Finding the Magic

If you take Highway 24 from Colorado Springs and go northeast, you will eventually run into Limon. And if you take I-70 from Limon and continue to go east, you will get to Seibert. And if you get off at the exit and drive past the wheat elevators and take the first left turn at Country Road X, you will eventually run into Dykstra Ranch. Here is where I spent at least a week every summer of my childhood, at my grandparents' ranch. Here is where my brother and I would wander for hours with their dog, Patch, trailing behind us. Here is where we would climb over the fences into the stables, creating obstacle courses in our minds, pretending we were in different countries and different times. Here is where we would help my Nana harvest her vegetables—fresh, giant cucumbers and tomatoes and squash, collecting dill and planting apricot pits with no intention of them actually sprouting, but coming back next summer to see they'd sprouted anyway. Here is where we would hold newborn kittens in abandoned tractors, so young their eyes had just opened. Here is where we would ride in the combine with my grandfather during harvest. Here is where we would go on four-wheeler rides through the pastures, finding old Native American arrowheads and shards of broken pottery. Here is the place where magic lived. I don't mean magic in the conventional sense; there were no fairies or elves, there were certainly no witches or warlocks, but here is where the carefree essence of childhood and the innocence of youth converged as one. Between evening cookouts in their backyard fire pit and mundane chores of hanging clothes on the line, I was building kingdoms in my head. When I helped Nana chop carrots or celery, I was helping my pioneer mother can food for the predicted heavy winter; I was preparing a medieval feast of roast goose for Michaelmas. When I woke up in the morning in the green bedroom with the tiny window shutters, I was Briar Rose, in her house with the fairies. In the room with the slanted roof, I was Snow White sleeping in the dwarfs' attic. I was a princess hiding from danger; I was a teenage girl who worked as a cattle hand in the summer; I was a girl raised by her grandparents on a quest to find her mother. I was both servant girl and princess, and I could be both with no conflict. Many summer days, as I got older, I took this place for granted. I hid inside and watched the same Disney channel shows I watched at home. I sat inside and listened to my iPod and sketched. The stress of reality and the crushing weight of time pushed me forward: there were boys to cry over, TV to watch, and the appearance of being “cool” to worry about. I could no longer afford to walk up and down the dirt road, talking to myself. I wasn't a little kid anymore, I didn't need to pretend to be a princess or a servant girl or a pioneer anymore. Those things were dumb. So I would stay inside. But in my memories now, I am outside; it has just rained and the wheat has just been planted, and it's emerald green, so I am pretending I am a sheep-herder in Ireland. Or sometimes, it is late afternoon, and the sun is starting to go down, and I am walking through the dust of the dirt road around the back of the garage to find the tree house my grandpa built us and in my head, I am a peasant girl in the middle ages. Or it is midday, the sun is beating down outside and my Nana warns us when we go outside since snakes will be out and I am hanging clothes on the line to dry and I am pretending I am a pioneer on the frontier. And in those moments, I am finding the magic again.

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