various pressures and responsibilities dictated by society. Yet doing so left little--if any--interest in regaining our fascination with the magic that still enveloped us.
My life as an adult, perhaps like yours, brought the relentless demands of fathering, managing daily newsrooms and preparing to teach college classes. All the while, flowers continued to bloom, the creeks still nurtured turtles and crawdads. The snow still fell in winters. The smell of new rainfall had not changed. The stars still sparkled overhead.
But we seldom noticed such "irrelevancies" anymore. My attention now was directed 24/7 to matters of adulting. All that fluffy stuff of decades long past had become unimportant because, hey, I had important matters to tend to.
Until my 70th birthday rolled around and I began spending time in the evenings on the front porch or back deck as the sun settled into twilight. I began remembering why that always had been my favorite time of day.
I also started once more to notice the radiant colors and fragrances of all those flowers and how much the bees, hummingbirds (and their imitator hummingbird moths) enjoyed sharing those gifts in peaceful union.
One afternoon I studied a mother bird as she still brought food to her offspring even after she had been shooed from the nearby birdhouse. I never had realized they did that.
The chirp of a female cardinal perched on a nearby branch was fascinating as I watched her lift her beak and sing to her heart's content in a melody I'd never heard. In the distance, her mate responded.
Lawnmowers were humming. The sweetish aroma from their blades wafted across the fences. Our little pound pup Benji was furiously digging on our side of the chain link fence as the next door Corgi was doing likewise directly across from him on her side. Springtime puppy love was a sight worth beholding.
I reflected on the distant whip of helicopter blades thumping across Harrison and recalled how that sound once made my heart beat faster, though I never really understood why. In one corner of the lawn, brilliant white snowball flowers had grown to the size of cantaloupes, a joy to the eyes.
They make movies and write songs about the circle of life. With good reason. Regaining a childlike appreciation for the natural wonders around us throughout our lifetimes is God's way of keeping this experience we call life in perspective.
Come to think of it, I believe my life's circle is urging me to find a bucket and head down to the peaceful flow of Crooked Creek. I'm sure the crawdads that once occupied so many childhood hours still hide beneath the stream's large flat stones.
Perhaps I'll take my spinning rod and flip one into the blue hole where shimmering brown bass spend their days. Care to join me? It's been too many years.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.