I told a certain someone that I might write a bedtime story for her daughter, who is one of my favorite little girls that I haven’t met yet. As I am a man of my word, here is my first – and likely last – foray into kiddie lit. That’ll teach me to shoot my mouth off.
The Girl, the Magic and the Forest
The trunks of the trees rose straight and tall, and the sunlight glowed in the dust in the air between the trees in bands of soft gold that Livvie always thought she could touch if she could just run to them fast enough. She imagined the light would feel like magic cotton, and she thought, if she could ever reach it in time and grab just one handful of it, she could make a band-aid that could make anything better. That could make the whole world better. And no one anywhere would ever have to be hurt or sad anymore.
But whenever she ran to the light, that magic shining always skipped ahead to the next gap in the trees. And the next. And the next. But Livvie would stop for a minute in each beam of sunshine and she could feel it glowing warm on her skin and she knew there was magic in it. Maybe the thing about magic was that you could never catch it or hold it, but that you just had to run and find it and be ready to feel it when you did. Maybe magic really could fix the whole world if people would turn off their TVs and put down their cell phones and stop being grownups long enough to let the magic get to their hearts.
The forest used to make Livvie a little afraid because she felt like it was watching her. But once she understood that it was watching her and that it didn’t want to hurt her, then she wasn’t afraid anymore. The forest was like her Mommy. Her Mommy watched her all the time, and watched all the things around her to make sure Livvie was safe. The forest was a Mommy, too, because the forest was full of babies. The forest just watched to make sure its babies were safe.
Livvie knew this wasn’t a forest really. She knew it was just a small patch of trees near her house and that a forest was a bigger place. A forest was like in Hansel and Gretel where, if you didn’t leave a trail of bread crumbs, then you might get so far into the trees that you would never get back out again because you couldn’t see the end of the trees and you wouldn’t know which way to go anymore. Livvie knew the Hansel and Gretel story was supposed to be scary.
And it was, or at least the part about the witch was, but not the part about the forest. Livvie thought maybe everybody would be happier if they all lived in the forest and they couldn’t see the end of the trees and everywhere you looked there were no buildings at all, and no cars, and if you looked up in the sky, there were no planes and none of those grey streaks the planes made in the sky. Everywhere you looked, there would just be trees and flowers and squirrels and bunnies. Even the bears would be OK, because if everybody lived in the forest all the time, then maybe the magic wouldn’t bounce off of them anymore. The bears would know the people were just living in the forest, too, and so we would just be neighbors then. Neighbors are OK, it’s strangers that are scary.
Livvie thought maybe that was why the animals all used to ran away when she came in the woods, because people had become strangers and strangers were scary. Strangers didn’t know how to behave. Strangers came in the woods and they stomped and shouted and they threw cans and papers on the ground and just left them there and they even talked on their cell phones because they didn’t know how to pay attention anymore.
The animals didn’t run away from Livvie now. They would look at her when she came in the woods, but if she was quiet and she smiled at them, they would stay and they would go about their animal days and let her watch.
Today was especially beautiful. It was fall, and the leaves in the forest were red and gold and some of them floated through the air. They floated in and out of the magic light between the trees and they would flash in the light for a moment like fish turning in the water. Then they settled on the ground and the ground was like a new sky, just as beautiful, and Livvie knew that heaven didn’t have to be up. It could be down or it could be any way you looked, and you could be in it any time you wanted.
Livvie ran through the trees laughing and laughing because there was so much magic inside her now that it made her insides tickle and she had to laugh and let some of it out or she would fill up with magic like a balloon and float away.
Finally she came to a big rock that sat in the middle of a small clearing. The rock was spotted with colors – red and black and white and gray – and it had little crystals in it that winked and sparkled in the sunshine. Livvie was a little tired from running, so she sat down on the rock for a minute and let the sun soak into her like a magic bath. She closed her eyes and looked up, the sunlight glowing on her eyelids all red and yellow like the leaves.
And Livvie understood that everything was part of everything else, that she was part of everything else. That she was part of the forest and the forest was part of her and that she never had to be afraid because wherever you were, that was where you belonged. Just as long as you didn’t make the magic bounce off of you. Once you did that, once you wouldn’t feel the magic anymore, then you didn’t belong anywhere. And that was why so many grownups wandered around trying to buy everything and own everything and change everything. Because their hearts still needed the magic and they wouldn’t let it in anymore, and it made their hearts hungry and they tried to feed their hungry hearts with all these things that their hearts didn’t need and nothing could make them happy.
Livvie opened her eyes. A deer was standing in the clearing near the rock. Livvie looked around for a person because she was pretty sure deer couldn’t talk. Pretty sure, but not completely sure, because if there was magic then anything was possible.
“Hello,” Livvie said, finally, to the deer.
The deer smiled a little in the way deer sometimes do. “You understand about the magic, don’t you?”
Livvie just nodded.
“You are part of the forest, you know,” the deer said. “Everyone was meant to be. You don’t have to visit to be here. Even if you are far away and you can’t see any trees and that makes you a little sad, all you have to do is close your eyes and look up at the sky and see the colors again and you will remember.”
Then there was a noise to their right, still a long ways off. People stomping and shouting and acting like strangers.
The deer smiled again. “I have to go now. But we are a part of each other and we can talk any time you like.”
The deer turned and bounded into the woods, and Livvie turned too, bounding for home just like the deer. Now that she knew she could hear the forest, she heard its music all the way home, like a song she hadn’t learned the words to yet.
Livvie saw her Mommy at the edge of the trees. Her Mommy was kneeling in their garden, cleaning it out before the winter so she could grow more vegetables in the spring. Her Mommy looked up and smiled at Livvie, and it was the same smile the deer had. Livvie ran to her Mommy and hugged her, and her Mommy wrapped her arms around Livvie, standing up and twirling her in a circle, and they both laughed and laughed.
Livvie pulled her head back for a moment so she could see her Mommy’s face, and she put her hands on her Mommy’s cheeks because she had the most important thing to say.
“Mommy, the forest is full of magic and it will talk to you if you listen.”
And Livvie saw the same magic in her Mommy’s eyes and in her Mommy’s smile.
“I know,” her Mommy said. “I know.”
And Livvie put her arms around her Mommy’s neck and hugged her tight and smelled her hair, and the two of them twirled and laughed and closed their eyes and looked up at the sun.
If you actually want me reading to your child (and who doesn’t) you can listen to the audio version of The Girl, The Magic and The Forest here. The Girl, the Magic and the Forest