It was a midsummer’s night and I was seven years old, a barefooted boy romping through patches of wild mint in my Grandma’s meadow. I soon discovered I wasn’t alone.
I stood gape-mouthed and bug-eyed as the sleek, black form of Lightning materialized out of the shadows before me. My heart racing, I faced the black horse as he lowered his head, sniffing quietly. I reached out and wiggled my fingers in front of his nose. Lightning stood like a king in his moonlit pasture, surrounded by whirling fireflies and their emerald flashes of fairy light.
Everything else faded away, the chirping crickets, the rumbling train on the nearby tracks. For those brief moments, Lightning became the center of my universe. We didn’t touch, yet we connected. It was a magical moment, etched in my memory forever.
Fireflies graced my evening years later during reading time, one of my 11-year-old foster son’s favorite activities. He would shut off the TV and Nintendo, and drag me away from my computer. He would then light candles for me to read by. During one evening’s session, he produced a jar of captured fireflies, releasing them so that they swirled through the den, glowing like gems from a dragon’s hoard. “Cool!” he declared. More than cool, I thought. Magic!
So it is for all of us. Throughout our lives, many such magical gems appear for the gathering. Like shiny jewels stored in our mental treasure vaults, images are often triggered by the silver moon on a spring night, traces of mist on a summer morning, or gentle snowfall on a winter’s day. Life is made more precious by these moments; we are made rich by this valuable collection. Magic moments become like beacons in a dark night of the soul.
I have many of these magic moments stored inside my head. Some of them come to me in a kaleidoscopic flash. Others simply appear like a slow-swimming fish sluggishly rising through cool water on a hot summer day.
There was the time my foster son, Lance, and I were walking through Fontanel Forest on a cold winter’s day. We had just rounded the bend overlooking the pond, frozen solid in the deeps of the woods, when suddenly, a tall oak tree toppled over right in front of us. It crashed down upon the icy pond and shards of ice and clouds of mist rose up in the air around the fallen giant, leaving a fine layer of sparkling particles drifting through the air. It was a spectacular sight that left us both standing there in amazement.
There was the time when another one of my kids and I were driving out in the country on another winter day. I was letting him drive my Pathfinder, and as he drove down a rather steep stretch of country road, three deer sprang out in front of us. They crossed the snowy road and faded away into the wooded grove to our left. No sooner had this trio of deer vanished in the trees, when off to our right, a red-tailed hawk drifted down and banked no more than ten feet from the Pathfinder. As we both began muttering in amazement, that hawk soared along with us for an entire three blocks before breaking his pattern and drifting off into the skies.
There was a winter’s night when two of my band members and I were driving back from a gig we’d played at a coffee house down in Kansas. It was during the time of a major gas shortage, and all the gas stations in northern Kansas were closed at the late night hour, and we were nearly out of gas. It was nerve-wracking watching the needle on the gas gauge slipping toward E, and Ben and Craig and I prayed that we made it all the way to Marysville before we ran completely out and were left stranded out on the snowy open plains. Despite our fear that we would run out of gas on that deserted stretch of roadway, we passed through one small town and I spotted something of interest.
I turned the car around and Ben and Craig curiously asked me what I was doing. “Stopping to have some fun,” I said as I parked beside an old church. They watched me climb out of the car and make my way through the sleet and snow to an old bell perched there in the middle of the snow-covered lawn. When Ben and Craig realized what I was about to do, they joined me, and we rang the heck out of that bell . . . until the rope broke and the bell got stuck halfway through mid-ring, and stayed frozen on its perch high above us. We laughed all the way out of that town, speculating on what the less-than-amused townsfolk were saying about who had been ringing their bell at 2AM.
We did not laugh long, however, as the gas was nearly gone in the car, and Marysville was still ten more miles down the road. And then, we saw a green flash of a falling star right in front of us.
“Whoa!” Ben said. “An omen! That had to be an omen! We’re going to make it!”
Another star fell, and then another. All three had been bright, green flashes, a spectacular display in the winter night sky. However, when we got to Marysville, omen or not, we did not find one gas station open. We drove on then, heading down the road to Wymore.
As we drove, another star whizzed through the sky above us, and even Craig began to say, “That had to be an omen! That was four shooting stars in a row! That has to be a sign!”
Sign or not, I then shared with my two friends why I now drove on to Wymore with less enthusiasm about omens than they were obviously experiencing. Two years earlier, my Granddad had walked out of a nursing home there in small town Wymore–in the middle of a snow storm, much like the one raging outside the car as we drove. My Granddad, always the adventurous sort, had his last adventure that night. Dressed as he was in his pajamas and bathrobe, he wandered down a set of railroad tracks and eventually ran into a barbed wire fence, where he collapsed and died.
Despite my depressing, hard-life story, Ben and Craig gasped out loud when yet a fifth falling star blazed through the sky as we entered Wymore. And omen or not, we did not find a gas station open there either.
We had 15 miles to go to reach Beatrice, and as we drove on fumes, Craig fell asleep in the back seat. One more star shot through the sky above as, and Ben seeing this sixth star, was certain we were going to make it to Beatrice. I drove on, skeptical and white-knuckling the steering wheel, and relieved that we had at least passed through Wymore without suffering a fate much like my Granddad did.
We coasted into the truck stop in Beatrice and the car died ten feet from the pump. Ben woke Craig up and while I steered, they pushed the car up to the gas pump. “See,” Ben said, “I told you those falling stars were an omen. God was letting us know we were going to be all right.”
Once we fueled up and started the forty mile trip to Lincoln, Ben told Craig about that last star we had seen. “Six stars in a row?” Craig said. “Wow, that had to mean something. I wish I could have seen that last one.”
No sooner had he said this then a seventh spectacular green flash arced though the sky in front of us. And even I, the skeptic among us, had to gasp out loud as we watched it slowly vanish into the darkness. (I later wrote a similar story about the oddity of these seven falling stars in my 8-Ball book.)
Another moment, etched in my memory is the winter night I went down to Havelock Park in the middle of a raging blizzard to find a kid there who had planned to commit suicide. He had a pistol and he fully intended to use it. I remember walking through falling torrents of snow as I approached him seated in the middle stone shelter. I remember, too, asking for his permission to sit down at the picnic table, swearing to him that I would not try to take the gun away from him, if only he listened to what I had to say. He cocked his pistol and agreed to let me join him.
I talked. He listened. And twenty minutes later, Travis placed his pistol on the table between us. I remember asking him if I could pick it up and unload it. He allowed that, and before walking him out of the park, I emptied the gun and tossed the six bullets out through the madly falling snow.
So, there you have some of my more vivid magical moments that remain in the treasure vault inside my head. And I bet you readers have many of your own. Keep them. Store them away. Bring them out on a dark, stormy day when you need them the most. Magic moments are what life is made up of.
Though I cherish some more so than others, one of the most spectacular magic moment happened while I performed as a storyteller at a summer camp high in forested hills. At the peak of the story (and using a magic trick) I tossed a large fireball in the air before the campfire. Ooohs and Ahhhs erupted from the campers. Yet the moment the fireball appeared between us, a dove flew above our campfire and passed directly through the last sparkles of light, then winged its way through the dusky woodlands, dazed but unharmed.
Later, when campfire ended and campers had exited the clearing, the Camp Director and I started down the moonlit trail. On either side of us, the forest was illuminated by thousands of fireflies swirling through the forest air. As we walked, the Director shook his head in amazement, saying, “The fireball effect was great tonight! But, how did you produce that dove?”
I pointed at the fireflies around us. I then rubbed my knuckles on my chest, casually blew on them, and with a dramatic flourish of my hand, I quietly replied, “Magic!”