. . . in magic? I do.
The earliest memory I have of magic is the way I felt at Grandma’s house at Christmas when I was a child — the tree, the presents, the family, and the midnight ham sandwiches because we all just wanted another excuse to be together, and it was Christmas, and the normal rules were suspended. It was a feeling not easily described with true emotional accuracy, and that’s either magic or poetry.
My grandmother was the quintessential grandmother, the archetype of grandmothers. She had a soft face and a perpetual smile. Her house felt safe, soft like her. She laughed readily and often. She loved with sincerity and gentleness. Grandma passed away in 1976, just a few months before my twelfth birthday.
At some point in my early twenties, during a season of angst and despair, I stood out under a night sky, scanning the heavens until my eyes rested on the brightest star, what I once believed to be the North Star, but I now understand was probably Sirius. Though I was at least a decade beyond my grandmother’s passing, she came strongly into mind as I stared at that star. I decided the star was grandma, the one person who had always felt safe to me, the one person I believed I could have talked to about all my struggles, had she lived to see me through them. And I poured my heart out to that star.
This began a practice I have continued ever since. Problems spoken into a night sky transform into a magic that brings purpose to our challenges and healing to our wounds. They are met with answers, and if not answers, then a form of acceptance so deep and primal it feels like its own kind of answer. And whether this magic comes from Grandma, or that star, or the simple act of breathing the air of the quiet darkness, it does indeed come. Sometimes profoundly, sometimes subtly, but it comes.
This week is Halloween, Samhain in the Celtic tradition, followed by All Saints Day on November 1st for the Christian World and Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead in Mexican culture. All of these observances, to varying extents, involve the interaction of the living with those who have already passed beyond the veil. In fact, that veil between the incarnate and the spirit world is said to be at its thinnest on October 31st.
On October 28 of 2013, eight years ago, my father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was an otherwise healthy 71-year-old man who had been hiking just that morning. He was lean and muscular, still cutting a dashing figure and able to scamper over the East Tennessee mountains like a billy goat. He lived that way even on the last day of his life, and then he sat down in his easy chair and had a heart attack. We held his memorial on October 31. Halloween.
When my grandmother passed, I was a child. But I was a middle-aged adult when my father passed. The grief was full-grown.
In many ways, I felt him around me more intimately than when he was alive. There were times I knew that I knew that I knew that he had paid me a visit or sent me a sign. And I could talk to him about things we wouldn’t have touched when he was alive, our differences far too profound on certain subjects. But now I knew him as a father who loved me not through a veil of disappointments or expectations, but with unlimited compassion and understanding.
He became the other inhabitant of the brightest star in the sky, and Grandma seemed happy to share.
So, on Halloween, or the next full moon or new moon, or any night, really, when a problem is haunting you or a general unease is hovering about in your person, try stepping outside and talking to whomever you believe might live in the brightest star. There’s plenty of room for them there, and they are happy to listen as long as you need.
And through that conversation can come healing and release and understanding and peace.
And I call that magic.