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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: A practical magic in a real world


December 20, 2019

I grew up in the “Bewitched” era, and that after-school TV fantasy sitcom probably ruined me forever.

I have believed in magic ever since. I’ve looked for it, longed for it.

I was absolutely sure that if I could get my nose to wiggle side to side I could do magic. Not card trick and sawing women in half magic, I’m talking real magic — disappearing, doing all my chores done in a blink of an eye and conjuring a flying horse.

I wasn’t messing around with this goal. I worked at it. I figured out right away that if my pinched lips moved side to side with my nose, no magic happened, so I needed to isolate my nose movement. Obviously.

After very little practice, I could get my nose to wiggle up and down like a bunny rabbit, but that didn’t work — which didn’t surprise me because we all know that rabbits have magic done TO them, not BY them. It’s a law of nature. They don’t pull themselves out of a hat, y’know.

I could get the right side of my nose to pull down and kind of to the side, but not the left. It just kind of twitched and spasmed. No go. I never did get it to work right. Hence my inability to make my life easy.

I remain magicless.

I still think about it, though. I look for magic in the world, like when dogs know when their owners are coming home, how slapstick comedy makes everybody laugh at some point, sunrise, solstice and pretty much half of science is just magic. Sure, people will try to explain these things, but they can’t fool me with their blah, blah, blah.

Several times in recent years, I have considered construction work to be magic. I work on things. My husband works on a lot of it. We learn. We push onward. We see progress. It’s all good, everyday kind of stuff. Every once in a while, though, we hire someone to do a project.

We tell them what we want, we walk away and when we come back things are done. I didn’t toil, sweat or swear over the project, it just appeared. Magic.

Certainly, there were a few times we thought we were hiring true magic makers and it turned out we got the guy doing card tricks and pulling the endless stream of hankies out of his coat sleeve, but others, the keepers, perform beautiful feats of surprise. They conjure straight walls from stacks of stout strip-things on the floor, tuh-daaaah.

I point at a stack of drywall and then at a framed wall and, shazam!, at the end of the day that drywall is hung. When we put it up, it takes days of sweating, figuring numbers and shapes, and dropping tools, maybe even a disagreement or two. Not when you hire a magician.

Later, when you have a wall of bare drywall, splotched with mud and tape and point a magician at that. The next day you have a beautiful riot of color filling a room.

One morning a cement floor, and by lunch time fitted linoleum.

In truth, I have sometimes watched this magic working, been a part of its making, if only as the apprentice for a bit, and it sparked the seed of a thought that I couldn’t quite formulate.

We’ve had a couple magicians, men of years, stop in to create small transformations in the house the past two weeks, a few hours here, three more there. As I’ve watched their faces, the steady motion of their hands, the unwasted energy of their movement, the other-minded focus in their eyes, a thought has sprouted fully formed.

The walls, the paint, the flooring are just byproducts. The magic they wrought is on themselves to make the motion fluid, to see a straight line and the proper fold to make the shape, to lift and turn a thing just so, and a little more. There.

I had time to think about that while I was slogging through the mundane task of using a tile saw to cut a stack of square tiles into two stacks of triangles.

As I worked my way toward the last tile, I finally lost myself in figuring out the tile saw, the speed to push the tile through, how to be steady, the best thickness of line to follow, what height to put the guard so I didn’t get splattered, how to adjust a cut, where to stand, how keep the end of the cut from chipping. Just remembering to drop my safety glasses into place was a chore in the beginning.

Those last eight tiles, though, sweet perfection. somewhere about the third to last tile — staring down the cut line to the whirring blade, slicing through tile steady, straight and clean — I whispered, “Magic.”


Every once in a while magic happens at http://www.facebook.com.viewfromthenorth40.com .


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