Real Magic #11

Since it’s my 11th Real Magic, I want to write about that magical time: 11:11. In my family, when we see it, we say, “11:11! Make a wish!” We close our eyes and wish for something: goodness for a struggling friend, strength to get through that next difficult thing, anything really.

This tradition started after my grandfather’s funeral in 2007. During the ceremony, I had to step outside because my infant daughter had begun crying. I walked into the warm Santa Barbara sun, soothing and bouncing the baby, and asked my grandfather for a sign. I think I even said it out loud. “Anything will do, Grampa. A gust of wind, a bird, a bug, anything. Let me know you’re there.” I waited. Nothing came, not even a slight wind. But then I noticed that the church’s street address was 1111. I looked at my watch, and sure enough it was 11:11 AM.

I started laughing and said, “Of course!” It made perfect sense that my grandfather, an engineer, would choose numbers. Is this connection just coincidence? Is it all made up? Perhaps. But perhaps not. I find that when I pay attention, I find this kind of magic everywhere. What is most certainly real is that seeing 11:11 always feels like a little hug from beyond. When I see it, I say hello to Grampa, make a wish, and feel reconnected, comforted, and hopeful.

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Real Magic #10

I’ve been struggling a little bit lately. Where I live, we’re very slowly coming out of the pandemic. Masks are required indoors, and most people still wear them outside too. We’re gathering only when we know we’re all vaccinated, but socializing feels new and awkward and utterly exhausting.

I finally came up with a word for what I’m feeling yesterday: fragile. I feel like the slightest gust of wind could knock me over, or one wrong word will leave me near tears. But I have decided (with the help of a trusted friend) that I’m just going to let myself be fragile right now. After all, I did just live through a global pandemic. You did too. I’ve talked to so many people who feel this way: I should feel happy and fine! We’re getting back to normal! But they feel anything but happy or fine.

I think of deer, after they’ve been shocked or scared and they begin shaking to rid their bodies of the trauma. This fragile period feels a little like that. We’re walking on wobbly legs, in need of a rest and some quiet kindness. When you really think about it, especially after these last many months, life truly is all so fragile, isn’t it?

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Real Magic #9

I am trying to finish a new book based on the concept of Real Magic, and it has been one of the most challenging projects of my life. I struggle to write about the transcendence I experience in the natural world without it sounding corny or fake or forced. Some of these stories are so incredibly magical that I find that even I doubt my experience. There are days I just want to give up. Yesterday morning was one of those days. So I did what I do when I need a reset–I go to the woods. I took all three dogs and went up to the Oakland Hills, and we hiked.

I ask a lot of the natural world. Yesterday as I was hiking, I asked for a sign that I should continue writing this book. Should I even try to translate this sacred relationship into words? Or should I just leave it alone? I said, once again, aloud, for the hundredth time alone amongst the trees, “I need a sign.”

I continued walking and contemplated what I would do if I received no sign, if there were no magical visitations or discoveries. Would I quit working on the book? Would I start a totally different project? Right then, I stumbled upon a stunning owl feather in the path. I stopped, picked it up, snapped a photograph, offered some water in gratitude, and said, OK. OK, Thank you. That was all I needed.

I continued and at the final bend in the trail, high up in a tree, sat the enormous Great Horned Owl. She was cleaning herself, preening, flipping her wings, shaking, and she stopped what she was doing and looked straight at me with piercing yellow eyes. Then, I noticed behind her, two faces. There were two babies in her nest, their feathers still fuzzy and white, their faces dark in contrast.

My stomach flipped with excitement, because this is what I mean by real magic. This is the natural world showing up and saying it is present. Remember how I wrote about the two owls outside my window a few weeks ago? Now, unbelievably, when I asked for reassurance, they appeared in my waking life.

I made a promise to myself in that moment: I will finish this book. I will stop the doubt. Believing is so much more beautiful and hopeful than doubt anyway, isn’t it? And in this moment, I choose beauty and hope.

Real Magic #8

The crows are gone. They aren’t flying to their nest anymore. A few nights ago, I was going to the bathroom at about 2AM and I heard several of them sounding frantic, crying and cawing. I ran out to my front steps and turned on my phone to record the sound, but they’d already gone silent. I looked for the shadow of an owl, any kind of night-time nest marauder, but couldn’t find anything. Ever since that night, they’ve been quiet.

I’ve become attached to that crow family. Perhaps they’re still there, just quiet. Probably not. But as I peer at the tree, which is visible from my kitchen window, I can still see their nest, as solid as ever, darkening the crown of that sturdy pine. I find comfort in the fact that the nest is still there, like a home that is warm and welcoming after a disastrous day. Especially during this pandemic, I hope it’s true for you, that going home is always a salve, an exhalation, a reprieve. And if not, I hope you can gather beautiful things along your journey and create your very own place of refuge.

Real Magic # 7

I pay attention to my dreams. The more I notice and record them, the more incredible and sometimes prophetic they become. Often they involve animals.

I have never told anyone this, but when my husband and I decided, over eighteen years ago, to try to get pregnant, I went to sleep that night and dreamt of two owls standing on a branch just outside my bedroom window. I knew that these two beings were the souls of my children. I told them I loved them and wanted them. They indicated that they were ready and waiting to join our family.

My daughters were born two days apart (three years and two days apart). Today my eldest daughter turns seventeen. On Sunday, my younger daughter will celebrate her fourteenth birthday. We call this span of three days our family’s birthday season.

Owls symbolize different things for different cultures, but for me, they represent trusting what we intuit. They represent wisdom and change, life and death. I’m so grateful for that dream and for my daughters.

Now I need to go bake a few birthday cakes.