Everything about this new city was magical. This place had four distinct seasons, each just as beautiful as the one that just passed. The elementary school was surrounded by a woodland grove with an incredibly old forest gully at the back. Even the parking lot out front of the school was littered with majestic trees, looming high into the sky, drawing you to them with a desire to give them a hug. Along the east side of the school there was a fresh water stream with water so clear you could see the colorful pebbles that lined the bottom. This stream meandered its way through the grove that bordered the east side of the city, all the way back to that magnificent old forest gully. A dirt path and some arched bridges followed alongside, freshly swept of any debris each morning by the woodland fairies. This stream twice a year would put on a spectacular show. First it would fill with vibrantly colored rainbow trout making their way up the stream to spawn. Then in the coast’s version of a circle of life, the rainbow trout would return, most of them now dead, their colors fading, choking the river with their carcasses and their stink for several weeks, while the rest of wildlife had their fill and nature carried the remnants out to sea.
Out behind the school was a separate building, an extra classroom that was dubbed the music room. It would be in this room that I would be playing the violin, strumming out beautiful music over the last century or two and falling in love in the process. Beside this classroom was a gigantic oak tree, standing guard over the school and its inhabitants. On the west side of the school was a thick overgrown wood patch that had mysterious and hidden passage ways to allow curious children to find their way in, but really difficult to find your way out again. Once inside you were greeted with a mystic swampy place with trees rising from the ground, forming little moss colored islands among the green thick algae pools that surrounded them. There were rougher trails here all wanting to take you any place but back home and it was a perfect place to escape from it all, for even the sounds in your head were dulled as you wandered around exploring.
If you walked the length of two football fields you would come to the end of the large field that was out back of the school. Entering the forest grove there and walking only a couple hundred feet in you would discover a fork in the well-worn path. One following the edge that would take you up a hill and eventually empty into the high school field that was at the top. But if you were more adventurous you would take the trail to the north that after following it for perhaps ten minutes or so it would open up into a large tree-lined gully that seemed like it went on for miles. It was the start of an epic adventure for some. For me, it freaked me out so I opted to stay closer to the magical places that surrounded the school.
The magic didn’t end at the school either. As a family we would drive out to the airport, which bordered the ocean. Down below the fence line were two separate beaches on two separate sides of the airport. The first beach was filled with beautiful golden sand; The type of sand that you could pick up with your toes as you sunk into it with every footstep. If you were really lucky you would discover sand dollars, a form of coral stone, buried beneath your feet. They were shaped like a round flat rock and perfect for skipping. The second beach, you waited for the tide to go out when it would reveal it’s own magical discovery: a massive area covered with black coral. In between this coral were clear pools filled with amazing ocean creatures. Our time was limited at this place but one could easily spend hours there, chasing crabs of different sizes, examining star fish and the more exotic sun fish, along with the most amazing sea shell collection I have ever seen.
This was more than another city, this was a new beginning for each of us. Everyone seemed incredibly happy. My mom would draw cartoons with messages on them on my brother’s and my paper lunch bag each morning for school. I joined cubs and my dad was a leader. We even had family and friends visit us here for what seemed to be the first time. We were now the stop for someone else’s journey for affirmation and assurance. But a darkness was coming. A series of events that would begin to unravel who I was. Looking back, this descent into hell seemed so choreographed, but living through it all at the time, it was chaotic, crazy, disorientating and fearful. Just what was this place, so majestic, so magical, so joyful, yet so dark, so fearful, so loathsome.