Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Magical World We Live In

“Wisdom begins in wonder.”
-         Socrates
My oldest son was a magician. He started as a young teenager practicing sleight of hand tricks in front of a mirror. After joining a local group of adult magicians, he learned many more tricks and perfected his patter as well as the magician’s code of never telling how the tricks worked. He started performing at birthday parties, meetings of different organizations and often went on his own to nursing homes or pediatric wards at hospitals to perform. For his birthdays and at Christmas, I gave him magic tricks I’d bought at magic stores – in sealed packages, of course, so no one but the one opening it would find the instructions for using them. He even performed his magic between chemo therapy treatments at the Cleveland Clinic. Three days before he died at home, he put on a magic show for the priest who said Mass at our house and some family members there that day.

I find so much else in the world quite magical to me even though I know there are scientific explanations for all of them. Radio for instance. How is it that by turning the dial just a tiny bit one can get different stations or any station? It seems like magic that all those songs, news reports, etc. are there completely invisible to the eye and the same song or interview is going not only to my house, or car, but also other people everywhere. If it still seems magical to me, imagine those people gathered around radios when they first became available to them. Some people actually thought the radio was evil. I can remember sitting on the stairs with my brother after we had gone to bed to listen to scary shows until some sound gave us away and we were sent back upstairs.

TV is even more magical to my mind. Not only the words and music but pictures coming through the air, in my case being captured by an antenna with prongs sticking out in all directions from my roof. That same antenna has been capturing all those shows for almost twenty-five years now. I was thirteen or fourteen when my grandparents got a TV. It not only thrilled my siblings and cousins, but I remember my grandmother, a little bit of a woman always in house dress with an apron and cotton panty hose that sagged on her skinny legs showing us a can-can dance she’d seen on the TV the night before. As kids, we all giggled and laughed at the sight of her kicking up her heels and flipping her dress.

I marvel at modern medicine and all the devices to see inside our bodies, to probe, to save more lives than before. Then there are the computers, i-Phones that can do just about anything, and  GPS that direct us to where we should go and recalculates when we ignore Nancy or Rosemary or whoever that voice is coming from. Do you catch a bit of annoyance in her voice when she tries to straighten us out when we think we know better than she does? I could list so many other modern things like today’s cars, microwaves that can cook meals so quickly, and sweepers that vacuum your house on their own. No, I do not have one.  I don’t really understand how any of these things work, but I know it’s not really as magical as it seems, but based on scientific engineering and research.

Even more magical to me is the natural world. I’m thinking of the tiny hummingbirds who manage to cross the Gulf of Mexico when migrating without stopping to rest or eat. And there are the Monarch butterflies and their migration each year to Mexico. The ones who go to that one place in Mexico are young ones who were never there before. There is so much in nature to marvel at; so much that seems magical to me.

If I were to have all these magical things explained to me in scientific terms, I’m not sure if they would lose their magical appeal to me whether its nature or mechanical or I would still feel it’s magical.

As children we believed in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. We loved books of fantasy and fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or talking animals. And as adults we still embrace the magic in books and movies. Look at how popular the Harry Potter series became with adults as well as children. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have remained popular long after they were published. I don’t care for vampires or zombies, but they are hugely popular as well as science fiction.

In a way, we as mystery writers are creating magic, too, by allowing the reader to become the character solving the crime. Allowing them the feeling of fear as our main character is in danger, albeit safe in a comfortable chair or bed. We can fudge details a little like my police chief having a good friend who can speed up fingerprints and DNA, etc. For the most part, readers are willing to suspend belief, just like as children we knew that some of those things were unreal, but continued to believe. Hence the nightmares children have after seeing scary movies no matter how often their parents reassure them that vampires do not really exist. An evil stalker in a book we’re reading or a movie we just watched, at night has us closing our drapes and listening for noises even though we know the chances of a stalker being out there are very minimal.

My son’s magic tricks are packed in boxes in the garage. Observing his magician’s code of keeping his tricks secret, I have never tried to figure them out, not even the magical three solid metal linking rings that he could separate. To learn more about my son beyond his magic, I wrote about him in a previous blog, Oct. 4, 2012 in the archives under “Life Changing Events.”

What do you find magical?


E. B. Davis said...

What do I find magical? When a plot comes together, when characters' arcs peak in sync, when one gesture tells all, when the final sentence perfects the book and leaves the reader satisfied but wanting more. I prefer writing not only to mirror life, but also to validate our values. We want good to triumph, but if we can't get that, then at least justice can prevail.

John's understanding and hard work created magic--and not all magic is an illusion--it's physics, mechanics, chemistry, biology, and faith. Magic is rooted in understanding life.

Jim Jackson said...

I find nature magical and the scientific explanations only make it more so for me.

~ Jim

Ramona said...

Lovely post, Gloria. I agree with the magic of nature. I was just looking at pictures of icebergs. Incredible.

As with a magic show, I don't need to understand how things work to appreciate that they do work.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Magic is in the power of paperwhite narcissus bulbs, producing eighteen inch stalks topped by spicy scented delicate white flowers. Fresh and alive, with the promise of daffodils in the garden still to bloom.

Gloria Alden said...

Elaine, I feel the same way when I'm writing with only a vague idea of where I want this chapter to go and all of a sudden it almost seems to write itself. My characters take over and say things I hadn't planned out ahead of time.

Jim, I so agree with you. It's one of the reasons I never feel comfortable living in a city. I want to be as close to the natural world as possible.

Gloria Alden said...

Thank you, Ramona. Icebergs are just one of the many things in nature that are incredible. I even find ants fascinating with their social structure - although not when they come inside.

Margaret, what a lovely vision. I wish I had saved some of those bulbs to plant inside to see. I do buy some primroses every winter to keep on my window sill to plant outside when spring comes.

Warren Bull said...

I think the way tiny babies become toddlers and then small children is magical. They change from one day to the next increasing their physical, verbal and social skills. Truly Amazing.

Shari Randall said...

I know we don't feel very kindly disposed to snow right now, but it think a snowfall is magical - the way it makes everything beautiful….
And aren't words on a page magical? Not just in the messages they convey or the worlds they create, but that every person who reads the same words conjures a different picture in their minds. Your Elizabeth Bennett and my Elizabeth Bennett may resemble Austen's description, but they are also our own.
I love that you're keeping your son's magical secrets, Gloria.

Kara Cerise said...

I'm in awe of the magical colors found in nature like rainbows and the Northern Lights.

Technology can be magic. (It can also be really aggravating.)Recently, I had a three-way Skype call with a friend in London and another in Los Angeles. One of my friends talked on her wrist watch phone. How is this possible? How will we be communicating with each other in one hundred years? It's a mystery to me.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I agree how magical the growth from babies to toddlers and beyond happens.It's fun as they examine things to try to figure them out and the joy they feel when they master something, even those first steps.

Shari, I love the snow, too, but then enough is enough. Especially here where it's down below zero much of the time and even when it's above zero there's that wind chill.

And words on the page. I was at one of my book clubs today discussing a very good book that everyone liked, but what different opinions we had about some of the characters.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, as a former artist/painter, I love the colors found in nature like rainbows and the many different colors of flowers.

Technology can be aggravating. This morning when I tried to get online, my internet server was down and when I called the number to report it, it would ring once and then go dead. But in a miraculous 30 minutes it returned like magic. :-)

KM Rockwood said...

Gloria, I admire your strength and ability to persevere. You take life, the good and the bad, apply your creativity to it, and present it for the rest of us.

That's magic!

Heather Holland Wheaton said...

What a haunting and touching post. I carried it with me all day and thought about what was magical.

I kept coming back to writing--especially powerful writing like this post. How magical that some writers can evoke such strong feelings with words that others use and come up with something flat.