I stopped, gasping for breath, gaping up at the sky in complete, utter wonder. No one would ever believe me. So no one but my diary learned about that moment for many years. I was ten or eleven. My family and a few others were walking back to the ranch after visiting the large garden we were planting. Typical for a writer, even at that age, I was lingering behind so that I could soak in the perfect day, and let my imagination wander into other realms. That’s when it appeared in front of me.
The clouds formed a staircase, ascending into the heavens—straight into the brilliant sheen of a bright light shaped like a doorway.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wanted to excuse the experience as the wild imagination of a young writer, reminding myself of how beautiful the sky looks when the sun is setting, and the strange formations clouds can take. Of course, at that age, I would have seen light from a setting sun and my imagination could easily transform it into something magical.
And yet. The impression from that moment has never left. I was absolutely convinced of the reality of what I saw. Completely positive that I had just seen a staircase ascending into heaven.
And you know what? Except in my more reality-infused moments, I really think I did. I think God gave a story-hungry little girl a glimpse into a hope that she clung to for the rest of her life. In future moments of doubt when things were hard, my mind would wander to that moment, and I would once again know there was a God, and He was watching over me, no matter how far away He might seem. It was a moment I’ve never forgotten and hope I never will.
I’ve received critiques from professional writers about my website and my e-mail address. Specifically, the use of “Forest Idylls”. I know I’ve discussed this before, but I wanted to do a full post about it, and explain in more detail why I picked the word “idylls”. Feel free to skip this if you’ve seen the most recent rendition of my homepage, which explains what I’m about to say, but in a tenth of the words.
The complaint is that idylls isn’t easy to remember, and it isn’t easy to spell, and, well, it’s not my name. All of that may be true, and yet, I think the audience I am looking for would appreciate the complexity of a word like idylls.
Now, granted, I picked the username forestidylls when I was much younger and fell in love with the romance of the word idylls, without the much fuller understanding of the concept that I now associate with it. Does that mean that I was wise beyond my years, and I just didn’t know it? Let’s go with that.
Definition of Idyll: an extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque episode or scene, typically an idealized or unsustainable one.
So, here’s the thing. I believe in searching for idylls in everyday life.
You know that moment when you are driving or out for a walk, and you see a scene that just takes your breath away? The landscape over a valley, the exquisite colors of a sunset, the concentrated blue of the ocean, the intensity of fall colors in the north, the waterfall that looks like it is from Lord of the Rings? In that moment, no matter what it going on in your life, an utter peace falls over you as you drink in that magical few seconds before it fades away and you remember what you were doing. But occasionally your mind drifts back to that scene and you revel in the memory of how it felt to see that.
That, my readers, is what I call an idyll. A moment in your everyday life that makes it all worthwhile.
But, it’s more than just a beautiful scene. Most of us have felt the joy of a baby’s hand curling around our finger, and that first giggle of delight. Felt delight in the success of a child successfully mounting that bike. Had a moment of wonder when our significant other does something surprising just for you – picking a rose, doing the dishes, remembering which candy bar is your favorite. Had a few minutes of breathless laughter with family over a memory.
Each of those are idylls too. The reminder that even when you feel like you are wandering through a dense forest, trying to figure out life, there are patches of sunshine that remind you why the hard times are worth it.
When I read, my favorite parts are the “take a breath” moments. The times when everything is going wrong for the MC, and yet, there is a chapter or a scene where something goes right. Or they find a moment of rest in between whatever is going on. That is their forest idyll moment. They are going through a forest, but got to experience an idyll. I can keep going on that idyllic moment for a lot more dramatic pages, knowing that at some point, they will have another one.
You’ll see it in movies and tv shows too. I’m re-watching Castle right now, and in every episode, amidst all the intensive searching for the murderer, Castle will go home, and the viewer knows that (most of the time), they are going to get an “idyll”. A rest from the drama as something hilarious happens with his daughter or mother.
It’s the idylls in life that give hope. That give the reason to keep going. That remind you there is more to life than the hard times. In my days filled with self-doubt, when I take that deep breath as I look out over water, or pass grave stones, or read another book, I often experience that moment of knowing. Knowing that I write so I can convey the beauty of the water to a reader. Knowing that I write so that I can share the story of someone long forgotten. Knowing that I write so I can bring someone else the joy of escaping for a few hours into another world.
Knowing that a writer gives the most beautiful gift of all. The gift of idylls in a world of hopelessness.
Today, my readers, go find an idyll.