When I was no more than seven, I remember gently removing the shed skin of cicadas from the slat-wood fence in my parents' backyard. We would gather roly poly bugs and watch them curl and uncurl. One of my greatest ambitions was to find a queen fire ant, so I could have my own colony. I kept a careful eye on the date tree in our front yard, finding out that coconut trees and date trees were very different things.
I asked millions of questions, and stored the answers in the back of my mind. I climbed olive trees and dreamt of dinosaurs flying overhead. I read every book I could get my hands on, immersing myself in the stars, in the layers of the earth, in learning about peach trees and honey bees.
When we visited my grandparents, I followed one around and fed his calves and goats. The other taught me about herbs and roses. I learned that spiders love grape arbors, and that dog food doesn't taste good.
Later, I looked into the maw of a dormant volcano, smelled the sulfur pits, watched humpbacks dive on the horizon. I gathered and preserved sea urchin, learned about man o' war jellyfish, and how to pick blackberries with minimal scratches. Everywhere I lived, there were new explorations and always, always more to learn. What I could not learn by experience, I learned from books. Sometimes, I feel as though I have lived dozens of lives in my short years here.