Everyday Magic: Field Notes on the Mundane and Miraculous
Meadowlark Press, Release date: December 2, 2017. ISBN: 987-0-9966801-5-8. 422 pages. $24.99
Everyday Magic features the best of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's blog of the same title, exploring the mundane and miraculous unfolding around us, and how to live with greater verve, meaning and joy. Journey through whimsical, tender, and fierce explorations of travel and homecoming, beloveds and the art of loving, grief and resilience, the arts and politics, spirit and being a body, and many other glimpses of being all-too-human in an astonishing world.
Reading this book is like having a wise friend take you by the hand and walk you down a healing path. Thank you, Caryn, for showing us how to embrace the beauty, joy and pain in everyday life. ~ Harriet Lerner, Ph.D author of NYTimes bestseller The Dance of Anger and Why Won't You Apologize?
Many thanks to Caryn for these beautiful lessons in living, really living from a poet laureate who reminds you of your best friend. It's wonderful to feel so deeply inspired by a world that feels so deeply familiar. ~ Dar Williams, Singer-songwriter, and author of What I Found in 1,000 Towns
Like Da Vinci, Caryn is in love with the world, knows its many ways, excels at all she does, and captures the hidden emotion behind what she studies. Those gifts and skills manifest in volume in this collection of essays, where Caryn meditates on her world in all its daily-ness. Miracles are to be found everywhere, and Caryn finds them and pins them to the page. My world opens up, when I read these. Yours will too. ~ Kevin Rabas, Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2017-2019, All That Jazz
Enter the amazing world of genius writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg as she ruminates, rejoices, revels, and reflects. Her book Everyday Magic is a passport to her remarkable life as mother, wife, daughter-in-law, friend, professor, community leader, and writer. The author’s Wells Overlook homestead becomes as familiar as my kitchen table when I read scenes from her rocket-speed life. ~ Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-2009, author of Turtle’s Beating Heart
“It's not just a body, it's an adventure,” is the title of one of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's essays on the exceptionality of the everyday. This body of work is an adventure—not necessarily the roller-coaster-ride variety, but one of the turning of the moments of a life into opportunities for introspection, for sharing, for recognition that this instant in time is truly meaningful and lovely and deserving of notice. That Mirriam-Goldberg is a poet is evident here. Nothing gets by her, and she turns her observant eye to herself and those around her so lovingly that as we read we feel ourselves becoming a part of her community of friends and loved ones. Here we meet and grow to love a menagerie of people, dogs, cats, foibles, occasions of grief, days of joyous abandon, of all the ridiculous and sublime and ennobling and embarrassing things that enrich our lives and make our days worthwhile. Here is a paean to the human experience as is occurs: in the commonplace details and the nitty-gritty day-to-day unfolding of life, the individual seconds and minutes that make up what and who we are. After reading Caryn's book I found myself paying more attention, noticing those crystalline little orts of the day's events that so easily and often slip by beneath notice. And that is a precious gift. ~ Roy Beckemeyer, author of Music I Once Could Dance To
"Listening to another means learning a new language,” writes Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. This former poet-laureate of Kansas is absolutely present in the world. This book is an invitation to join her in a celebration of mundane moments illuminated by her loving presence. Wrap yourself in a warm embrace of words. ~ Sherry Reiter, PhD, Director of The Creative Righting Center, and Poetry Therapy pioneer
Once I read the first piece in this book, I couldn't stop. Each piece is a window into a room in the author's mind, each so enticing that I wanted to see the next room, and the next. This house is a well-lived-in home, filled with compassion, honesty, wit and humility. ~ Doug Lipman, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for storytelling, National Storytelling Network
In Everyday Magic, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg describes a spirit trip, her family’s drive to Colorado to visit a dying cousin. A spirit trip, she writes, is “usually sudden, regardless of what’s in the bank account or on the schedule, guided by a simple yearning to be with someone we love to say, hello, goodbye, I’m here for you.” With an open heart and often with sly humor, Caryn shares stories of bad vacations, burritos, family, faith, navigating a difficult childhood, and the passing of people dear to her. In these graceful essays I marvel, as always, at Caryn’s skill with language. Words are in her care and her command: “a jewelry store run by paranoia and good taste,” . . . “slogging through the potholes of grief,” . . . “The night smelled like roses, honeysuckle, car fumes, and popcorn.” As these essays journey through the joys and complications of life, Everyday Magic becomes a spirit trip in itself, a trip rich in depth and meaning, one that will remain in our hearts long after the last chapter is read. ~ Cheryl Unruh, author of Flyover People: Life on the Ground in a Rectangular State
This rich collection of 250 essays -- perfect as a gift, on a coffee table, or by your bedside -- explores everyday possibilities for magic and meaning with humor and tenderness. There are tributes to Pete Seeger, Mexican food, bathrooms, Bruce Springsteen, playing the cello, Maxine Kumin, alleys, Adrienne Rich, Laura Nyro, making the bed, civil rights, the wonders of tea, wild weather, Marion McPartland, the desert, Ken Irby, Supertramp, installing a new toilet, Mary Chapin Carpenter, mothering hacks, and staying put in a community. Here are some other essays celebrating the glimmers of light in unexpected places:
- The Glory of Failing
- Satan Called: He Wants His Weather Back
- Sorting Socks as a Rite of Passage
- Dogs Are Better Than Us
- Cats Taught Us To Lie
- How Can You Not Love Kansas Basketball?
- Lightning Bolt in the Rearview Mirror
- How to Make a Decision About Anything
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Parenting
- The Horror and Humor of Family Vacations
- 9/11 Ten Years Later from the Vantage Point of a Subway Dweller
- The Insomniac and the Hour of the Coyote
- Dance Like Everyone's Watching
- The Scandals of Our Lives
- If You Postpone a Flight a Dozen Times and Then Cancel It, the Revolution Begins
- Humor in the Bureaucratic Rings of Hell at the DMV
- I Wanted An Enchilada, I Got a Prairie Fire
- A Big Gay Wedding for Kansas
- Catching Mr. and Mrs. Rattlesnake Right Now
- Why I'm a Crazy Bitch Sometimes
- A Bedroom Full of Fireflies
- Calicoco, the Flying Cat, or Why You Shouldn't Put a Feral Cat in Your Bathroom
- The Everyday Magic of Rainbows
This book, artfully designed by Tracy Million Simmons, features dozens of photos and innovative luna moth illustrations, accenting each story with greater delight, depth, and surprise.
Excerpt: "How to Live?"
A steady question has circled me for years like a song I can’t shake: “How to live?” When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, it was as if someone turned up the volume on this question, and since then, I have been regularly landing in moments when I felt para- lyzed as to what to do with myself to live the way I should. I would stand in the middle of my living room, debating whether to put my feet up and read a book, practice the cello, revise poetry, catch up on emails, do some yoga, take a walk, or clean out an obscure drawer. “What to do?” became the back beat behind “How to live?”
In the land of my mind, “How to live?” is a number one hit, playing simultaneously as gospel, rhythm and blues, hard-driving rock and roll (complete with Bruce Springsteen- like howls), familiar Irish gigs, complex but haunting folk songs, and as a blaring musical (think “Oklahoma” meets “Rent”). While I’m learning the various notes and hues of this question, I’m finding—to paraphrase the poet Rainer Maria Rilke—that I can only live my way into the answers, or, more likely, more questions.
Ironically enough, one of the clearest answers I get is to try to try less, something almost impossible for my grasping mind to inhabit, given my you’re-not-alive-unless-you’re -doing-something ways. Being my father’s daughter, I carry within me the legacy of working passionately, but also obsessively, springing into doing something related to my brilliant and exhausting career at any given moment (2 a.m.? No problem, I’ll just start up the computer; weekends? Oh, just this one thing and then . . . Vacation? Let me check my email first).
Yet my father died relatively young after too many years of constant illness and workaholism to see straight. After my own list-carrying decades, delighting in crossing things off and feeling generally compelled to immediately do whatever I think up, my very smart body now refuses to tolerate being dragged around like a pull toy from one overwhelm to the next.
I didn’t just realize the obvious easily. I sailed under the skies of low-grade, but chron- ic, unidentifiable illness since finishing chemo. After visiting my oncologist, various other doctors, energy healers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, psychics, dear friends, the self- subscribed-to myths of my past, and all manner of big pills (herbs, vitamins, amino acids) that came in glass bottles, I had a breakdown of sorts. In a small hotel room on the eighth floor of a Boston Marriott, in the middle of a conference at which I was presenting and helping organize, and in the middle of a herd of small ailments, from a wound on my foot to a migraine in my head, I heard one clear sentence: If you want to heal your life, you need to change your life.
Since that Boston epiphany, I started giving up things I used to do: extra work outside and inside of my teaching position, over-functioning with friends and family (on the premise that if I couldn’t fix my own life, I could fix someone else’s), and activities, thought-mazes and habits that took me away from being here, with myself as I am, in the present, whatever the weather. I’m a slow learner in the art of surrender (ten years after writing this post, I’m still immersed in these lessons). Give me an urgent task and high speed internet, and I’m easily tempted to go galloping in my mind toward whatever is asked. Give me an excuse, and I can convince myself it’s fine to take on more work. But the imperative to live a life of meaning has been a patient and persistent teacher. My health, which tends to go south easily and for prolonged periods if I don’t listen to my body, reinforces what I need to do . . . or not do.
I’ve also been discovering something entirely thrilling and not so unexpected: Living with greater self-care, discipline and awareness makes me outrageously happy. In the fall, I love watching the deer empty our bird feeder, as I watch from inside the house, still under the weight of the motor-purring kitten. I love the winter’s open space and time that’s always been right here, like the sky—sometimes variegated in golden pinks and grays through the bare branches of the sycamore—when I’m waiting at a stoplight. I love long stretches at home, and because I’m still hard-wired to keep doing things, using these stretches to re-organize the linen closet, make collages, or stare at old pictures of my parents and siblings. There is such a profound joy in the simple and constant art of cultivating space.
How to live is no longer such a cross-blends of many stations playing at once, but more like a heart beat. Its rhythm is all around me. All I need to do is listen.