“Faith is a passionate intuition.”—William Wordsworth

This book is different than what you might find in a mainstream bookstore. The cover is a combination of white and pale-shaded blue—remarkably smooth to the touch—the illustrations fanciful and drawn in a pastel palette.

It has the feel of a children’s picture book more than a middle-age reader and was a gift for two boys’ birthdays celebrated two months after-the-fact.

From the drawing on the front they could see an adventure would be found within, yet Jonah and Adrian still wondered aloud whether the story would be adventurous enough.

Oh-how-enticing the lure of excitement can be.

Adrian will sometimes exclaim in certain situations—usually in response to the presence of a spread of sweets and some parental limitation—I’m so tempted!

I smile thinking about his words and wide-eyed expression and imagine all of the ways in which the world will call to him as he grows and the temperance he will need to harness at times.

I think about the restraint we all need to exercise so as not to be swept up into the appeal of instant gratification and constant diversion so available in today’s hastened reality.

When I check-out of these ways of being too-hurried and too tapped-into the perspectives of others, I notice a new—a renewed—energy rising up in me.

To shed constant noise and popular narrative is a little like being reborn.

I find myself engaged again with the rhythm of my own ready voice filled with the valuable instincts present in the spaciousness of conscious breathing, alive in the drinking-in of my child’s long and detailed story, whispering as I peer at clouds inching across the sky—draped in shadow, then in light.

The natural world sharpens into greater focus—branches of trees outlined thickly as if with a stick of charcoal, as if my contact lens prescription has suddenly been increased.

A greater nuance of color is revealed in my sight and my heartbeat steadies with every moment less I spend absorbed in a world of endless chatter.

Time seems to expand and worries around outcome lessen.

It will all get done. Or it won’t.

I will be known. Or I won’t be.

Stripping away the collective voice, we may arrive at the solitary—yet deeply fruitful—precipice of our own unique being where we may quietly mine our personal truth in living.

It was my kind of drawing—whimsical with an elegant boat made from the body of a swan—a delicate, lavender flower decorating the sail.

Aboard were three children with rosy cheeks and a gnome with a long redish-blond beard wearing a pointy hat standing at the helm where the swans neck rose up and curled forward in the shape of a hook or an umbrella handle.

A mermaid rode portside with green flowing hair and beneath the boat swam three single-eyed sea creatures.

I attempted to read in an animated voice to garner enthusiasm when we began huddled together in one twin bed where the light is better.

It wasn’t necessary though—the story was packed with compelling happenings from the start.

We finished a couple of chapters before we packed for our own adventure and I tucked the book into the boys’ backpack to read while we were away.

I was surprised by Adrian’s early awakening given our long journey and his brief slumber and had to peel my eyes open to greet him.

I had stayed up into the night unpacking, learning my way around our new accommodations and hunting for the coffee I knew would ground me in morning ritual the following day.

We found a wide chair with a giant ottoman to lounge in while I drank from a dreamy mug and then eventually made our way outside—into the back—where the sun cast heat in a way that we hadn’t felt upon our skin in Maine for many months.

The book was far from my mind.

There was a wooden shrine along the edge of the flourishing space with a large Buddha from the Indian tradition seated in the earth-touching position—an emblem of determination—and based on the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

I admired and photographed it from a particular angle to highlight a single strand of flora in the path of the sunlight landing at chest-height in front of it.

It became a touchstone in the coming days to gaze at the Buddha amidst the ruckus of kids in a pool—a flash of serenity among splashing chaos.

A wall of fuchsia bougainvillea almost-completely camouflaged a fence and there was a pool with a giant, inflated swan-boat-raft—seated at the edge—ready to be launched.

It was completely lost on me at first.

The white swan raft with its black markings and yellow beak looked fantastical and fun but I didn’t initially make any sort of connection.

It might have been the second night when we pulled out the book to read before bed that I finally looked at the cover and had a revelation.

We had arrived in a place where there was a literal swan boat available for our enjoyment mirroring the cover of our book and the story within.

On that first morning, I allowed Adrian to launch the swan into the pool.

He pushed it off the ledge and then leapt onto it fully-clothed, shortly after falling in.

There was practically incessant riding-on-the-swan-boat, leaping-onto-the-swan-boat and nearly-destroying-the swan-boat’s neck by four children for five days.

Clearly the one with the long, curly, blond locks was the mermaid and any of the other three could have been the gnome or the sea creatures.

When we weren’t by the pool we were absorbing sun and beauty in other nearby locales.

We had just come from a hike in Topanga Canyon and from scarfing down food from In-N-Out Burger.

We were exiting into the parking lot from the restaurant when a man we had passed by the doorway, called out to me.

Jonah and Adrian were sun-kissed with white and blue hoods pulled up over their heads in protection from the strong rays—slow and sleepy from the activity and the food.

The man began following us.

He was sun-burned, too, and appeared to be either homeless or nearly so.

I heard him say something again and I quickly scanned my inner alarm-system for any signals that I should gather my boys more near.

Instead I received the opposite message and knew distinctly to turn toward him—not away.

He began telling me in his drawn-out voice that he had recently heard a radio program about penguins and that my two boys in their white and blue hoods somehow reminded him of those adorable creatures wobbling along.

I could see his point entirely and his comment had immediate significance given our family’s recent association with penguins.

We thanked him for the message—taking in his weathered face and watery eyes—wishing him well.

Enjoy those bambinos, he’d said as he strolled off.

After he’d gone, we all began talking at once.

Penguins! Can you believe it!

This message wasn’t lost on any of us.

Life has a way of speaking to us when we have hearts to listen.

Sometimes it can take time and reflection to understand the directions in which we are being guided.

Often the world is offering reassurance that can only be understood in hindsight.

There are vast meanings attributed to the symbolism of the swan drawing from ancient mythology to dream analysis to Shamanism to Native American Totems.

The thread that seems to weave the many interpretations together is the emphasis on intuitive listening—our abilities to live gracefully within this invisible dance with something greater than us—and our receptivity to messages delivered from another realm sometimes by angels who walk right here among us as if in disguise.

This might be the slowest entrance into Spring that I’ve experienced since moving to Maine nearly nine years ago.

Wool and blankets are staples still.

Tiny buds have begun to appear on branches—though you have to look really closely to notice them.

Strangely, there will be a spike in temperature with a high of 80 degrees forecasted for tomorrow—a welcome relief from the low-draping clouds and the chill.

My hope is to be among the natural world soaking in the warmth and the silence and listening intently for the exquisite call of the swan.

 

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“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” — W.B. Yeats

I have come to fully believe in the magic of life. I thought that I always had, often the ethereal friend toting a pack of tarot cards in my bag on a weekend away. But it was my son Jonah who truly opened my heart to all that it means to truly believe. Two years ago, just before his second birthday we celebrated his second Christmas. My entire family was visiting from around the country and therefore present as Jonah and I crouched by the fireplace setting out cookies and milk for Santa Claus and carrots for the eight, flying reindeer. In a video we have from that Christmas, I can hear myself laughing nervously as I explained to Jonah about how Santa would be entering our home through our chimney and why that was ok. I remember catching my sister’s eye in that moment as she took this all in skeptically. At that time she hadn’t yet become a mother and later that night she teased me, questioning me about how I felt lying to my son for the first time. My sister is one of my dearest friends and I respect her immensely and so I could take her comments lightly and tease her back about, “just you wait until you have children.”

As Jonah’s second year unfolded, his inner world began to open exponentially. He frequently approached me or my husband, stuffed animal in his grasp, saying adamantly, “I want he to talk!” And so my husband and I mastered a wide array of animal voices. According to my husband, all of my voices sounded exactly the same — high pitched an squeaky. He had become more skilled than I, demonstrating a wider body of characterizations but Jonah was perfectly content with either of us as long as his animals were coming to life, making his world that much richer. Any difficulty convincing Jonah that it was time to go upstairs for his bath was easily put to rest when he heard that Panda had already started climbing the stairs and he was not alone. Beside him climbed Giraffe and Hippo and Elephant too. Later, the stairs transformed into Mt. Kilimanjaro. Two toy airplanes became brothers flying across the globe. I couldn’t help but notice that big brother airplane came to life just as Jonah was becoming accustomed to his new role as an older sibling. We traveled across the deserts of Africa, to Alaska, Maine and Aruba. When we weren’t flying to Aruba, we were taking our toy box turned motorboat there – that is unless we were taking that same boat to Mama’s favorite place – Coffee. Jonah discovered Coffee himself. I wonder how he knew?

In these cases, Jonah was often leading our journeys but then about midway through his second year we began telling him stories during dinner and baths. He liked it best when he was the main character or the main character was thinly veiled as an animal or vegetable that closely mirrored him. I watched in amazement one evening as I told him a story about a little boy who was able to become strong enough to do a pull-up at the park with his Daddy because he began eating his vegetables. Jonah gobbled up his spinach pizza eagerly as I shared this story. Later he would request that I retell this story when spinach pizza was on the menu again.

Through storytelling we’ve explored issues such as going to bed peacefully, treating other family members with love and exploring the excitement of adventure and learning. It has been such a surprise and gift to discover that I may be welcomed into Jonah’s psyche so readily simply by communicating in a way and to a place where I can be heard. It is so tempting as a mother to assume that our children are little adults, mirroring our inner thought process and therefore attempt to tell them how to be with a lecture or wordy explanation. I am still “guilty” of this at times but overwhelmingly I have discovered how wrong that assumption would be. I am so grateful for this realization and only wish that I had come to it sooner. I am not a psychologist and nor have I conducted any research, but I have observed my children closely and I am certain that my sons are more connected to the “other side” than we adults are. Through stories, through their imaginations and through an attention to the magic that surrounds us in our every day world, I work to preserve that other-worldly connection in them for just as long as I possibly can.

In recognizing the depth of their inner world, I have come to experience a renewed feeling of magic all of my own. I remember rocking my littler son Adrian in the night, after a long period of illness, and being enamored by the faint sound of bells ringing. At first I tried to figure out where the sound was coming from, but I couldn’t. I imagined that I was having auditory hallucinations from lack of sleep. After a few nights I decided to just enjoy this very slight — yet beautiful — music. I imagined that the love that I felt for Adrian, the love that kept me at his side for so many long nights, had offered me an opening to another, higher plane, where I entered and was refueled with images of Angels keeping watch over us in the dark of night. It wasn’t long after this experience that I was given an actual white, sparkly, decorative angel with a little battery-operated light inside of her — lighting up her heart. I found this not to be a coincidence at all. Never before in my life had I been particularly drawn to angels. I was then and I am now.

It was wintertime again and my what a difference a year makes in how we perceive the world. As Christmas approached again, and Jonah approached three years old, together we discussed Santa in great detail with much excitement and anticipation. My heart, like the angel’s, was filled with light and I was fully engaged in the inner world of my magical little boy. I had no qualms about sharing in the mystery of the season and knowing full well that the stories I was telling him were true. They were true to me. They came alive with my belief. They came alive with the love with which I told them. They came alive in the heart of my son.

The glowing angel became a favorite fixture in our home and graced our dining room table for weeks after the holidays, surrounded by an earthy wreath peppered with berries. She looked beautiful sitting there. I loved her and so did both Jonah and even our little baby Adrian who accidentally bit off her wax nose one day in a moment of excited expression. When he later accidentally pulled off one of her wings, I gasped in disappointment. Jonah saw my reaction and his little eyes also filled with tears. I worked to fix her wing with glue but I was unsuccessful. I knew what she had come to represent for our family. She stood for our connection to a higher place. She stood for our sense of wonder. She stood for our being watched over and loved. And so I went online and made my first purchase from QVC. I rushed my order and spent a pretty penny to replace our dear angel as quickly as possible.

To my surprise when I opened the box from QVC there appeared not one, not two, but three lighted angels! In my haste, I hadn’t realized that my purchase was for a set of three angels. I saw this as a sign of the abundant number of angels who are constantly looking over us. I chose one and placed her in the center of our table, encircled by her wreath of red berries. When Jonah saw her, he said, “you fixed our angel!” I explained to him that I had not been able to fix her wing so her sister had come to take her place and look over our family while she was away healing her wing. Jonah was completely content with this explanation, happy to have an angel back looking over us again. I was comfortable with this story too. I knew that it was true.