Suburban Journal: Natural Boundaries

by Carl Wade Thompson


neighborhood sidewalk leading to treesWe took the kids to the park yesterday, letting them ride on their new scooters along the sidewalks as we closely followed behind. The day was filled with sunshine, the moisture from the previous night’s rain quickly dissipating in the warm afternoon sun. We had just returned from my parents’ home in Oklahoma after putting my grandmother to rest, and though exhausted, we enjoyed being outside in the unusual weather for this time of year.

Watching my kids play, my eyes turned south to the periphery of the park. Surrounding the park is a large tract of undeveloped land, natural prairie filled with brush, mesquite, and ornamental pear trees. There is no fence enclosing the park; the land is defined by what is mowed, a natural boundary along the edge unkempt and wild. Staring at the boundary, I wondered what the park would be like if no one mowed? Would the prairie reclaim what was rightfully its own by growing up through the carefully manicured grounds, stunted saplings springing up in a wave of protest? Who decided this boundary? Why did they not mow it all down, clearing away the last vestige of the land that once was and would never be again? To the west, I saw the bulldozed land that would soon be another part of the subdivision of the quickly encroaching phenomenon known as suburban sprawl. In five years, would the still undeveloped pastureland be all gone, the park boundary replaced with cookie-cutter houses, board fences, and sidewalks?

I thought about the natural boundaries in both nature and people, the boundary that separates life and death, something never thought of until it comes crashing home. My grandmother was a person who bridged those boundaries when I was a child, showing me the wonders of nature, of trees, woods, brush, and mountains, whether it be the back pasture behind her house or the Kiamichi mountains where she was born. She introduced me to nature, to the love I have of land not yet tamed by sprawl.

Now, as I stared at the park boundary, I thought of how she had crossed the final barrier, one in which she could not come back. Death is a condition no one can escape, and though it may claim the living, I do not think it is the end. As the Wheel turns, so the lives we share with others, until it all runs like a stream without beginning or end. I can believe in this kind of melting of boundaries as I watch my kids play, knowing love and hope moves on with the rolling of time. For that, I believe, as I run to catch up with my kids as they transform into adults before my watchful eyes.


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:

The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird

A Budding Tree

An Encounter With a Falcon

The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by Susan Leggett

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