Little Magic

A Private Olympics

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Cochran ski area in Vermont.

When people learn that I’m from Vermont, the next question is, invariably, “Do you ski?”

I grew up in the town of Richmond, perhaps best known as home to “the Skiing Cochrans,” a family of mythical athletes.  Their father, Mickey, coached all four of his wholesome, ruddy-cheeked offspring all the way to the U.S. Ski team and many national and world cups.  Barbara (Barbie, to us) brought home a gold medal in slalom from the 1972 Sapporo winter Olympics.  We were sprung early from school for the parade celebrating her triumphant return.

Home Burial

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Two days after Christmas, six years ago, my daughters and I traveled home to Vermont, to ring in the New Year with my parents.  We settled into the cabin up the hill from their house and went down to say hello before bed. Dad was stretched out in a recliner in front of the fireplace.  He’d been diagnosed with bone cancer about a year before, but he was doing well. He wasn’t in real pain, any more than the usual pains of a man who’d lived hard all his life, a man with lousy knees and stents in his heart, who’d tracked mountain lions in the Great West, split thousands of cords of wood, worked as a farmer and a firefighter, among other things, and had finally written, on a scrap of paper I found after he died, “My time is the only capital contribution I can make.”

Who Cooks for You?

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What exactly is an urban priestess, my brother asked.  I’d been in Mystery School for a week and couldn’t answer the most predictable question.  I’d need to come up with an elevator speech.

A priestess is a conduit between the seen and the unseen worlds, deeply human, divinely inspired.  She is committed to reflecting the highest truth in all her relationships.

Candyland, A Retrospective

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We eat to comfort, to numb, to escape, to block, to reward, to punish, or maybe to return to some place of sweetness we once knew, home sweet home.  Geneen Roth, in her book Women Food and God, writes, “Our personality and its defenses, one of which is our emotionally charged relationship to food, are a direct link to our spirituality.  They are the breadcrumbs leading us home.”

Finding Signs from the Universe in a Newfound Cat

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After setting some intentions around creative goals in July, I asked the Universe for a sign that I was on the right track, designating the black cat as the symbol that would indicate Universal approval.  This exercise comes straight from The Universe Has Your Back, the book that I groused about in my last column while suffering from a bad back. I’m still not so high on Gabrielle Bernstein’s book, but the exercise has already borne fruit.

Unmarked Hazards

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Heading west, I’m reading The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein.  “The universe is our classroom, and when we accept our role as the happy learner, life gets really groovy.”  I want to hurl it against the bulkhead.  Then again, she’s come highly recommended by people I respect, and I like this: “Obstacles are detours in the right direction.”

Whack-a-Mole and The Magical Friend

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The ego contracts around problems, said my yoga teacher, quoting a Franciscan monk, while the soul wanders for meaning.   Another yoga teacher put it this way: A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul.

The King of Sorts

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Here at the beach, I track the firmest sand at water’s edge each day, keeping an eye out for conch shells.  On the land side, there are meals to plan, groceries to gather.  On the sea side are the gods and goddesses—Venus borne to land in a clamshell, sea monsters, all the archetypes of the collective unconscious that feed the imagination.  The deep sea has always symbolized, among other things, the unconscious mind.  Play here, at water’s edge, but don’t be swept away.

Operating Instructions from the Mother Ship

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Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s manifesto on creativity, was published years after her runaway bestseller Eat Pray Love.  It’s not just for artistic types.  Consider her definition of what it means to live a creative life: any life where you consistently choose curiosity over fear.

Child Whispering

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The writer as a child with her mother and brother.

“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness:  the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.” 

So begins Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child, a book that’s been kicking around for the better part of four decades.  Strangely, no fewer than four people have mentioned to me in recent weeks.  Finally, I got a copy.