I remember, very clearly, a day when my grandmother took me down to the magical river near her house. The river was where all the fairies lived – in the swirling moss on the stones, the damp tree-lined bank, and the soggy vegetation that softened the path down to the water. We stood by the river and she handed me a small, grey stone.
“Make a wish and throw the stone into the river, and your wish will come true!” she promised. I gripped the stone and thought of lots of things to wish for. “It has to be a realistic wish,” she warned, “so you can’t wish for a diamond ring because that would be greedy. But if you wish for long, beautiful hair … well, wait a few months and that wish will come true!”
Are we starting to see a pattern in the women of my family? (A tad crazy but also fairly wise?)
Even at the age of nine I was pretty savvy as to what my grandmother was implying … but I took a deep breath and hurled the stone into the river, along with my wish.
It was a realistic wish and, following my grandmother’s lead, I wished for long, beautiful hair. I’m not sure if I ended up with long, beautiful hair but I’m sure it was longer than what it was – or if it wasn’t, it didn’t matter because I forgot about the wish by the time I next went to the hairdresser. But those words of advice come back to me when I make a wish … and I try to make a realistic wish. I wish for a happy day today, I’ll think as I blow out the birthday candles. I wish I had ice cream, I’ll grin as I toss a coin into a fountain – then off I go to get a big scoop of chocolate gelato.
Every week when I write up my weekly writing wish for you (yes, you), I think about wishes I’ve made. Realistic wishes, which I make each week for my writing and for yours … but today I am thinking of one of the biggest wishes I’ve ever made.
“You must carry a stone from here and when we reach the top, you will put it down along with your wish for your life. It will come true,” the guide said, turning a stone over in his hand. I wondered how many tourists had stuffed their pockets with stones – just to be sure – before trekking up the stairs.
I am on the Inca Trail, and my tour guide is promising that my wish will come true. He is not telling me to make a realistic wish, but thoughts of having long, beautiful hair suddenly come to me. I laugh to myself as I find a rock and slip it into my pocket. It digs into my thigh no matter how many times I shift it, but I walk up the stairs thinking about wishes.
The fog is thick at the top of the climb and I can glimpse a pool of water beneath it. It is ethereal. Magical. I can feel Pachamama is there, watching me, waiting for me to return the rock to her.
I find a spot, set my rock down, and make my wish.
It was an unrealistic wish.
I could have wished to survive the trek. It was only day three and still early in the morning, but I was already trailing behind everyone else and wondering – not for the first time – what had possessed me to do this trek. I could have wished to make it to the end without ripping my legs apart, but I think it was already too late for that. I could have wished for a safe journey – this was the second of many countries to come.
Instead I wished, with every step that burnt my lungs coming up those damn stairs, that I could have something to guide me to happiness.
Let me know what it is I’m supposed to do, I wished. Show me, tell me … do something! What do I have to do to be happy?
I’ve waited a few years, but you know what? I think my wish is finally starting to come true. Maybe it wasn’t so unrealistic after all … or maybe, just maybe, I believed in magic long enough to let it happen to me.
My writing wish for you this week is for you to suspend disbelief and believe in magic for long enough to make an ‘unrealistic’ wish. What is it you really, truly want? Be careful what you wish for … it’s going to come true.
This post has also been cross-posted at Budding Writer’s League.