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From the Ivory Tower

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The Magic Inside

By Blair Jackson

How do you write about an entire world?

This is what made writing this week’s cover story, “Where Dreams Come True,” incredibly difficult. To attempt to capture a world as unique as Terra Studios exclusively with fact is, certainly, to do it an injustice.

Terra exists in that rare middle ground between reality and imagination. Like Lucy’s wardrobe that opened up to Narnia, Terra is a portal to another world.
When I was young, my parents had an old wardrobe in their room. I would climb inside, press my palms against the back panel and close my eyes, hoping that the wood would fall away, that a snowflake of Narnian winter would melt against my skin.

I believed in the possibility of another world.

Even after I climbed out of the wardrobe, wandering why Lucy had been chosen over me, I believed in Narnia.

Twenty years later, I am too tall to stand inside a wardrobe. Today my experience is too littered with disappointment, my perception too anchored in reality, my responsibilities too demanding — to waste precious faith on imaginary worlds.

Faith is plentiful in childhood. In adulthood, it is a guarded commodity, something we tend to reserve for our private beliefs. Faith, imagination, creativity — the intangibles that fuel our dreams — rarely survive the transition from childhood to adulthood in quantities great enough to be shared liberally with others.

Dreams, encouraged when we are children, begin to fade as the concepts of fear and reality are bartered for a quiet life that can be lead without great risk or disappointment. Happiness is something that is constantly threatened by stress, by inadequacy, by desire or by disaster.

When you are a child, to be alive is to be happy.

I think this is true, until innocence is lost, in a  singular, unique moment within each individual’s life.

I find truth in Joan Didion’s quote, “Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.”

Ah, yes, when we become subject, not to the judgment of others, but to our own, self-incriminating eye; when we begin to recognize our own mark upon the world.

To walk through Terra Studios is to walk through the imaginations of others. There is nothing to judge. There is no reservation. It is joyful, playful and innocent. Terra was created simply for visitors to enjoy, and isn’t that what we all thought about the world as children?

Didn’t we all think that the clouds existed simply to be shaped by our minds? Didn’t we think birds existed to serenade us? Pets were our companions, along with toads and caterpillars. We cared for things that were small, like us, overlooked by the adults who towered above and carried burdens of concern.

I had given her up for dead — that innocent, imaginative girl who believed in portals and talking animals. I even mourned her loss, and for years, I have held onto her memory and those childhood stories with nostalgia.

At Terra, she awakened again, bright-eyed and sleepy, but alive and well.
That is the magic of Terra.

In an instant, you can return to your childhood. Though these foundations have been in place for 30 years, Terra is evolving into something new, offering a structure that sustains creativity and faith within adulthood, offering classes in art, social skills, and, one day, even business.

It has been years since I sat waiting for magic in my parents’ wardrobe. Now, I have the tools to create my own world. I no longer have to wait or hope.

The magic has been inside me all along.

It is a risky line to write, so overbearing in what could be perceived as sentimentality or cliche. Perhaps, one day, I will look back on this column and read that line and cringe. But I hope not. It feels nice to believe in the power of art, the power of expression and the power of community.
And it’s comforting to know, that if I ever need a boost, Terra is only 20 minutes away, and I need only to open a book to travel to Narnia.

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