I believe that we are always on the right path in life. There are no wrong turns or dead ends. It is just sometimes we don’t see the need to be where we are. But there is always a purpose. We just need to read the signs better.
The story that follows is true. 100% true. At this point in the telling, a good storyteller usually interjects, “Mostly.” But I will tell you here and now that everything that happened to me on that Wednesday, June 24th, 1998 is exactly true. Though there were no witnesses, I believe that in your heart you will know it is “Truth.”
That evening the air fell like pea soup over the rolling hills of pine and scrub that lined the road from Athens, Georgia to my home in Savannah. The white Lexus ES-300 I had inherited from my wife hummed along. I at it’s wheel lost in frustration and anxiety found myself traveling down a new road in life not at all in compliance with my creative drive. I had been lured by the promise of big bucks offered up during the Internet bubble of the late 1990s. I sought to wash my soul in the filthy lucre raining down upon those of us poor souls convinced that the gold rush in the form of zeros and ones had come again.
A few years earlier I started a little Internet company selling music, art, and sound effects online. It was far too early in the game and I quickly found myself losing money. On the eve of bankruptcy, an Angel in the form of a media conglomerate swept down and saved us throwing cash in our pockets and redirecting our efforts to more mundane tasks such as building online databases. Not my idea of fun! I had fallen into to corporate America. Me! I had been a musician and storyteller my whole life and was now sitting in bored meetings, reviewing budgets and shuffling paper. And I do mean bored not board meetings. As business goes, I had no business being there. I was indeed on, “The Wrong Path!” I had taken a turn down life’s proverbial dead-end road. Dying inside I was convinced my commitments left no way to exit the highway or make a U-turn.
While pondering all this, the sunset burnt orange over that road that connected me between corporate stagnation and my loved ones who would soon grant me temporal salvation. A purple thunderstorm lurked over my shoulder flashing white lightening that cut jagged wounds across the sky. Up ahead a detour had formed as a result of new construction. I was once again being redirected down an unfamiliar path.
About two miles into the detour I felt the Lexus lurch then pause and lurch again. She began to sputter and quickly lost power. The tank was three quarters full. No problem there. With nowhere to pull off, I coasted up one hill and down again then up another. As I crested the second hill a shabby white clapboard house appeared on my right with a dirt drive and a few chickens wandering the yard.
I pulled in and immediately reached for my new clunky cell phone. I was a tech man and technology would soon have me back on the road of life. But to my frustration there was no signal. Of course! So, I scanned the house looking for signs of life but it looked as dead as dead could be. I had two choices either knock on the door or start walking. The former seemed much better so I started towards the front door.
But just as I got out of the car I noticed a little girl sitting at a makeshift lemonade stand underneath a weeping willow in the front corner of the yard. The willow arched its graceful arms cloistering her and slowly danced in a cool breeze that foretells the coming of an evening storm. I sauntered over seeking salvation.
Now it is important to note that in rural southern Georgia, summer evenings move in a timeless manner. It is as if the universe itself slows down forcing it’s inhabitants to talk and move like they are suspended in a clear thick viscous fluid. And those above the Mason Dixon line not knowing of the southern time shift think that we Southerners simply are lazy. We talk with lard in our mouths and move with concrete in our shoes. And it is true that we move and talk slower. But it is also interesting to note that when Northerners relocate to the south after a few short years they too slow down and they too start to interject a little fat in their speech and stone in there shoes.
Caught in this southern summer time warp the little girl at first seemed no different than any other child of the south in speech and manner. Her dress was lemon chiffon and had little blue flowers on the boarder. It was dirty and tattered from a few too many summers of play. But it was the features of her face that captivated me. Across her cheeks she wore freckles sprinkled like the stars of the Milky Way in the summer night. Her obsidian eyes bore into me like shiny wet coal on fire. They contrasted sharply with her wheat golden hair. It was clear that truth is all that she required.
I spoke with clear intention, “Hi, what you got there?”
She just looked at me like I was an idiot and pointed to the sign above her head. Of course in my attempt at being friendly, I had neglected the obvious and not read, “Majik Rocks Fur Sale.”
“Ah I see.” said I. “Magic Rocks.”
“Yep.” she said glancing over my shoulder. “Looks to me like you could use a few.”
“I suppose your right.” I replied. “What exactly do they do? What kind of magic are we talking here?”
“Why real magic of course!” She said as if my stupidity seemed limitless.
“Oh! Real magic. Awesome. How do they work?”
“You hold em in your hand then think of what you need. Them gives your wishes”
“Well how much are they?” I asked.
Once again her finger pointed to the sign. It read, “$1.50 marked down from $2.00.”
“Sorry I am little slow. That sounds like a fair price to me. Especially if I get my car moving again.”
“Mind if I see em first?”
She thought for a moment, “Nope.” She reached into a cardboard box below an old rusty ironing board counter and pulled out a very plain white rock. It looked like a piece of chipped granite.
I thought for a moment. “Better give me two for good measure.”
She smiled and with joy flickering in her eyes she started to dance around.
“First sale of the day I imagine.”
“Yep” She giggled and couldn’t stop moving.
As I looked down at the rock, I thought of the work I had done over the years as a children’s entertainer. Most of the shows I perform have magic interwoven in them and after every show it is inevitable that at least one child comes up to ask me, “Is that real magic?”
At first, I answered elusively but I quickly realized that this was a matter of truth to the child. So, I started telling the truth. “No.” I would say. “This is just pretend magic. Real magic is in the books we read and the stories we tell. Real magicians are artist, scientist, doctors, inventors or everyday people who create things that change our lives or help us see the world in a different and more meaningful way.” The child would always be puzzled. But I never believed in talking down to children. In my view they are much wiser than adults and understand far more than we give them credit.
Then as an example I would hold up my cell phone. “Here! See this. This is real magic. Two hundred years ago this was not possible. The people who invented this are magicians. Wizards! Real magic is in the things we create. So go read and study. Become an inventor, a doctor, writer, artist or musician what ever you want and make magic that will change the world.”
I am sure many do not understand what I say but that answer seems to placate their concerns. And still yet there are others who get it. They smile then wander off to do whatever great things they will to change the world.
So, I handed this freckled girl five dollars and told her to keep the change. She reached down in the box and pulled out another rock as plain as the other. As she handed it to me I turned and looked over to the house.
“Anybody home? I asked.
“No and you don’t need no help. You got what you need right there in your hand.”
“Yes, I guess I do but I think I should also find a phone.” Just then I noticed the faded curtain on one of the front windows shifted as if someone had been peeking out.
“I think I will go knock.”
“Sure mister! But she can’t hep you.” She called out as I walked over to the porch.
I climbed the steps and saw the curtain move again. I reached the landing and knocked. Nothing happened. I waited for good long while then knocked again. I heard a slow soft shuffle. It was the dragging feet of the old and ill. Next came the clicking and sliding of locks, bolts and chains. The door creaked open. A thin crevasse of sunlight sliced into the dark room revealing the den of the dying.
The frail cracked face of an old woman came into the light. I saw coal black eyes faded to dark grey and soft brown freckles washed across her cheeks hidden in the crags of her skin. It had to be the girl’s Grandmother.
“Can I hep ya?” she asked in a wispy voice.
“Oh yes mam. I am so sorry to trouble you but my car broke down and I was wondering if I could borrow your phone.”
“No Mister. I am sorry but I ain’t got no phone.”
“Oh, well I am so sorry to bother you. Your granddaughter was kind enough to sell me these magic rocks and I thought maybe I should…”
She interrupted. “Mister. I ain’t got no Granddaughter! There hadn’t been any kids round here for seventy years.”
Then she abruptly shut the door in my face.
“Well thank you anyway!” I called out. I heard the bolts and chains sliding back into place as I turned to look out in the yard toward the willow tree in the front corner. To my surprise the cardboard sign and the old rusty ironing board that composed the little girl’s magic rock store had disappeared. She was nowhere in site. Walking across the yard I called out several times and heard only the hollow wind reply.
The first fat drops of rain came slapping down against my face. I ran to the car and climbed in. The sharp corners of the rocks I had bought cut into my hand. I opened my fingers and looked down. Then thought, “What the hell?” I stuck the keys in the ignition, gave a short prayer and turned them. Varoom! The engine ignited. Magic Rocks indeed!
I rolled down my window to look and see if I could find the little girl to reward her somehow. But she was nowhere to be seen. As I pulled out onto the highway, I laughed out loud and thought to myself, “There is real magic everywhere. Even in the detours of life when we are certain we have lost our way. And there is truth in magic even if we don’t understand it. It is these moments that we are shown, “The Way.” So slow down and look carefully. Catch the magic moments in your life and let the map unfold. I am sure we all be are the wiser for it.
© 2013 Sean Driscoll