It is 3pm on a blistery warm August day when I have the brilliant idea to handcuff myself to the washing machine. My ten-year-old brain cannot comprehend the reasons behind my parent’s decision to move from our family home in the city to a foreign space, often referred to as “the sticks” by my classmates, 45 minutes away. There is no way in hell I am going to move to a place where cows roam in grass, street lights are far and few between and blackberry bushes act as fences. How on earth could living so far away from the city benefit my life in any positive way? My parents must have lost their minds! Twenty minutes later, I am crammed into the brown Arrow Star van, face wet with tears, a handcuff still attached to my wrist and a pit in my stomach. I quietly say goodbye to each house packed into the grey cul-de-sac as we drive past. With each passing kilometer driven the houses slowly drift apart opening to big fields of hay and roaming livestock. Eternity elapses as the van roams through nameless streets before finally stopping in front of a blue and white house. My new space.

 

Many years have passed since that fateful day I landed at my new home. Many moments have eroded from my brain from the weathering of these years. However, there a few instants I will never forget as they are forever etched deep in my mind away from the eroding corners. One such memory takes me back to that very second I jumped out of the van and my eyes were drawn to thick green grass and clusters of trees bordering our property.

 

I had never ever seen trees like this before especially in this quantity. Back at my old house each yard had a single magnolia tree, Katsura tree or a maple tree. Maybe, if the yard were particularly large, there would be two trees! But here, in this new yard we have a forest. Over a dozen trees stand beside the house and all of them have bark that is dark grey with conspicuous black markings that remind me of an army of tabby cats.[1] Their heart shaped leaves wave to me as the wind blows through inviting me to explore. I shrug off the invite, not willing to give them a chance until my gaze is drawn to the to the little black and white masked chickadee’s dancing on the braches. My father tells me they are poplar trees as I step onto the grass trying to hide my smile.

 

I cannot recall how much time I spent poking about the front yard, nor all the details of what I saw. I just know that my next memory floats me into the backyard that is busting with black berry bushes as far as my eyes could see.

 

The brambles are full of little berries, red, green and black, all in different stages of ripening. Without warning, a squirrel with a dark grey back and brushed cinnamon hips bounces out from the wall of brambles, cheeks stained with purple juice. His fuzzy grey and white tail bobs up and down as he scoots up the nearest tree scolding me about the disturbance. Wanting to see what all the fuss is about, I seize a plump deep purple berry off the prickly stem and roll it between my fingers. Purple juice oozes, staining my fingertips as I toss the berry in my mouth. I feel the bumpy bubbles burst against my tongue as I bite down and a tartly treat trickles down my throat. Delicious.

 

Suddenly a small brown and yellow garter snake catches my gaze as she sneaks over crunchy brown leaves littered on the grass. I tiptoe behind her and she leads me back into the front yard. She disappears in between three giant rocks. I climb up onto the rocks, becoming the king of the castle, to get a better view. I notice one of the rocks has shiny silver specs, while the other has big bite taken out of the side exposing jagged layers of dark grey, chocolate brown, rusty orange and creamy white. As I lean into the center of the three rocks, my hand brushes fuzzy green moss hugging the underside of the giant rock. I flip upside down to get a better view and spot a Daddy Longlegs, nestled into the green moss blanket. I did a science project on these little critters so I know this is a daddy longlegs and not a spider because his head, thorax and abdomen are fused widely into one. This is unlike the creepy spiders I often found while venturing in the garden in my old yard, who have a distinct waist between the cephalothorax and abdomen.[2] This silly little arachnid notices my probing eyes and instinctively begins to skitter away through the grass. I watch as all eight legs move at different times, joints moving up and down like the needles in a knitting machine.[3]

 

The gangly little harvestman wanders to the other side of the yard, its egg-shaped body well above the blades of grass as his legs taste and feel the ground ahead.[4] He strategically maneuvers under a cedar hedge. I watch as he works his way up the flat-fanned green leaves.[5] He gently glides over the stringy brown bark and disappears behind the tree. I peer through the branches trying to get a better look of my eight -legged little buddy. That’s when I noticed he is trapped in a web! I know it is not his web, as daddy longlegs do not produce the silk necessary to make a web.[6] Instead they eat insects by grabbing them with their front little claws, emitting a glue to hold their dinner in place and chowing down.[7] They also have a tendency to scavenge on dead animals or the eggs of other insects and spiders.[8] I swiftly break the carefully spun web in order to free my little companion. He plops to the brown earth and begins his journey again. This time I do not follow.

 

A few seasons pass, a couple of years drift by and we begin to change the landscape of our space. Although to call it space takes away all meaning and emotion attached to this landscape as space is defined as one- dimensional, only a physical location without any substantial meaning.[9] While that was an accurate description when I first arrived, the moment I began to make memories, share smiles and become friends with nature, this space turned into place. And so with love in my heart, I reminisce about my experience, my yard, my place.

 

The blackberries that once consumed the acre of our backyard have been forced to retreat to the neighbor’s yard finally exposing the bumpy boggy earth beneath.   I am now 12, and forced, along with my brother, to help with the daunting task of digging out new flowerbeds. The first few shovels of earth are full of dark damp soil, soggy slimy leaves and plump pink worms. I make the brave decision to pick up one of the wriggly worms and toss it at my brother who quickly retaliates with a shovel full of the dirt to my face. Beyond angry I begin to feverishly thrust dirt on him which he casually shrugs off. He then starts to laugh, as all brothers do, in a mocking tone that forces me to see crimson red. As a result, I angrily make the decision that I am going to dig a hole to China, throw him down it and become the only child I had always dreamt about being.

 

With each plunge into the earth I notice the soil had gone from being dark brown to a light brown and I realize that I am digging through the different soil horizons. I recall my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Stanley, taking our class out to the forest beside the school and getting us to dig, much like my dad is making us do now. It was during this digging adventure that Mrs. Stanley taught us about the different layers of dirt. I realize that I had been throwing the topsoil at my brother, which was a huge waste as it is soft. If I really wanted to hurt him I would have to wait until I hit the regolith layer as it is full of broken up bedrock.

 

My brother and I dig in complete silence until I smash into a rock that sends vibrations up my arms, through my hands and into my teeth. I screech in shock and toss my shovel aside. My brother instantly rushes to me to ensure I am okay which prompts me to feel bad about my plan and out of guilt tell him what I am trying to do. While he is not happy about his part in the plan he is excited about the prospect of digging a hole to China and we decide that together we will dig. After all as my father always says, “ Team work makes the Dream Work.”

 

Once we removed the big rock I had so clumsily hit we began to dig through the different soil layers. Hours go by, but we barely notice as we are too busy excitedly chatting about the different things we would see in China. We wonder where we are tunneling to.; a rice field? Someone’s backyard? Will they become our new friends? So many possibilities! Suddenly our shovels no longer glide through the dirt because the ground refuses our access. We have hit bedrock. Convinced that if we just dig a little deeper we would find the earth’s core, we desperately try to push our spade shovels through the inflexible gray surface. Blisters take over our hands and we realize we would not be able to break through this last layer with just our shovels. Something I should have already known had I paid better attention to that part of Ms. Stanley’s lecture. We opt to put the shovels away and head to the drawing board to come up with new ways to break through the bedrock. Our plans are short lived however, when we are informed that the soil for the new gardens was coming the following day and our hole to china would be filled in. Parents ruin everything.

 

As 12 year old me fast forwards to 36 year old me, I cannot help but to think back to that moment 25 years before when I stubbornly in protest attached myself to the water pipes of the washing machine. In that very moment I felt my life was ending and I did not want to have to say goodbye to the only place I had ever known. The space I was moving too was just a pinpoint on my father’s road map and held little meaning. I was too stubborn, too afraid and too inexperienced to realize that I needed to welcome the challenge of a new experience. Without it I would never have learned about the poplar trees, eaten a fresh blackberry off a bramble, toyed with a squirrel, chased a snake or befriended a daddy long leg. The soil of the backyard would have been left untouched and with it the great dig to China would have never happened. Each second spent exploring the new space made me realize that more often than not, a new space can quickly win over your heart. Each second of experience builds a moment, a meaning and a memory. Each second of experience shifts the unknown of space into the familiarity of place; and this place, is home.

[1] Poplar.(2016). In Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Retrieved from

https://www.britannica.com/plant/poplar

[2] Daddy Longlegs Myth(2009). University of California. Retrieved from

http://spiders.ucr.edu/daddylonglegs.html

 

[3] Daddy LongLegs.(2106). Forestry Canada .Retrieved from

http://www.canadianforestry.com/html/forest/speaking8_e.html

 

[4] Daddy Longlegs Myth(2009). University of California. Retrieved from

http://spiders.ucr.edu/daddylonglegs.html

 

[5] Nix, Steve (2016,June 18) Cedars and Junipers – Tree Leaf key Retrieved from

http://forestry.about.com/od/treeidentification/tp/tree_key_id_cedar.htm

[6] Daddy LongLegs.(2106). Forestry Canada .Retrieved from

http://www.canadianforestry.com/html/forest/speaking8_e.html

[7] Yirka,Bob (2014,October 3) Researchers discover daddy longlegs spiders captures prey using glue Retrieved from

http://phys.org/news/2014-10-daddy-longlegs-spiders-capture-prey.html

[8] Daddy LongLegs.(2106). Forestry Canada .Retrieved from

http://www.canadianforestry.com/html/forest/speaking8_e.html

 

[9] Space vs. Place(2012)Human Geography. Retrieved from

http://geography.ruhosting.nl/geography/index.php?title=Space_vs._place