A photo of me sits on the corner of my desk, a photo in which my five-year-old self looks smilingly into the sun of some 1960 summer morning, certain that anything was possible.
I look at this photo and think that this younger me was right. It has taken decades to return to that truth, but my 63-year-old heart has the same certainty. It’s true. Anything is possible.
When I was young, I wanted to see fairies and a pony in my backyard on Christmas morning. But after years of no ponies and no tiny, winged little people in my mother’s bed of snapdragons, I became disillusioned with the “anything is possible” concept.
As I grew older, I joined the “work hard and anything is possible” club. I forgot about the fairies and bought my own Christmas ponies. This belief worked well for decades until some of those pesky little nudges from the universe began to appear and a couple of them changed my idea of reality.
I ran across an astounding account about a university professor, a respected academic historian. This woman had spent years researching the origins of the leprechaun legend. She returned home from one of her research trips to Ireland and announced to her family, friends, and students that leprechauns still existed. She was perfectly sane, perfectly sincere, and certain that leprechauns were real.
Wow, was that possible? Well, yes—it was possible for her apparently, but for me? I had given up my longing for fairy friends long ago, but I couldn’t get her certainty out of my mind. I believed that her belief was real. Perhaps it was possible for her to see leprechauns. But perhaps it was only possible for her because she had been looking for them.
The biggest nudge involved some science—pure, clean, repeatable science—one of my favorite things. I began to read about particle trails in the world of subatomic physics. Subatomic particles make up the atom and are so small that they cannot be measured and cannot be seen. But we know the subatomic particles exist because of the trails they leave behind. We can see the trails on screens and can photograph them.
But the most intriguing thing about these particle trails is that they don’t exist until we pay attention to them. They appear and disappear according to our attention. They come into existence if we put our attention on the screen, but if our attention is not on them, they are just a probability in a field of everything that is possible, and as a probability, they don’t appear.
Put more simply, before we thought about them the particles were only a mathematical possibility, a probability. It’s only our attention and the act of observing that makes the particles real, that brings them into existence.
That was quite a whammy to my idea of reality. And now the leprechauns made a little more sense. They were possible to an academic historian because she had been thinking about them. But how to use this newly found truth of reality?
I’m still not sure about that. I still have my dreams, but I don’t expect the universe to deliver them to my door simply because I think about them. However, this little bit of truth about subatomic particles revived my belief that anything is possible. Anything. Even leprechauns.
In these later years, more than a few of my dreams have come true. I have found the farm of my dreams and share it with the horses of my dreams, two magical white horses known as Lipizzaners. Only a few years ago, none of this seemed possible, but now it’s my everyday reality.
My new dream is a tractor for the farm, a John Deere tractor. I imagine it often, sitting in front of the garage and all shiny in its green glory. At this moment, I’m not sure how it will arrive in my life. Although I believe in that quantum truth of subatomic particles and their trails, I don’t expect the tractor to appear in my driveway via a column of sparkles descending from heaven. I know I will have to do some serious work to make the tractor dream a reality. But it IS possible.
And those nudges from the universe continue. A few weeks ago, I was at the local farm supply store and noticed a familiar green and yellow color scheme in some bins. Oh my—it couldn’t be! But there it was—all sorts of miniature John Deere tractors. I grabbed the one that looked like my dream tractor and headed to the checkout stand.
I had found my particle trail.
Elaine Hutchison is a writer, soap maker, French history fan, farm girl, and lover of the old ways. She lives on a small farm outside of Sultan, WA, where she serves as staff to her dog, cats, horses, and parrots. When she grows up, she wants to be an amazing old woman who lives at the end of a road, making magical salves and surrounded by unicorns.