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What does an 8-year old see that we can’t?

What does an 8-year old see that we can’t?

I wish I had a porthole into the imagination of an 8-year old. Today I had a glimpse.

It's a tricky thing to not break a magical spell.

It’s a tricky thing to not break a magical spell.

We stood together on the floating giant of a tree and tried to hold our balance. The sun warmed our backs while the water cooled our feet. It was just the two of us while my older boy debated entering the chilly water again and my father bathed in slow handfuls of water, trying to acclimate. We got our balance and stood on top of the water on the tree that served as a wave break for the small harbor.

I’m trying to capture the smallest of moments of life that would otherwise dissolve into the everyday.

We looked into the water below us and saw our shadows. Radiating from our shadows in the water were wavering rays of light, shooting out from all limbs and body and head. It looked as if our heads were the sun itself, the center of one of those electricity balls you can buy in a game store. The electricity source is the center and it flows out in all directions towards the outer shell of the sphere it lives in. But here there was no sphere, just the empty space of the water so that the fluctuating lines of light shooting out from our bodies only went out into the tiny waves until they were too small to see.

“Hé, zie jij de elektriciteit rond om onze hoofden?” I asked. [Hey, do you see the electricity around our heads?]

“Whoa, ik zie het!” he said with enthusiasm. [Whoa, I see it!]

We moved our hands around to see if the lines followed our bodies and they did. It was mesmerizing and confusing. I didn’t understand quite how the lines of light looked like they were coming from our shadows.

“Er is altijd een beest dichtbij ons,” said my son. “Minder dan tien meter, meestal dichterbij.” [There is always an animal / beast close to us. Less than 10 meters, usually closer.]

I heard the words and understood them but wasn’t sure if what he said was what he meant or if it was what I thought he was saying. I had to smile at the addition of the numbers to his otherwise rather outer worldly vision, numbers guy that he is.

“Een beest?” I asked.

“Ja, een beest. Die is altijd bij je.” [Yes, an animal. It’s always by you.]

It’s a tricky thing to not break a magical spell. As much as I want to know what he’s really thinking and seeing, analyze it and try to figure out where this stuff comes from, I don’t want to break his train of thought. Or maybe there is no train of thought, maybe it’s just a thought, an image, a vision in his mind or imagination and it’s as clear as the water below us is pure. Maybe there is no logic and analysis and “adult” thinking involved at all. It’s just what he sees and he’s letting me in on it.

“Is de beest goed of slecht?” I asked. [Is the beast good or bad?]

“Meestal goed,” he answered as quickly as one responds a question where the answer is so obvious it probably seems odd that the question was asked in the first place. [Usually good.]

“Ze passen op dat alles goed met je gaat,” he added as we both stared into the shadows in the water. [They watch over you that everything goes well.]

“Nou, dat is fijn,” I added, honestly thankful that this animal that is always near us is a good one, at least usually, and that they’re watching out for us. [Now, that’s fine.]

“Heel fijn,” he finished. [Very fine.]

The topic seemed closed, so I didn’t dare venture deeper. I also didn’t want to potentially damage the thought that there is beast of some sort, within 10 meters, who is always around us and watching out for us. From the purity of an 8-year old mind practically standing on water (yes, I realize the vision) while rays of electrical current shoot out Medusa-like from our bodies from the shadows of the clear water below us, I wasn’t about to doubt any of it. In fact, I’ll take it and hold it close and keep it at the forefront of my memory in times of need and weakness.

Knowing there is a body nearby watching out for us reassures and delights. The fact that it came unprovoked from a young boy in the middle of a swim reminds me that there are greater forces at work around us. I don’t want to analyze, think, or question, I just want to believe, enjoy and be thankful that some of us can see beyond the skin our of own bodies and describe in such pure detail what is around us and a part of us. I don’t want to name it or identify it, but simply acknowledge that it’s there, with us always, keeping an eye out for us.

We jumped into the water and the shadows and electrical storm flittered away into deeper waters. Our moment, only seconds long, was gone, but not forgotten and I will from here on out be accompanied by the animal, usually good, usually within 10 meters, that is watching over us, keeping an eye on us.


  1. Susan

    That’s a beautiful piece of writing, Bradley, and a beautiful slice of your lives together…

    • Bradley

      Thanks, Susan! It’s usually the quick scenes of deep love that work, that flow, that bring out the emotions that tell the story by themselves. I’m just along for the ride.


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