When I woke up this morning, mist was rising from a lake in the distance, and I felt like I was in a fairy tale. I was really in a cub scout campout for my grandson. Exhausted by our adventures, canoeing, pellet gun shooting, archery, swimming, not to mention sleeping badly in a cold tent, I came home to sit in my garden, notice my favorite roses had sent out sunset orange blooms, and read Peter Pan. I picked it up on a whim last week, and after a weekend with my grandson, I am struck by its wisdom and also the beauty of the writing.
My own intrepid Peter Pan had bigger adventures this weekend in his mind than in reality, but where do we exist, except in what we believe to be happening? There is real magic and fearsomeness in J.M. Barrie’s story. Peter spills blood: Hooks’, wolves, bears. Life in Neverland is an adventure, but not a safe adventure. It is as scary as children’s dreams. Fairies says curse words (though we don’t read them) and plot death on little girls who steal Peter’s heart. Pirates really do want to kill the lost children, and battles are epic. Mermaids live in coral caves.
My grandson coaxed, cajoled, argued me into helping carve a pumpkin I did not want to. He took it to a contest and literally talked everyone in his pack into voting for it as best decorated pumpkin. He was one of the winners. He snuck candy and insisted he didn’t need more covers. He was always a little too rambunctious and brash. My nerves frayed.
Den leaders made a fire circle of rope around the campfire this morning. The reason: to keep boys back behind it so they didn’t fall in and burn themselves. Would they? Yes. In a tussle, in curiosity to see a fire closer, in sheer boy. They were drawn to standing or sitting around the fire. J.M. Barrie’s world was alive and well and in each pair of eyes. Barrie wrote that mothers always have one kiss you can’t capture, that the stars watch us, and that the youngest stars cry out warnings only Peter Pans can hear.