The Road To Imagination
June 19, 2014
“RUN!” shouts Jack, the boy with the well worn ball cap and a flannel shirt knotted around his waist. Casting a fearful look back while leading the pack of kids through the open woodland, weaving through underbrush and dodging around trees. He crests a fallen log, followed by his friends, the older brother Kurt and the pretty neighbor girl Tracie. “Wait up!,” cries the shrill voice of the younger brother Karl. Skidding to a halt, they turn to see him fall over the log. Jack races back and hefts the boy to his feet, chancing a glance back. Tearing after them is a pack of Briar dogs, creatures formed of thorn, thistle and pure hate. Jack curses under his breath, pushes Karl on and starts running again. “We’ve gotta move, it’s not far now.”
Kurt and Tracie have gone ahead and already reached the safety of the poplar swinging trees. Jack can feel the hot, black breath of the dogs on his back. Suddenly a large tree limb is dropped from above. There is a startled yelp as it strikes a Briar dog, in effect killing it and causing it to return to its natural state of rooted thorn.
Looking up, Jack sees they have entered the pines—Tree Thing territory. Tree Things are peaceful creatures, attaching themselves to young pines and growing with them. Blending with their tree host they are camouflaged to the naked eye. They hate Briar dogs, which works to the children’s advantage. Panting, Jack and Karl collapse into the clearing. The others have already climbed into the poplars and rock them to and fro in wide arcs (thus swing trees), Karl hurries over to join them. “Well, at least that’s over.” Tracie quips from above. Before Jack can catch his breath to reply, there is a long guttural howl from deep within the woods. Jack smiles, “It isn’t over just yet.” That’s the problem in these woods, when you think the adventures over, it’s really only just begun.
Years later, Jack’s father would tell him it was time to grow up, come out of the woods and stop his foolishness. So Jack did as his father asked (there was yelling involved). He got a menial job, saved money, bought a car, met a girl, saved more money, got a place. Yes, Jack’s life was going the way everyone thought it should. Seriously, who wants to be a great forest warrior, leading their troops into battle, going on one adventure after another? It’s much better to grow up, work as a bag boy, drive a beat-up s*** brown Chevette, have a pointless relationship and live in a run down, piece of s*** trailer.
More years later, with the car, girl and trailer behind him and gone, Jack would return to the woods from time to time. Realizing now that he had to come out, had to grow up, had to make his way in the real world. But for all of this profound realization and understanding, one question still gnaws at his mind...why? Why must we leave our imaginations behind? Why must the adventures of our childhood be corralled into nothing more than fond memory? In comparison to the imagined world of youth the “real world” is a total bore. Full of problems that no one can solve and not much fun at all. But sadly and inevitably we must grow up. We must face the unsolvable problems the world has to offer and find the resolve to survive in reality.
Yes, the excitement and adventure would seem to be truly over. Yet sometimes on his visits to the forest of his youth, Jack can hear a faint howl riding on the winds. Perhaps, it isn’t over just yet...and he smiles.
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