My seven-year old friend reached into the paper bag and pulled out a yellow lollipop with a grand flourish. Putting it back in each time, she flourished a red, then a blue, then a green. She explained that the green one was her favorite, but we could pick one from the bag. Abracadabra, the bag was empty!
Later, she pulled me aside to show me how it was done. Part of the excitement for her was sharing the secret of the trick. It was as much fun revealing the sleight of hand, misdirection and gadgets she used in performing the trick in the first place. I was in awe of her skill and her energy. That’s what made it fun for me.
Not all magic is based on tricks, but things seem magical when we don’t know how they happen. We know that the tiger didn’t just disappear and that the rabbit was inside the hat all along. We know it’s misdirection and sleight of hand and secret panels. Our willingness to suspend disbelief is what makes magic (not to mention most movies) fun and exciting.
As an adult, I’ve seen a lot and, at least in my opinion, know quite a bit about the world. However, I consciously try on a daily basis to keep my sense of wonder fresh, to be awed by the old, familiar things, as well as the new and unusual. Sometimes I have to remind myself not to be cynical; not to pooh-pooh others’ excitement.
Being around children helps, because they experience so much that is new to them. Their excitement and wonder renews our own sense of childhood, when it was all so new to us. Sharing something you know well lets you experience the newness again. We also get a sense of that when we share stories, books, movies and even our own reactions to the news or TV shows.
When my niece was a kid and came to visit us, my dad often took us out in his pickup — the one with automatic windshield wipers set on long term intermittent. At the age of six, she would start when the wipers wiped and ask if he’d seen that. “What?” he always replied, with a twinkle. Ultimately she figured it out, but even when she became a teen, it was a game they continued to play. The magic was in their complicit disbelief.
Anyone who grows things touches the magic of nature. You can take a hard kernel and stick it in the dirt with some water and sunshine and come back later to find a vine or bush or a tree. You can watch it magically grow and get leaves or fruit, and maybe find that it is good to eat or is a feast for the eyes. You can start with a seed so small it is hard to handle, but somehow it becomes a mass of green fronds and a long orange mass that we know to be a carrot. How can that not be magic?
Sure, I can read about the mechanics of plant growth and see time-lapse photos on the internet, but that doesn’t dampen my excitement for growing a carrot. And, I can do this with all kinds of kernels or wisps of plants – I can put them in the dirt with water and sunshine and, “viola!,” they become beets or tomatoes or squash (boy, do they become squash!) or a whole garden full of delight. And later, a whole kitchen full of good and interesting things to eat.
The hummingbirds around our house are amazing in their flight and trilling. They fly like no other birds, fast, then slow to a dead stop in mid-air. Sometimes they go backwards, then dip and dive and loop and circle. It’s an aerial show that defies imagination, and it’s staged in my backyard, off and on all day.
This year, giant snails have appeared in my garden and lawn. They are substantial, escargot-sized buggers with a big round shell. I’ve had slugs ever since I got a load of compost from the mushroom farm, but the snails just appeared out of nowhere this year. Magic? Or maybe a bird flying over dropped one. Or they blew in on the wind.
But, you say, that’s not magic. That’s just …well, nature running its course. It happens all the time.
Sure, I agree. But isn’t it still awesome? How can you not be amazed every time it happens? As far as I’m concerned, it’s magical.
But at least it’s not a tiger.
As for knowing how the lollipops disappeared, the secret will stay with me.