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 . . .