by Allie McIntosh for KidSpirit's Creativity & Imagination issue.
As I write this, I’m looking out over a wide, vibrant meadow.
There’s a huge mountain staring back at me, snow-capped even now, in the middle of the summer. Birds chirp and the air is crisp. I remember that years ago, sitting on this very bench with my legs swinging back and forth and mosquitoes buzzing around my ears, I would look upon this beauty and the most fantastical images would run through my head. In my mind I would spin tales of mighty warriors taking refuge from some great evil in the copse of trees to my right, stories about how that scrawny deer in front of me spends its evenings. Back then, this meadow held the most spectacular inspiration. But right now, I just feel tired. It’s a peaceful fatigue — I still love this place, I still appreciate its beauty. But somehow, it’s not the same. The stories and images aren’t far from my grasp, but I simply don’t have the energy to take them in my hands and let them grow. I think about this and it makes me kind of sad — where is the imagination I once had? Where are the words and the colors that used to dance around my head in a flurry of excitement and wonder? Does this mean I’m growing up? I should hope not. It scares me a little to feel this absence of imagination, but then I look around me. I see love and faith, happiness and amazement and I realize that imagination is still here. It’s everywhere.
This meadow in which I sit lies on the outskirts of the Bible camp where I’ve been working for the summer. It’s a place that’s been near to my heart all my life, and looking around me, it’s easy to see why. Here, the love never ends. The sun shines down on us as we laugh and sing and grow together. And there is imagination in every breath we breathe. If I were to ever doubt the existence of imagination in those of us who have “grown up,” all I would have to do is observe the wonderful energy around me to realize that imagination never truly leaves us. Whenever campers come to the mountains for a week at camp, they arrive with energy and happiness that bounces off every corner of the cabin.
The most impressive thing, however, is how this energy is reflected in the counselors. These adults have somehow perfected the ability to be responsible and take care of campers while still connecting with them through fun and imagination. This is an amazing thing — and something that requires a special kind of character. The staff at this camp are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and now I understand why: they still have the power to imagine. They’re still able to look out upon this meadow and imagine the most beautiful things. And they have such amazing faith. That in itself is an impressive display of youth-like wonder. Since we’re a Bible camp, we spend a great deal of our time learning about God and sharing the stories of our faith. The ways that these people choose to share their faith with little kids is impressive – faith is a huge concept, and for young campers, many of whom don’t go to church, it can be an idea that’s very difficult to express. But somehow, by the end of the week, our campers leave with faith stories of their own. And in some ways, faith is a grown up version of imagination. We can channel our imagination through faith much like we can through writing and music. Faith can also have the same effect upon us as imagination — it bestows upon us a sense of wonder and a renewed outlook on the world.
But in any case, imagination takes energy.
Perhaps this is why adults are often less imaginative than children; with all of the work and responsibility that adults have to deal with, it’s sometimes difficult to find time to be creative. Not to mention it’s downright exhausting. I’m only 17 years old, and already I find it hard to muster up the energy to be imaginative. I will sit down to write and find myself distracted or swept off to a peaceful nap. So what it comes down to is that imagination never leaves us, it just gets harder to access. It fosters itself in different places and sometimes it comes and goes, but it’s always there. Even now, I am still sitting here on this same old bench, looking out upon the beauty of creation, and I can feel imagination. I can feel it in the air around me and in each word that I write. And even though I’m busy and distracted and downright tired, I know that imagination will never leave me.
When Allie McIntosh wrote this article, she was 17 years old and living in Moscow, Idaho. She enjoys making music with her friends, as well as spending time in the beautiful Sawtooth mountains.