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On Writing - The Magician & the Horse

October 5, 2017

blog from Debra Bowling

In my second novel (working title, SCARECROWS AT NIGHT), the main character, Jesse, decides she will cover a large wooden sign that is in the shape of a cow with tin metal roofing. I imagined her rolling pieces of tin around the flat wood and fastening the ends on the underside. It would then become 3-D, more like the size and shape of a real cow. Would this work? I asked a couple of friends who are always building things about the various ways my character could do this – particularly back in 1938. After a few discussions, I was still a bit unsure about the process and it seemed a bit daunting to actually try to cover a wooden sign myself. After all, was “this cow” that important to the story?

The emphasis on this cow, reminded me of the pig in the book, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, and I smiled while briefly thinking about the book, and then moved on to work on another part of the story. Months later, I stopped at a hardware store to pick up a housewarming gift on my way to a gathering and while walking up to the door, I saw a horse – a tin metal horse, made as I had imagined the cow would be made and about the size of a pony. I was amazed that a horse in tin was right before me!

After looking it over, I went inside the store and bought the gift I came for and hurried back out, checking out the horse once again. It was standing near Christmas trees and small outside yard art – however there were no other large tin animals around. After sliding my hand softly across the tin back, I reluctantly left. While en route to my gathering, I decided that I would go back and see how much the horse cost – not that I had much money, but I could at least take a picture. Maybe I could even talk with the artist.

A visit a few weeks later revealed that the horse was gone. I asked store clerks about the horse and they all blankly looked at me and shook their heads, one asking if I was sure I was at the hardware store because a tin horse is not something they would normally have. I left with the name and telephone number of a manager who orders for the store. That person gave me the names of their suppliers, but also noting they occasionally take in pieces from individual artists. But no one else had seen or sold the horse.

I realized then that this was likely the work of the Greek god, Hermes. He had probably rode the horse to the hardware store and hid – departing on the same said horse after I left. Hermes has been known to be a Trickster – deceitful, quick, cunning, and playful. He is the protector of travelers, thieves, athletes, and fools, but still likes to play jokes on them – or rather scare them out of their wits. He is the trusted messenger of the gods and guided souls into the underworld, usually showing up at night in disturbing dreams or in chance meetings or other strange twists of fate. Some refer to him as the Magician – appearing as if by magic at critical moments to make things connect.

Others of you might just define this as synchronicity, a term explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung, as meaningful coincidences that occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningful. Or maybe, serendipity, defined by Horace Walpole in 1754, as fortunate happenstance or pleasant surprise. Whatever one chooses to call it, this curious coincidence, this visit by the Magician has illuminated this cow – given her meaning – such as the spider created meaning for the pig in Charlotte’s Web. I see it. I think I get it. “That cow” will reveal something important. Whatever will unfold in the story because of her? I must write and wait until she reveals herself.

From Debra Bowling’s blog at Sign up to receive updates and blogs on the newsletter tab.