December 18, 2013

Be the Magic

by Bryan Johnston in Happiness, Life0 Comments

Minute Read

There’s no shortage of magic in the world…if only we take the time to see it. As adults we just grow out of it.

I don’t know about you, but starting around American Thanksgiving, I begin to gorge myself on Christmas movies (if there are better examples than Christmas Vacation and Elf, I have yet to find them), and those films generally focus on just that idea. Christmas is magical for children, but not for most adults. That is until the end of the movie when they “rediscover” it thanks to a plucky elf, or a mischievous snowman, or a rascally reindeer, or the appearance of three spirits…

But why lose it in the first place? Why not choose to see the magic all around us, all the time? It’s there, you know. And not just during the holidays.

My Christmas movie collection is up to about 30 films. I watch one each night in the lead up to December 25, usually with the Christmas tree as the only illumination in the room. And why? Because it feels magical. The tree. The lights. The television screen flickering with visions of sugar plums and drunk elves. I love it. It’s Bryan-the-Adult trying to recreate something that exists in everything and everywhere when we are younger.

Magic. Wonder.

My son has grown up overseas, and for most of that time, we lived in either sub-tropical (southern China) or desert (Dubai) climates. He’s a hockey-obsessed Canadian who had never experienced real snow (Ski Dubai, while incredibly cool, doesn’t count). During our time in Dubai, we took him, and his two cousins, for an annual afternoon in the snow park – 3000 square metres of indoor snow adventure – around Christmas. They made snow angels. They threw snowballs. They went down the luge and inner tube hills.

It was magic.

For the adults, sadly, it was too often viewed as expensive (it was) and crowded (it really was).

Well, this is our first Christmas, and winter, since returning to Canada this year. The magic and wonder that exists all around us is punching and kicking its way back into my life through the eyes and experiences of my nine-year old son. He is amazed – mesmerized – by things that most of us see only as an inconvenience or pain-in-the-ass. His first snowfall was one of the most incredible days of his life. And mine. He stood at the window watching it fall from the heavens. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move for a good 15 minutes. He just watched. And then begged to be allowed outside.

We were out in the snow for well over an hour. We made snow angels. We threw snowballs. We shoveled snow. We made a snowman. He made “the biggest snowball in the history of the world” (his words, not mine). And he marveled at the whole thing. And I marveled – and was envious – of his marvel. When’s the last time that you marveled at a weather pattern?! He found something remarkable in snow – crystallized water – that most of us can’t find in anything anymore.

Magic. Wonder.

My son plays hockey, and has for three years. He learned the game, oddly enough, while living in the deserts of the Middle East. He is your quintessential Canadian kid in that sense – he lives, eats, sleeps, and dreams about it. And while he has always loved the sport in its entirety, he has a special admiration and affinity for the goalie – a position that he has devoted himself to for the past year and a half. I remember the first time he saw a goalie in all of his gear, and the first NHL game he watched on television. He was captivated by the blue paint in front of the net. He was spellbound by the acrobatics of the netminder. Wide-eyed and unable to turn away. As his love for the position grew, he was studying it on his own, reading about it, practicing the moves, reviewing video of fantastic saves, and playing goalie for his team in Dubai whenever the opportunity was there (he plays goalie full-time this year in Canada). For him, it is so much more than stopping that tiny chunk of black rubber. I see athleticism in a phenomenal save. He sees majesty. He sees a ballet. He sees something in a sport considered rugged and unforgiving by the rest of us that I want to see, too.

Magic. Wonder.

I catch him sometimes, standing in the snow, soaking it all in as though some transcendental experience. I’ve even seen him with his eyes closed once or twice, head slightly tilted to the side. Is he listening to the snow fall? Boosting the sensation of cold and wet as the snow melts on his face? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter what or why. He’s experiencing the magic of the moment.

I’ve seen the same look on his face many times, and even more so since returning to live in Canada. He sees things differently than I do. He really sees them.

Gazing at new, pristine ice at the hockey rink at 6am. “Fresh ice” as he calls it. One of his favourite things in the world.

The autumn leaves – vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows – when we were in Muskoka in October.

The half-frozen Grand River as we crossed the pedestrian bridge.

A shared plate of poutine at our local pub. The steam rising, the cheese curds melting, and the whole thing becoming one decadent, gooey, manifestation of the mystical. And if you think I’m overstating on this example, you’ve never seen the way he looks at his poutine.

The first time he laid eyes on a moose while canoe camping in Algonquin Park…after 2 fruitless summers of looking.

It’s there, all around us. You just have to look. It doesn’t exist only at Christmas. I found it driving back from the dump yesterday.

Yup. The dump.

The garbage dump for Centre Wellington is located halfway between Fergus and Elora, and it’s off the main road and in the middle of farms and trees. As I was driving back along the country road, I was struck by the snow on the trees and power lines. They were caked with it in that “winter wonderland” kind of way. As though the trees had put on clothing made entirely of white, fluffy snow, their branches as perfect arms and legs. The sky was blue. The sun was shining. And I wanted to pull over and soak it all in the way my son would have done it. He would have closed his eyes. Maybe even tilted his head.

It was magical. It was wonderful.

See? I’m starting to get it. I’m trying – striving – to see everything the way he does. And hopefully always will, because what an insanely glorious way to live and breathe each moment. Snow is magical. Autumn is magical. A moose is magical. Even poutine can be magical.

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.” ~Rumi

 Choose to believe. In magic. In wonder. And be silent.


Bryan Johnston

Former high school English lit & drama teacher. Current writer, stand-up comedian, & improv performer. A big switch? You betcha.

International expat for 12+ years with stops in Beijing, Dubai, Shanghai, & Guangzhou. Dad to a university sophomore, an eleven-month old charmer, & the two best doggos. Lover of funny things & people. Oh, and craft beer.

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