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Defining Magik … from 93 Million Miles Away
It's All in A Hand Tart
So, my Substack is called “Magik,” and I pretty much bring up the idea of magik in every post. I’ve written books on the subject, trying to define something who’s nature itself is to be undefinable, un-abstractable, un-puttable into a box and commodified. I talk about magik via story, memoir, humor, and a (perhaps over-) simplified rundown of human history. It would be easy to rationalize my predestined failure at the endeavor: “Well, it’s what I have to do because of what magik is.”
This Way Fits
That’s not the whole story. I’ve learned through transition in my fifties that I like this approach better than dialectic argument—just as I prefer being the woman I am versus the ill fit of presenting as a man. At its best, it itched like the burrowing edges of a label on a new garment. At its worst (which was most of the time), it left me stunned, harrowed, and despondent without knowing why. Transition has thus been an eternal return to “Ahhhhh, now that feels better.”
As I became more myself, I felt more spontaneous and more natural at encountering reality from an “inside-moves” intuition. I didn’t need to analyze and define everything in the misguided slavery that, if I didn’t do so, everything would turn on me and sear me with pain and regret. This is how I, a person who married an incredible lifemate, raised three amazing now-adults, and who had the luxury (and idiocy) to explore the most ersatz ambitions and life pivots, nonetheless viewed life as a dungeon incarceration, dripping walls, rats, rusty manacles, and all.
Transition revealed the manacles to be silver bracelets, the dripping walls to be trickling streams of honeyed water, the rats my companions in this miracle called existence. After all I had been through, I was something, and not nothing. I exist. Not to bear pain, except by choice and desperate desire. But to live, as myself.
All this didn’t happen with the wave of a magic wand. It dawned on me like the sunrise, that golden orb’s rays reaching out a caress not of Cthulhu tentacles but of embrace, recognition, and love. I suddenly saw that I was made to return to everything with new eyes and taste buds. The warmth of a ray of sun on my once morbid flesh was a gift that revealed that I’m the ultimate gift … to myself.
So, yeah, I’m getting all circuitous and prose-poetical again about magik. SIGH. That’s the nature of the beast that’s not a beast at all, but a bunny.
I can’t hand out magik in a parcel. I’ll tell you what I see, hear, taste, smell, and feel, using the blunt abstractions of language, image, metaphor, memory, and eyewitness testimony. It would be just as effective to tell you that magik is the warmth of the morning sun on my outstretched palm and be done with it. Yet, a sunbeam can’t be “done with.” You and I are made to do something more. To put into words what our partners in creation do effortlessly, unconsciously, in every moment. They live magik so that our thoughts about magik can smile back at us and say, at best,
“I think, Bethany, you’re pointing in the right direction. I’d tell you to journey to what you’re pointing to, but, then again, dear, you’re already there.
You just don’t know it.
And I suppose you have to do the knowing because that’s who you are.
Come along, then.”
Magik means consciously co-creating our existence—not via Papa Culture telling us to be industrious and thrifty members of society. Papa holds us hostage to his culture in his time. A sustained look at human development will show that he’s enforced many cultures that have since crumbled. Remember Ozymandias? Cultures endlessly give way, and Papa is in the business of destroying what he slave-drives us to maintain at all costs … so he can destroy it, like a kid tossing one cherry bomb after another at anything in sight. Some blokes wanna see the world burn.
You and I are conscious co-creators of the Cosmos—not a mere community in a time and place but consciousness itself. And we’re evolutionarily built to know that.
Nature seems mindless and inhuman so long as we think ourselves and the natural world as being on constant, merciless autopilot. In fact, assuming the whole shebang is on autopilot begs the glimmer that we are more than that. If we are on autopilot, we’d never know it because it’s autopilot, people. Set the cruise control, and let ’er go. Wrestling with the steering wheel at the cliff edge, we try to live as if we aren’t ourselves. We battle everything and ourselves because everything seems to be anything but us.
We Had One Job
We’re asleep to our vocation, somnambulantly teetering over the precipice. We are the mind of the cosmos. We’re not the only mind (nor are we merely mind), each one of us a unique expression of Sister Cosmos.
We’ve been granted the gift to know that we’re her expression, that we express beauty, holiness, passion, desire, and more—which doesn’t mean we always know that; in fact, we run from that charge like Peter Pan flies away from growing up.
These pangs don’t come from nothing. They are made of the raw materials of the natural world just as much as the concrete of a parking garage is made from the stuff of the earth and the energy and abstract thinking to transform it into metal, concrete, paint, lights. We use the raw material, the “stuff” of nature, to craft our sandcastles against the ineluctable tide. Thus, we cast nature as mindless, gaping, and monstrous. Thus, we use the very stuff of ourselves to alienate ourselves … from ourselves and our calling. We forget and lose track of where and what we come from. Always our gaze is on the future, the path ahead, obsessed as we are with preserving, against death, our little portion of consciousness that we call our lives. To die is to die to an idea, an abstraction that Papa dangles in front of us. We harness the substance and energies of the universe to rise above the universe, to be anything but who we are. It’s as likely that a tree could pull up its own roots to build wings to the sky. What we miss is that the human tree touches the sky insofar as it deepens its roots.
What then is left? A surprising bit of knowing that’s always dangled before us, just beyond our reach over the canyon rim. The other day, driving to work, I raised my hand to block the piercing light of the rising sun, still low enough on the horizon that my window visor couldn’t block it. As I sat at a red light, I noticed the palm of my hand felt warm. From 93 million miles away, through “space,” earth’s atmosphere, the trees, and my car’s windshield, the sun warmed my palm. Me. Little old me.
It’s always been in the palm of our hand, which is why this weekend, I had to make hand tarts. It’s the universe in a bake. I’m not ending with this recipe. Just beginning to give you my definition of magik. It’s a very tasty way to start. Look for more in coming posts. In the meantime, enjoy what you can brew up from the stuff of yourself, right here at hand.
Hand Tarts (Blueberry and/or Chocolate)
Prep Time: 1hr Cook Time: 18-20min Total Time: 1.5-2.0hrs Difficulty: Medium Servings: 8 or 16 hand pies, depending on whether you make both fillings
Med mixing bowl
Cling film or airtight bag
Wooden spoon/wooden spatula
Parchment paper, or silicone mats
Sm mixing bowl
Pizza cutter, or scotch blade
2⅓C (300g) flour, plain
½t baking powder
2 sticks (200g) unsalted butter, cold
1t lemon juice
¼C (56g) cream cheese, cold
¼C (56g) sour cream, cold
2C (300g) frozen blueberries, thawed
2T (14g) cornstarch
⅓C (67g) granulated (caster) sugar
1T (14g) lemon juice
3oz (80g) dark chocolate of preference, broken into pieces or bought as chips
1t vegetable oil
pinch sea salt crystals
Assembly & Bake
1 lg egg, beaten, for egg wash
2T (25g) turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
1a. Into med bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking powder, then whisk till combined.
1b. Add butter and lemon juice, then work in with fingertips till butter is in pea-sized fragments.
2. By hand, work in cream cheese and sour cream, till mixture comes together in chunks.
3. Tip onto floured workspace, hand rolling into a rough log, one of the short ends facing you. Don't overwork dough, as you want your pastry to form a flaky finished product.
4. Roll to 8x10in (20x25cm) rectangle.
5a. Dust top and bottom of dough with flour.
5b. Short end of rectangle facing you, lift exposed dough at top and fold down over half of dough rectangle.
5c. Fold bottom half of dough over top. You now have a three-layer sandwich.
6. Flip over dough, and turn 90°.
7a. Roll again to 8x10in (20x25cm) rectangle.
7b. Repeat Steps 5b-c.
8. Wrap dough in cling film or airtight bag, and chill 30 min or more.
_Repeat Steps 1-8 if making pies with both fillings._
(You can easily make the filling ahead of time, refrigerating, then setting out to come to room temp.)
9. While dough chills, add blueberries to med saucepan.
10a. Whisk in cornstarch and sugar, till combined.
10b. Whisk in salt and lemon juice, till combined.
11a. Over med-high heat, stir frequently till liquid at bottom of sm saucepan simmers.
11b. Reduce to med-low heat and continue to stir frequently (5 min), till mixture thickens.
12. Pour cooked berry mixture into sm bowl to cool to room temp. (If using only blueberry filling, skip to Step 16.)
(Again, you can easily make the filling ahead of time, refrigerating, then setting out to come to room temp.)
13a. Pour 1in hot tap water into small saucepan and place on sm burner at med-low heat.
13b. Place sm Pyrex bowl into saucepan, making sure bottom of bowl doesn't reach/touch water, to make a bain marie.
14. Into bain marie, pour chocolate pieces/chips, oil, and sea salt. Occasionally stir with spatula till chocolate is completely melted.
15. Remove bain marie from heat and set aside to slightly cool.
ASSEMBLY & BAKE
16. Preheat oven to 425°F/220°C (450°F/230°C, High Altitude), with rack in middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
17. Remove chilled pastry from fridge and roll to 14" x 14" square.
18. With pizza cutter, slice out 16 3.5in (cm) squares.
19. Dollop heaping tablespoon of filling per each of 8 of the squares, leaving generous border between filling and edge of square. (These will be your tart bottoms; the other 8 will be the tart tops, which need no filling.)
20. Brush egg wash along edges of each filled bottom. Set aside remaining egg wash.
21. With knife, cut vents into each of the eight square tops.
22. Top each filled square bottom with a vented square top
23. Press edges with fork tines to seal each hand tart.
24a. Transfer tarts to lined baking sheet(s).
24b. Brush top of each tart with remaining beaten egg, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
25. Bake 18-20 min, till mystically golden brown.
26. Upon removing from oven, cool 20 min before serving.
Hand tarts store well in airtight container at room temp for a few days, longer in fridge. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.