dandelion garland hanging in the window

Dandelion garlands

Recently I had the pleasure of being a guest on a slightly unlikely podcast – The Moon and Your Mind. I’m not really into astrology, but the hosts and I had a long conversation full of wild tangents and laughter. I had a lot of fun and I think they did too. They pulled me up on a line from my bio – that I am a lover of wild things and wild places, and the simple miracle of life itself. They asked where I was finding magic at the moment.

It’s not the kind of question people usually ask me. I’m most often invited to talk on serious issues, to give a diplomatic opinion on some contentious aspect of yoga culture or contemporary religion. It pulled me up short for half a moment, probably because it’s the sort of question one of my spiritual teachers would have asked me.

I think it’s felt like a very serious couple of years for me, for many reasons. It’s not always easy to find the small magics at times. And sometimes perhaps I feel like my professional image would be made vulnerable if you all knew the delight I can find in the smallest of things.

But I also know that the small magics are essential. For me at least. I’m grateful to be reminded of them. And when I experience the world, and my life, with a sense of ease and rightness, then the small magics are all around me.

I saw the Occupational Therapist at the rheumatology unit last week, and she slightly ambushed me by talking about fatigue and burnout and getting me to colour in my timetable with crayons. There was, she advised, Too Much Red and a distinct lack of Green. I weakly replied that I do have to earn money occasionally. It’s not like I spend all day working, but after lunch, by the time I’ve got a solid couple of hours in, it’s time to walk the dog, and then feed him, and then another hour or so of work, and then I cook dinner and so…

We compromised on one new goal – a brief mid-afternoon break in which I am not productive, not Doing Something Serious, but something small and frivolous. Phil bought me a hammock stand for the garden where I can swing and look at the forget-me-nots. I have also been making tiny origami stars while marking the end of year essays.

And then a friend on the other side of the world sent me an Instagram reel of a dandelion garland, and I knew I had to try it. You take dandelion heads that have closed back up after flowering, and carefully thread them, and hang them up, and wait.

I left my string of grungy green dandelion heads up for two days while at a Very Serious conference. When I came back, the heads had opened and as promised, I had a string of dandelion clocks hanging in the window.

It’s still magic if you know how it’s done, because the magic and the miracle is in the predictable and unbelievable, emerging perfection of each delicate globe. Each one is so fragile a breath alone could break it. And yet they hang there, day after day, gently dancing in the breeze.

At least they will until Phil can’t help himself any longer and blows them out, one by one. Meanwhile, dear Sam Loe, who sent me the reel in the first place, will have to wait patiently for Spring to arrive in the southern hemisphere to have a go herself.

That’s what I mean when I talk about the simple and small miracles. I’ve never been that interested in whether someone could walk on water or heal the sick. That sounds like trickery and snake oil to me. But we live here, on this half-molten rock, hurtling through a vast universe at thousands of miles an hour, vulnerable to every passing comet and stellar explosion, in the grip of global struggles and ecological degradation, and still we breathe, and we love, and we bicker, and we make daisy chains and dandelion garlands and we find meaning in it all, together.

Over the years, I have variously described myself as a pagan, an animist, and more besides, which surely proves scholars of religion right when they say that religious identity labels don’t tell us much about each individual’s worldview and practices.

I think next time I’m asked, I’ll explain that mine is the religion of dandelion garlands and the way light dances on the river. My faith is proven by the wild strawberries that have taken over our garden and the tiny cactus flowering on my windowsill. My practice is in daily dog walks and my doctrine in being kind to the tiniest of creatures when I can.

The researcher in me would love to find A Name for all this, to help those of us who follow this path to find each other.

I also think that we find each other anyway. You know who you are.

But perhaps we could make a pact, then, to ask each other about the small magics more often. And if you felt called to, I have a spell you can use to confirm your promise. It involves dandelion heads, and a needle, and thread…

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