Is there any harm in letting your mind drift along on a warm spring day, feeling the sun on your neck, and smelling the just-turned Iowa dirt from across the fields? With the world topsy-turvy because of missing planes, upside-down ferry boats, and troops massed on the border, isn’t it all right to take a short vacation from it all? It seems as if whimsy is relegated to second best most of the time. Certainly not newsworthy. But isn’t it all right to daydream?
As a kid, we all daydreamed. We lay flat in the grass and watched the cloud shaped like a dragon float across our vision. It was awesome. Now you are an adult. There is no time to lay in the grass. Besides, it is dirty. But the experts are now saying that daydreams are the gateway to problem solving, career goals, and discovery of inner fears and desires. Perhaps they are right. But daydreams are also floating on the Raccoon River in an inner tube in the middle of August. Period. If daydreaming clears your skin at the same time, so be it.
You say you are a little rusty at daydreaming? Here, have a seat on this wooden bench next to this canal in Gouda, the Netherlands. See the three young boys playing? The boys are shouting and laughing and being dopey, like young boys are inclined to do. The one on the bridge dared his friend on the pier to jump. The friend did. Now it is the turn of boy on the bridge. He’s scared. And thrilled. He’s almost ready to let go of the iron bar. Leaning out, leaning out, leaning out . . . . And in your daydream, perhaps you should plant a “no swimming” sign at the front of the bridge, draped with their shirts obscuring the sign’s message. Now, wasn’t that easy?
You want to try a second one? Okay, here’s an old classic. You are standing on the bridge looking out over the boats and funky houses of this large canal in Leiden, the Netherlands. Two swans make their way against the current. They’re heading home. But in your daydream these are not common swans. They are princes. Changed into swans because they failed to appreciate the gifts they had in their lives. Love was treated cavalierly. Friendship was squandered. Kindness was manipulated. And now? Now they drift together up the canal. With each other as companions. Taking turns leading, gathering food, and guarding against young children throwing rocks. And with all that they have lost, their necks still stand proud as they head out together — to a new future.
Hah! You’ve got it. Way to go.
All right, here’s a tricky one for you. Now you’re walking the small cobblestone streets in Colmar, France. You see a nest sitting high up on a church tower. A stork nest. Truly.
Barely discernible is movement in the nest. The storks are watching from on high. They are bringing babies. Now relax, your daydream hasn’t taken an unforeseen turn down a dark and narrow hallway into a baby’s room — unless, of course, you want to be a father or mother. No, these storks are bringing babies to themselves.
In another nest, two storks gawk with wonderment at you far below. Considering, perhaps, that you might be a large earth worm. But then correctly deciding that you looks a bit too chewy — a bit too Midwestern.
Before they were interrupted by your voyeuristic tendencies, they had been discussing what to tell their children about where baby storks come from. The father had suggested explaining that elephants bring the baby storks in their trunks. The mother wisely pooh-poohed such ridiculousness — and briefly wondered why she wanted to raise children with such a dolt. Fortunately, the father stork quickly regrouped and suggested they tell the truth. The mother stork smiled, making the father once again stand tall against the afternoon sky.
Excellent job. And don’t worry. No one will think you are crazy when you do this. Why? Because who’s going to tell them that you took off on a little trip? Not me. And, by the way, I haven’t forgotten that there are serious issues that need serious minds doing serious work. But, let’s worry about domestic abuse, juvenile crime, racism, nationalism, and the price of corn — tomorrow.
How about this dog and little girl in the French village of Turckheim? The dog is wondering if he will grow up to be a little girl. The little girl is wondering if she will grow up to be a dog . . . . Now you have the hang of it.