Seed Magic Part III: Once Upon a Time

All things considered in 2020, I didn’t consider revisiting the conversation with the wandmaker, as I had named the Conservation Specialist. Once in a while the thought crosses my mind, to email the wandmaker, to ask for the packet of documents, but this year is frozen. Time standing still. The white hairs I recently plucked aside, no one is aging except time. The map of our land meant to sustain the wand’s hover is buried under unnamed papers of less importance. My dad and I cleaned the house of clutter, bought new floors, and took all manner of actions to invite more light into our space. There, the specter of magic sits between an ‘us’ undefined. Those at the table and those at other tables in other houses bonded by bones made of wood of the same trees. Trees chopped and gashed and twisted and fallen during the summer storm. This almost magic spreads like pixie dust for those who believe and like a curse for those who don’t know how to name their own doubts.

“Daily and deepening blackness entered my Shire.” Dad’s words slip out as spell whispers without intent. Only the suggestion of someone else’s imagined magic sits between us. We have no books, no spells, no wands, only the scratched instructions about someone that someone else once heard could save us. Will we use them? We must believe. We need to remember. Which memories? Dad’s other favorite spot, Brigadoon. Protected, kept out of time, but limited in territory. In Brigadoon no one is aging. Even in uncounted time, it’s time. Time counts. Time is counting.

I stare out the window at empty branches and watch the morning dove. The one that returns each year alone. I glance to my right at the recently redecorated kitchen nook and the newest piece on the counter that I didn’t choose. It is a small green and red dish for resting mixing spoons. The entire piece cast in a bird’s shape. I had sat at a café table across from a friend sharing birthday wishes. After I had unwrapped each piece of her gift she had matched by colors to my redecorated home, she began to tell a story.

“I found the meaning,” she explained excitedly. “The birds and the colors called to me. Freedom. You’re searching for freedom.”

“Hmmm,” I sipped the coffee and wanted to believe. Which came first, believing or convincing others? Planning the journey or inviting others along? I had already used up quite a bit of that uncounted time. At the kitchen window, no bird sits on the bare tree branch. Still, I imagine the morning dove alone, without its mate. Birds might mean freedom. Depending upon the bird, they might mean obligation.

And magic? Well, there are worlds without it. Searching for a story in this year that feels like it’s curse, I pull out another version of many stories, the television series, Once Upon a Time. The premise is exactly that, a curse of no memories, no connection to past lives, no magic, at least at first. After magic is restored, the lesson repeats, “all magic comes with a price.”

A curse, the idea intrigues me. What continues to be defined across its seven seasons is how the curse actually takes hold, what it is meant to do, or what each version is meant to do, depending upon who cast it and who must give off themselves in mind or heart, to break it. Perhaps, I, or my generation on this land is meant to break our curse. Break the curse of land access, colonization of diets, environmental and human degradation.

I write the text to my cousin, “Have you, or your siblings, ever thought about what comes next? For the farm?” She’s curious and promises to have a conversation.

Once memory is restored after the first season, the characters retain two histories in their heads, their fairy tale selves, and their trapped selves. Somehow, they must be both. Or, perhaps they were always both. I lived in Guatemala the first time I watched the series. Near the end of my time there, I wrote a fairy tale for a staff writing exercise. The tale was a young woman’s journey, one of choices, one of ripping apart pages as bird wings, and resewing multiple tales. In that moment, I had never considered the possibility that the variety of tales would be written by many authors.

I stare into the sink and see the dirty lunch plates on the table between my friend and me. “You’re looking for freedom,” she had said. Freedom, it might not even be mine. Freedom might be non-GMO seeds or clean water. Freedom might be official status restored to previous owners or legal status to denied buyers. Happy endings are broken, bent, forgotten and remade, always reminding that “Even believing in the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing.”

Apps, Jerry. (2019) The Land Still Lives. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.

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