When I was a little girl, I believed absolutely in magic. As an adult, there are still times (although much more rarely) when imagination and reality can intersect at an angle just so, and the suggestion of magic reappears. For example, just imagine you’re helping to tend a garden one spring day, and you’ve been told there’s an 18th century well somewhere on the property. A beautiful stone well, dating to the time of the American Revolution, with the stones fitted together precisely in an elegant rock round, that is now blocked off by brush and in an uncertain location in the woods, no longer visible. Doesn’t it sound interesting? Wouldn’t you want to get a look? I did. I was told the general direction, and I headed carefully through brush, trying to avoid thorny catches on fabric and scratches on bare skin. I came across a log, as high as my knee around. I scrambled up to walk on it as a clearer path, and a vantage point from which to see, the heels of my flat-soled sneakers sinking slightly into the log as I stepped along it’s length, my step muted, the wood soft and golden, the bark long ago peeled away. At the end of this log, I found a medium-sized tangled tree bent half over, weeping branches mimicking its reaching and exposed roots, a mirror reflecting only itself. And stepping off the vantage point of my log and down to the earth, underneath that tangle of branches and to the side of those exposed wooden roots, the glimmer of a pool of water, bordered by carefully fitted stones. I edged through the tangle to get a better look, beneath branches and over roots, my hair catching on twigs, traveling on slippery root and wet earth, ending close to the edge of the well. The water high and close to the top, leaving most stones wavy below the shadow of branches on its glimmer-glass surface. An edge of fear, the possibility of falling in, down through the water and down through the collected silt and into the unseen, like Persephone. Close to the edge of the water, just as I was considering the depths and the probability of my fears, I spotted a pile of feathers.
Yellow and black, striped cream and grey. No beak, no claw, no bone, no tendon, just the feathers in a neat pile, and a large pile at that, an entire bird’s plumage. A costume change (if this were a fairy tale) or the remains of a feast by hawk or fox or other small beast. What it was, I think in retrospect, is the confluence of earth, water, and air in a magic afternoon: a garden in Vermont, a walk through the woods and along a log, dappled sun on water, under the blue sky reflected in an old well, and a pile of airy feathers.
Books that exemplify the magic world of my memories as a child: The Fledgling by Jane Langton “Georgie’s fondest hope, to be able to fly, is fleetingly fulfilled when she is befriended by a Canada goose.” James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl “When James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. When James discovers a secret entranceway into the fruit and crawls inside, he meets wonderful new friends–the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the dainty Ladybug, and the Centipede…” Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. “Here now. Now here. Nowhere.” That’s my elegy, and it’s from this book. I love this book. I still do not fully understand the very end and would love to discuss with other readers. A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin “Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and besieged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.”