A Sort of Magic

An impressionistic painiting of a person sitting on a rock near a tree and watching the clouds.
Above the Clouds - Ralph Albert Blakelock

When I was five, I lived in a magical place in the middle the woods. Where I lived there were no power lines to connect us. Those before us had made the herculean effort to get a phone line attached, but electric power remained out of reach. We lived in a world of gaslight, propane lamps, and wood fire. I could not give you a comparison. I did not have one at the time, but I loved that place. It was filled with warm light and crackling embers—the smell of baked bread and an outside world of endless possibility just beyond the treeline.

I would spend my summer days outside. This was one such day. I had chased the dogs and wandered off into the forest. I pretended I was a bear and all the creatures were my friends. We would dance and run and growl and fight, but then make up with smile and good humor as can only happen in a child's world. After I had exhausted the day, or at least myself, I trudged back to the house and swung on the wooden swing my father had made.

That swing was my triumph of the week. I had learned the motion, you see. I had learned how to make the swing move without anyone else. I didn't need to call for a push. I could just move my legs and the swing would take me. I had discovered my own source of perpetual motion, and I was enthralled with my genius. I kept the swing going, getting it as high as I dared. Then, like the daredevil I was, I leapt into the sky.

My landing was not graceful. I didn't care. I fell and rolled and laughed. I can recall laying on my back staring at the clouds as they moved across the sky. I felt the planet there. I felt connected. A trick of water vapor and wind, but I swore I felt the tilt of our world and for a moment I wondered if it would throw me off into the sky. A skinny five year old child laying on the grass before a wooden swing that was just beginning to settle.

Reader, I share this with you now, because it was the first magic I knew. It was my first secret. As I lay there, watching the sky, I saw people. I saw people on horseback. Shadows in the sun, leaping between the clouds, and I looked away when I saw them. It was as if I knew I was seeing something I shouldn't, something I couldn't. I was a child, prone to fantasy there is no doubt—I still am—but I was so sure I saw them. When I dared to look back, though, there was nothing but the clouds, the sun, and the blue sky beyond.

I did not know then what I know now. I did not know that within two years I would leave that place and never see it again. Time would move on. The wooden swing would fall down, and the shouts of my parents would rise up. There would be courtrooms and threats and that magical world where I had once been so connected would simply fade away into a memory. My own lost Arcadia.

I told no one what I saw. Not my mother or father, not a single person for many decades. I told no one even after the rosy hue of childhood became clouded and dark. I stayed silent as time played its cruel games. I held that vision clutched in my head in the darkest moments. I protected that memory because it was my own. It may have been a trick of the light, nothing but shadow and vapor, but it was mine and it was a good memory of a time I will never see again.

Hold your magic, Reader. Save it and guard it. It is the only sacred thing we have.



In the Deluge of the Slush Pile