Monday, March 31, 2014

Of Magic (Of Baseball Planets, Death-Roses, Persian Kings, Lemonade)

Newsflash: Magic is real.
Petition: (Please don’t run yet.)
Allow me to explain. There is magic in this boring world of ours. Or rather, perhaps more accurately, our world is a world of magic. Not flying-carpet magic. Not wand-and-incantation magic. Not Expelliarmus magic.
Consider: Seasons change. They whirl in and are swept out, successive kings and queens on a throne that cannot be held onto. 
Zoom out: The seasons don’t change themselves. We’re on a baseball, hurtling through space, hungering to burst into flame and fall apart, freeze and crumble and turn into meteors to pepper some storming planet-side. But all baseballs have stitching, and we are stitched together by something so powerful that it makes a hunk of space-rock and a smat* of water habitable. And don’t you dare mention gravity. Don’t you dare ask me to trust it, even for a moment.
Because stars collapse. They cannibalize and decide to eat themselves, like a puppy chomping on his hind legs. They shrink and digest earth-spattering power, and then they crack and split, and they try to devour everything in reach. And if they can’t reach, then they need only be patient.
From a distance, safe behind our centuries and a blast-shield of lightyears, we watch through glass and we “ooh” and “aah” like we’re at a firework show. Bursts of color. A celestial rainbow. As if they couldn’t disintegrate us. I suppose that it is the same way that we look at a brightly colored poisonous snake. Stay away. Wear your gloves and your boots. (And polarized safety goggles, just in case.) But take pictures.
And yet here we are, a few quadrillion-stone-throws from our own solar warhead. A ball of nuclear death. Just waiting to cannibalize. To chomp down on its own back legs and swallow.  To become an intergalactic death-rose, beautiful from a billion miles away, but monstrous up close.
At any moment, we could erupt. We could be eaten by a star, or left alone to freeze to death without it. We could shatter. We could stop being whole without reason, and stop spiraling. But we don’t. We’re a baseball with red stitching all around our edges, frayed but holding. And held together by magic.
Zoom back in: There is a magic in our world. A magic that makes the seasons change. That makes the trees point at the sky like arrows. That turns caterpillars into butterflies (and, more impressively, boys into men). There is a magic that makes the wind blow, the same wind that has blown for ten thousand years, captured in cages of stone or pulsing lungs, rising and diving. There is magic in dust; dust which rolls on the wind and sails microscopic ships through slanted sunlight. The dust that touched the feet of Persian kings, and the dust that was the feet of Persian kings, all collecting on kitchen counters.
There is magic in the power of memory. In antiquity, the memory of time itself. The flavor of life and dust and words, rubbed into stones and wood generations old, polished into eyes, like doorknobs. Into arches and dancing halls, into coliseums and mountainsides and standing rocks in a field in England.
There is magic stuffed into books, and heaped onto shelves. But not on the pages; in the pages. In the binding. In the words. In the thumbprints of the curious and the dirt and the tears and the tea-stains. Here, where the dust is not the only life that rides the stale currents.
The magic of summer. The magic of falling leaves or gripping breezes or gnawing cold. The magic of life and death and everything between, the pulling and tearing over every bouncing atom.
Now, of course, I know that there are libraries full of books (of a non-magic variety, all glossy and boring) that argue against me. There are more college classes than I could count that waste precious (tree-woven) oxygen trying to convince us that there is no such thing as magic.
That the sunset is only red because of the way the sunlight hits the dust particles. But the fact remains that particles of rubbish can paint a sky red. That lighting jet-fuel on fire can hurl a five-hundred-ton cylinder through the sky at three-hundred-miles-per-hour, and not nearly enough people cry and pray and find God in the air. (Forget magic carpets, we can fly whole crowds, and serve drinks and crackers on the way.)  
Because here’s the honest truth: Life is too short, and this world too beautiful, not to believe in magic. It is too short not to believe in legends, and not to immerse ourselves in fairy-tales. Not to lose our imagination (our greatest magical tools) in love stories older than sunsets, and words older than darkness. There is magic in that a word is all that separates us from the dust. There is magic in galactic thunderstorms on Jupiter, and in a cup of coffee in a downtown cafe. Magic is simply that which cannot be explained. Perhaps that which ought not be explained, or needn’t be.
Or perhaps it is just something you feel. Perhaps it is a smell, like midnight and dry grass and black powder on the Fourth of July, with the crickets choiring and the stars glittering, and clothes that reek subtly of stale bonfire-smoke and soda. Hay-bales. 
Perhaps it is the sanctuary of solitude when you are standing alone on the mountain, with the wind pouring through you, sucking in breaths which have been recycled a million times, shared by peasants and kings and elk (and probably a flying fish; no race has a monopoly on air, after all), offered up by trees that were cut down for a palace that has since been lost.
Or the smell of water, the sound of sea waves, or the wind dancing with the leaves in the tops of the trees.
Maybe it’s a hammock.
Maybe it’s a catacomb-cathedral in a mountainside, still resounding with the hum of hymns so old and fervent, they have transcended antiquity and attained immortality. Words of power. (It is a word, after all, that separates us from the dust at all. But that is a different post.)
Maybe it’s a glass of lemonade, and the smell of freshly cut grass.
Life is too short not to believe in magic. Not to believe in fairy-tales. Not to eat food that tastes good, or listen to songs that hurt, or read stories that make you want to fall in love. Life is too short not to daydream and write poetry that doesn't (have to) make sense. 
Life is too short not to live.

(Now you can run.)

*It’s a word. Look it up. You won’t find it, and that’s sad.