"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
Science is amazing. We know how frost forms. We understand, or at least climatologists do, what conditions and processes create all the different forms of snow. Refracting light, the skies produce rainbows and the aurora borealis.
We know that there are no faeries on gossamer wings waving their magic wands to paint the clouds luminescent hues at sunset. The Will-o-the-Wisp has become the much less inspiring oxidation of phosphine and methane, produced by organic decay.
But I want to believe in magic. When the delicate ice that has coated the alders cracks with ethereal tinkling in the breeze, I want to believe that a gang of mischievous imps is giggling in the shrubs. And when that breeze lifts and strengthens in a conifer forest, Mother Nature herself keens for the struggles of her creations.
When my boys were small, we walked every day. We forded deep cut meandering streams and trudged through the snow drifted under the conifer canopy. The gnarly upraised roots of a fallen forest giant were fairy homes and we discovered the evidence in the tracks of voles and winter birds. I wanted my sons to believe, for as long as they could. If one ceases to believe the magic is gone. Forever.
The ancients believed. Of necessity, they would have been so much more aware than we are. Survival depended on deep knowledge of the environment and what couldn’t be explained was understood to be the work of the supernatural. One’s habits and behaviours were understood to directly affect the forces of nature. Codes were linked to the inducement or prevention of natural phenomena, the placation of the unseen. Codes of living with the environment evolved into the rudiments of social behaviour and structure.
We, modern humanity, have no need to wonder, to live our lives to gain the favour or prevent the ire of Nature. We know it is not magic. But how much less whole are we now? Relieved of the need to concern ourselves with the miraculous, the ephemeral, the delicate balance of the natural elements, we can comfortably indulge ourselves with our hearts’ desires, ignoring the resulting accumulating garbage, toxins and habit destruction; our hearts are free of the fear of Nature’s influence on our safety; our conscience free of the potential immediate personal consequences. We live easily but how much less fully; our impoverished souls devoid of wonderment?
But I feel the thrill of magic when the new buds open in spring, when the intricacy of a dew-sprinkled spider web is revealed by an exploring tendril of golden morning sunshine. When a complex arrangement of crystals transforms a dried seed head of a nodding aster into a sparkling sculpture of sublime beauty, magic tingles on my skin. And I want to believe.