In the sixth chapter of Wizard’s Holiday, Nita and Kit find paradise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
It’s hard to pinpoint something as nebulous and indescribable as “paradise,” but I want to try because this chapter got me thinking about it. What place on Earth leaves me feeling the calmest? The most in touch with myself? The most capable of relaxing? What sounds like paradise to me?
Water usually plays a part in that. I don’t know that I could trace that back to any one defining moment, either. I’ve just always loved swimming and the sound of water: waves crashing on sand, rivers babbling as they flow past rocks and down drops, rain falling on leaves. The first time I experienced paradise, I was young. Maybe five or six years old. My dad took us to a “secret” beach south east of Diamond Head, and I marveled at how warm the water was. How easily I could see through it. How many tiny, colorful fish darted around my feet. How wonderful the breeze felt on my damp skin in the summer heat. There was nothing like this in Boise, nothing that made me feel like I belonged, nothing that reminded of the great potential of nature. We had the Snake River and lush, overflowing forests, and I would later come to love those, but it wasn’t the same.
I returned to Honolulu in the summer of 2012, just six years after my father had passed. It was my first chance to explore the island with complete freedom. One afternoon, my partner at the time and I made it to Hanauma Bay to go snorkeling. We were in the water for less than ten minutes, my flippers pushing me around as fish of impossible color permutations swam about, when a giant sea turtle came floating up to me. I had never seen one in person, only glimpsing them in photographic forms or in nature documentaries. It swam up to me, as if inspecting me or, perhaps, judging me. I tried my best not to make any sudden movements so as not to scare it away. Apparently, I passed whatever means it had judged me by, as it made a slow, graceful arc around me, one of its flippers brushing against my left arm.
That sound like paradise to you?
A couple years ago, after a convention in Orlando, Baize and I made a trip down to Miami. We got into town in the mid-afternoon and stayed in a hotel in South Beach. Not having much time before my reading that evening, we did a quick workout that I ended up cutting short due to a wicked headache. We marveled at the beauty of the ocean, but we didn’t really get to spend any time on the beach itself. After my reading that night (shout out to the ONE person who came to that event, for the record. YOU ARE MY HERO.), we walked around South Beach, went to a couple gay clubs, and eventually sauntered back to the hotel in the humid night air. When we got back, I suggested something a little adventurous: a dip in the ocean.
It was after midnight, and the moon wasn’t quite full, but it did cast some light on the beach. It was still sticky and warm out, and we dashed down the sand towards the water, our spirits much like kids who were attempting to do something they weren’t supposed to. I stomped into the waves, and I felt my breath leave my body in shock. I remember Baize asking me how the water was, fearful that it was too cool, and I splashed around in disbelief. I had never gone swimming in the ocean at night anywhere where the water was so soothing and warm. I distinctly recall floating on my back, looking up at the moon and stars as clouds like cotton candy passed in front of them, and I felt completely enthralled by life.
Thinking back on all these experiences, there was a lot of good food involved, too. I bring that up because it’s a combination of these two things that make up a great deal of the allure of Quelt’s home. The company is certainly important, too, and I don’t want to discount that. What we see of Alaalu here is picturesque and gorgeous, and it’s astounding to me that Duane was able to put so many vivid images in my mind as I read this. It helps that there was a contrast between these scenes and Dairine’s first evening with her exchange wizards. That contributed to the sense of calm I got from these pages.
But I wanted to open this up with some words about paradise because this hit real close to home for me. If I could describe a perfect world, this would be pretty damn similar to what was in my head. The water. The beach. The sky. Yet it goes so much further than that. Work is an elective thing in Alaalu. If there’s something you enjoy doing, you can work full time. Their economy – if that’s even the right word for it – is based on need, not on a competitive system of greed and hoarding. I am interested to see this in action somehow, but basically? Duane has described a life that is nice. Low stress. One that values the contributions of the whole. One that celebrates life being lived.
Which is precisely why those closing words are so disturbing. They echo Nita’s dream, and I worry: Why is everything fine here? Is there a catch?
I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards. I POST A LOT OF CUTE PHOTOS, OKAY. Think of it like a private Tumblr blog that only SPECIAL PEOPLE get to read.
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