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MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY

For a long time now- a few years, maybe- I’ve been thinking in the back of my mind how cool it would be to send people little notes and pictures, on scraps of paper. Like, if I had infinite resources, I would mail people postcards with tiny instructions. Or a poem. Or a story that made them think about something they never considered before. Something short, and unexpected, something to take a person out of time for a moment, and make that person appreciate that moment. Appreciate this lovely magic that is being alive. Even if it were because of sadness.

There’s a weekly email I get from this man, M. Van Vleet  where he tells little stories and he’s an interesting dude, in general. He’s written books. I can’t describe him. But in any case, he has sent me a few postcards. Each time, it was unexpected. I think once or twice, I entered a contest he had, and won, and the prize was just this silly postcard. One of them was a postcard of an old timey movie poster with a scantily clad lady hanging from a rope and monsters around her, I think. M. Van Vleet wrote me a short, kind message on the other side.

The joy I received from this postcard was completely disproportionate to the thing that it was. I should not have been so excited! But I was. I don’t know why, but if I could guess, I would say it was because I wasn’t expecting it. And because it was mysterious, from someone I sort of know but don’t. Because it was beautiful in a campy, nostalgic way. And maybe most of all, because I could hold it in my hand. It was a human connection that did not involve a screen like the one you are looking at now.

There’s a book I read over and over again as a teenager, that I don’t want to read again now, because I think it would spoil it. The book is, of course, Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse. Why I, as a thirteen-year-old American girl, related so much to a middle-aged man in Germany, I have no idea. I guess it is a credit to the talent of the great Hermann Hesse. I read that book over and over again. What I liked most about it was the magic. Underneath the streets was another place, where Harry didn’t belong, but he went there, anyway. The sign above the door said, “MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.”

It’s sort of a trick, really. Magic is for everybody. But the sign makes you feel special, like you might be the only one who will be worthy. Or maybe it makes you afraid- will they let you in?

Underneath that, in a reflection, are the words,

“FOR MADMEN ONLY!”

And with those words, Hesse took everyone who’d ever felt they didn’t belong, and he pulled them under his wing. (What kind of wing would he have had? A bat wing? A crow? Perhaps he had wings like a raven. What I wouldn’t give to have a cup of tea with Hermann Hesse.)

Ever since then, I’ve been longing for the day when I am walking down the street, and I find a little door- a door that I have, curiously, never seen before, although I’ve walked this street a million times before, and over the little door is a sign, “MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.” I’ve been walking and looking for thirty years, and I have never seen the sign.

But I have seen other things.

I have seen other things, but rarely on the internet. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but rarely. All of the magic seems to happen in that IRL space, where our meat bodies meet. Where you hobble out to your mailbox, and you open a letter and see a familiar scrawl. A doodle.  A note from the great beyond.

I have come to believe that we need to add magic to the world. Coloring Inside the Dreams was my attempt at that. I labeled it a coloring book, but it really was a love letter to the nearly lost art of creating magic. (Ironically for sale at Amazon.com.)

I’ve been wanting, for a long time, to do something not so public. Not on the internet. Just sending letters. Notes and pictures. To people like you. I want to write you a little poem, or give you some strange instructions. A dare. Or maybe a story that is from the great beyond. Ethereal. You read it, then maybe you lose it. But you remember it. A glimmer. A reflection on a sidewalk. A sign, over a little door.

MAGIC THEATER—ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY

But I always came up against the sad fact of money. Stamps and paper and ink. They cost money. And my time. Darn. But it does, right? That’s just how it is. Everything costs money. Although, not too expensive, actually. Just a little money.

So… I have created a doorway, now. I’ve got a Patreon account. To support magic. (What have we come to? I know. I know.) And there’s a few levels, because I know some people really do like my coloring books, so you can pay a little bit and see what lies beyond the little magic door (receive scraps of paper from me once a month, always including a pen and ink drawing and some writing), or you can pay a bit more and receive the letters plus all of my books, coloring and whatever else, whenever I print them. Two copies: one to color and one to keep. They will be mailed straight to you, no Amazon involved.

Open the door.
Open the door to magic.

I think perhaps one person will sign up, and you will be very special.

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Zurgioch the Last Unicorn

The Cat and Crow ordered another weird wooly creature sculpture from me. That was a while ago. It was summertime, and impossible to find time to do a large creative project without someone asking, “What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Who is it for? That doesn’t look like a unicorn!” Etc. So now that school has finally gone back into session, I had time to do a new wooly creature for the Cat and Crow.

 

Her name is Zurgioch. I don’t know why. That’s just what she told me.  Continue reading Zurgioch the Last Unicorn

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T-Rex in High Heels

My coloring book fans are goofy! I guess that isn’t surprising. In the Artsy Fartsy Coloring with Shoshanah Marohn group on Facebook, I’m running a contest where the prize is that you get to tell me what to draw! Tina won (there can be more than one winner) and she wanted me to draw a T-Rex in high heels, running from a lady with a flare. (She thought it was stupid how the lady in Jurassic World ran, like, forty miles in high heels, so she wanted me to balance the scales a little.) 


Marilyn was actually the first to win, and she asked me to draw a circus poster for a guy boxing a kangaroo. 

Join the group if you like. I recommend it. You can be a lurker, or a full on coloring artist. I appreciate everyone.

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Color Henry David Thoreau with a Wood Trush

from Birds in Beards 2: Dead Poets Edition

Henry David Thoreau by Shoshanah Marohn

Thoreau is kind of a cheat. He wasn’t a poet. I just thought, what a weird beard!

“This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”

-Henry David Thoreau, June 1853, writing about a Wood Thrush

Buy the book here. PDF version here

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Color Luís Vaz de Camões with a Halcyon

Poet Luís Vaz de Camões

According to my friend Rui Afonso: XVI century… self exiled in military in North Africa due to an unrequited love. Lost his eye but lived to write the Epic poem that tells the story of the Portuguese Discoveries.

Poems don’t translate well, but here is a poem of his in Portuguese (Don’t speak Portuguese? Learn it!):

As Alcióneas aves triste canto
Junto da costa brava levantaram,
Lembrando-se do seu passado pranto,
Que as furiosas águas lhe causaram.
Os delfins namorados entretanto
Lá nas covas marítimas entraram,
Fugindo à tempestade e ventos duros,
Que nem no fundo os deixa estar seguros.

“Os Lusiadas” – Canto VI, Stanza 77
Buy the book here.  PDF version here.

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Color Walt Whitman with a Brown Thrush

From Birds in Beards 2: Dead Poets Edition:

Walt Whitman by Shoshanah Marohn

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

1
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
2
O powerful western fallen star!
O shades of night—O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d—O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.
3
In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
4
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.
Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.
Song of the bleeding throat,
Death’s outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know,
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would’st surely die.)
5
Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards,
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.
6
Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veil’d women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—where amid these you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells’ perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.
7
(Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring,
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you O sane and sacred death.
All over bouquets of roses,
O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you O death.)
8
O western orb sailing the heaven,
Now I know what you must have meant as a month since I walk’d,
As I walk’d in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me night after night,
As you droop’d from the sky low down as if to my side, (while the other stars all look’d on,)
As we wander’d together the solemn night, (for something I know not what kept me from sleep,)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west how full you were of woe,
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool transparent night,
As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you sad orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.
9
Sing on there in the swamp,
O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call,
I hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain’d me,
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.
10
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?
Sea-winds blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till there on the prairies meeting,
These and with these and the breath of my chant,
I’ll perfume the grave of him I love.
11
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?
Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.
12
Lo, body and soul—this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio’s shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover’d with grass and corn.
Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill’d noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.
13
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
You only I hear—yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,)
Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me.
14
Now while I sat in the day and look’d forth,
In the close of the day with its light and the fields of spring, and the farmers preparing their crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb’d winds and the storms,)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how they sail’d,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages,
And the streets how their throbbings throbb’d, and the cities pent—lo, then and there,
Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail,
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.
Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still.
And the singer so shy to the rest receiv’d me,
The gray-brown bird I know receiv’d us comrades three,
And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.
From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.
And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night,
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.
Come lovely and soothing death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later delicate death.
Prais’d be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious,
And for love, sweet love—but praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding death.
Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.
Approach strong deliveress,
When it is so, when thou hast taken them I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss O death.
From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose saluting thee, adornments and feastings for thee,
And the sights of the open landscape and the high-spread sky are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.
The night in silence under many a star,
The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,
And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veil’d death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song,
Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields and the prairies wide,
Over the dense-pack’d cities all and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee O death.
15
To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.
Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.
While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.
And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc’d with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.
I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.
16
Passing the visions, passing the night,
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands,
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul,
Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.
I cease from my song for thee,
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous with silver face in the night.
Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night,
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star with the countenance full of woe,
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well,
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—and this for his dear sake,
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.
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Arting and Stuff

1. Decide on a theme. (In this case: Birds in Beards 2: Dead Poets.)

2. Research. Poets? Poems? Birds?

3. Decide on a subject. (In this case: John Burroughs.)


4. Decide on an animal. In this case, a Cardinal (because it is a snow bird, and Burroughs had a poem about snow birds).

5. Sketch in pencil.

6. Draw in pen.

7. Erase pencil.

8. Maybe I put it into a coloring book. And maybe I burn it! It all depends. Artistic Temperament. It happens.

P.S. There were two new lambs this morning: both female. I am so happy about that. They are both black— top hats! Felted top hats! This is what we will make with their wool, if they survive and thrive.