Many of us have, I think, been among the blessed. It happens when you are walking slowly through the woods or a downtown district full of little shops, or driving in the country or in the mountains. You see, from a peculiar angle, a stile into a field, the path bend around a significant rock or tree, a barely-open doorway, a cleft in the rock, and know that you are looking at an avenue into Otherness, a revelation of something that is truly true, but beyond our world. It’s little more than a picture; for when you followed the trail, opened the door, examined the cleft, or clambered over the stile the vision seemed to recede into nothing before you, and when you had reached the critical point you somehow know it has evaporated altogether, even before you rounded the corner or stepped into the shop. You found (probably) something worth finding; but it was decidedly more of our world, and quite ‘ordinary’ in that sense.
If you were wise, you did not let your disappointment over not reaching that sublime threshold taint the real joy you had just discovered – the forested lane, the cozy stone-walled horse field, the little curiosity shop with its curious little owner. Your rational mind says “Of course. Was I really expecting…?” But really you were, at least some part of you was, and it could not help feeling just a little sad and a little confused. If you retraced your steps, and if the place was strongly enough imprinted, you might have seen the original picture a second time: the sight of the bend in the path or the half-open shop door might still convince you that something is different and wonderful and perhaps awful just there, for reasons you could never explain to anybody but might, if someone was there with you, be able to point out and successfully share.
Someone more adept at psychoanalysis than I might be able to convincingly explain this phenomenon as the ‘thrill of potential’ we feel when a place offers a visual invitation to what ‘might be’. But what I feel at those moments, and what I suspect you do too, is a certain conviction – not that we are about to discover an excellent wooded trail, picturesque field, impressive vista, or enchanting shop – but that There something beyond our experience (and, therefore, beyond our ability to anticipate) awaits, naturally undiscovered by all who refuse to consider the promptings of intuition with their rational minds. And when I have not reached that moment, not tasted that shock of discovery, it has not lessened my conviction that there is more magic in this world than we know.