Brilliant? Or Just Crazy?

It was hot. I was cranky. We'd been in the library for over an hour. I wanted to leave. I wanted to go and do something else. I wanted, in a profound way at the moment, for things to be somehow other than they were.
I wandered to the upstairs section and browsed through the books for sale. And that's when I found it.


The cover was slightly different (I'm fairly certain that there wasn't anything about getting your way, as the subtitle here really doesn't sit well with me). I browsed through it. White magic—check. Learning about herbs and plants—check. Doing no harm to anyone ever—check. I knew it would have been a book I went absolutely crazy for when I was a kid. But was it too crazy? The deciding factor: it was 50 cents. I bought it.
Diana went for it as much as I could have hoped. She and a friend went foraging through the Botanic gardens looking for wands (oak and hazel are the most magically powerful, who knew?). There were spells considered, ones that help you keep your room neat and ones to improve your handwriting (what could be better?). It was a thrilling success.
And now, weeks later, when things get hard (as they inevitably do) I remind her of the spell book. And I think I'm reminding her of what she loves, of what she cares about, of the specter, or at least the possibility, of her own power. Because it seems to me that just the sense of it might be enough to shore a person up in this difficult world. But at the same time I'm saying, spoken or not, that the possibility of magic exists. Boy, do I hope that's the right thing to do.

4 thoughts on “Brilliant? Or Just Crazy?

  1. There was a recent post in the NY Times about how few superheroes there are for girls, and how girls need to feel powerful as much as boys do. I think witches are the answer to this. I spent much of my childhood casting spells and making potions with my best friend, usually involving rocks and plants mixed up into little vials. We were in love with the idea of magic and the rituals that went along with it. I read many, many Ruth Chew books (did anyone else write so much about witches? Well, besides J.K. Rowling), and anything else I could get my hands on. I had the “Little Witch Cookbook.” The idea of magic, that you can conjure up something out of nothing, is a powerful idea for kids.


  2. Oh, Lord, I love magic. (And yes, I devoured Ruth Chew too.)
    I was talking to a friend once about my secret love of all things magical. And I said whenever someone makes me mad, I can think to myself, “Screw you, I have magical powers.” It just makes me feel like there is potential in the world for more than the powerlessness I sometimes feel. And he (yes, it was a he–interesting, considering Kiki’s comment about superheroes and boys) said that he’s a big X-Men fan, and when he gets mad, he thinks “Schnikt,” which is the sound Wolverine’s claws make when they come out.
    Good stories do more than entertain; they open up a world of possibilities. Who am I to say that your daughter’s wand doesn’t actually have power? My son is into alien stories, and I am always careful to remind him that I don’t know whether there is life out there; maybe he’ll be the one to find it. I want him to believe in a world full of possibilities.
    Magic is good for the soul, I say.


  3. I used to love “Cross Your Fingers, Spit In Your Hat” by Alvin Schwartz. I checked it out of the library over and over again as a kid.


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