Colorado helped me believe in fairies again.
Not fairies as corporeal beings with wings, but fairies as a stand in for magic and childish wonder, for serendipity and felicitous simplicity, for the feeling I get when I reread my favorite book and marvel at the conjurings of words on a page.
On an evening hike along a ridge, when the sky to the west is pastel peach and orange and purple from fog or haze or dust, and afternoon heat and rain releases the spicy musty scent of pines into the air, my spirit begins to rest. The weeks leading up to this moment have been long, hard, lonely. But in the mountains, where cell phone signal is weak, with a college friend who has a bed to spare and a list of hiking trails to choose from, I feel as if I am coming home to a younger, more-ready-to-believe-in-fairies version of myself.
When, in the cool of the morning, we sit on benches in a clearing in the woods, alone with the dew, the waking rustles of small animals, and our thoughts, I hold in my hand, hot and pulsing, the ancient belief that if I look close enough, I might just see something miraculous emerge from the trees. It might not be a fairy or any other magical beast, but it might, miraculously, be joy.
Later that day, we hike up a mountain and talk about books for hours. We marvel loudly at the wildflowers. Then the hail finds us, and I am aware of the smallness of my life and the largeness of the world. I begin to realize how ill-prepared I am for this hike, but I think this is the most beautiful mountain my two legs have ever carried me up. We keep going and I am terrified and in awe. As we walk back down the mountain my toes go numb from trudging through piles of hail on the path.
The next day, we have a lazy afternoon at a lake nestled against a mountain range. Between two trees, I sit in my hammock for the first time. We eat hot dogs and splash in a stream. My friend and I borrow two kayaks from the family we are with. We haven’t been on the water long when we see and hear a wall of rain drumming along across the lake. Laughter seems like the appropriate response. I throw my head back and laugh at the serendipity of it all. When we are our most vulnerable—crossing the tree line or paddling out to the middle of the lake—the skies unleash their torrent on us. We can race back to shore, we can take cover under a hammock, but we will never truly escape this downpour untouched.
I am not mad at our bad luck; I am not scared. I am joyous. This weekend, I have walked into the wilderness and it has met me with the honesty of itself. In 48 hours, it has shown me solace and fury, peace and tumult, and it has all been good. It has woken me up to the enchantment of this world.