Last weekend, our family headed for the marina, a grassy area on the west point of Berkeley that looks over the San Francisco Bay Area. We have been there many times to fly kites, play soccer, run and bike.
This time, armed with a blanket and picnic, we were planning on some serious reading. Older son had a book assigned from school, a historical fictional account of many good people dying from a plague back in the 1700’s: perfect depressing material for the summer vacation. Not surprisingly, he hadn’t embraced the intrusion with the enthusiasm he showed for Christopher Paolini’s Eragon or J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter.
It was surprisingly windy and we made for some bushes and trees that would deny us the view, but offer shelter. We spread the blanket and I fell into my stadium chair and flicked on my Kindle.
While I waited for it to fire up, I glanced to my left. Between the bushes and the trees was a tunnel, with brush growing up and over so that you could barely see the sky. It was dark inside with the promise of sunlight on the other side. My youngest son, I realized, was staring at it as well. He turned to me.
“I don’t know,” I replied, the right level of gravity in my voice. “Think you should check it out?”
He nodded, rose and moved into the tunnel. He never came out…
Okay, that is not exactly true. But he stayed in the tunnel and explored beyond. Sometimes he sat and read his book, and other times played, creating his own world. Finally, he called for me to join him.
“The tunnel is safe,” he declared, “but there are dragons on the other side. Be careful.”
I knew that on the other side was a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco, and the bay with many sailboats. But as his tiny hand took mine and guided me out the other side, all I saw were the dragons.
Others might have seen a red kite with a long tail, to its left was a blue-green one tearing through the sky in acrobatic maneuvers, but we saw two dragons eying each other. My son announced with authority that they were deciding whether to fight or be friends. Remembering my politically correct role as father, I said I hoped they would be friends.
But as I watched them and glanced back at the tunnel, it was my imagination that soared. Perhaps a new book is fermenting, or only a scene in the next Wycaan Master. Maybe it will surface next year or in a decade, but it is stored away.
And this moment of magic only happened because I was ready to embrace it, albeit with a little help from a nine-year-old with a rich imagination. But then I have seen elves in coffee shops.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).