Do you believe in magic?


In 1992, I travelled with my best friend to Wales. It was a dream trip, because I’d wanted to go ever since discovering the Arthurian myths and legends. We castle-trekked (even snuck into one castle that was closed for the season – naughty Americans!) We ate in tiny pubs and met locals who considered us highly exotic because of our Southern accents. We climbed hills, we chased sheep, we bought trinkets.

One day, we decided to drive into the Brecon Beacons to see Llanthony Priory, a former Augustinian monastery. Legend held that it had been built on the site of a shrine to St Dafydd sometime around 1107. According to history, William de Lacey, a Norman noble, happened upon the site while he was hunting, and felt inspired to leave the world behind and immerse himself in prayer on that very spot. I could understand that feeling. The ruins stand in the remote Vale of Ewyas, far enough from roads and cities that the silence is palpable. One can hear sheep from miles away. Driving there was a challenge in itself, since the road became a lane, which became a path, before opening into a space to park in front of the Priory. We tumbled from the car and approached the ruins, chattering as usual. But once we crossed the threshold, something happened. We stood in what once was the church, and fell silent. I was staring at one of the arches when my friend started singing the Magnificat, very quietly, behind me. I felt weightless in that instant, although I didn’t feel I could move. Something from the very ground had waked up, was aware of us. It wasn’t threatening, but it was definitely there. We continued moving around the grounds, but the silly tourist attitude we’d had on the way up the mountain was gone. We were respectful and calm, because it was as if someone’s mother was looking.

Several years later, I was in the Lowcountry visiting my family. My husband had never seen Old Sheldon Church, so we drove out one afternoon. My church in town always held a spring service at Old Sheldon, which was crowded and noisy and buggy (mosquitoes and sand fleas…ugh) but on the day we went, we were the only people there. Once again, in the calm of the marshes, I could feel that presence. Not the same, of course, but it was clearly attentive. I laid my face against the mossy bricks and just stood, for a while, absorbing the feeling.

People ask why writers write. Some writers say they can’t avoid it, they have to write or they’ll lose their minds. Others say they have too many characters in their heads who want their stories told. There’s a different reason for every individual writer. I write because I’ve felt the magic and I want you to feel it, too.  Magic is all around us, not just in a vale across the ocean, nor in the marshes of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, but in my backyard. If I could, I’d drive every one of you up a Welsh mountain, or invite you all to my house to hang out in the woods.  But I can write it down, and share it with you. The world is full of enchantment, and no one is better qualified to show it than a writer.

Where have you found magic?


6 comments to Do you believe in magic?

  • Several places have given me magic.

    There was this sycamore tree in my grandpa’s yard when I was child. I always felt the tree coudl hear me. Watched me. Knew me. Was aware.

    When I was 9 we moved to a house with a creek behind it. The creek flowed through / over a huge black boulder in which someone *very* long ago had cut a trench. The rock trench had square walls, was about 2 feet wide and 16 inches deep at the uper end, and nearly three feet deep at the lower end. There was no black rock anywhere near it. No reason for the trench that we could see. No gold to pan. Not enough water to use to grind anything. Just this strange trench that had been there so long it was smooth on all the edges and across the bottom. There was magic there. Sad magic. Building and development have covered over the boulder with feet of silt. The creek is just a trickle. No magic now.

    There was this place in the mountains long ago, a creek with a 10 foot waterfall. It gave me chills. It felt wild and untamed and almost malevolent…but not quite. It felt powerful. We were hiking. And it just was.

    Magic used to be everywhere for me. Now, it seems more a memory than a power. Did I get too old to feel it? or… Have we killed it, do you think? Part of me fears very much that humans have killed it, are in the process of killing magic with our noise and pollution and poisons and our refusal to listen to the voice of the earth.

  • I don’t think it’s dead – there are enough of us to keep it alive. It’s just harder to find. That’s what we’re here for!

    Waterfalls completely charm me. I’ll stand forever, just watching and listening. There’s a waterfall in NC that you can hike behind. There was something otherworldly about being on the unseen side of the water. I felt more protected than I ever had in my life.

  • Misty,

    Speaking of waterfalls, have you made it up to see Niagra Falls? It is overwhelming, especially when you go out on one of the tour boats that creeps up to the horseshoe fall there. To be on a boat in the water surrounded on three sides by a humongous waterfall is something else indeed. And the cave of the mists, where you can walk up the main part of the falls and go into the caves behind them is also quite an experience.

    We’re actually going to check out some much smaller waterfalls in the Finger Lakes area of NY in August. Should be fun.

    As for magic, when I was younger and reading quite a bit of Andre Norton’s books I always imagined on my walks home from the train just which opening somewhere along my path was one of those doorways that lead to another place.

    Someday I’ll make it over to Wales and Scotland. There are places I’ve seen on TV that just call out to me when I see them. I know someday I’ll walk that earth.

  • “I always imagined on my walks home from the train just which opening somewhere along my path was one of those doorways that lead to another place.”

    YES!!!! That’s it, exactly. I did the same thing when I was in high school, when I walked home every day.

    I have seen Niagara, but it was a very long time ago, and we didn’t go into the caves. I’m not sure whether it was my parents’ choice or whether they didn’t have that option back then. I think I was 9… I’d love to go back someday.

  • Ben Reeder

    I found magic several times, once in a parking lot at work. It was while I was working at a convenience store, and one of my jobs each night was to hose the lot down. On nights when it rained, Ma Nature would rinse the spilled soda and other gradu away, and I could stay in and get ahead of the overnight cleaning list. On this particular night, I had already hosed the lot down, I was behind, and I had a psycho ex co-worker stalking me. So, in running the trash to the dumpster, I heard a rumble of thunder, and down comes the rain I had so fervently been wanting an hour before…drenching me fifty feet from any cover. I turned my face up and griped “What, is this your way of telling me things could always suck WORSE?” And suddenly, it hit me. Not in so many words, but the feeling that Someone was saying “No, beloved childe of Mine. This is My way of saying that I love you.” That’s when I noticed the way the streets felt after a rain, and how the world smelled clean, etc. Suddenly, so many things made sense for awhile.

    The second time that immediately leaps to mind was at a pagan gathering in South Carolina. It was night, and I had just left a drum circle, searching for my new friends, when I stumbled into a clearing filled with mist, lit by a half dozen candles set on mossy boulders. I felt like I’d stepped into a place that was decidedly Elsewhere for a few eternal heartbeats, where the fey were watching and taking note of my passage. Even a couple passing through the clearing seemed to be part of the magic of that one moment, their laughter taking on an otherworldly quality as they drifted by. Then, I was back in our world, but not all the way. For that night, I was at just a little fey.

  • I have a cliff down the beach, where no one ever goes, I used to sit there for hours and work out why my life sucked as a teen. It overlooks the Great Keppel Island group, the reef and crystal blue water. I haven’t been back in a long time, perhaps I should go there and wait for inspiration to come to get me out of the writing quagmire I seem to be in this week. Another rejection letter, oh dear, one day I’ll look back and laugh, until then I’ll nurse my bruised ego and just get back to it I guess.