When I was little, I was convinced that there were fairies living beside the river near my house. I used to visit them often, and would spend the afternoon gazing into the spaces between the rocks that I was certain formed the doorways of their homes. I liked to observe the moss, hanging low over the rocks and imagine it formed a veil behind which they would hide from me and the rest of the world’s prying eyes. The shiny, smooth rocks polished by the river were their decorations, which they would lovingly select and place by their dwellings. I used to gather flowers, carefully selecting the smallest and most delicate and crafting them into miniature bouquets. I would leave these offerings by their doorsteps, not only liking how they looked by the rocks, but also hoping that maybe if I left enough of them, that the fairies would one day be inclined to talk to me.
There were other mythological creatures too, a leprechaun I swore lived tucked in the greenest overgrown grass in our school playground, the roses that I knew would contain a sparkling, sleeping fairy when they bloomed, a mermaid I had seen swimming alongside our boat when we went out to spend the day on the water. Time eventually did, as time usually does, move me away from them and those childhood dreams. It’s been years since I’ve thought about the fairy family, or leprechauns or any of these other childhood companions. I now live very far away from that river, and from all of those beings I was so convinced were real. They’ve since faded to the back of my memories. Then recently, I saw something that for a moment, brought them back to me.
Here we don’t get a lot of rain. It’s the desert, and rain is more of a novelty than anything. But lately we’ve had a ton of rain. And it’s made the vegetation go a little bit crazy. Everywhere I looked there was green suddenly, springing from the mountains when before there was none. And plants I had never seen here, growing in gardens and in grass where before there was very little. It was amidst this new landscape, walking by a patch of green grass that I saw it. Mushrooms! I laughed a little when I saw them, thinking immediately of Alice in Wonderland. Would there be a magical caterpillar next, smoking and speaking in riddles? I wished so much that there would be. I even stayed a little while, waiting, eventually moving on when it became obvious that the caterpillar wasn’t going to be making his appearance that day. Seeing those fairytale mushrooms brought the memories of my fairy family back to me. I wondered if their homes were still there, those rocks that looked so much like decorated houses? If I went back, would I still see them? Or is the magic for me, gone?
What happens to us when we grow up? Most of us accept that when we get older, the world no longer looks as magical as it once did. We gain a better understanding of natural phenomenon, we put aside a lot of our ideas and we embrace life as an adult. Maybe we see the world for what it is, which can be very cruel, and very unforgiving. How can magic exist in such a world? And without that childish sense of wonder, it all just seems like harsh reality. I walked by that patch of grass several hours later, to see that the mushrooms were cut, mowed along with the rest of the grass–the mushrooms ready to biodegrade into the earth around them. The caterpillar had never shown up. Maybe next rainstorm.
Walking home, I thought about the mushrooms and the caterpillar a little more. Did I really think my world was going to turn into Alice and Wonderland? No. And in fact that would be honestly terrifying. But it did make me think a bit deeper about myself and where I am in my life right now. Why don’t I let myself imagine anymore? I have to admit that my mind is hardened, rejecting things that before I’ve even considered them. Impossible, impossible, impossible, I tell myself. When did I stop allowing my brain to dream? Was it because I was told no, too many times? Or because I told myself no, too many times?
I want to see things differently again. I’m going to really, really try. And so I’m going to give myself permission to believe and daydream and expand my horizons again, to try to reclaim that imagination from before. We are tied to this world, constrained obviously by physical forces. But our minds can wander, and they can travel for us. And these journeys can ultimately lighten our loads, allowing us to explore ideas and places and concepts without the tether of the everyday world. And maybe, after some time thinking it over, maybe you’ll realize that some of these things are really not so impossible. If you can dream of new worlds and paths for yourself, there is always a chance they can become your reality. I like to think that this is true, anyway.
Later that night after my walk, I reread the dialogue between Alice and the Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”