Simple magic

Reeds in fogThis morning, I awoke to fog. Not the soft blanket of fog that sometimes covers the fields until they warm to the sun, but a thick gray fog, enveloping all sight and sound.

As I sat at my desk, journaling, a pale sun started shining through the fog. Its light infused everything with an opalescent glow. I wanted to grab my camera and go out, but I’d promised myself I would start the day by writing in my journal.

The past few months, my journal has been sadly neglected. I simply couldn’t think of anything to write about. The need for soul-searching, depth-seeking forms of creativity has diminished, and I find my inspiration in photographing and painting that which delights my eye.

Even this blog started evolving into a societal commentary. And yes, those things need to be said as well. But they aren’t the topics that fill my daily thoughts. The Sparrow Hawk who recently flew on to my pergola and peered inside, the last butterflies of summer, these things fill my daily thoughts.

A description in an email of an encounter between two hawks prompted a friend to say that she would like to read more of this sort of thing from me. I realized that I do very little simple, descriptive writing. I grew up with my mother’s evocative nature poetry. I’ve been reading – and loving – Robert McFarlane’s poetic ode to landscape and language, Landmarks. And so why do I require my journaling to be filled with symbolism and pregnant with meaning?

I recently discovered Professor Brian Cox, a particle physicist and an eloquent and passionate commentator on the forces of nature and evolution. As I listen to him explaining the creation of the Earth and beginnings of all life, I realize that this, this science, is true magic. For centuries, we’ve needed mythology to help us understand the deeper mysteries of nature and creation. We needed a Creator, we needed gods and goddesses – and rituals to honor them – to give the wonders of life their proper place in our lives.

Joseph Campbell has done an excellent job of tracing these beliefs from Stone Age cultures to modern day. He traces mythology as an archeologist traces ruins and shows how human civilization developed and evolved through the ages. He shows us how mythology can continue to give our lives meaning today.

But what we can perceive with our senses and what we can learn from modern science about the natural world, is even more wondrous than what we can attribute to ‘supernatural’ forces.

And so I gradually leave the field of hidden meaning and symbolism and start to record the beauty of large and small things in nature around me. Not only with my camera and paintbrush but with my pen.


  1. Maddi, I agree that the science of the forces of Nature is now the engine of understanding the wondrous universe. This is the perfect transition of your notation about the perceived abounding beauty, and I look forward to your recorded observations. Certainly magic no less because now understood. Excellent blog.

  2. Mary-Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    My spirit is lifted daily with observations of nature, and I dearly love to read of what you are seeing in your special little corner of our world.
    Sharing the gifts and surprises that we find in nature lightens the heart!

  3. “As I listen to him explaining the creation of the Earth and beginnings of all life, I realize that this, this science, is true magic. ”

    Maddi, now you can understand my passion for learning about the Universe, as this is where it all began and where it will all end. The more you delve into it, the more magical it becomes. We are all star stuff.

  4. Thank you Maddi. I enjoyed reading this so much. I feel this essay helps to give a voice to what defines my life. While I have always identified myself by the nature that surrounds me, I have also often been conflicted by my lack of a spiritual life as defined by conventional religion. I am comfortable in my connection to this world of natural wonders & beauty but as I get older, at times doubt creeps in, & I wonder if I’ve denied myself the formal “house of God”. Your writing realigned my thinking that I dwell in the right place!

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