My first trip to the Faraway Lands came through a Magical Box and was quite unexpected. It happened when I was seven years old and grounded.

Now, to my knowledge there are three ways to get to the Faraway Lands. Each one has its benefits; each one has its drawbacks. One is not better than another, though if you decide to travel using these methods you may find that you have a preference or that your tastes may change depending on the day. Either way you must be extremely diligent and watchful, finding the path is not always easy. More often than not a person passes right by it without ever noticing it is even there. In my time I have been fortunate enough to travel often and by all three methods.

The first way to get to the Faraway Lands is to climb the World Tree. The difficulty here is that the World Tree grows randomly and sporadically and it is very had to know just where it will spring up.  One must simply stumble upon it or have knowledge of where it has once been and wait until it returns. Sure, I’ve heard that you can obtain seeds and plant them in moonlight causing the tree to grow by morning, but the deals you need to make and the persons with which you need to make them with are dubious at best. No, the best way is to wait, be patient and when the tree does grow do not hesitate, jump into its branches and climb.

The climb will not be easy. The tree grows in a vine-like manner and twists and turns over itself in knots. The hand and footholds are at time large and easy to grab to hoist yourself up but at other times it is thin and there is virtually nothing to hold onto. At certain times a leap of faith is required to get to the next branch. There is no telling how high you will have to climb. To the cloud cover at the very least, but often times much, much further. It is, for obvious reasons, suggested that you do not look down. Vertigo is always a problem, even with the most seasoned climber; the chance of falling is great. However looking outward across the horizon is particularly rewarding. Before venturing into a new world it can be useful to have a better perspective on your own. When you reach the top, sweaty and exhausted, the ground will feel shaky and unstable at first. But don’t worry you’ll soon get your ‘sky legs’ and you will be free to explore the fascinating sites.

The second way to reach the Faraway Lands is to be blown upon the Mystic Winds. This is by far the most dangerous method. First off you have to be in the right place at exactly the right time. Any deviation – an inch to the left or right – and the winds will simply blow you backwards and leave you in a lump, disheveled and just a bit broken. However with the timing right the winds will pick you up in a funnel, gently bouncing you to and fro, swirling and twisting you head over heel. The sound of the rushing air whistling by you can give the impression of whispers or the soft exhale of breath by something larger and greater than yourself.

The tumbling cyclone can last for minutes or hours, there is no way to tell how long the experience will last. Sometimes it can go on for days at a time till you are left with the impression that it will go on without end. But be assured it will end and you will be deposited gently (most of the time) down in the middle of you won’t know where. For that is the wonderful and terrifying thing about the Mystic Winds, you can never know where you will end up. If you choose this method be aware of this, hold onto yourself as best you can and enjoy the ride.

The third way to reach the Faraway Lands is by far the most common and my particular favorite. It is to climb in a Magical Box. Oddly, Magical Boxes are incredibly easy to find. They are scattered everywhere and are mostly in plain sight. In fact there is probably one in your home right now. The boxes disguise themselves as ordinary objects. On the street they could be a phone booth or a police box. In a home they could be hidden away as a wardrobe or a large wicker basket or child’s toy chest. Sometimes they can be disguised simply as a cardboard box.

Be aware, not every box is a Magical Box and more than once a person has made the mistake of thinking they have found one, putting in a prominent place in their home and showing it off to visitors and family. And perhaps some entertainment can be gleaned from this but a true Magical Box must not simply be to entertain it must be a doorway to somewhere else. There is a difference and with time and with practice you will be able to learn that difference.

How I came to find my way to the Faraway lands happened one summer when I and my friends, Michael and Robert, decided to explore the garage rooftops in our neighborhood.

We grew up in Philadelphia where the houses are built close together and you can quite easily walk down entire streets jumping from rooftop to rooftop. This practice was frowned upon by the parents of course, but for three young boys it made for a rather exciting afternoon.

We ran and jumped through the summer heat and were having a good but unusual day until, that is, we reached the Sullivan garage. The Sullivan’s had a hole in their roof that was patched very crudely with a large square of particleboard. This patch job was very easy, once you tried, to pry off and gain entry.

We lowered ourselves down into the dark garage, the only light coming from the hole above our heads. It smelled of mildew and mothballs. It felt forbidden. We imagined ourselves in a treasure vault, for that is what it seemed like. Inside was a trove of wonders. A punching bag was suspended from the rafters as well as other cobweb covered exercise equipment. And there were old board games and pinball machine that did not work even after I wasted a quarter in it. There were several old dolls, the kind that have eyes that closed when tilted backwards. I found them oddly frightening in the dark although I did not say this to the others. And there was a stack of National Geographic magazines that some, we soon found out, had pictures of women with their shirts off. It was a little slice of heaven.

It would have remained so if Robert had not found an old umbrella with a wide dome shape when opened. He decided that he would jump from the garage claiming he was the Penguin from Batman. He broke his leg in two places.

Worse still we were caught. And although I repeatedly tried to explain that it was Michael and Robert who had orchestrated everything and that I was an unwilling bystander in their nefarious plans I was grounded and placed in solitary confinement for an entire week. I also had to apologize to the Sullivans and help clean their garage. It was not a high-point in my life.

It was during my confinement, in which I was not to go outside or speak to another living soul save for my mother who simply shook her head and made a ‘tisk tisk’ noise whenever I looked at her. It was when she made me clean the basement that I found a Magical Box.

It was tucked away in a corner of the basement behind some old clothes and rusty tools. I had never noticed it before, large and wooden and square it was painted red though faded and chipped. It had a hinged top and when I opened it I was amazed by what I saw inside.

Now you must understand that the Faraway Lands are not the same for everyone. What one finds there can be different for each individual. It is as if it is not one place but a multitude of places existing all at once in the same place at the same time. It is the time you arrive and your own expectations that determine what you will find.

For me, when I arrived that first time, the sky was burnt-orange and massive trees like giant oaks were all around but their trunks were bright white and their leaves were a shining silver. And small, oblong berries grew on them, pale blue like shards of ice. And the ground was green emerald grass that stretched off into the horizon in all directions. And it was at this time that I met Solomon and Max.

Solomon was a prince and a dragon slayer. He was noble and brave and handsome beyond explanation. He could win the heart of any maiden by simply a glance and a kiss on the hand. He was not, however, very bright. That is why he traveled with Max, a kindly old dwarf who taught Solomon how to speak properly to maidens and kept him from getting in too much trouble. We spent the day together there under the burnt-orange sky till it darkened into a purple-grey. And when it was time to leave I was overjoyed when the two travelers decided to come back with me.

They stayed that entire week of my confinement hiding under the bed or in a closet when my mother came to check on me or tell me to keep the noise down. They told tales of their adventures and taught me the various methods of reaching the Faraway Lands. And when at last my sentence had ended they came back from time to time and I would go to them through the Magic Box and The Mystic Winds and up the World Tree. Over time I filled notebooks with their stories and sketch pads with their pictures.

For many years I travelled, though as time passed the trips became less and less. Years past and I grew older and in time I forgot my friends in the Faraway Lands and the ways in which to get there. The journals and sketchbooks tucked away and unremembered.

It seemed that it would have stayed that way if not for a simple reminder.

A few days ago, while checking on my daughter I found her playing in her room; her bedroom door opened ever so slightly I peeked in to find her there staring in an empty box.  The sound of muffled voices could be heard. And laughter. And the sound of stories waiting to be told.

That night I could hear the wind begin to blow and there in my garden a vine-like tree began to grow, small and thin, just the width a man’s wrist. But it was sturdy. Sturdy enough for two travelers to descend it branches waving to me and shouting greetings.


Originally posted June 2, 2013