What is Magic?
It is fierceness and generosity. It is one hundred children sitting cross-legged on the floor of the gym. It is six children in the corner of the library.
For me, Magic is Story. Or, Story is the vehicle I know how to navigate.
Magic is a feeling, an energy. There is mystery to it: I don’t know what will show up. Right now, I don’t know what I will say, though I feel many pressing, urgent things.
Magic is the sound of gold coins in a bowl, paying the fine for stealing a whiff of bread.
Magic is the cloak of the storyteller who clothes the naked truth so that the villagers can stand the sight of him and hear the wisdom he has to share.
Magic is a woven basket, the white necklace of the loon, the way pussy willows look like cat paws.
Magic is the connection, the unseeable, the divine. It is what makes us not feel we are alone. It is a lineage, an inheritance, an ancestry. It is the future, it is visions, it is dreams.
Where does it come from? Or, do we come from it? Are we the props, the puppets, the shadows on the wall as Magic tells itself a story about life?
I have always wanted to know what is Beyond. Where do children come from? Who are we before we exist and have mortal memories? Where is the doorway to Narnia? What must I learn to be able to speak the language of animals? How does cardamom raise the spirits of my long-dead relatives and transport me across oceans and centuries? How do plants grow?
Curiosity must be Magic’s lover, then. He would be a good one; attentive, delighted, asking questions that expand, unfold, reveal. I think this is my job, and I hope it is everyone’s job: to be the companion and lover to Magic. To ask the questions. To squint and sniff and listen for the answers, the clues, the hints, to go on that wild goose chase and in the process discover that not only can we fly but we are also swans.
That, yes, there are castles in the air, the stars can talk (and they do care about us), and all troubles and seemingly wasted journeys are, in fact, taking us home. Home to ourselves. Home to the Magic. Home to the beginning of everything, changed, sloughed smooth, worn by time, deepened, opened, made whole by being broken open.
This is my wish: to go where Magic calls me. To make my marks along the way so that others may take comfort, trust the compasses within their heart, and carry on.
I will see you there, on the journey, through the door, on the other side, back where it all begins again.
Here’s a cut-up poem made with “The Princess & the Frog.”
Hailey had a magic pocket watch. The thing was, she didn’t know it was magic. She only knew it was old, and it felt nice in her hands.
“Grandpa, can I get this?”
He was looking through a stack of records.
He looked up, eyes blurry through his thick glasses. “Hmm?”
“This watch. Can I get it?” She held it out.
He came over to her, tucked the album he held under his arm, adjusted his glasses, and looked.
He had wavy white hair (not bald like so many other grandpas, which made Hailey feel proud, even though she knew it was unfair)— and he moved slowly through the world. She had asked her mom about that once.
“Is it because he’s old? Is that why he’s forgetful?”
Her mom had laughed. “No, your grandpa is just always somewhere else, and it takes him a while to get back.”
Hailey had been puzzled.
“He’s some other place in his mind— he’s a great thinker, your grandpa, and he travels far away without going anywhere at all.”
“Oh! Like Narnia,” Hailey had said. And after that she always liked to watch him come back to this world. It reminded her of a video she saw on the Discovery Channel once about a whale coming up from deep water.
Grandpa gave the little knob on top of the pocket watch a turn and held it up to his ear, cocking his head to one side.
“Does it work?” Hailey asked. She knew it wouldn’t’ matter— he’d let her get it anyway, not like if she was out with Nana and Papa, her other grandparents. They were practical. They had been farmers all their lives, and Hailey figured you couldn’t go traveling to Narnia if you had to plant corn and milk cows. She knew Grandpa would be able to tell the pocket watch was special.
“Hmm,” he mumbled. (He always mumbled— unless he was reciting Shakespeare or Longfellow or one of the other poets he liked so much— then he was “a great orator,” as Mom said.)
“Something’s loose inside— hear that rattle?” He held it out to her. In the stillness of the dusty old shop, she could hear some small piece sliding against the casing. She nodded.
“But you can fix it,” she said. It wasn’t really a question. Grandpa was an engineer. He had worked on building rocket engines for NASA long ago. Mom agreed that Grandpa’s Narnia was probably full of gears and gadgets and inventions.
He shrugged and handed it back to her, which was Grandpa-speak for “yes.”
Hailey held it close and turned the dials, feeling the now-smooth filigreed case, enjoying the click of the hidden gears as she adjusted the time.
Half an hour later, Grandpa said, “Now, then,” and Hailey knew that meant he was done looking. He gave the man at the register some cash and they left the store, treasures in hand.
First draft, timed writing, Stories for Dreamers
Are you in Northern Minnesota? I hope you can join me for one of these free shows! (And bring your friends).
How did Turtle get cracks in its shell? Why do dogs sniff each other’s tails? Why does Bear hibernate all winter long? Kids and families will love finding out the answers with these interactive folktales from around the world.
This program, sponsored by Arrowhead Library System, was funded in part or in whole with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
After years of faithfully writing Morning Pages (and loving it), I quit (to my surprise) last spring.
As I’ve returned to the practice it’s been slushy and unpleasant, and full of avoidance.
Today I “cheated” and filled pages 2 and 3 with a mantra: I TAKE ACTIONS TO MANIFEST MY DREAMS.
(Because that it was the first thing that occurred to me and it sounded way better than all the grumbling and stumbling).
…And then I wrote a dozen pages of amazing, inspiring, break through ideas of programs to offer!
(Combining storytelling, cookies, yoga, music, and workshops into a marvelous sort of House Concert-Dinner Party!)
I will begin with Mantra Pages for the foreseeable future– moreso because it is a relief to feel my hand move across the page and my mind swept clear than because of any particular mantra’s message.
It is a great gift for the page to be a friend again.
I used to be pretty intimidated by yeast breads. (To be honest, I still have an illogical wariness– I treat them the way I treat horses: Sooo beautiful, but who knows what might happen).
But I’m quite proud of this recipe because:
I also discovered (after a lot of grainy batches on the stove top) that it’s possible and even easy to make caramel in the microwave!
AND I recently made Vegan Caramel Sauce for the first time. (This is GOOD. Not like, not-bad-for-vegan, but actually really delicious.)
Of course, the rest of the recipe isn’t vegan, but you could try adapting it if you like.
Here’s the recipe:
Of course, you could also just come stay at Art House Bed & Breakfast and I’ll make it for you. 🙂
This made my day!
Thanks, Abigail– and thanks to aunts who buy books for dreamers!
The Yawn Snatcher is a wily creature.
It has curling horns,
And curving fingers.
Its feet are quiet as a whisper.
You won’t ever hear it coming.
But you might feel it:
That reaching feeling just behind your ears
Like the pull of a magnet
Drawing the yawn away.
The Yawn Snatcher waits
In late nights
Afternoons that drag on.
The Yawn Snatcher loves boring lectures
And long waits at the bus stop.
When a yawn begins,
The Yawn Snatcher senses it,
With its spindle-thin legs
It strides across the land,
Fast as a shadow.
It crouches behind you,
Ears cocked and
It reaches round you
— so quickly you can’t see it,
So deftly you tell yourself it was a trick of the light—
And plucks the yawn right out of your chest.
Its fingers curl, cage-like
Around the vaporous, wriggling yawn.
Then it gobbles it down
Or stuffs the yawn into its sack
Or one of its many bulging pockets,
And lopes off
Back to its lair in the misty mountains.
And you will stand and scratch your head:
Where did that yawn go?
Sometimes, the Yawn Snatcher will trip,
Drop its sack with a spill,
Or the yawn will wriggle out through a hole in its sweater
And fly back to the yawner.
Sometimes, if it has flown a long way,
It will be a weak little thing,
Hardly satisfying at all.
But sometimes a quick and clever yawn
Will break free
And gather momentum.
It will hit you square in the back
Sending a shock through your whole body.
And then you will have the most jaw-cracking,
Mumble-moaning yawn in years.
A yawn that makes you blink your eyes and smile.
The Yawn Snatcher will gnash its teeth,
But it can’t do a thing about it.
It will slink back to its cave
With a grumble and a grimace
To sit and stroke its stolen yawns
And swallow them one by one.
(Inspired by Ennis taking FOREVER to get that yawn out last night!)