A Rainy Day on Tom Sawyer Island

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Manage episode 322587930 series 2983405
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Soundscapes: A Rainy Day on Tom Sawyer Island

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(2:48) Along the serene Rivers of America and nestled on the grassy banks, there is an island hidden in the heart of the marshy wilderness. Most who explore the tumbleweed town of Frontierland on the opposite shore spare little more than a glance for the landscape beyond, but we who have known its Magic head for the docks at the edge of Thunder Mesa, eager to board a raft headed for the outskirts of Tom Sawyer Island.

There is something spiritual, a palpable shift that happens when we board our river raft and leave the mainland of the Magic Kingdom behind. It is a sense of intentional departure…a quest!

We are embarking on an adventure into the sovereign state of childhood daydreams, where boundless imaginations and inexhaustible summer afternoons meant uninhibited exploration. It is a place where we are invited to remember what it felt like to wonder so expansively, to wander so freely and fearlessly, creating worlds far more rich with possibility than the ones we inhabited.

Arriving at Huck’s Landing, we find ourselves standing on an unassuming wooden dock overlooking the sprawling Kingdom beyond. Suddenly, in a place where every detail has not been contrived for us, our imaginations whir into action, imposing context and stirring memories to fill in these very deliberate gaps.

(6:36) Winding pathways and lush, overgrown trees entice our curiosity, and even the steady rainfall could not squelch that delight so reminiscent of youth. Jump in a puddle - we dare you! It’s good for the soul. Around Here, a rainy day only adds to the mystery and excitement, and we have a feeling we’re about to encounter plenty of both.

(8:30) Named for the man who penned the tales of Tom Sawyer and his friends, Fort Langhorne pays tribute to Samuel Longhorn Clemens, more popularly recognized by his pen name: Mark Twain. A fortress accessible only by suspension bridge, Fort Langhorne holds surprises around every corner.

(15:06) Inside the fort, we spot a horse barn and stables, complete with groomers keeping the animals snug and dry inside. But we who are fearless in the face of danger (and puddles) climb to the top of Fort Langhorne, scouting our trail from the lookout points and wending our way back down through the secret escape tunnel.

On our way back and halfway across Superstition Bridge, we are met by breathtaking views of the Magic Kingdom. Here, we catch a glimpse of how far we’ve traveled, castaways onto the island of eternal youth.

(29:00) Back on the main island, it seems that Tom and Huck have anticipated the arrival of kindred explorers, and have put up some very helpful sign posts to direct us this way and that. “Barrel Bridge,” “Tom and Hucks Way,” and “The Other Way” leave a lot to the imagination, but as we’re guests on the imaginative playground of those two characters, it seems only fitting that we follow their sound advice. Plus, finding a quiet moment to take in a beautiful view is always our inclination, so off to the Barrel Bridge we go!

(30:55) A waterside pathway along the Rivers of America, a vista of still more captivating views of Liberty Square and Frontierland stretches out before us. Jutting out into the water and creating the illusion that we are held between one world and the next, this is perhaps the most serene spot in the entire park. We are neither a part of the scene nor disconnected from it. We are simply Here, held in a suspension of disbelief, a suspension of time and reality that engulfs us so entirely in the moment, we might remain for hours or even days without losing a single second.

(31:09) As if more tranquility could not be contained in a single space, we stumble upon a waterfall trickling down a hillside, a sort of creek flowing in cadence with the rain, an entrancing sort of elemental rhythm to slow our pace and give us pause. We hear the distant echo of the Liberty Belle setting sail for its sightseeing voyage, and not for the first time today, the image of a life spent blissfully in this riverbank paradise flickers across our minds like a sepia-toned memory of a reality that never was.

(34:00) It is this moment, more than our arrival or any we have experienced so far, which sets the tone for the rest of our journey. It is through this lens, a sort of extended release joy, through which we watch the delighted explorers wending their way through Scavenger’s Fort, their wonder enlivened with every new discovery and winding wooden trail. It is Here, in this mindfulness, that we watch an Ibis rest serenely at the edge of the creek, not wanting or worrying for anything at all.

Who’d have thought that Here, on this playground inspired by Mark Twain’s exuberant imagination, we would find incontrovertible peace. Magic, some might call it.

(38:34) And speaking of Magic, perhaps the most spellbinding space we’ll encounter on this island is not for the faint of heart (nor the helplessly claustrophobic). Old Scratch’s Mystery Mine is a feat of engineering, optical illusion, and a place only an imagination sustained by youth could conjure.

At the dark and ominous entrance to the cavern, Tom Sawyer himself has left us a note, advising that we “keep a sharp eye out” and “dont stop for nuthin” as we call upon our courage and wander inside. Along narrow pathways we meander, our curiosity quelling any apprehension.

(39:15) Up ahead, we spy a waterfall which seems to have spared no thought for such concepts us “gravity,” streaming ever upward and catching the light of dozens of glittering jewels waiting to be mined. A dazzling treasure, to be sure, but not the most priceless one we’ve found on our excursion to Tom Sawyer Island. Our minds retreating to what other quiet moments of joy our journey might have in store, we find reprieve from the cave’s confinement in the wide open space outside and the refreshing rainfall still falling all around us.

(41:19) Potter’s Mill stands sentinel on the edge of the Rivers of America, charming and quaint and beautifully preserved in time. Home to several songbirds who undoubtedly have found a haven in the rafters from the “some no good” who scared them away from the grist mill nearby.

(44:40) All at once retrieved from our reverie by the unmistakable clickety-clack of a runaway mine train and the even more recognizable screams of mingled fear and delight, we give way once more to that unguarded inquisition, and set off in pursuit of one last, daring adventure.

(46:57) Spelunking through the Cave of the mysteriously elusive “Injun Joe,” we find a hideout sporting a fascination of fossils embedded into stone walls, which jut out and reach toward the ceiling in the oddest formations that almost resemble...faces?

An eerie whistle of wind creeps through the cavern, and a bridge over a bottomless pit seems the only way through, the most bracing test of our courage thus far. Though, some satirical jungle cruise skippers might speculate that the return to civilization is far more foreboding.

(49:47) And so we pluck up our courage for that great feat, and head back out into the drizzle, which seems to have lightened during our cave exploration. Harper’s Mill seems to thrive on a more pervasive deluge, its water wheel churning around and around the grist mill in ceaseless earnest, collecting what it can from the low, gray clouds.

A quintessential scene of the old, deep south, this scene calls to mind sprawling front porches and slow harmonica serenades. We can picture ourselves rocking away until the stars scatter the countryside sky, sipping sweet tea and listening to the childhood tales of generations.

And as the Liberty Belle churns along the Rivers of America, sightseers enamored by the quaint little island they’ll only ever know from afar, we wear the secret of this place like a smile. Suddenly, the idea of leaving this place is not met with fretful hesitation. It’s not truly goodbye, after all, but “see you real soon.”

(51:00) Like a farewell to a lifelong friend, not unlike what Tom and Huck might exchange at summer’s end, we know we’ll meet again someday. When that day comes, we’ll pick up right where we left off (and maybe, finally, finish whitewashing that fence). For now, we’ve got a blissful afternoon full of memories to see us through, a wonderland of wandering to embark upon in our imagination.

In the story that unfolds in every orifice of Tom Sawyer Island, we have found a place held for us in each chapter. For those of us who seek Magic in the mundane…this is our escape to Neverland, our quiet moment of suspension and joy.

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