Toy Story Moments

The first time I saw a toy come to life, I was eight years old. As a child, I was highly imaginative and extremely sensitive, and as such, I was certain my toys – especially the stuffed animals – were alive, had a complex range of emotions, and were simply waiting for the right time to reveal their true nature to me.

As I lay in bed one night, I detected motion in my peripheral vision, coming from the corner of the room where I kept my stuffed animals. My heart skipped a beat as I looked over and confirmed that, indeed, the animals were moving. Then, right before my mystified little eyes, my stuffed unicorn took a step forward! And my eight-year-old brain erupted.


But before I had a chance to say anything, my cat Tory jumped out from behind the stuffed animals, sat down, and began licking a paw, casual as could be, as if she hadn’t just crushed a little girl’s dreams into dust.


The second time I saw a toy come to life was much later, when I was in my mid-20s and living in Santa Cruz, California. It was a weekend morning, and I was washing dishes and gazing out the window when I noticed some movement on the windowsill, where JR had arranged a bunch of action figures he’d recently purchased at a yard sale. I dropped my gaze and watched with wide, alarmed eyes as Darth Vader walked along the windowsill, then pitched himself over the edge and into the soapy water.

Since I was no longer eight years old, my initial reaction was more like: Am I drunk? No, I just woke up. What the hell was that? But beneath all the layers of cynicism I’d gathered since childhood, there was still a tiny part of me that gleefully squeaked, See? I always knew toys were alive!

Then JR’s voice shouted, “Get in the doorway, Sweetie!” and I spun around to see him braced in the kitchen door frame. Only then did I realize it was an earthquake, not a spark of life, that had sent Darth Vader bopping across the windowsill and into the sink.

I searched for “soapy Darth Vader,” and this came up for some reason. Now my life will not be complete until I get to fly in a Vader head hot air balloon.

So there ya have it, folks – two incidents in which my MAGIC IS REAL! bubble was inflated, then popped immediately by a hard dose of boring reality.

(Although I suppose earthquakes aren’t really that boring.)

(Also, I’m still pretty sure toys are alive.)

The Forest Dragon

[Disclaimer: In general, I am not a woo-woo person. However, this is a woo-woo (yet true!) story. If that sort of thing makes you gag, you may want to leave now.]

The first time I saw the forest dragon was on 11/11 in 2012, when I took a visiting friend on my favorite hike in Moran State Park. It was a chilly day, and by the time we reached the summit of Mt. Pickett, it had started to snow.

407661_298845693559735_1354252694_nLibby’s snowy head

Snow falling onto a carpet of green moss is quite lovely, but as we descended the trail towards the Twin Lakes, the snow turned to sleet, then rain. My friend and I hurried along the path, our wool hats and sweaters growing heavy in the downpour. At one point, I noticed an upturned root system that resembled a giant dragon head. I wanted to stop and take its picture, but given the weather, I chose to continue down the trail, knowing I could come back another day when conditions were more favorable (and less likely to ruin my camera).

On November 15th, I returned to Moran in search of the dragon. Soon after I left the summit of Mt. Pickett, I saw a root system that was vaguely dragony. I stopped and stared at it for a long time. Although it wasn’t anywhere near as cool as I’d remembered, I chalked up the discrepancy between my idea of the dragon and its reality to my deplorable visual memory. With a profound feeling of disappointment, I took a picture of the sort-of dragon, then continued down the trail.

About twenty minutes later, I came upon a section of forest that was so ethereal, it brought me to a dead stop. As I scanned the path before me, I noticed my shadow encircled in a rainbow of light.

546995_300074756770162_760503568_nI couldn’t quite capture the rainbow aura, but you get the idea.

I began to fan my arms through the air, which made the light glimmer all around my shadow’s circumference. That looked incredibly cool, so I continued doing it for…I don’t know…ten minutes? (This is what happens when someone like me lives alone for too long.) When I’d finally had enough, I glanced to my right, and there, shrouded in mist, was the forest dragon.


No shit. It was right next to me. If I hadn’t been halted on the trail by rainbow-encircled Shadow Me, I would’ve marched past it, especially since I wasn’t even looking for it anymore, as I’d convinced myself that I’d already found the dragon from the other day.

I was beside myself. I did a happy little dance on the trail (again – too much time alone), then climbed up to the dragon, gave it a hug, clamored around on spongy soil to view it from the other side, and saw this:


I took one shot and knew I didn’t need another. When I sent the photo to my husband later that day, he wrote back: “That should be the cover of Aret.”

Now, almost four years later, it is.


I think about that dragon a lot. I wonder what it looks like now. I hope it’s still there, looming on the side of the trail, perfectly intact, waiting for me to come back and visit.