Magical Realm

As the kids and I drove into Barre, Vermont, this afternoon, the little boy in the back seat said,  I really don’t like Barre.

I’m with the kid, I’m reluctant to say, for reasons no doubt wholly different than the boy’s. We were headed to The Nutcracker, in the gracious Barre Opera House. On the way there, I drove behind the county courthouse, repository of windowless hallways and claustrophobic rooms, countless tears of human misery.

But I trusted ballet could rewrite my experience of that city, and the magical dance did not let me down. At the performance’s very end, high up in the balcony, I realized  – in what should be a, well, duh, moment – that ballet was all about the transformative might of imagination.

All the way home – and here’s yet another driving story, yet another journey – we drove on icy roads through the smokey blue-black twilight, and then arrived in our own home town with full darkness ringed all around, velvety and deep, and the village lights twinkling white. The town itself might have been the opera house stage, lit-up and beautifully arrayed for the holidays.

When I was twenty, I worked nights for a summer. I loved driving at night as a young woman; the darkness around my two Volkswagen beetle headlights felt ripe with possibility, and I believed myself invincible with youth. In an odd juxtaposition, nearly thirty years later, possibilities stretch out even more infinitely before me. Although I now know the illusion of invincibility, I think I’ve traded that for something deeper and far more valuable in those sparkling lights.

Unamuno might be describing the artist as well as the Christian as he writes, “Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”

– Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art


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