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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Terebithia

I rediscovered one of my favorite books from childhood this week, Coffee Lovers. It is the classic Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. If you haven't read it, you aren't too old to. I promise.

It's about a boy from a poor family in a rural area who, on the outside, seems like all of the other fifth graders. Inside, he's dying for the world to know how much he loves to draw and create, dying for his father to accept his dream of being an artist, dying for something to make. And it is about a girl, an eccentric girl in the rural neighborhood, whose parents are rich, ex-hippie authors without a television set. And despite the fact that circumstances are the greatest distance between any two people, they become best friends.

Together, they create a magical kingdom only they know about. They call it Terabithia and it is there, in that world of their minds made almost-real in the nearby forest, that they learn the greatest lesson life has to offer: the strength to insist upon yourself.

I've always loved this book, because this was me as a child. I spent every afternoon in the forest talking with wizards, fighting dragons, plotting with elves, chanting in funky gibberish to ward off the evil spirits. It may sound funny now, but it was true back then. I fought the same war that Jess and Leslie fight in Terabithia, that very finite, eternal war of childhood to find oneself. Among the wood nymphs and the pixies, I worked little by little until, finally, I could emerge from the forests of my backyard into the life I'd been neglecting in favor of my imagination.

You see, there's a new kind of magic you learn about once you finally leave the woodland wonders of childhood behind. That is the magic of living well in a de-mystified time and place. It is the magic of passion, of art, of loving, not just someone or something specifically, but throwing wide your arms and letting your soul feast itself upon everything, letting yourself be overtaken by your own version of the wide world, not forgetting that you are entitled to your own smiles, if nothing else. It is the magic of singing badly and loudly in public, of remembering to talk to strangers, of shining because you were naturally endowed with light, and what a waste it would be to forget that.

One of my best friends reminds me of this kind of living all of the time. She is strong and wise beyond her years. She is comforting and confusing, suprising and dependable, always ready to listen to a new idea and give you her honest opinion. It is rare that people drop into life ready, each day, to remind you that there is magic still to be had. But she is one of them. And for that, I thank her.

There are days when Terabithia seems so far off. Life has that funny habit of catching up with you at all the wrong times, but we forget that Terabithia is not in the forest across the neighborhood creek or in our backyards. No, my friends. Terabithia remains, as it always has been, in our minds. We are safe and powerful, we are young and lovely - always. What a celebration of life that is.

I suppose refinding Bridge to Terabithia served to remind me that life, no matter how busy it gets, is a waste if we look around and realize we have forgotten to actually live it. So bring the mystical back to the everyday; it's not as far off as you think.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

2 comments:

  1. This just made my life. The people that remind us that there is magic still to be had? You're always that person for me.
    Thanks for being so wonderful.
    Love always, shreya

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  2. Michael, I'm with you 110% on this one. Life needs to be cherished and fully lived.

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