Sunday, March 9, 2008

Notes from the Field (VII)

Everyday Magic

It’s pretty clear to any and all that meet me, that I am a city girl – cement, not grass is my walking surface. Subways and the PATH train, are my preferred ride. But, urban animal that I am, I do spend a lot of time somewhere else – the land of make believe and fantasy.

I love entering the world of the folktales and fairytales I tell – places where animals talk, fairies fly, and virtually anything can happen. And while I freely admit to coveting the closet space that no doubt comes with the fabulous palaces in certain folktales, the thing that I most envy about the inhabitants of stories, is the magic!!

The way that – POOF – out of nowhere, there appears the very thing they need - not only the solution to their problem, but usually something that brings good fortune as well. The folktale type known as the “Hero’s Journey” contains my favorite type of magic – the magical object. In these tales a young lad, or maiden, sets out on a quest, with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Along the way they find, or are given, something that at face value seems ordinary, if not down right useless: an old whistle, a napkin, or a rusty key. But in the end, it is these objects that, somehow, magically help our hero or heroine succeed.

When I first began working with folktales, I would sigh with longing over how combs, cooking pans, or even twigs brought success to their handlers. But one day, on my way to a performance that was several hours from my home, I realized I needn’t be jealous of folktale characters. I had my own magical objects! Sure they were different from the ones in the stories I tell, but that didn’t make them any less magical to me.

Take, for instance, my laptop computer. Snow White’s stepmother may have been able to ask the mirror if she was the fairest one of all – but that’s only one question. I can ask my computer anything – and it replies – big time!! From finding tales to tell, to navigating my way to schools, libraries, and towns I never even heard of – this object, no bigger than my favorite folktale anthology, supplies me with information a lot more useful than who’s the fairest of them all!

Another little trinket I couldn’t get through the day without is my cell phone. All those cobblers, shop keepers, and even farmers in folktales are lucky, in that they have a stationary place of business. Not me. As a storyteller, I am always on the move, and that little, ringing, vibrating device helps me conduct business from my car, school auditoriums between assemblies, and in library bathrooms (seriously – I’ve booked plenty of shows returning phone calls from the loo). Yes, I freely admit to loving my cell phone, it has helped AAA find me when I had a flat returning home from a show, and just recently it helped calm the nerves of a principal (and my own) when the most TERRIBLE TRAFFIC EVER turned my 45 minute trip, into a 90 minute one. Cinderella’s fairy godmother can keep her magic wand – I prefer packing my Verizon network.

And then there’s the thing I really couldn’t do without. The reason I can live a life so marvelously unpredictable, so thoroughly fueled by my passions – my husband!!!! He is magical object, handsome prince, and fairy godfather all rolled into one.

More times than I can record, it is he who has figured out directions for me to get from school A to library B. “Help!” I have been known to scream into my cell phone, when I have pulled the car over on a highway shoulder, helplessly lost. With the calm of a Buddha, Jim, my MUCH better half, has guided me back on track, all the while not missing a beat at his own job.

Navigating that cell phone, computer, and now, thanks to him, of course, my GPS system, would have been impossible for me, without his guidance, and mind boggling patience. There must be a trench in our apartment floor running from the couch to the computer, marking the many times he has put down the NY Times, and strolled over to save his hyper ventilating wife from throwing up on the keyboard.

But all technical assistance aside, it is his magical “never stops listening” ears, that are my biggest ally. I mean, how many times could one man possibly really want to hear how a library show went? And yet, there he is, always asking, “How’d it go?” And honestly listening to my response. Always ready to have my back – no matter what. Laughing with me when things went great, gripping with me when things kind of sucked. He is my co-pilot, my safety net, my support system, my biggest fan.

When I think of him, I realize that a person doesn’t need a magic wand, or a fairy to live “happily ever after”. All this girl needs is her laptop, cell phone, GPS system, and the love from one REALLY, REALLY GREAT GUY!!!!!

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