Magic and Wonder
I can’t imagine what the world is like for anyone who doesn’t believe in magic.
I became a believer around age three.
My dreams would often follow me into the waking world and hang around even after my mother entered the room and turned on the lights to banish them. I was a pretty quiet child, except for the screams on those nights. By age four--or maybe it was five--I stopped telling anyone what I saw. I didn't want my mother to follow through on her plan to take me to the doctor for my “nightmares.”
The people and things from my dreams never talked, and with rare exception, they didn't seem malevolent. And since turning on the light didn't make them leave anyway, I decided to just give them their space.
I remember this African American couple I’d sometimes see in my grandparents’ farmhouse. They looked sad, but not angry, and their clothing was old, from a previous century. They remind me of the painting by Grant Wood, but with friendlier faces…and no pitchfork. I always saw them in the same room of the house in the same general area, so it was easy to avoid running into them.
I didn't know it then, but those early experiences shaped the way I thought about the world around me. No adult could convince me that only things that I could see were real. I knew better. As much as I wanted others to see what I could see, it was the reality that everyone couldn’t see it that made it magic to me.
I wondered what the rocks in my rock collection had witnessed since they never died. I wondered if a tree was happy or sad when its leaves turned color and eventually fell to the ground or blew off in the wind. I wondered what was really in seemingly empty rooms, and houses and spaces.
Who doesn't love a mystery? Nancy Drew was always besting the adults around her by showing them that what was evident was not all that there was. I read all her books as I approached my teens. Mystery novels and myths kept my belief in magic intact.
When my middle-school science teacher, Ms. Johnson, explained that we earthlings are not still, but actually moving through space at 67,000 miles per hour while spinning at hundreds of miles per hour, I was astonished. Here the entire earth was doing something that was real but unseen, or in this case, unfelt. I could identify with that. When I told some of my neighborhood crew about it, they laughed and said that if that were true, we would feel it and see it. That response was familiar to me by then. It left me undeterred.
After that, a microscope, chemistry set, and telescope topped my wish list. Not only was the world full of magic, but the universe as well, and earth was a part of it all. There was so much more to see, and I wanted to see it. Despite a tight budget, my mother found a way to get me the tools that I needed for further exploration and investigation. There were mysteries to be solved or at least observed.
From there it was an easy transition, in my late teens, to believing what I read about the invisible God and miracle-performing Jesus. Our new church had a vibrant group of youth in my age range who believed in magic too. I felt simpatico and the church became my tribe. I read the Bible from cover to cover, several times. I didn't always interpret what I read the same way my tribe did and we saw things differently. That was--and still is--reality.
We don't all see the same way; we aren’t meant to. We have to make room for our individual experiences of life to have a place to be.
To this day, I still wonder--a lot--and I’m grateful that I do. As I’ve grown a little older, I see wonder and magic in moments like the sunrise and the sunset, the night sky, the brightness of the noon sky, the budding of new tree leaves in spring, and the vibrant colors of those same leaves in autumn. The entrance of life in all its forms.
Making the choice to look for at least a touch of it in all things is where, I do believe, the magic begins.