Sunday, November 14, 2010


When I was a girl, I would put one hand over my open right eye. My left eye would stay open too.

"I can see through my hand. I must be magic," I would conclude. 

I never whispered it to anyone, not even my twin. Mentioning it might render my magic useless. I tried to imagine scenarios where I would use my seeing-through-things power. There are surprisingly few. I believed that my body held ancient secrets. Sometimes, when I was afraid or bored, I would press the balls of my hands into my closed eyes. The universe would appear behind my lids. More than just appear, I could fly through the stars and the Milky Way. Universes rushed passed me. I touched infinity. I was one with everything.This was my secret portal to the stars. I felt sorry for others who couldn't see the universe when they closed their hands. I felt sorry.

I once believed that I was cold all the time because I held the winter solstice in my bones. I believed that my daughter's death changed my ability to handle Winter. I would shake violently from a chill in the air. My husband would watch my body shiver uncontrollably and he would rub his hands on me until I warmed enough to put more layers on my body. I believed that I couldn't lose my weight because my body couldn't accept the baby was dead. I believed that my cells held onto the nourishment my dead baby needed. I told this story to people. Therapists agreed with me, and nutritionists, and doctors. I felt like I slipped between two dimensions--the real world and the grief world. In this liminal place, calories meant nothing and a season could reside just below your skin.

There are things I know and there are truths and they are not the same thing.

When I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease with its symptoms of weight gain and inability to regulate body temperature, I felt silly. There is only one truth, I thought, and I don't have a handle on it. I am prone to magical thinking. I am attracted to finding poetry in the howling of winds, and omens in the ordinary. Yet I never quite believed in anything enough to devote the countless revisions it takes to write about something well, except my daughters and my son. It is all I write about now. And when I boil it down, I guess my writing is all very narcissistic. It is all about me. Is that what I am passionate about--little versions of me? A little version of me that dies in an oddly shaped womb? Little versions of my mortality and my shame and my beauty and my redemption?

My mother consulted a psychic a few times in her life. The same fortune teller. The first time she met with her, it was a lark. It was the early 70s. She had friends that invited the psychic to a party. When the psychic touched my mother, she told her much of what would come to pass in her life. Something would happen and my mother would remember the predictions. She told her of my father and her twin girls. Of resentments and petty strange singular occurrences that took on the gravitas of a large event. Later, after my parents separated, my mother found the psychic again. It was the 90s then. The fortune teller didn't remember my mother, two decades had passed after all, but she told her some of the same predictions, and others, with more detail. The fortune teller frequently talked about her daughters--one is this way and one is that way. But my mother could never figure out which one was which one. One had many nightmares. One was bored with this life. One was once an Egyptian priestess. One was a very old soul. One would be famous. One was wise. One would struggle. She never put these characteristics and future events into columns. She never said if the wise one was the same as the nightmared one or the famous one. She never said.And so I became the best parts of these predictions and the worst. I have always lived with a borrowed fate, one constructed out of a story told by a fortune teller.

When you were dying, I imagine a series of random memory and learning neurons rapid firing, sending a barrage of images through your consciousness. Would it feel weird to you if I admitted that I feel a bit like this tonight? I remember seeing my great-grandmother suffering with end of life dementia. I was an adult then, and I sat alone with her. She opened an invisible umbrella in her hospital bed and sat under it waiting for the rain. She called me my mother's name and told me my skirt was too short. "Who will buy the cow, after all?" She said, then she sang an Irish song she knew as a girl and looked up into the cloudless hospital ceiling waiting for rain. Then she moved again under her invisible umbrella. She outlived her daughter too. As a child, I always thought my great-grandmother looked like Pope John Paul II, and so when she sang with the umbrella, it felt holy. Sad and holy.

I am writing a novel in a month. It is a fool's task. Someone called this an exercise in mediocrity. I believe that. And yet the story I am telling can only be told this way--written quickly with the minimum amount of pain possible. It is a story that has haunted me for years, that is begging to be written if simply to be exorcised. It is not about my daughter's death, or any daughter's death, which surprises me too. It is about magical thinking and wars and fate and stupidity of youth and nightmares and aliens and love. It is always about love.

Writing this novel in this exact month is like looking through my hand. Both magic and a lie.


  1. I too loved magic and thought I could do anything. I spent hours reading and casting spells. I started to shy away from runes and tarot because I no longer wanted to know what the future held for me. Then I learned how little power I actually have in this life and there is nothing left but fragments.

  2. It's funny. My story started off about magic - and madness - then it changed. But pouring out uncrafted words in a month is a great release. I've cried less this month. 28000 words of therapy.

  3. The NaNo has a strange way about it, especially when you sprint and not think or plan too much, just letting the words pour out. My writing frees my demons and binds them onto paper, a magic spell in itself. And it helps. And I'm writing for me, only for me so the act is truly narcissistic. But then I don't write for an audience. It's a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Write today, edit tomorrow, think about publication in any shape or form in the distant future.

    Ah, and if you do write for other, be assured, your writing is not narcissistic for I for one get something out of reading your words, too.

    love to you

    xx Ines

  4. I thought about doing WriNoHolyShitWhoAmIKidding and decided that was a bit of stretch. So I am in complete awe. Go, you! (And let me know if you'd like some nice buddies in the computer; I have one friend working on a YA novel, and the other is using the time to edit her novel -- and she's published and whatnot and both are lovely.)

    I think magic is one of those things -- like Santa -- that seemed so charming to believe in, and I wanted to hang on to the idea long after the spell had been broken. Just yesterday Bella said she wanted a magic wand for Christmas, and I told her this was a sign that we needed to start reading Harry Potter aloud because I know of no other place to buy one. So here's to creating magic on the page, a place where moms can still turn when their children (and themselves!) still crave it.

  5. I have a hard time believing that you could write anything mediocre (unintentionally mediocre, anyway) or narcissistic.

    That's all. Go, Angie!

  6. This is beautiful, Angie. I am not sure if I took a breath through reading this entire piece, I was that riveted.

    The magical thinking has always been with me as well. And I too harbor the belief that I am not losing the baby weight because I cannot believe that Otis is no longer with me. Winter in one's bones makes so much more sense to me than a thyroid problem. Since Otis's death, I've found the two extremes - "magicality" and "reality" getting more and more polarized and yet both pulling me stronger into their grasps. It's a world of contradictions, this one I live in.

    Thank you, as always, for being here and sharing yourself with us. You are amazing.

  7. As I read this, it is reminding me of one of my favourite books - The Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams. It is rich in prose. There is magic and melody in the words. I love the places where magic and reality come together, now more than ever.

    The only place any of us can start is with ourselves. Your honesty prevents you from being narcissistic. Stay with it.

    x Louise

  8. Narcissistic, eh? Well I'll let you in on a little secret...

    Sometimes I pretend all the love and praise you get from your comments are actually directed towards me, this Angie. But then I snap myself out of it and give it all back to you. I like borrowing your comments, not stealing them.

  9. I still find myself looking for magic sometimes. Good luck with the NaNo.

  10. Angie,
    I was forced to reply to your recounting of my life's story.

    Having been born on the Winter Solstice, I have suspected that I will carry some kind of energy that perhaps keeps me from ever truly embracing the light.

    I have always felt that I contained magical powers and used them when I was a child to find items lost; I did feel always that there would be a price to pay for these powers.

    When I was a child, my mother took me to a psychic. The woman took me alone to a back room, looked at my palm and told me I would have "female problems" later in life. At the time, I figured that meant I would never have children.

    Years later, I would have an abortion, then a living son, 2 miscarriages and then the ultimate death of my 10 month daughter. Throughout these years, that woman has been a companion ~ her words woven through the "female" moments of my life.

    Now in the year following my daughter's death, I wonder ~ did she know? Or did I create this destiny? Or does anything even fucking relate? I wanted to believe in that magic ~ as dark as it was to me.

    I posted over at Glow that I had lost my relationship with magic after Mika died.
    I have just started lighting candles and saying spells again.

    Thank you for allowing me a reflection of myself in this world.


  11. This is such a beautiful post Angie- thank you so much. I wish there were more magic... it is a fine balance between worlds.


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