Wheels turned against pavement, burning a path from southeast Florida to southwest Texas. My memory of the journey is an endless flat highway; we’re playing hopscotch across all national parks, yet the places in between aren’t without their magic.
Take New Orleans – supposedly one of America’s most dangerous cities – a place where night is darker than even the skies in Big Bend National Park.
Yes, darker than the skies in Big Bend. There is dark magic beneath the red glow of the famous French Quarter, something far stronger than the scent of booze wafting through rhythm and blues.
You see it in the wrought iron balconies, in the grim skulls dotting every gift shop window, even beyond the false promises of gaudy signs. It’s vibrant and strong, this magic, this feeling of a place with sad stories and hopeful people.
Do you see magic in cities like New Orleans?
Do you see magic throughout all of America?
I don’t really know where it comes from, but I’ve felt it everywhere in this country, this magic. Maybe it’s the memory of immigrants who’ve left their mark in layers of time. In the etchings within caves, in hidden signs, in faded walls. In the trees overshadowed by the state and religion.
When you walk through a place you see what’s in front of you, but you also sense what can’t be seen.
You see your own perspectives and beliefs projected on that place. The history you know. Memories. You picture people who walked that stone path before you – the animals who crossed the trail as indicated by their footprints – or the years of wind shaping a waxy surface of eroded stone in Big Bend’s Window.
You see a semi-truck spewing emissions down the highway, but it’s not just a polluting truck you see a hundred times a week. It’s the outcome of people and ideas over a period of time. There’s magic in those wheels, in what they stand for. Innovation of the past, possibility for the future. A cleaner version, if we demand it.
I’m disheartened by the fear and overheard conversations on trails in national parks and behind booths of rural cafes.
Hikers whisper about the days to come. Opinions as varied as the textures along our path.
Yet we all stand together within the immensity of the Santa Elena Canyon and see magic.
“The best part is at the end” they all assure me as we trek on.
No, the best part is now.
You might feel we are living in dark times, and I can’t disagree with that, but darkness doesn’t exclude magic. There’s magic in the seemingly mundane, even in darkness. You have to choose to seek it.
Let it guide you, this magic.