# of pages written: 0 (I have a friend visiting and have not had any time – don’t be angry with me – don’t I deserve a little break? It is the weekend…)
# of days left to write 1st draft: 107
I have a friend visiting this weekend. He’s a very private person, so I won’t use his real name. I’ll call him Bernard. Yesterday, we went to the beach, and as we were walking along, I said, “I really wish you could see a seal right now.” Literally as soon as I said this, a lone seal popped his head out of the water. He looked at us for a moment, dove back into a wave, and was gone.
“I control the seals!” I exclaimed. I started imaging a world in which I was some sort of seal queen, being ferried around on a floating seal-drawn chariot, holding a trident and wearing a seal pelt coat. I then attempted to command another seal to appear, but (surprisingly) it didn’t work the second time.
Later, we were driving back from the Truro winery, and Bernard was talking about his life and how he’s not really sure what to do with himself or in which direction he should go with his career. I glanced at my GPS, and the screen read, “now approaching Bernard’s Path.” It was just the name of the upcoming road, but it seemed so pertinent to the conversation.
“Don’t worry, Bernard,” I told him. “You’re approaching your path. You just haven’t quite gotten there yet.”
“I love synchronicity,” he said and then began muttering about Jungian psychology.
I agreed – it was just synchronicity – but there used to be a time when I would have attributed both of these things, the seal and Bernard’s Path, to magic.
On a seemingly unrelated topic, let’s talk about bath salts for a moment. Do you guys know about these? They are synthetically-made drugs that look like bath crystals and are apparently similar to cocaine or meth and can cause hallucinations. They also, apparently,have been linked to cannibalism. A man in Florida ate part of another man’s face while on bath salts, and I think I read about a girl eating part of her mother’s arm while on bath salts. Disturbing stuff.
I was discussing this awhile ago with my dad. He thought that bath salts opened people up to demon possession. I said I didn’t believe in actual demons from the devil, but that maybe drugs can open people up to their own issues – their own personal demons. After all, psychiatrists used to use cocaine and LSD to help people explore their emotions and repressed memories.
Or, maybe bath salts are so hardcore that they affect the brain chemistry in psychotic ways. I haven’t done any research on this, nor do I really know what I’m talking about, but maybe the brain of a person on bath salts is similar in some sort of biochemical way to the brain of someone experiencing a psychotic break with reality.
I put forth this theory to my father. “I still think it’s demon possession,” he said.
“Well, we’ve come up with different explanations for the same event,” I said, trying to be diplomatic, “but it doesn’t change what happened. We can both agree that bath salts are scary and eating people’s faces is a terrible thing to do.”
You say demon possession, I say brain chemistry. You say synchronicity, I say magic. Does it really matter what we call it?
Yes and no. Maybe the event is the same, but the explanation for the event changes the entire story.
* * *
There was a time when I believed in magic. I believed in mermaids and unicorns and leprechauns until middle school. I believed in Santa Claus until I was eight, and probably would have gone on believing in him if my parents hadn’t made a crucial mistake that led me to the conclusion that they put the presents under the tree and not Santa Claus.
“I just realized Santa Claus isn’t real. I feel like a jerk! (And a fool),” I wrote in my diary. Yet, until I was at least fourteen, I believed in a “spirit of St. Nick” who could cause Christmas miracles.
As I got older, my belief in magic became a bit more abstract. When I walked outside at the precise moment the streetlamps turned on, I attributed that to magic. When the phone rang and I knew who it was before answering – magic. When a bird seemed to follow me down the sidewalk, flying from one tree branch to the next – magic.
Do I still believe that those things are magical? Or do I think they’re just coincidence — just synchronicity? Does it matter what I call it?
The events don’t change. I pointed to the ocean and wished for a seal to appear and one did. That actually happened. I can make up whatever explanation I want. Since I’m a logically-minded adult, my explanations tend to be logical. (There are a lot of seals around here — it just so happened one surfaced at that moment.) And I might not ever really know why things happen the way they do. But in my fiction writing, I can make things happen because of magic, or demons, or anything else I want. Who’s to stop me?
Of course the events in a story matter. But depending on the type of story, the explanation for the events could be because of magic, or demons, or psychology, or any number of other things. And that’s the great thing about writing. Not only do you get to decide what happens. You get to decide why it happens, too.