You and magical realism

It’s a warm October night. And it’s raining just lightly. The stoplights are hazy, the shadows dark, and wispy slips of autumn sprinkle windshields in the breeze.

You’re noticing how beautiful it all is as you’re driving down Ravenswood when the wind blows a golden sprig of maple leaves onto the street about 25 yards ahead of you. As it falls, the leaves catch your headlights just so and flop back and forth on the pavement, which is shining with rain.

Glowing black street, like the lake at night, and a bright golden flash dancing in your headlights. The glimmering splotch of gold looks so alive you think it’s a fish. You hit the brakes because you believe a fish has fallen from the sky, is flapping on the street, you better slow down, you might run it over. It’s raining fish!

When you’re not in the pool, which is where you’ve been tonight, your body, your mind, your heart, your spirit are in the midst of a transformation so surprising, so inexplicable, so otherworldly, so outrageous that you actually believe, right, this is an unseasonably warm fall night and golden fish are raining from the sky. If all that can be going on, why can’t this?

So you slow down and wonder if you might save it. Take it home, put it in your big flower vase with some lukewarm water and tomorrow show the kids the goldfish you rescued in the street last night. You look around. Are there others?

Eventually you get five yards away from the dying goldfish and you see it’s a bouquet of maple leaves, blowing in the warm breeze and lapping up the warm rain. Your brain flips a switch, allowing you to see what’s really there. And you laugh. It’s an out-loud laugh full of real, boisterous joy because, holy hell, you’ve always said if your life were a literary genre, you’d like it to be magical realism. And then there you are—enacting something out of Gabriel García Marquez’ world. This is some certifiable Pablo Neruda shit. Oh, how you used to love Laura Esquivel…

You just keep laughing. At yourself, at what’s going on with you, at the insertion of magical realism right there on the dark drive home. You are so consumed in your own peculiar reality that, for a few moments, you, a reasonably logical person, actually thought it was raining fish.

It’s just funny. You throw your hands off the steering wheel in delight and thank the leaf fish for reminding you that even in a weird, heartbreaking story, there’s beauty and whimsy and undoubtedly even some magic. Which, you pray, is on its way.

Epilogue: In the third paragraph of this post, your spellcheck wants you to make “black street” a proper noun. Which also makes you laugh. Magic delivered! No diggety. No doubt.

And, just for fun, a Pablo Neruda poem I love and excerpt often with my kids:

Ode to a pair of socks

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

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