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.

Real Magic #6

Racoon prints in Oakland, CA

I captured this photo yesterday at a park in my town. I’m assuming they’re raccoon prints, those masked night-time bandits. 

Two hundred years ago on this land, there were large numbers of bears, elk, antelope, wolves, and mountain lions sampling the plentiful sea fare. The birds were so copious they sometimes darkened the midday sky.

Now the skies are mostly empty, and the only animals still living in my fairly urban neighborhood are those who brave the night: raccoons, skunks, possums, rats. Sometimes in the daylight, I’ll notice a misplaced deer grazing dangerously close to the freeway, too often already a casualty to a car.  

Our imprint has overtaken this land. So it’s exhilarating to find evidence of a wild being–one who leaves its mark in the dark of night, a handprint much like our own. 

Real Magic #5: April 16, 2021

On April 16, 1996, the canine love of my life was born. If he were still alive, Bunker Hill would be 25-years-old today. This photograph was taken by a photographer named Bev Sparks, who I’d hired solely to capture his essence. She did exactly that, and I am forever in her debt. This photo became the cover of Dog Medicine, and it captures him so beautifully. I still miss him, and I am so grateful for him. 

When I hired Bev, I remember feeling a little embarrassed, because who hires a dog photographer? In the late nineties, very few people did. But I already knew that Bunker’s time with me would be too short. I knew that at age three or four, he was at his prime. And I knew our connection was transcendent. So, I am reminding you (and myself) today that the thing you want to do but worry it may be misunderstood or seem strange: Do it anyway. Write it anyway. Say it anyway. Be it anyway. That’s your path. Keep going.

Happy 25th Birthday Bunker!