My dog loved chasing squirrels. When I was younger, going on “walks” with my dog always meant being pulled by his leash as he darted toward squirrel after squirrel. I wish I could’ve told those panicked squirrels a secret: If he ever caught one of them, he wouldn’t know what to do. The real fun was just in the chase. That’s all he ever knew how to do well.


I have been anticipating going on this trip to Brazil for the past two years, when I first started at Roberts in the Honors Program. I’ve been dreaming about going to the rainforest for the past twenty. And now, sitting at “home” on my computer the day after I first went into the rainforest, I’m as lost as my dog would’ve been if he caught a squirrel.


Because the chase wasn’t just fun: it was magical. I built up my hype by movies, daydreams, things I’d dreamt up imagining the world could be. And the rainforest— while not having jaguars and panthers at every turn like I’d imagined— was gorgeous. But what do you do after checking an item off your bucket list? How do you go back to your little suburb town and your daily routine after being in the rainforest? The actual rainforest! Not a simulation, not a picture, but the real thing in another continent!

Beauty in all the small details


How do you preserve the magic?


On the bus ride back, one of my friends said that this convinced him to want to see the rest of the world. When he said that, I thought about all these far-off places becoming a part of my life experience and wondered how I could process all of that. I wondered if I’d rather have those places as fantasies than realities.


But the beautiful thing is that the world is not magic. It is not unfathomable to go to the rainforest. It is not impossible for a dog to catch a squirrel. And all of the other things that seem so far off and unimaginable: graduating college, doing something meaningful in life, none of those are illusions. None of those exist only in movies.

This was actually my view!

And even though today I may have felt like my life was a movie, I opened my eyes to the reality of it and let my imagination change to awe. I let my hype change to gratitude. And I let my daydreams change to treasured memories. Because of today, “magic” has lost its magic for me.

I never knew how much of a blessing that could be.


~Colleen Denny

Categories: Brazil 2018


Susan Richardson · May 18, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Beautifully written!

Peggy Kelley · May 18, 2018 at 1:22 pm

What a great life lesson! Truly something to treasure. Thanks for sharing, Colleen!

Rachel Graham · May 18, 2018 at 3:10 pm

This made me smile, Colleen- I understand what you mean! When I was in 7th grade, my family went West and my parents wanted to take us to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood home, but I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want it to ruin my imagination’s view of her house. I am so glad you got to see the rainforest; now you just have to find some new things to put on your bucket list! God made an amazing world 🙂

Rebekah Distaffen · May 18, 2018 at 10:29 pm

Colleen, this is so beautiful! Experiencing anything like that– especially something as magical as a rain forest– really puts the world into a reality sized box and that’s incredible. It is so nice to see how you’re still able to dream, but with each check box on your list, your dreams become realities. Thank you for the reminder that magic can lose it’s “magic,” but that that’s not always a bad thing. Because sometimes, all I want is magic, and it’s times like these, experiences like this one, and words like yours’, that remind me that magic is not as unattainable as I thought. <3

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