The place of magic

To start, a story.

Once upon a time, I went through midwifery training. Homebirth midwifery, to be precise. We had a small class, we all knew each other, and when one member became pregnant, it was exciting. At the time she called to give me the news, I was baking. I don’t remember what, other than it called for many eggs. I was there on the phone with her as I cracked the first egg. It was double-yolked. This was exciting, too. I’d never, in a life full of baking, come across a double-yolked egg.

On to the next egg. Also double-yolked. I suggested to the woman on the phone that perhaps we were being given a signal that she would have twins. We laughed.

The entire dozen eggs all had double yolks.

I didn’t see her again until she had a baby shower. I had to make food for the shower. Again, no memory of what. The one thing I do recall is that it required eggs, and I had a fresh dozen, and every single one was double-yolked. I wanted to suggest more strongly that she would have twins, but I didn’t. Being a novice at anything, midwifery included, can make one reluctant to challenge those more experienced.

Then I got the call that she’d given birth. Surprise! Twins!

That story can be explained in many different ways. If one chooses the scientific approach, then there is the fact that we were buying our eggs from a local farm, and had gotten extra large eggs each time. In all likelihood, double yolks will make up a higher percentage of larger eggs, and the same hens were laying throughout that year. It is not magic. It is probability and science, with a strong dash of coincidence.

Life, at least my life, is full of stories like that. On the one side is science, on the other, magic. A seed is a perfectly crafted genetic vessel. It is also an unbelievably beautiful piece of magic–life waiting to be called forth by the touch of water and heat. A birth is an event choreographed by physics and anatomical design and complex biochemical pathways. But I’ve never been present at one where I did not also experience the sense that something beyond simple descent and rotation occurred. Life is full of spaces that both can and cannot be explained with textbooks and models.

As a writer, I’m rarely drawn to creating complete new worlds. The simple reason for this is that I’m in a state of ceaseless wonder over what exists in this one. A new cicada’s wings unfurling, the path a fire travels, the wingprints of an owl left in the snow by a mouse’s tracks–all of them balanced on that divide between the commonplace and the extraordinary.


  1. Lovely! Once I cleared the hurdle that science doesn’t negate the magic, the world became a lot brighter.

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