The Importance of Magic

Do You Believe in Fairies? black line

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

I drew this mixed-media illustration of Steven Spielberg back in 1996. He’s been a favorite movie maker of mine since I first saw, ET. In my art I have a young Steven pictured as Peter Pan.  The words “Do you believe in fairies?” come directly from J.M. Barrie’s book Peter Pan and Wendy. In the story, Tinker Bell was dying because she drank poison that was meant for Peter. As she was fading away, she whispered that she thought she could get well again if children believed in fairies. Peter jumped up and shouted to children everywhere, “Do you believe? If you do, clap your hands. Don’t let Tink die!” For those of you who don’t know the story, yes, Tinker Bell pulled through. Believing is a powerful thing.

There is not a doubt in my mind that Mr. Spielberg believes in fairies and all things magical. I do, too. I’ve learned to cultivate enchantment and to be open to being astonished:

I believe in miracles.

I believe that imagination is more important than intelligence.

I believe a child’s capacity for wonder is gold and should be guarded as such.

I believe good always overcomes evil, and if you’re lucky, you may live to see it.

I believe if you can dream it, it can be done.

I believe that someone is going to do it, so why not you?

I believe you are born with all the gifts needed to fulfill your life’s purpose.

I believe all your answers can be found within.

I believe that what you are looking for is looking for you.

I believe you’re never too old manifest your heart’s desire.

I believe that you shouldn’t limit your dreams. Just follow your bliss. What you end up doing may not have even been invented yet.

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl

Steven Spielberg has joined forces with Disney to bring Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, The BFG (The Big Friendly Giant) to life. It will open in theaters on July 1st. I am already counting the days. The more I feed my sense of wonder, the more possible the impossible seems. Letting ourselves be enchanted, conjures the spark that ignites the flame of possibility. Without hope we would wither away into mundanity. For it’s true, without a little pixie dust, it’s death for most of us.

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

I Once Knew a Girl who Gave Up Thinking…

Metamorphosis

The mind is a complete idiot. – Dr. David R. Hawkins M.D., PhD.

I have a young friend who never ceases to amaze me. When Andrea and I first met, I took her soft-spokeness as mousy. Inside and out, she seemed pretty ordinary. It didn’t take long for me to realize behind her quiet demeanor, was a girl of fire and spunk.

When Lent rolled around a few years back, Andrea’s priest told the congregation it wasn’t always necessary to give something up as a sacrifice. When preparing for Easter, he suggested that instead of depravation, Lent could be observed by taking on a practice that would be a blessing to the observer. Gathering with a group to study scripture or meditating each morning could also be a way to revere this high, holy time. And that’s when it hit Andrea, she would give up thinking for Lent.

When she first told me her idea I laughed. Give up thinking for Lent? How could that be possible? Don’t we need our thoughts to help move us through life? No, what Andrea was talking about was obsessive thinking. You know, the kind of thinking that gives you no rest. The kind of thinking that analyzes and tries to control every aspect of your life.

The last seven years had been rough for her. Pregnant at 17, she married her son’s father only to divorce him two years later because of a mental illness and drug abuse. After that, Andrea felt she had no choice but to move back home to her parents’ with their son Adrian. Living with a critical and condescending mother was less than ideal, but she needed help with her little boy. She saw no other way to keep her full-time job while working on a college degree.

Fear loomed large in Andrea’s life. She felt stuck and wondered if she would ever be able to give Adrian the life he deserved. Her ex-husband’s instability constantly disappointed them. Recently, he had checked himself into rehab, yet again, but she didn’t have much hope for a positive outcome. The gears in her brain turned around the clock with “what ifs.”

It was during this time the brilliant idea to give up thinking for Lent came to Andrea. She quickly learned she had to pay constant attention to her thoughts if she were going to be successful. In particular, her drive to work always signaled the wheels of her obsession to begin rolling. An hour later, when she pulled into the parking lot, she couldn’t even remember the route she took, her mind was so consumed. To unhook she began practicing being present by noticing her surroundings.

Andrea quickly discovered there was so much beauty in her daily drive she had never been aware of. It was spring. The flowers were blooming and everything was fresh and new. And the birds! She had never noticed the riot of their chirping. She began seeing hawks everywhere. She couldn’t believe she’d been so locked inside her mind that their majesty had gone unnoticed.

The more Andrea let go by staying in the now, the more she saw that everything she was fixated on resolved itself on its own. Maybe by relaxing her grip she was actually allowing God to work things out more quickly.

All will be revealed – not all will be figured out.– Mary Karr

I too have been held hostage by my brain. As of late, not knowing where my career as an author/illustrator is going has been weighing heavy on my mind. The publishing industry was turned upside down by the 2008 financial collapse and left me on the outside looking in. With the invention of electronic readers, the industry is now reworking itself in a way that makes sense with today’s technology. That means it’s harder than ever to get an editor to even glance at a submission. What to do? What to do? Should I continue to search for an agent, publisher or self-publish?

Lucky for me Lent is here and reminded me of Andrea and her bright idea. I took a cue from her and consciously gave up my need to analyze and force a solution. The moment I surrendered my thinking, peace washed over me and was immediately followed by the ding of an an email in my inbox. It was a note from a film company that wants to make a short documentary about my art. How cool is that? And with my mind out of the way, who knows what other miracles will be brought forth in my life. That Andrea is a genius.

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

Let it Snow – Hercules Couldn’t Keep Me from My Son’s Wedding

Let it Snow

Friday, January third, was my birthday. This year it was to be part of a bigger celebration. My husband Bob, our son Rob, his wife Emily and I were booked on an early morning flight from Chicago to Boston. We were going to attend the wedding rehearsal and dinner for our youngest son Brian and his fiancée Pam that evening. The following afternoon they were to be married at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kingston, Massachusetts. Rob was Brian’s best man and Emily was one of Pam’s bridesmaids. We had the important task of transporting their wedding bands and my grandmother’s wedding pearls to adorn the bride. Over 20 family members and friends were flying to take part in the festivities. Yes, it was going to be a memorable birthday and a perfect weekend.

Earlier in the week Pam, concerned, texted me about a weather report of a snowstorm hitting Boston on Thursday and Friday. I assured her it was too early to tell. If the weather conditions can’t be accurately predicted for the next day, how can an advance forecast be trusted? I was having none of it. Besides we were flying out early enough that, worse-case scenario, we would get in late Friday night. No matter what, we would be at their wedding on Saturday.

When the snow did begin dumping in Boston on Thursday, I still felt certain we would get out the next day, even if our flight was delayed. Brian called around dinner time to tell us our Friday morning flight had been cancelled. Although we hadn’t been notified by the airlines, a friend of his, taking the same flight, had been. I immediately got on the phone and rebooked our tickets for nine o’clock Friday evening. Our flight cancellation was a little glitch in our plans, that’s all. Sure, we were going to miss the rehearsal and dinner, but what was really important was that we’d make it to the wedding.

Then our Friday evening flight was cancelled. I quickly got on the phone and after a 30 minute hold, learned there were no more flights to Boston out of Chicago. Beginning to panic, I asked if there were any fights available from Chicago to Providence. Lucky for us, there were seven seats left on a nine o’clock flight and we booked four of them. Whew!

Bob, Rob, Emily and I headed to the airport around five o’clock. We wanted to get there as early as we could. At this point, we weren’t taking any chances of missing our flight. When we were 20 minutes away, I got a text from our daughter, Bridget. She and her husband had managed to drive from Vermont to Boston and were at the rehearsal dinner. The message read  simply, “Your flight has been cancelled. I’m so sorry.” Why wasn’t the airline notifying us of this? Minutes later Bridget called to tell us that in spite of what was now being dubbed Winter Storm Hercules, there was a nine o’clock flight from Chicago to Manchester, New Hampshire, available. It was only a couple of hours from Boston.

We sped to the airport. The men dropped Emily and me off before they parked the car so we could try and get us onto the Manchester flight. Our spirits plummeted when we saw the length of the line formed to rebook flights. We would never get to the ticket agent in time to fly to Manchester. It hit me to try and call the airline on my cell phone. After dialing and getting through all the prompts, I was told my wait for an attendant would be 19 to 33 minutes. Oh no! It seemed like there was no way we were going to make it to the wedding. Miraculously, an agent answered the phone in less than a minute and booked us seats on the Manchester flight.

After parking, Bob and Rob raced in to find us standing in a short line waiting to be checked in. After we got our boarding passes, we went through security with 30 minutes to spare before our flight took off. It was smooth sailing from then on. After landing in New Hampshire, we drove to Massachusetts. We checked into our hotel and were curled up in our beds by three o’clock in the morning.

On my birthday I had asked for prayers on Facebook and Twitter to get us to our son’s wedding. That was the only present I wanted. Saturday morning I woke up to an East Coast winter wonderland, knowing I had gotten my wish. I was energized and ready to embrace the day. We were going to our youngest son’s wedding.

The ceremony was more beautiful than my mind could ever have imagined. In spite of 20 guests not being able to make it, the day still overflowed with joy. That evening at the reception, the bride and groom stood up to make an announcement. First they thanked everyone for the great lengths they had gone to to get there. Then Pam said that it was no secret she and Brian were having a baby. A cheer filled the room when we learned they had decided to surprise us all with an unveiling cake. For those who haven’t heard of this, it’s a cake that is either blue or pink on the inside. The gender of the baby is revealed when it’s cut into. When the bride had her last ultrasound, the technician wrote the sex of their baby on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. Pam then mailed it to the baker so she and Brian would be surprised too. It was a such a lovely way to learn that in April we will be welcoming a baby boy, our first grandchild, into the world.

Mrs. and Mr. Brian Shanahan

It's a boy!

It’s a boy!

That night as we lay in bed, Bob and I wondered and worried about our flight back home the next day. The weather was clear and mild in Boston but now Chicago was in the middle of a snowstorm, to be followed by subarctic temperatures.  My husband was quite certain I should have booked an earlier flight. Would our late afternoon flight be cancelled? Me, I truthfully didn’t care. We had made it to Brian and Pam’s wedding.

 Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer. – Harold Adamson

The next morning we learned that all of those scheduled for the eight o’clock flight had gotten out successfully. After that, all the flights were cancelled – all accept ours. We have no idea why.

And so we took off and arrived in Chicago on time that evening. Our airplane landed on a snow-packed runway amidst a winter storm. As we descended, through the snow that blew past my window, I swear I saw an angel glowing on the wing of our plane.

Getting to Brian and Pam’s wedding was the best birthday gift I’ve ever received. How the events played out confirmed the power of prayer to me. It solidified my faith in a benevolent presence that oversees every aspect of our lives. In spite of newscasts and friends calling to tell us we’d probably not make it to Boston, we never gave up hope. If we had listened to them and thrown in the towel, we would not have gotten there. Things may look bleak on the surface, but you never know what’s working in your favor behind-the-scenes. The circumstances in our lives aren’t happening to us, they are happening for us. It’s not necessary for me to try and unravel the mystery of how or why we got to our son’s wedding. I am just happy knowing that for a few days, we lived inside a miracle.

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All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

Don’t Waste the Miracle

Love Came DownThere’s a spiritual energy that covers the earth during the holiday season. It’s that undefinable “something” that makes people more selfless, more friendly and kind when December rolls around. As a child I learned it was called the Christmas spirit. Wise people tap into it and carry it with them throughout the new year.

We all hunger for a spiritual connection. It’s occurred to me that’s what all the frantic shopping and gift giving are about. Remember when you were little, the exhilaration you felt when you found what Santa left for you under the tree? And as adults there’s nothing better than watching a loved one open the “perfect” gift you’ve bought for them. The presents we buy, are our way of trying to capture the joy we’ve learned to associate with the season. A feeling, I believe, we can get long term by having a relationship with the Divine. During the holidays, we’re given an opportunity to discover or renew that connection. By consciously immersing ourselves in that love, we are transformed. All things become new. We feel the wonder of a child again.

Irish mystic, Lorna Byrne, says special angels visit the earth during the December festivities. They come to join us for the celebrations that happen across all the different beliefs and religions. She sees thousands of angels flying over houses and buildings. Lorna explains, “The angels are dropping balls of light to help us adults reconnect with the joy and innocence we felt as children. After the angels have fulfilled their task they head heavenward and disappear.” For me, this explains the mechanics behind the surge of good will I feel this time of year. I’ve learned the easiest way to connect to that energy field is to simply ask the Creator for help. Then, in the quietness of the now, awe will settle upon you.

This year our family is taking a hiatus from gift giving. With our youngest’s wedding January 4 and our first grandchild due in the spring, we thought the break would take the pressure off of everyone. Happily, the Christmas spirit is still intact and stronger than ever in my husband and me. All of our children and their spouses will be home for the holidays. Who could ask for more?

Love still comes down at Christmas. Grab hold of it. Plug into it….don’t waste the miracle.

Me unwrapping the joy on Christmas morning 1963

Me unwrapping the joy on Christmas morning 1963

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All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com