I believe in magic. I believe in moments expanding with promise when you least expect it. In ease, serendipity, beauty, connection.
As a child I remember not just writing a story, but inhabiting it—diving in so deeply that the rest of the world receded. I surfaced only after the last period had been carefully placed on the thin blue line with my fat number two pencil. To an adult, the few words I’d written belied the story’s complexity. Each word was a chapter, stretching off into the horizon of my imagination.
But as I got older, my experience taught me that looking for or trying to create that magic didn’t make it happen. It was not to be bought, conjured or held. Instead, magic was something to occupy for the moment. Not something to expect.
So when, in graduate school, while sharing a cheap beach apartment with a friend, one of those magic moments snuck up on me, I sunk into it like a child on a featherbed. It was a time when entertaining had nothing to do with Martha Stewart and everything to do with the company.
Our conversation was laced with an expectancy and idealism that came from youth and the daily mental calisthenics of graduate school. We discussed all manner of ideas into the night, listening to reggae, The Eagles, Gil Scott Heron and Woody Allen’s early stand-up routines. We pushed up against the status quo with the intense, fresh vision one has on the journey up the mountain.
We were visiting with friends one evening in the dim light of our living room—a sort of UN delegation from Lebanon, France, Brazil and the US. When friends pulled out their guitars and began to play, the moldy walls, damp red carpet and mismatched furniture faded into the background. I only heard the sound of the acoustic guitars and our friends’ voices. The light took on a golden hue and the minutes seemed to stretch, suspending me in time and space and binding us together.
That moment is long gone. Most of us in the room that night have lost touch. Marriages and friendships have been made and some broken. Children—products of two of the unions—are past their childhood. In my life there have been other magic moments, but that one still punctuates my memory like few others.
I still believe in magic. I’ve experienced it when I write—like channeling words from another world. In my deepest despair, when another’s heart unexpectedly mingled with mine. Or, when I am present enough to recognize it—like in the smile of a toddler fidgeting on her father’s lap in the close quarters of a 757, the rare appearance of Mt. Rainier on the horizon, the exquisite color of a blue spruce. Or, when someone’s unexpected kindness or the flash of a smile teaches me, again and again, that magic isn’t an illusion.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.