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Making Magic From Humble Moments
a 90 minute Iron Chef writing session with Sara Tasker.
Sara + Keeley’s90 writing session on Zoom :: The closest thing I’ve ever seen to magic
[10 min brainstorm | 50 min write | 15 min edit | 10 min links + title | 5 min publish]
I’m probably supposed to write about the magic of eclosion or something stunning and intuitively magical like that. I’m probably supposed to write about standing at the Butterfly Museum in front of that large window and watching the chrysalis’s. I’m supposed to describe the magic of watching a butterfly emerge. I should tell you about the eternally slow moments that pass whilst this new butterfly fights its way into existence. I should tell you about the magic embodied in the struggle of birth for the one reaching into life. I won’t though. Because that’s not the magic that unlocks mysteries right now.
I’ll tell you what does, though. The closest things I’ve seen to magic didn’t look anything like magic when I saw and experienced them. The most magical things I saw passed across my conscious path unnoticed. Like, reader, the magical moments didn’t trot in wearing hot pink Doc Martens carrying a placard that reads “I’m a magical moment, remember me for Sara’s writing session”. Sometimes the magic doesn’t reveal itself until decades later. Maybe magic lives in me and not the moment. My mother embodied magic when I was a very young girl and I had no ideas because a dumb kid, the youngest + the Joseph of her siblings, knows nothing.
Human triumph. After 10 minutes of thinking, all the thoughts about magic profound enough to write about for nearly an hour in a row end up at stories of human triumph. Domestic violence made my mother a refugee from her own life. She never left the country, I don’t mean refugee in the immigrant sense. Mum had to leave suddenly because of an attempt on her life. The law didn’t protect women in the 1960s and women either left and fended for themselves or they stayed and took their beatings and lived miserably. My gay brother, 16 years old at the time, saved mum’s life and helped her break into the house at night to steal some pots and pans. Mum had to leave everything behind, she couldn’t take even her youngest daughters, aged 9 and 5. My grandparents and the rest of my mum’s catholic family did nothing to help mum. Shunned, Mum got a tiny room in the shady part of downtown, she got a job at the university library. That’s where she met my dad. Mum rebuild her life from nothing and had me. My older siblings scattered. Mum spend many years away from my sisters, who were taken from her out of the country and forbidden to have contact with her.
I came home one day from school at the age of 5 or 6 and found some strange creepy lady in the kitchen talking to mum, who had served her coffee or some kind of refreshment. This was the woman behind the alienation of my sisters from our mother, she showed up at our home when they returned to Canada, in retrospect it seems like a kind of menacing visit. I don’t remember much, don’t really remember the conversation except it was about my sisters, and that I didn’t like her she felt menacing. This lady began showing up at our church meetings. We saw her once at Eaton’s in the basement. Kids don’t think about that stuff, they just remain fluid in the moment. In the year and a half since mum died I have revisited these moments and seen them from another angle. These ordinary moments now seem unbelievable and amazing—the magic of unnoticed triumph dressed up in “humble clothing” in my early childhood. In my mind’s eye the image of my mother and one of her abusers in the kitchen of my home remains etched. What kind of magic spell lasts 50 years? One a mother makes with her love and her life and her self belief.
Those moments of menace from half a century ago remind me of triumph. They remind me in a dark moment that mum did a magical thing while I watched, and so I can too. It feels like magic in retrospect because mum turned a sinister interaction into a powerful lesson without ever trying. These moments feel magical now because they keep mum close to me. Even 16 months after her death she remains very near. The experiences I had with her have become tiny pinpoints of magic empyrean light that shine into the future and guide me, like a lighthouse guides ships in the fog and storm. The magic lives in this moment I have described, in many ways—the unfolding wisdom quietly slips in like a soothing breeze and sometimes it brutally smashes through everything with cold unapologetics. The magic lies in the fact that, even though the moment has long passed, it has not, history remains present to me. Maybe time unfolds around and through us like it does in the movie Interstellar.