Serendipity In The Land Of Oz

You don’t have to go over the rainbow for happiness.

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By chance. It all happened by chance. My family and I were looking for something to do. We signed up for a membership at the Red Butte Gardens near downtown Salt Lake City. It was only $85 for an annual membership, so we figured we’d get a year to walk on safe trails with pretty flowers, wonderful smells, some wildlife and a couple of playgrounds for the kids.

Then we learned that there were free events included with the membership at the adjacent amphitheater, so we went out on a Friday night. They had a nice little 3-piece blues band playing, while the kids played, some at dinner, and most were just chilling on the grass.

The sun was low and the temps started to drop some after a long, hot day. I loved how the sunlight shone through the blades of grass and how it lit up the mountains behind the stage. There were games on the grass for the kids to play, and arts and crafts for the kids to do. And free snacks. But we didn’t know about the movie until after the band finished playing.

We settled down as the sun was setting. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and sat together, my wife and my two daughters on our blanket on the grass. And then they dimmed the lights, and the movie started. I was pleased to see that they were showing the Wizard of Oz. My eyes always well up for the opening credits. I know why now. That movie represents decades of memories of hopes and dreams.

When I was a kid, the local TV stations showed the Wizard of Oz on TV every Thanksgiving, and every Christmas Day. When I was a young boy, that was a yearly event for my family to sit together in front of the TV. All of us watched the adventures of Dorothy, The Tin Man, The Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion in the land of Oz. But at the gardens that night, it was different.

My kids were there and they had never really sat through The Wizard Of Oz all the way through. This time, they were exhausted from playing at the end of the day, not restless for want of something to do. And they laughed with me as we all watched the movie together in the park.

There was something else different about it. The audio was loud through the speakers. I turned up my hearing aid and heard most of the dialogue. I was able to make do without subtitles that night. And I laughed in all the wrong parts. Or maybe not the wrong parts, but at the dry humor sprinkled throughout the movie. That humor was apparently lost on a lot of people in the amphitheater because often, I was the only one laughing.

My favorite part of the movie is the transition from black and white to color. The opening scenes are all filmed in black and white, set on a farm in Kansas. In black and white, there is drama, with no resolution, and a tornado. I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not seen the movie, and I know you’re out there. All I can say is that the transition from black and white to color always makes my spine tingle and my eyes well up a bit there, too. There’s that hope thing again.

The entire movie is a quest for happiness. From beginning to end, Dorothy just wants to be happy. She’s looking everywhere for happiness and doesn’t find it until the end. For, in the end, Dorothy and her friends all learn our capacity for happiness is built in. She learns that we can make a choice to be happy. Even the Wizard Of Oz has this figured out, and he schools the squad well.

That happiness is something we find inside is why I seem to laugh at the wrong parts of the movie. I laughed when no one else is laughing because I made a decision to be happy for a moment when others did not. I saw a reason to laugh when others did not. Or maybe they had seen it before and knew it was coming. I don’t know for sure. But I knew for a moment I was happy because I made a choice to be happy.

I was glad that I had the time to sit on that lawn, in that park, with everyone else to watch The Wizard of Oz. We were all at peace, and for a while, we could all forget our troubles. When the movie was done, we all went home. We all went to bed. And we all let what happened that day be enough.

Write on.

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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