One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Landscape and Magic

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes tells the story of Izzy during the summer she goes to live with her grandmother in New Mexico. The book is rich with landscape. Elm and cottonwood trees line Izzy’s grandmother’s adobe house. The sweet smell of her rose garden mixes with the spicy aroma of tamales cooking and coffee brewing. Bright colors—red, purple, pink, yellow—weave their way both inside and outside the house. And the wind whispers magic words to Izzy.

I love this. The wind whispers secrets.

Jennifer says in her prologue: "This is a cuento, a story about magic, love, hope, and treasure. If you read this under the glow of the moon or by the light of the summer sun, listen for whispers in any breeze that passes by. Then close your eyes and let the cuento take you where magic still exists and spells of fear and hope are told through the heart of the storyteller."

What is it about landscape that is magical? Or more to the point, what is it about firmly rooting yourself in a landscape that is magical? I wonder, sometimes, if the experience of being at the edge of a river, or deep in the woods, or standing at the top of a mountain, or in the middle of a garden, and choosing to be very present—with eyes and ears and nose opened wide—I wonder if, even for a brief moment, this experience melts the boundaries between you and the landscape. Like empathy or a flash of recognition or language acquisition. For a brief moment you are more than you and totally you all at the same time. And maybe, just maybe, that more-than-you feeling is the magic.

The ability to hear the wind.

As I sit and write this, the tops of the trees outside my window are bending against the thick gray sky. The wind is saying something out there. Maybe I should go out and try to listen.

Tam Smith

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