What was Innocence? Childhood years were filled with beautiful innocence and a passion for learning new things. Innocence was an astonishing period when life was worried free and filled with wonder and awe. Innocence was a sense when we seized the excitement of life that was uniquely ourselves. When we saw a butterfly land on a flower for the first time, we ran into the house with excitement and asked our mother “where do butterflies come from?” Our parents played an important role as teachers connecting us to our natural universe; answering those types of questions like “Why are the trees green and the sky blue?” It was our introduction to life outside our own world. It was our first time realizing we were a part of something greater than ourselves.
So why did we lose our innocence? Was it because we allowed all the noise in our life to take over our thinking? We rushed here or there between a job and family only to find ourselves exhausted and wondering what the purpose of life was. We allowed other’s to rent space in our heads with their negative thoughts and impressions merely to create more confusion on what our own destiny should be. And in turn this created fear which builds our walls in what should be life’s simplistic design.
For me, life has been like a rose. You were born with the pedals closed. As the rose unfolds one petal at a time, a piece of your innocence goes away. It can be painful. It can be joyous. It was replaced with a bit of knowledge that was to guide you to your destiny. We all want it, but how we get it can have its obstacles. Losing a love one or your job can make you believe you have no destiny. If only we realized that everyone goes through the pains of life and not put pressure upon ourselves to feel hopeless, and learn from this. It’s so easy to get caught up in self sabotage, self denials, and even self hatred. This is what keeps us from finding our destiny. We must look into our hearts and return to ourselves. Innocence can return when life feels new again. For me, I have found my innocence again.
One day, my attention was caught like a magnet pulling from my heart. I saw a picture of a back yard on this Internet real estate listing located in the northeast part of the Georgia Mountains. It was like a mystical forest with the mountains peaking out behind it. All you needed to see were glistening fairies dancing around the trees to complete the picture. I was so mesmerized by this picture. Never before had I felt such a compelling force to see a property like this. It felt like a siren was calling me to the location. I knew there was a purpose to this, so I followed my heart.
The cost of the home with nearly two acres of land was very modestly priced compared to where my husband, and I live in Florida. And the prize was that you were in the mountains. Within a couple of weeks my husband and I went to Georgia to see this home. As we drove into the subdivision, we had to steer up a narrow winding road. The sun was shinning brilliantly through the magnificent oak and pine trees as we approached the street of the home’s location. As soon as we walked into the house, the view of this magical forest greeted us. I hadn’t felt this feeling of new love since my last child was born. We immediately gave a contract. Within a month after that, we closed the transaction.
At first, the primary reason for purchasing this home was for renting it out and retiring in it later. This was to become part of our retirement plan. However, after we stayed in the house for one night, we knew we couldn’t rent it out. We both sensed something that felt familiar, but yet, we couldn’t put our finger on it. I guess it was a sense of being home.
Our childhood years were filled with stories of fairy tales and legends. It was a magical time of fantasy. This was a period where we were able to imagine ourselves as a princess or a hero and live happily ever after. Or perhaps it was Robin Hood with Maid Marian finding each other in the forest for the first time. I remember Peter Pan as one of my favorite fairy tales. Peter didn’t want to leave Neverland. He didn’t want to grow up and take responsibilities as an adult and lose his innocence.
Flash backs of these tales came to my attention as I opened the front door and walked onto the light pine floors. A few steps more and I was greeted with a large framed picture window with a view of a spectacular forest. Our living room window sat high up looking down into the forest. The feeling was equated to appreciating a masterpiece painting of nature. The precision and variety shades of the green trees and bushes complimented the Dogwoods that lightened up the landscape. Could this be my Neverland, I thought?
Deer would slowly and cautiously come out in the mornings along with the squirrels and the assortment of birds. Growing up in the city, I never saw this aspect of nature in this distinctive way. I mean to see the coalition of animals interacting with each other was a marvel to experience. Even though they were completely different types of species, they still respected each other’s space for food. Each would be eating at their own pace, yet watching for predators. If the deer or bird saw the squirrel perk up with an alarming chatter, they too would signal their family members to quickly run for cover. Then when it was all clear again, they would slowly return, continuing to feed.
There were no noises of cars or trucks in the distance. All you heard were the different melodies of the birds singing and the squirrels chirping. It was as if they were conveying to each other, there were new people in town. As I just watched them do their every day errand, I never realized how much there was to learn from these creatures. I could hear nature within my mind. I could see how the squirrels would find their food and instead of eating it right away, they would dig a hole and hide it for the future. I was beginning to firmly understand the genius of the master plan and how we relate to nature. Each element of species provided a particular function for another.
In the evenings, the cool, crisp, natural mountain air would caress your face as silence fell for the night. It was so quiet; you could hear your heartbeat. The sky would be like a blanket of stardust twinkling like crystals overhead.
Within this small town, there came a feeling, like “I’ve been here before”. It reminded me of my youth, back in the 1960s when we would vacation for the summer in a small country town. There were a general store, a small movie house, small family businesses and everyone greeted you in a small town way. It seemed as if everywhere I went, there were people saying the same thing about this town. Once they came here, they knew they had to stay forever.
Now, not all about the town was total bliss. There was the history about the town that overshadowed this peaceful tranquility of the mountains. It was about the first settlers there who were the Cherokee Indians and how their territory was siezed from them by the U. S. Government. As my husband and I learned more of the town’s history, we understood what it must have been like for the American Indians to have lost this wonderful land. I mean, when you are there you feel your youthful energy restored. We knew the Cherokees lost more than land. We knew they lost their soul, their innocence. And ironically with guilt, we knew we found ours.
We now have had this property for two years. We have declared this home, a home where we will retire to within the next few years. Every 5-8 weeks at a time, we go up for a visit to energize ourselves, recapturing that sentiment of innocence once more. Because when you walk into this modest home, you realize simplicity is at its best with the brilliance of the forest. You don’t care what people say. You don’t care what people think. You don’t need anything else, no fancy cars, no fancy clothes, just your soul. Within your soul you can feel the innocence coming back. You don’t need to think about life, but just watch and learn. In my 54 years of life, I have learned more about myself in the two years, since we have had this property. I learned that life is more enjoyable when things are more simplified. As the American Indians understood all along, I learned that we must be one with nature, protect it, and learn from its creatures.
I am further convinced I was led here on a spiritual journey. See, a few years ago, I lost my home town of Chicago when I lost the last of my birth family, my older brother at the age of 54. He died suddenly of a heart attack. He had a lonely and difficult life with a harsh divorce. A few years before that, I lost my mother to a massive stroke and never thought I would go through such pain so soon. I have not been back because of these memories. However, deep in my heart I strongly believe my parents guided me to recapture a new home town feeling. When you grow up in Chicago, it’s not easy to lose a town like that. It was not by a coincidence that I had such an intense feeling when I saw the picture of the back yard for the first time.
Now, I’d love to be able to share the name of the town with you, unfortunately I cannot. I think my husband would divorce me if I did. But you see, it makes no difference whether you know the location or not. It’s up to you as an individual to find your own “innocence”. It doesn’t have to be a piece of property. It’s a state of mind. Just close your eyes, quiet the noise in your soul, and listen to feel a homecoming, something uniquely your own. You’ll know when you find your innocence. It’s when you don’t care what people think. You don’t care what people say. You will believe in yourself again. Step into a place of nature and you will feel that innocence again.