Thursday, December 31, 2009

There is Magic in the Air

J. Scott Savage, author of the wonderful Farworld series of fantasy novels, uses the phrase “Find Your Magic” to encourage his young and old readers to find the special talents and abilities they have within them. Savage writes about worlds full of magic and intrigue. He may be one of those lucky individuals who believe that our own world is still full of magic.

Both my grandmothers were such individuals.

Grandma Martin believed that leprechaun still lived in the forest of Ireland, and fairies could be found hiding in a bed of nasturtiums if you knew where to look. Well into her eighties, my grandma declared her conviction in the reality of both Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. And I spent long afternoons curled next to her as she read me poetry and told stories from her own youth.

My Grandma Martha, on the other hand, believed in the magic of nature. She could take me on long walks in the meadows where she lived and name the wild flowers we encountered on the trail. She knew of spots where sweet artesian water bubbled to the surface of the ground and you could press you face against the cool watercress and drink to your heart’s content. And it was through her direction that I found how to crawl down under the blackberry bushes to the large metal culvert below, and sit for hours listening to the water flow below my feet eating juicy berries till my stomach was full.

So, as a grandma myself, I have been trying to think of the magic in my own life that I can pass down to my grandchildren. And though I do have quite a vivid imagination and a love for the out of doors, I find that my magic tends to be more earthy and domestic.

I believe in alchemy. Perhaps I can’t turn lead into gold, but I can do something even greater. If I mix sugar, butter, milk and chocolate I can create a fudge that is so creamy your tongue will think it’s died and gone to heaven. And if I add some eggs, flour, baking soda and salt then stick it in the oven… the scent alone will gather my family together in the kitchen like a magic spell.

I believe in poltergeists; evil spirits who lurk in my house and cause mayhem and chaos while I sleep. For instance, I can clean my kitchen spotlessly before I go to bed, and by the time I get up the next morning, the sink is full of dirty dishes, the floor is covered with crumbs and an unexplained puddle of honey adorns one corner of the counter. Some might blame it on a house full of teenagers, but I know otherwise.

I believe in whitelighters, (beings made famous in the TV series Charmed) or guardian angels. These creatures help bring out the best in their charges and help them when they’re in trouble. Except I call them Mom and Dad.

I believe in ogres, invisible monsters that lurk in strange places, like say the drier, and eat huge quantities of unsuspecting clothing. The jeans your daughter has to wear to the party tonight or your husband’s best golfing shirt. But although the ogres will eat anything, by far their favorite treat is single socks, preferably new ones without holes.

I believe we live in a world that is crazy and unpredictable. Natural disasters can destroy the lives of thousands in the blink of an eye, and man-made violence is even worse. Life is fragile and peace is often fleeting. And as we reach our adult years, it becomes painfully clear how little control we actually have over the events that shape us. In a world such as this, I think a little magic can go a long way to enhancing our lives and the lives of those we love.

I think that’s the magic within me that I will be passing down.

Friday, December 18, 2009

If I Could Meet Myself For Lunch

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you”
—Dr. Suess

There is something about the end of a year that causes one to look to the past and try to find meaning in the time that’s already gone by. Perhaps it helps us prepare for the future, or reassures us that we have done more than breath, eat and sleep for the past twelve months.

The main problem I find when trying to analyze my own life, is that I’m doing it from the confines of my own head. This is certainly a biased angle, but it’s the only perspective I posses.

I wrote a book one time where the main character dies during the first chapter. I tried to imagine what it would look like to see yourself from the perspective of a detached spirit. Would I recognize myself from that angle? And would that slack muscle thing that comes after death, and causes the body to cave in slightly make identifying my lifeless corpse even more challenging?

Having never died, I can’t really say for sure, but I assumed that seeing yourself dead on the ground would be a somewhat surreal experience. And not one that I would be drawn to fantasize about. But what if I could meet myself alive, perhaps sit across the table at an Applebees, share an appetizer and make conversation. Now that would be an experience worth imagining indeed.

Would I see myself, the way I look in the mirror with those special light bulbs that make your skin glow like a twenty-year-old girl in love, or would the multiple layers of chin that I try not to notice each morning as I brush my hair, leap out like a crumpled paper bag around my neck?

I hope I’d like my smile or the way I try to look attentive when someone else is speaking. No doubt we would both laugh at the same funny stories, and that’s important. I once quit dating a young man because it took him nearly thirty seconds to get my jokes and another ten to come up with a polite laugh. It was like watching a TV show where the audio doesn’t match the video and the mouths move moments before the actual words come out. Timing is everything.

We’d talk about our mutual interests of course, our darling baby grandson and why See’s candy is the only chocolates worth eating. I’d hope I wouldn’t be too pushy with my opinions, and I might play devil’s advocate just to see how I respond when someone disagrees with me. Of course, I’d probably see right through that ploy, but still it would be fun to try.

Maybe we’d check out the handsome waiters, and reminisce about how young we use to be. Would I agree with myself that we still feel that young deep inside; deep deep where no one can see? And would we both cringe at that embarrassing thing we did when we were single and still chasing boys?

I hope I’d be polite, and even though I already know all my stories by heart, I’d listen to them again without interrupting and smile and nod at all the right places. I’d like myself more that way I’m sure. And I’d offer to pick up the bill, even though I know I would never allow myself to pay for me and we’d end up going dutch.

As I sat across from myself, could I offer honest constructive criticism of how I could be a better person, and would I be able to take it in the spirit it was meant? Or would I find it hard to be truthful about my weaknesses and get defensive when I brought it up?

When it was time to leave, I think I’d be sad about the separation, until I remembered that it’s me, and we’re always together. And then I would be glad to know I always have someone with me who totally understands how I feel.

So the next time I got too hard on myself or became internally abusive, I could remember what a great person I am and how much fun I am to be with, and I’d realize I need to treat myself with kindness and patience.

And that, my friends, is what it would be like if I met myself for lunch.

(–thanks Carrie!)

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