Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bare Necessities

I know that some of the side links are hard to read, but I couldn't pass up this background. Everyday Magic is wearing its back-to-school clothes!

Now I know I'm not the only one who read the words in the title and started having flashbacks of an animated dancing bear and loin-cloth wearing boy singing a bouncy little melody together and throwing some papayas around. You all remember the words, right?

Look for the bare necessities
those simple bare necessities
forget about your worries and your strifes
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipies
That bring the bare necessities of life.

I am discovering the truth to those words these recent days. I have finally come back to school - yes, indeed - and things are changing and shifting beneath my feet all over again. I have grown nervous and anxious thinking about whether I'll be able to find a job, what my classes will be like, how I'll be able to cover expenses, why I can't relax, what's going to happen after I've got my degree - and most important of all, whether my Father in Heaven really is watching out for me. I know that the answer to the lattermost is and unquestionable yes, as I have been so recently reminded - but sometimes it is hard to remember when life becomes overwhelming and times grow harder.

Just as was the case those eleven months ago when I first began this blog, those hard times have driven me to refocus and prioritize my needs and wants. I cannot go through life without taking time to remember the things that are really important - those bare necessities that are so a part of me and every other human being on this earth. And those evalutions and difficult days have made me remember how important it is to look for the Magic every day.

Yesterday I visited my favorite tree on campus - that big, gorgeous willow I wrote about all those months ago, which I've fondly come to call my Neverland Tree. When I left campus in April, it was still grey, skeletal, and bare limbed. Now, it is a palace of greenery, blooming with life all over again. Today I was the recepient of kindness, the singer of songs, the dancer of dances, the rider of a bike, the reader of books, the student of teachers, the seeker of help, the asker of prayers, the winner of races, the lover of life - and in everything I became, and everything I saw, I found something to love and enjoy and show gratitude for.

The past few days have been difficult. Times are hard, days are long, and change still threatens to shake me off my feet. But the Magic remains - the blessings, the gifts, the beauty, every little thing that makes life worth living. They are still there - those bare necessities that are so simple they are almost invisible. Air to breathe, food to eat, a wind to cool a heated brow... The embrace of a friend, the presence of loved ones, the smile of a stranger... music and dancing, laughter and smiles, green grass and bare feet... the coolness of water, the warmth of the sun, the annointing of rain... a prayer said in secret, a favorite scripture, a reminder of divine love... They are everywhere, anywhere, right before your eyes, just waiting for you to reach out, take hold, and delight in the blessings. We need them, or life loses meaning and vibrance, and despair isn't long in finding clearance to start its invasion. Moments of beauty, and physical revatilization, and quiet holiness - they are necessities. "Old Mother Nature" put them there, and a loving Heavenly Father who only wants us to be the best and happiest that we can be.

And you know, as I begin to see these little blessings all around, and begin to rely on them as my necessities, my "worries and [my] strifes" begin to fade away, one little bit of Magic at a time.

'Til next time, my friends...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Everyday Heroes

I met Wonder Woman yesterday.

No - not the one with long, flowing hair that wears a red and white girdle in the Marvel Books. That Wonder Woman has never been a real favorite of mine. Besides being severely immodest, I've just never found her hugely exciting. The Marvel creators had already taken brought fame to Superman and Spiderman, and DC had created Batman, before they all suddenly realized that their male to female ratio was off and that they had better hurry and throw in a girl before the ladies of America got upset. Thus, the girl super heroes - Wonder Woman, Cat Girl, Bat Woman, and so on - were brought into being. But because of their second place incoming, they always seemed to me to be kind of an afterthought - a little washed out, and not nearly as exciting as their bold, damsel-saving male predecessors.

Yesterday, however, I met Wonder Woman - and she could have kicked the colored tights right off of any comic book superhero.

I don't know what her real name was - I only heard it said once, and I couldn't hear it very well. Madi or Marci, I think. She sat in a small white tower, rather low to the sand. She wore a bright red bikini swim suit - which isn't hugely modest in itself, I realize, but what she did next was enough to make me forget any ammount of revealing swim wear.

I didn't see it happen, but I've been told. We were sitting on a sandy beach in Southern California, watching the waves roll in their course as the little ones made castles and hunted for sea shells and got their suits full of sand. Perfect family outing. However, hidden to all but the most skillful eye, beneath the waves a hidden danger lurked - a Rip current, which had the power to pull even the strongest swimmer out into the open sea.

I had felt it myself, while out body surfing with my brothers. We knew that there was a withstandable current that pulled us parallel to the shore, such that we always had to be taking two steps forward and one to the left, in order to go against it. However, when we started to get a little deeper, I felt a pull that was completely different. It hadn't seemed that deep, just to our waists, but with the swells coming in, the water could rise up to my neck in a second. And it did. Almost before I knew it I was swimming a rapid crawl stroke, which, though fast enough in the pool, now felt downright pathetic. I wasn't making any headway. For a moment I began to panic and sent a silent prayer heavenward that I would be able to get back to shore. I did, riding a few of the bigger waves to give me momentum. However, there was that moment when I had felt I would not be able to get back, that I would be stuck out there - I didn't think I could keep swiming like that for long. I was fine, though - if far more wary of the deep water after that.

I tell you my own experience with the Rip because not long after, so I am told, the same thing happened to another swimmer. I don't know what he felt exactly, but I give you my own experience so you have something to imagine. I had been near the shore, though, and had come in safely. He was farther out, and had been pulled away by the current. It held him there, far from shore, and he could not swim back. He must have been a stronger swimmer that I, because he kept at it longer than I could have, but the fact remained - he couldn't keep swimming for ever.

And then - when all hope seemed lost - Wonder Woman came to the rescue!!!

Again, I didn't see most of this until the end, but I know what happened. She brought nothing but a small flotation device, abandoning everything else at the tower, and plunged straight into the water. She swam out to sea, not withstanding the current, until she reached the stranded swimmer. She gave him her floater to assist him and swam along beside him, urging him on and directing him where to swim, navigating the tretcherous underwater pulls until they were bothed brought back to shore. The deadly Riptide was defeated, and Wonder Woman saved the day!

You've deduced by now that this was not actually Wonder Woman, but a life guard. She emerged from the sea, soaking wet, and after ascertaining the safety of the rescued swimmer, returned directly to her tower, where she wrapped herself in a pink and green towel and once again looked out over the sea, watching. My father, talking with her earlier on, found out that this woman had to pass a series of tests in order to prove herself sea worthy enough, so to speak, to get the job. One was to swim about a quarter mile in the open ocean, against the current, with no floatation device to speak of.

See? Wonder Woman.

Perhaps one day they big creative imaginations that cooked up the Superman and Ironman and Spiderman movies will come out with a breathtaking, heart-stopping, box office hit Wonder Woman movie that will prove me wrong. For now, though, she's not at the top of my list. This lifeguard is. I didn't get a chance to speak with her, though I had intended to. The next time I turned around, another guard had taken her place. However, she will always be a Superhero in my eyes. Marvel's Wonder Woman, with only some shiny underwear and a nice sparkly title to her name, has got nothing on her. That single beach lifeguard was ten times better. Strong, brave, defending others against the upredictable pitfalls of the ocean, keeping the beaches safe one life at a time.

Spend a little time showing appreciattion to the everyday heros that are keeping the world safe and healthy and happy and peaceful every moment of every day. Superman and Batman can't hold a candle to the police officer who rescues a child or wife from abuse, or the EMT or doctor or nurse who forces life back into a heart that had stopped beating, or the teacher who elightens a stagnant mind, or the humanitarian worker who gives food and drink to a starving body. They are everywhere, always among us, saving us all...

One life at a time.

Signing off, my friends - til next we meet...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Enchantment by Moonlight

When I was in my early high school years, I happened to be doing some mindless sketching in a less than eventful class (though which one I shall not say). I had an idea for a scene of sorts, and in my sketchings I eventually ended up producing it as something like this:

This is a version I put together on Microsoft Paint. The original was only in pencil and very roughly sketched on notebook paper. This is a more polished draft, but the scene I envisioned is the same. In words, this is the scene my imagination provided:

The woman comes out onto the terrace to get away from the stuffiness and small talk of a party or ball or other such social function at which she has no desire to be. She comes out into the cool evening air, the sounds of music and conversation dying away behind her, and sees the moon shining above. She steps out of the shadows and into the fountains of moonlight, arms outstretched as though to embrace every part of this beautiful night. The stars shine, a gentle breeze blows, the darkness soothes, and the world seems to become at peace with itself. The woman stands on the terrace, leaning on the stone railing, drinking it all in - the cool air, the smell of nearby grass and jasmine blossoms, the sound of a distant fountain, all bathed in the light of the moon and stars. She knows, of course, that she will soon have to return to the heat and bustle and noise of whatever is happening inside, but for the moment the night is calm - and so is she.

I might put this scene in a book one day. Perhaps in context the girl will be a princess, trying to escape her obligations - a plot that has certainly been done, but that I continue to love. Perhaps she has some sort of magic powers, and the moon helps to make her more powerful. Maybe she has been experiencing intense pain or grief, and this moment alone is a time for her to heal. I don't know - I just drew it.

I wanted to share this with you because something magical happened the other day that had everything to do with this little drawing. It was Monday night, and I had just come home from Singles Ward FHE up at Wiskey Springs, where we had been having a ward Marshmallow Toast / Smores Making Party. After the drive back to the Cove, I pulled into the driveway to find my parents walking about the lawn, searching for my siblings who were nowhere in sight. Apparently they were playing Sardines, a variation on hide-and-seek the rules of which I shall not detail here, except to say that everyone was hidden and my parents were seeking.

I helped, and eventually we stumbled upon my hidden siblings, all crouched in the shadow of the Tower on a little patch of grass, nearly invisible. My parents took their turn at hiding next, and we all began to seek.

I was checking around the side of the deck when something caught my attention. The front of the deck was bathed in white light, creating a distinct dividing line between the lighted and shadowed. Mistified, I abandoned my search and slowly moved out of the shadows and into the light.

It was as though my drawing had come to life, and I had been thrown into it. I was the woman, standing in a pool of moonlight on the terrace, embracing the beauty of the night. My moon was a waxing gibous, a week away from being full, and I was wearing white pants and a t-shirt rather than a trailing gown - but for all intents and purposes the moment I was experiencing was identical to the one I had drawn.

The stars shine, a gentle breeze blows, the darkness soothes, and the world seems to become at peace with itself. The woman stands on the deck, leaning on the metal railing, drinking it all in - the cool air, the smell of nearby lawn and iris blossoms, the sound of distant laughter, all bathed in the light of the moon and stars. She knows that it won't be long before she must leave, and soon dawn will break and this moment will have to end - but for the moment the night is calm, and so is she.

It was perfect, glorious, beautiful, mystifying. I was under the enchantment of the moonlight and my own runaway imagination - but it was a spell I was reluctant to break. If all things didn't have to come to an end, I could have stayed there for hours, revelling in the beauty and magic I had so suddenly become a part of. But as things do have to end, I have to make do with a little magic of my own.

The next time I am overhwelmed with the heat and bustle of everyday life, when I am stressed or greiving or in pain, when I am drained of power and energy and need a moment to heal, I will lay my head back and close my eyes in some quiet place and bring the scene to life again. And I will be there - standing in the cool night air, the moon and stars shining above, feeling myself and the world around me settling into something real and constant and whole once again.

Thank you for being here and reading the ramblings of a misplaced muse. It means more to me than I can say.

'Til next time, my friends...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Magic

It's amazing how magical summertime can be, especially to a child. As school is out, the mind is no longer preoccupied with the normal scholarly pursuits - mathematics, sciences, social studies, grammar, and so forth. Therfore, the minds other ways to keep itself alive...

A couple weeks ago, little Nathan decided to be a pirate. He decided also that I would join his crew as first mate. So we sat upon the Tower (our playhouse in the backyard) - but that afternoon it was the pirate ship, "Pirate Ship." Nathan became Captain Skeleton, and I was Pirate Cousin Sharla. We ate our buckaneer otter pops, raised the anchor (rope swing), and set off for some deserted Island out at sea. When we arrived, we descended to our new world, and began seeking an X upon the sand. We found one, and dug up the Silver Treasure - according to the Captain it was not the one we were looking for, but good nonetheless. We carried it together up the hill, where we then deposited our find in the bed of our Pirate Truck.

I believe there is something truly magical about running across the cool green grass in bare feet like a little fairy child, flying beneath a broad blue sky, with a warm summer wind at your back. I have done this, an so much more in the course of my childhood summers. I have turned my backyard into most any setting in the world that suited my fancy. A large kingdom, over which I was princess... a fairy garden under my care... the atlantic ocean, over which I was sailing on the Titanic itself... an unending blue sky through which I flew on an Amelia Aerheart style airplane... a desert island... a foreign country... a great kingdom... a jungle wilderness... anything at all. The world was my own for the taking, and without hesitation I took it.

Summer is the perfect stage for this kind of mental exercise, otherwise known as imagination. The warm weather is perfect for outside play - in fact, the half of what we do in summer takes place outside, from eating to gardening to whatever you please. Most especially, however, summer is the perfect time for imagining because school is not in session. Mark Twain once said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education." I believe that children have a great capacity for educating themselves over the summer, if only they are let free to go and see and do and feel whatever they may dream of. And that, really, is the true magic of it - dreams and ideas and imaginings coming into being and begining to live, right there on the back lawn. Childhood dreams are a very unique and extremely potent branch of magic. It is powerful enough to create a world for a child, and perhaps enough to create a magic carpet for an adult - if only they are willing to take it and ride.

Summer won't last much longer. School approaches, and soon the long, carefree days will have to change. I am set on going out and enjoying all the potato salad and off-the-barbecue hamburgers and fresh summer fruits that I can get my hands on before that happens. I want to be a mermaid with my little sister in the swimming pool, read more fantasy books to my brother, write my novel like my sorry skin depends on it, and simply capture every moment and hold it for my own, hoarding it away like a chest of gold - so that on some snowy, somber, homesick day in December, I can peer beneath the lid and suddenly have the warmth and sun and magic of summer surrounding me again.

And who knows? Perhaps there shall be time for one more adventure with Captain Skeleton before the month is out. We are going to the beach in California in a couple weeks... perhaps we can start seeking the Gold Treasure this time. And perhaps we might find it. And after that.... it's anyone's guess. We'll be off to wherever the wind and waves and Nathan's abundant imagination can take us.

I happily await the adventure.

'Til next time...