Butterflies or Memories?

In 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a whole town dies from nostalgia. For some reason, I took that as a warning. He (as I remember, and I read it a long time ago) made some beautiful metaphors for nostalgia, too. In one, which remains very vivid in my mind, a very old woman opens a chest which holds her wedding dress and there is nothing inside but butterflies. This kind of writing has been labeled as “magical realism,” — a phrase I don’t completely understand. I understood the chest to be the woman’s mind and the butterflies representative of her youth, young love, hopes and dreams. To me the whole episode was totally realistic.

The definition for magic realism in Wikipedia (where I went for the link above) is, itself, a little problematic for me. ‘Magical realism’…often refers to fiction and literature in particular with magic or the supernatural presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting.” It’s not my favorite genre. Too easily manipulated (now it’s been labeled).

And, I wonder, how much do we know about reality — or mundanity — that we can possibly enhance it with (or eliminate the possibility of) “magic” or the supernatural? Whether it’s explainable by science or not, a crocus pushing its head through the snow in February is pretty magical, the stars at night have always been objects of wonder, dread and “supernatural” navigation help, and snow? After plowing (metaphorically) through the after-effects of June’s small flood at my slough — the leavings of my winter’s miraculous snow — I couldn’t help be amazed even as I swatted mosquitoes and perspired. I thought, “This is all my beautiful snow!” Hay farmers are getting 3 cuttings this year, thanks to that miracle of white. Nature, the source of all real magic. And no, it’s not all “good” from a human perspective.

Reality is pretty magical.

Still, alerted to the dangers of nostalgia, I tried to be careful writing the China book not to allow my nostalgia to color the experience too brightly. Nostalgia does cause a spectrum shift. I hope I succeeded in conveying the beauty I perceived and the love I felt without dipping the whole experience in butterflies.


13 thoughts on “Butterflies or Memories?

  1. Yes, reality is magical. The more quantum mechanics I read, the more magical reality becomes. It seems clear to me that each of us is creating our own separate realities. Sometimes enough of us agree on a reality and bring that into existence.

    • I had a mental breakdown in 1994 and it stemmed from (besides brain chemicals and menopause) asking the question, “What’s real, anyway?” Over the next few months I was launched into a real world that was unlike anything I’d perceived before. Reality is not a matter of consensus and there are existing facts. The question led me to examining things I never thought to examine before. Quantum Mechanics is fascinating but in a certain sense not very useful on a day-to-day level even when we are acting within it, making choices about our reality. It’s a fascinating paradox that I try not think of all that often. Now I ask the question, “Where am I and how do I want this to be?” ❤

  2. I joined a book club years ago that focused on speculative fiction. I think we read some magic realism. 😊 I’m not a fan of snow or floods, but nature really is amazing, how it all works together, even when it seems to be working against itself at times. It is really magical.

Comments are closed.