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Archive for September, 2013

Angel StatueIn “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” author Gabriel Garcia Marquez weaves the natural with the supernatural in an unexpected yet stimulating way. It leaves us to ask ourselves what our response would if we were confronted with the supernatural right outside our door.

By blending the mundane and repugnant parts of life with the miraculous, Marquez effectively uses a creative tone and unique style to create a story that conveys elements of everyday life, yet supersedes it. His story invites us, as readers, to look a little closer at the events in our lives and determine how we are responding to the mundane we face. He inspires us to take a second glance at the not-quite-normal events that whisper a deeper meaning. His tale implies that the mingling of mundane with miraculous could change our lives, if we look at them with the right perspective.

The tone of the story is set in the beginning, with the most natural and unwelcome of occurrences: a sick child in the midst of drab and inclement weather. In the first few sentences, Marquez’ writing style immediately grabs the imagination as he writes, “The world had been sad since Tuesday.” In the first paragraph, he then brings in a magical element by introducing the surreal character of an old man with enormous wings. Marquez immediately shatters any mindsets we have of powerful and holy angels by placing him face down in the mud and unable to extricate himself, “impeded by his enormous wings.”

With a hint of irony, we read that the very objects that should have empowered this man to fly above the elements – his wings – instead hindered him and brought him no end of unwanted attention. This tone of irony is weaved throughout the story. We see it in the “wise old woman” who determined that the old man with wings was an angel … and then suggested clubbing him to death. We see it in the wording Marquez chose when he stated that the husband and wife “felt magnanimous” when they opted to set the angel afloat on a raft with enough food to last him a few days … “and leave him to his fate on the high seas.”

In parts of the story, the author’s tone conveys a sense of regret that humanity, as a whole, fails to appreciate the “magic” that is part of our lives. Instead of appreciating an experience and living fully in the moment, we tend to look at “what’s in it for me”. When the husband and wife, Pelayo and Elisenda, decide to exploit the angel by having the onlookers pay to see him, this sense of selfishness and greed is apparent. Here, again, we are given the opportunity to imagine what we might do if faced with a similar situation. No angel is going to fall from the sky into my yard on a stormy day, but in the daily run of things, how am I using the opportunities presented to me? Gabriel Garcia Marquez invites us to ask ourselves questions such as these not in a sermon but through a story.

In his unique use of magical realism, Marquez also weaves those natural tendencies of humanity with supernatural elements, creating scenes that make me want to read the story again, to see if I missed something important. As if perhaps the magic can spread beyond the pages of the book and into the world around me. For instance, the angel is so much “man” that Father Gonzaga notices he’s “much too human.” He smells. Everything about him is opposite of everything we picture as angelic and holy. But when looking closer, angelic character can be glimpsed in the pages, such as his unending patience. He endures the mistreatment – being locked up with the chickens, pushed around, poked and prodded. He doesn’t fight back. He waits … almost as if he knows it’s only for a time. This, if nothing else, is a sign of the angel’s supernatural origin – his bearing in the midst of trauma. Perhaps we also, in spite of very human and sometimes unsavory circumstances, can manifest attributes of patience and endurance. The story invites me to determine that it is possible.

Finally, towards the end of the story, the angel’s patience is rewarded. His wings sprout new feathers with the dawning of spring. The tone and setting of the story match the action. The long and dreary winter is over. New life is beginning all around, and within. Like the rest of the angel, those new feathers are straggly and unimpressive, “the feathers of a scarecrow, which look more like another misfortune of decrepitude.”

But they are enough.

He looks to the sky, feels the breeze, and begins to fly, slowly at first but rising higher and eventually disappearing over the ocean, beyond the blue.

Elisenda watches from the kitchen. We read that “she kept on watching until it was no longer possible for her to see him, because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.” What a strange juxtaposition of her emotions against clearly supernatural circumstances. Elisenda is watching an angel take flight – the same angel that provided her and her husband with enough money to build a two-story mansion – and she feels nothing but relief that this annoyance is gone. At the end, just as in the beginning, a normal person is confronted with surreal events, and fails to see it for the amazing happening that it is. Elisenda likely never truly appreciates the miracle that entered her life unexpectedly and left just as abruptly.

With the tone that the author sets in the ending, we are left to ask yet another question:

How many times do we glance up for a moment, see a glimpse of something beyond the ordinary, and just look away?

How often are we confronted with something amazing and fail to see it for what it is because we refuse to get past the question, “What’s in it for me?”

With his use of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez opens the door to some interesting questions and invites the reader to not only enter a place of imagination and mystery, but also to look into one’s own thoughts and actions and see how they measure up against the elements of everyday life.

 

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autumnI felt it today. It whispered to me on the edge of the morning air as I stepped outside on my way to college. I wanted to stop, to feel it more fully. To watch the sun, which tinged the sky in pink and purple, fill the horizon with gold. But I needed to get to college … to my first class of the day. So I rolled down the window and the feeling mingled with the music from the radio.

The first hint of autumn is in the air.

I saw it last week, as I walked from one class to another. It fell silently to the ground in front of me. A dry, dead, brown leaf. It was beautiful. I wanted to stop. To pick it up. To feel it more fully. I wanted to write about it. But I was rushing to my next class and couldn’t stop.

But I saw it there again today. With friends. Leaves brown and crisp gathered at the base of the chain-link fence. On the sidewalk at my feet. On the railroad tracks where they would be ushered again into the air with the warm smoke of the next engine to come by, or the rush of the cars on the tracks.

By midday it had disappeared – that hint of fall in the air – and I felt I had lost something. The feeling that, when you don’t write or think or dream or pray that moment, you’ve missed something and it will never come out quite the same again. And all day I felt like I was trying to catch up with something that I had forgotten or left behind.

But maybe tomorrow morning it will be there again. That whispering magic of autumn that traces every bit of nature. The golden air and sky drifting down to the leaves and glinting first the edges with gold. Then the colors spring from nowhere and are everywhere. Red. Yellow. Orange. Brown. And gold.

The sigh of summer passes and I take a breath, breathing in anticipation, excitement, wonder. The coming season, like a song, wakens something in the soul and it opens its eyes knowing that wonder waits around the bend.

I felt it today. The first hint of autumn … when awe and adventure seek to write themselves into the pages of every day.

September has scarcely begun, but I pray I will have time … will make time … to stop, to listen, to feel, to write, and to thank the Giver of life and love, of seeing and feeling, of every season.

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