I realized, this morning, that there are certain people whose Facebook posts I always look forward to reading. Most, although not all, of them are women. I look forward to reading them because even their Facebook posts reflect a quality they have, an inner brightness. They are bright spirits, which doesn’t mean that they are always cheerful or optimistic. No, it means that they are always honest, direct, clear. There is something fundamentally true about them. They shine brightly, like lights that illuminate parts of the world. They show you things.
The ones I am thinking of as I write this are Jane Yolen and Terri Windling, and if you don’t read their writing, you should. And then there is a group of artists, like Iris Compiet and Jackie Morris, Ali English and Bryony Whistlecraft. (Terri is also an artist, of course.) And there are bloggers like Grace Nuth. I love the images they post, the parts of their lives they share with the world.
I think of them as magical women. They make the world more magical, show me the parts of it that are magical, in case I’ve forgotten. But they also write about work. They are all doing wonderful, important work: this week, I’m teaching Jane Yolen’s young adult novel Briar Rose, which was edited by Terri Windling, in my fairy tale class. I think that’s partly where they get their magic and power, that dedication to the work that is truly worthwhile. To the arts in some form, specifically to the mythic in arts, and to arts that change the world. I think it takes a great deal of courage to be one of the people who tries to change the world in some way — I’ve heard too many people say that they’re not trying to change the world, that they’re just trying to entertain (particularly in their writing). But that’s the point of that? If you’re not trying to change the world, what are you doing, and why? I mean, doesn’t the world need changing?
I still remember when I was a corporate lawyer, doing work that other people thought was important. In Manhattan, working with major corporations, flying around the country. I certainly looked and sounded important, and yet I knew the work I was doing was not, ultimately, worthwhile. That it changed nothing, except by making corporations, and their wealthy shareholders, richer. I could feel the hollowness of it. That was why I left.
The life I have now can be exhausting — it’s been particularly exhausting this year. But I know the work I do, whether it’s teaching or mentoring or writing, is all worthwhile. It’s all work that changes the world, even if only in the most minor ways, by changing one person’s perception. I wonder if that is, after all, the definition of magic?
There are all sorts of things I wish for right now in my life, but one consistent wish is to become one of those bright spirits, who speak honestly, directly, clearly. And with courage.
While I was thinking about this blog post, I ran across two videos that I want to include here. The first is an interview with the artist Evelyn Williams, who died late last year. Her art has such intensity. It is sometimes almost too much to take, but how interesting it is — as she was.
The other is a song from Noe Venable called “Sparrow I Will Fly,” which somehow seemed appropriate just now. The song goes, in part,
I’m still waiting
in the cyclone’s eye
for the day when like
the sparrow I will fly
Two videos by two magical women . . .
I would put forth that you are also a magical woman and that is why these women appeal to you. They are bright mirrors. I enjoy your blogs posts so much for similar reasons. As a budding writer (song writing and a book I’m working on about being and staying inspired to always embrace that which supports life, not decay and illness) I love to read your thoughts. They are wonderfully articulated and inspiring for me as a writer and as a woman!
Thank you very much! 🙂
I don’t mean to write something that might sound “idol worshipping” but you are definitely one of my magical women…though after reading your blog post yesterday on Being Seen, I was kind of skeptical about commenting (what if I see you as an idol and not a person? But I “see” your voice and I think that counts in a way because there’s a lot you can tell about the heart from a voice, I believe).
I also have a few magical friends in real life (and my parents too!)— they are people who taught me honesty, who taught me to be real and open, who taught me not to be ashamed of who I am or what I’ve been through.
Thank you! 🙂 And I try very hard to be myself in these posts, not some sort of construct. That gets me in trouble, sometimes. 🙂
Your writing changed the world for me.
Oh, thank you! What a nice thing to say. (For the better, I hope . . .)
For the better, as a person and a writer – and I mean it genuinely.
It’s interesting to me that you used the term “bright spirits” to describe these women. I’ve used that term before to describe men and women, friends or otherwise, that I admire because of their courage, honesty and determination, and also some other indescribable qualities.
This is the first time I’ve seen it used somewhere else, but your definition of these spirits is so very similar to mine–I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks this about others. I thought, for a moment, I was strange.
Thanks! 🙂 I think for me it originally came from the Keats poem in which he addresses his beloved as “bright star.” I thought, they are bright, but not stars. What are they? And I realized they were bright spirits . . .
The truth is; you’re something else. If magical would explain better, then that means you’re magical. Keep it up my friend.
Thank you! 🙂
I have never gotten over the way I felt, reading “The Rose In Twelve Petals,” in 2002.
This is a writer I have been waiting for. I didn’t get a computer until 2006 (long story with money in it) so you, Terri Windling and Peter Beagle were the first people I looked up. Sometimes promising writers fade away but you have become an icon of
intelligent, serious beautiful writing. Some-one once said, ‘The problem with being a
poet is that you have to feed an animal.” I think your later topics, friends, fame, being
uncomfortable sometimes are truthful and I am so happy you have magical women
around you. They feed the poet, while the poet has to put bread on the table. And
some magical men,, too.
Thank you, Phyllis! And I actually just wrote a blog post about magical men as well . . . 🙂