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AMY MARTZ: A certain kind of isolation

There is something about a childhood spent on a farm that lends to a certain kind of isolation. Life consists of a few acres of land anchored by a collection of buildings that are considered home. Add to that a lack of cable television and the id...

Amy Martz

There is something about a childhood spent on a farm that lends to a certain kind of isolation. Life consists of a few acres of land anchored by a collection of buildings that are considered home. Add to that a lack of cable television and the idea of a world beyond the barn is completely unfathomable in the brain of a 5 year old.

At least, that was the conclusion of my 5-year-old brain.

These are the things I knew:

I knew the sharp sweetness of sun-kissed strawberries picked straight from the garden. I knew the musty smell of our cocker spaniel, Missy, and the feel of her soft, dirty hair when I buried my face into the matted knots along her sides and back. I knew every inch of the farmyard -- from the prairie trail made of soft dirt that ran through the fields behind our house, to the weed-covered hill that dominated the western edge of the shelterbelt -- where every night the sun lay down to sleep, often, to my constant frustration, hours after I was told to go to sleep.

I knew my sister was my best friend.

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And I knew it was exactly a half mile from our house to our worn, metal mailbox perched on a wooden post buried into the grass and dirt on the side of the county road.

Beyond that, the rest of the world was a mystery that my brain had no urge to investigate.

My life was filled with snow forts and barn swings. Minutes, hours, days spent exploring the thick line of trees that ran the length of our land and running barefoot through the cool evening grass.

There are a few unavoidable facts of life that we must all accept. One of them is that we will grow up. This is not breaking news.

My days now are filled with stories and photos. Those mysteries have become all too tempting, and I find myself chasing them, wanting to make sense of the chaos, joy and terror that fills my no-longer-isolated world.

And there are days where the stories grow worse every hour and the photos are heartbreaking or gruesome and there is no sense to be made.

Two weeks ago, I put a photo on the front page of the Herald of a young, dark-haired girl perched on the shoulders of a man, holding a tiny American flag toward the sky. It was the day after the Boston Marathon bombings and I had spent most of my hours at work searching the news wires for a photo to accompany the national story. A quote from the father of one of the bombing victims, an 8-year-old boy, had been running through my head: "In an instant, life changes."

I was struck by the image of the girl, not simply because it was a beautiful photo, but because of the expression on her face, to be so young and look so solemn, and to know that her isolation was not the same as the innocent, safe bubble of isolation that I grew up in.

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The day I sat perched on my dad's shoulders furiously waving a tiny American flag in celebration was a sunny summer afternoon in July. For this young girl, it was a chilly April evening spent mourning the victims of a tragedy that cannot be explained.

The isolation of my early childhood was not a bad thing. Though I may have been sheltered from the realities of the rest of the world, there has been no other time in my life that I have felt as free.

And yet, another unavoidable fact of life is that everyone, at some point, will lose their isolation. The lucky ones will get to hold onto it a little longer. But in an instant, for all of us, life will change.

Martz is a copy editor at the Herald and can be reached at amartz@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1124. Her column runs the last Sunday of every month.

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