An imagination at work

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle Christopher Stanley, author of “The Tree Watcher,” helps students at Finland Elementary plant a maple tree on school grounds. Stanley, who grew up in Grove City, visited the school on May 11 to talk about the importance of mindfulness and imagination.
Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Christopher Stanley, author of “The Tree Watcher,” helps students at Finland Elementary plant a maple tree on school grounds. Stanley, who grew up in Grove City, visited the school on May 11 to talk about the importance of mindfulness and imagination.

To some, the field and creek behind Brookpark Middle School was just a field and a creek. But to Christopher Stanley, it was a place of adventure.

Nearly every day, he and his friends would traverse the streets of Grove City to reach this uncharted land of imagination. While there, they would re-enact scenes from “The Goonies,” their favorite movie, and pretend they were a part of the rag-tag crew looking for the lost treasure of One-Eyed Willy.

As Stanley grew a little older, he would sit in the classroom of that same school and look out the window and remember all those good times as a Goonie. By that stage in his life though, he had moved onto other things, such as being the best basketball player on the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.

After once again collecting some gold, Stanley became more interested in putting his active imagination onto paper and ventured into the realm of writing.

While his foray into writing led him to many topics, it was history and poetry where he found a niche.

“Love poems were my specialty,” he said with a laugh.

But while he adored writing creatively, it was never something he thought he would continue to do.

“It just wasn’t a big focus at the point in my life,” Stanley said.

It became even less of a focus as the years went by and when he started a career and a family. But all of that changed when he took his then 8-month-old son, Samuel for a walk around the neighborhood.

It was a gorgeous day outside, he said, but yet he could think of nothing but work and that large pile of dishes waiting to be washed as soon as they got back home.

But when he looked at Samuel, he noticed him looking up with the most joyful expression on his face. Crouching down to see from his perspective, Stanley finally soaked in their surroundings.

“I saw the trees and its branches reaching across this bright blue sky,” he said. “I saw the birds, heard them singing and saw all of these beautiful things I would not have seen if it wasn’t for him.”

He called that walk one of the most profound moments of his life.

Back at home, Stanley recalled those favorite childhood moments in those fields, at that creek, and sharing the court with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Larry Bird. He thought about a hundred thousand other moments where his imagination took over, but the one thing that kept coming back to him was the look on Sam’s face during that walk.

To capture that moment, that feeling, Stanley put the words and pictures going through his head to paper. Four months later, “The Tree Watcher” was born.

In the book, which was Stanley’s first children’s novel, the narrator imagines life through a child’s eyes and encourages them to never lose that sense of wonder.

Stanley said it is a message for children and adults alike.

“One of the things I hope to get across with this book, with my school visits,” he said,
referring to a recent trip to Finland Elementary, “is to encourage mindfulness and imagination and to never let go of those feelings.”

In the months since his passion for creative writing has re-emerged, Stanley had written a second book, “I Dreamed I Was a Bird” with childhood friend and illustrator Alex LeVasseur and intends to make that a series of books featuring different animals. He also plans to re-capture the spirit of his childhood trips to the field and creek behind Brookpark Middle School via book in the near future.

Stanley said this unexpected year of writing and having his books published has been surreal and daunting, but mentioned that all of his fears and self-doubt have been worth it because of the reaction his book elicits.

“It’s just such a cool thought that in some small way, my writing contributed to a child or adult feeling joy and wonder.”

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