. . . When I was little--and by that I mean from the time I was six months old until I was four or so--I lived in California. Berkely: just across the bay from that marvelous, mountainous city of delicious bread and crabs.
My aunt also lived there, not far from our house. She had been all over the world, to Europe and Malaysia, India and Japan. She was a storyteller, and told the most wonderful stories.
There is one that still comes to mind even now, a quarter of a century after, though I remember of it only a single moment. I don't remember the setting. India, maybe. Probably. A brown-skinned girl with a hoop of gold through one nostril goes down to the beach and climbs a tree.
In the crotch of the tree, she finds a blue bottle. And holding it up, she gazes through its glass and sees a ship coming into the harbor. A strange and fabulous ship.
I don't remember what it carried, whether it was pirates or fabrics or spice. All I remember is that nothing in the story was the same after that. That the moment the girl first glimpses the ship was the moment the story really began.
Afterwards, I asked my aunt, "Was the blue glass bottle magic?"
And she answered, "Oh, no. It was just a bottle."
But she was wrong. It was magic. For through its medium, the girl first apprehends the marvelous ship that comes, that changes her life, that subsumes her middling, quotidian world into another, far richer and stranger one.
That story my aunt told me is the first time I can remember being aware of "the magical moment." . . .