New World Symphony: Takes a Troupe

“I don’t know how you do it,” Jaclyn said to Cypress.

“Do what?”

“Stay married. To the same person. And not only that, live with him, day after day after bloody day.”


Cypress laughed. “We’re happy!” she said. “I love McRae. He makes every day fun.”

“I love Davion, too,” replied Jaclyn, “but that doesn’t mean I want to be around him every single day. I’m getting tired of feeling like my wings are clipped.”

“But you’re free, right?” Cypress said. “My mom always said that in the right love, you find you’re free, and that’s what it’s like for me with McRae.”


Jaclyn walked Cypress and Sempervirens out to the road.

“It’s not how I feel it,” said Jaclyn.

“Why don’t you come over tomorrow?” Cypress suggested. “I’ll show you the garden.”

“We can have ice cream!” Sempervirens said.

“For ice cream, I’ll come!” Jaclyn replied. She knew that Cypress really wanted her to get a taste of their style of domestic bliss: two tents and a kitchen in a big meadow. It wouldn’t change how she felt, Jaclyn knew this. But they were neighbors and friends, and she knew her love of freedom was in no danger of being persuaded away.


She woke in a far better mood. The birds were singing, she was alone in her big bed, and she wasn’t expecting Davion to call or drop by.

She loved Davion, there was no doubt about that. And it had been her idea that he become her boyfriend. It wasn’t him–it was the whole “being a couple” thing that brought her down.

But this morning, with the sun shining on the empty road and not a single letter or bill waiting for her in her mailbox, she felt free!


Sparkroot and Florinda Tea ran over the hill and through the meadow and dropped by just as Jaclyn was washing up the morning dishes.

“Are we too late for tea?” Sparkroot asked.

“You’re just in time for elevenses!” said Jaclyn.

“Ha! I told Ama we’d get our something to eat here! You’re always eating!”


Jaclyn chuckled. “Can’t do to let one’s stomach grumble, now, can it?”

“I think that must be why you’re always happy! You always have something yummy and sweet to look forward to!”

“Well, I’m not always happy,” said Jaclyn, “but I did just get a fresh jar of marmalade that will taste absolutely delicious on a toasted muffin! And that’s something to smile about, certainly!”


“We can’t stick around too long, Spark,” Florinda said. “We’re going to Little Green’s. You wanna come, Auntie Jac?”

“Why, I certainly do!” replied Jaclyn. “I was headed over that way myself. Shall I toast the muffins so we can eat and go?”

“Yes!” shouted Sparkroot. “With marmalade!”


Sparkroot and Florinda’s ama was there to join them when they arrived at the big meadow.

“I brought over some basil seeds,” Cathy said.


Sempervirens and Bryant Cho were having a conversation about family domestic arrangements.

“So, I live with my mom and dad, and you do, too, right Bryant?”

“No,” he said, “I live with my sissy and my ma.”

“Oh. Well, Jennifer and Bridget live with their mom but not their dad, and their dad lives with Mikaela’s mom but Mikaela’s dad lives with Pierce and Pierce’s mom. Whose mom does your dad live with, Florinda?”


“Nobody, right, Ama?” said Florinda.

“That’s right,” said Cathy Tea. “Your dad lives by himself in his white and blue house and we live in our house.”

“But he comes and visits,” said Florinda.


“We don’t even live in a house,” said Sempervirens. “We live in two tents, a kitchen, and a meadow!”

“When I grow up, I want to live in a forest! And I want all the moms and all the dads and all the kids to live together!” said Florinda. “Then, it’s not so complicated! You want to see your ada? Fine! He’s right there!”


“That sounds a lot like my people’s way,” said Jaclyn. “My mother’s people, they lived together in tree-tops, all the elvene, and every man was your Osi’Tan, and every woman was your Osi’Nys. Selde were raised by the troupe.”

Florinda  imagined what that would be like. The more she thought about it, the less sure she was that it would really be something worth wishing for. Maybe she didn’t want to live in a forest with the whole tribe.


Sure, it was fun to see her ada now and then–but not too often. Sometimes, their house was more peaceful when he was at his house and not visiting over.

And she sure wouldn’t want him to help raise Little Green or Bryant. What if he yelled at them, the way he sometimes liked to yell?

On the other hand, if they were raised by the whole village, then that would mean that she could also be raised by Little Green’s dad, Knox McRae.

Florinda thought that she would like that. Knox was a very kind and gentle man.

“Can I stay the night?” Florinda whispered to Little Green.

“Sure!” said Sempervirens, and they asked all the adults if it was OK.

After her mom and Sparkroot left for their home, and Jaclyn left for hers, and Bryant walked up the big hill to his house, Florinda sat in the kitchen with just Cypress, Knox, and Sempervirens, as if she were part of the family. Knox asked, “Would you like something to eat, Flor?”

He said it with such a kind voice, and his eyes were soft and gentle, too, and he smiled a real smile.

While she sat at the table with her stuffed potato, Florinda pretended, just for a moment, that this was her home and that he was her uncle–or maybe even, her dad, and that he always spoke to her with so much tenderness and kindness., without ever raising his voice. What a different world that would be!


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New World Symphony: Baggage

On her way home from Jaclyn’s, Cathy met Sempervirens.

“Out for an evening walk?” Cathy asked.

“Looking for fireflies,” Sempervirens said. “Do you know sometimes the lights disappear? Where do the fireflies go?”


“Maybe they’re not fireflies!”

“What else would they be?” Sempervirens asked.

“Dancing lights over the meadows–what do you think they could be?”

“When I was a baby, I thought they were fairies, but Pierce at school says fairies are make-believe. Do you think Pierce is right?”

“Pierce probably is right about a lot of things, but like everybody, he’s also going to be wrong about some things. I’ve got a hunch that you might know best in this area.”

Sempervirens looked out over the meadow, where at that moment five yellow lights were dancing above the buttercups.

“Hey, Squid,” Cathy said. “I’ve got some news to share with you. What would you think about a new friend to play with?”


“I love new friends!” said Sempervirens. “Me and Jennifer are thinking of starting a club.”

“Good,” said Cathy, “because I’m going to have a baby. Think the baby could join the club when it becomes a kid?”

“Yahoo! Jumping tadpole tales!” said Sempervirens. “That’s the best news! A new kid in the neighborhood!”


It was late when Cathy got home. She wanted to tell Sugar next. Sugar was the natural leader of this community, always making the rounds, keeping track of every new development, always there when something was happening. It just made sense that she’d be one of the first to know. Besides, she and Cathy were great friends.

She invited her over in the morning.

Cathy expected her to be overjoyed at the news–her wide-eyed shock surprised her.


But not nearly as much as the anger that followed.

“You simply can’t. How could you? I can’t believe it. This is so irresponsible. So regrettable! What were you thinking?” Sugar could barely get her words out.


“I’ve never seen you so angry,” Cathy said. “I thought you’d be happy.”

“I would be happy if it were with anyone else. But Brennan? Do you even know what he is? Where is he from, anyway? What is he made of? I sense things about him, about where he came from and why he smells like sulfur. I just can’t believe how irresponsible first that you even brought him here, and now, that you’d have a kid with him? It’s dangerous to all of us and everything. Bringing people into this world bears a responsibility.”


“I’m sorry,” Cathy said. “The wish was a whim. I realize that. But I love him. I can’t believe that anything connected with such love can be bad.”

“Love doesn’t excuse foolishness,” Sugar said. “It might cause it, but it’s no excuse.”


Cathy shared with her the conversation she’d had with Jaclyn the day before.

“I can’t help but feel that there’s something greater at work here,” she said. “I don’t feel that any of this has been my choosing. It’s been something that needed to be done, and it’s being done through me, but none of it, not even that rose-water wish that brought Brennan here, is something that I woke up deciding I would do.”

“What was Jaclyn’s reaction when you told her you were expecting?” Sugar asked.

“She was excited. She actually whooped and did a fist-pump!” Cathy leaned in and whispered to Sugar. “She fed me sparkroot and flower petal sandwiches,” she confided. “For transformation, she said.”


Sugar breathed a deep sigh of relief and laughed.

“So you went to the midwife and she put it all right?” Sugar asked.

Cathy nodded.

“All right. My anger was premature,” Sugar said. “Still, you gotta be careful in this. You can’t just go blundering into things you don’t understand.”


Sugar stayed close to Cathy the rest of the day, watching her carefully while she went about her morning activities, gardening, baking, painting, and watching the clouds trace patterns in the sky.

“All right,” said Sugar towards evening, “I’ll be heading off, then. Call that husband of yours and share the news with him. Can’t do to surprise him with something like this after the fact. You just be sure you check in with Jaclyn with any questions or worries, and do everything she tells you, to the letter.”

It was easy to agree with such sound advice.


Brennan came over at nightfall. He had an inexplicable touch of melancholy which the damp scents of the garden only deepened.


“You look a little ripened, my butterfly,” he said when Cathy greeted him at the door.

She giggled. “That’s one way to put it.”


She kissed his cheek. “We’re expecting,” she said. “Turns out I’m not too old after all!”

“Holy Jehosaphat!” Brennan shouted. “Who’s the man? Who’s the boss? You’re looking at him!”


Cathy went in to prepare a supper of pasta with spinach and pumpkin seeds while Brennan stood at the stone threshold, sighing and smiling.

Before Cathy called him in for supper, onezero arrived. She and Brennan stood before the door without exchanging a word.


Brennan waited while Cathy came out to share their news with onezero. He would never tire of hearing her say this.


onezero feigned surprise, and then she shrugged and said, “I know already. Why else would I come tonight? I heard from Sugar, I heard from Jaclyn, but before that, I heard from the one thousand. It’s meant to be, plain and simple.”


After supper, Cathy and onezero sat together on the couch while Brennan played video games.

“Would you like to spend the night?” Cathy asked. Somehow, she didn’t really want to be alone that night.

“Won’t Brennan be staying?” onezero asked.

“No,” said Cathy. “He never stays. Spiders, you know.”

The two friends talked well into the night, after Brennan left and the moon rose and the dancing yellow lights came out over the meadows.

“What was it like to have one parent that was a normal person and the other parents from another realm?” Cathy asked.

“Oh,” said onezero, “Chandler Adam was hardly normal! He had a kind and cheerful heart, my father did, and so, I always knew that I had been born in the right place. Your child will feel the same because of you.”


While onezero slept in the upstairs room, Cathy played the piano. Even with the pregnancy, she could hardly sleep–there was just so much energy swirling around and within! It was something that music could express better than thoughts or words. She turned to Brahms and let the complexities of his intermezzo convey the feelings within her that she had yet to discover.


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New World Symphony: Room


Cathy Tea wanted more room. Not for Brennan: they were happy living in separate houses. Not for a double-bed: the thickets suited their wild times just fine.


But she’d run out of room for hanging paintings. She’d always wanted a rooftop garden. And she thought it might be nice to have a launchpad for the rocket ship on the roof, too.


But mostly, she needed room for this.


She had thought she was too old to conceive, but with so much magick filtering into this new world, the old laws seemed to give way.


The first one she wanted to tell was her neighbor Jaclyn. When she thought about it, she realized that Jaclyn had been along on every step of her engagement and marriage to Brennan.

What kind of enchantment was that? She, who’d never wanted to marry, now found herself with a husband, a wishing well man opposite her in nearly every regard.

Jaclyn had been there at each turn.

When she had arrived at Jaclyn’s cottage, a voice had called out, “Come in, Cathy!”

But Cathy entered to find no one at home. The kitchen was empty. There was no one upstairs.


No one was out by the pool.


No one was on the patio. Who had called her?


She was about to leave when she heard Jaclyn’s voice. “I was expecting you,” Jaclyn said as she came in through the front door. “Do you have news?”


“I do have news!” Cathy said. “But I’m guessing you already know.”


Jaclyn laughed. “There is the knowing that we know. And then there is the knowing that we learn. I want to learn what I already know, and I want you to tell me! Something happens when the words are spoken.”


“Besides,” continued Jaclyn, “Won’t it feel good to tell someone?”


They sat together at the table.

“I’m sure you can tell by looking at me,” Cathy said. “It’s not a flu that turns my stomach.”


“Go on!” said Jaclyn. “Say the words!”


“Brennan and I are expecting,” confided Cathy.


“Carrots, turnips, and rutabagas!” Jaclyn shouted. “Pots in the oven and simmer on the stove!”


Jaclyn laughed. “This is wonderful news. This is what it’s all about.”

“But I’ve never really wanted to be a mom,” Cathy confided.

“Sure,” said Jaclyn, “but what does what we really want have to do with our destiny? Not much, when it comes right down to it.”


“That seems a little backwards,” replied Cathy. “Aren’t we the masters of our own destiny?”

“Maybe fools are!” said Jaclyn. “But once you step into rune, something else happens entirely. Did I ever tell you how I came about?”

“Something about a tree and a wedding ceremony?”

“No, no!” laughed Jaclyn. “I was the result of a long debate.”


“For generations–eons, really–elves and hobbits lived peacefully apart. They hadn’t much to do with each other, and they hadn’t much need to change. As a result, elves became more ethereal, and hobbits became more earthy.”

“I can see how that could happen,” Cathy said, “what with elves dining on pollen and nectar, and hobbits squeezing in elevenses after second breakfast and full suppers after dinner!”

“It was all fine when in woods and meadows we were free to roam, with rune in every mushroom and  every piece of honeycomb, but when the trees were felled and the fields were plowed, and the world began to shrink, we had no place to go! Elves were too light for nomdish eyes. Hobbits could scramble under branch and briar, but through the years, they’d lost their touch. They were little more than squat nomdish theirselves! So my grandparents and my great uncles and aunts and all the old ones began to plan. They realized it was time for something new! A kind of kin who could carry rune in a form strong enough for this world here! So that’s how I came about!”

“You mean, like a breeding project or genetic engineering?” Cathy asked. “But how unromantic is that!”

“Oh, there was plenty of romance!” said Jaclyn. “You should have seen my ada and ama! They were so in love. When there’s a need, and something rises to fill that need, it is often love that steps into the space.”

Cathy thought about the wishing well and her inexplicable, undeniable love for Brennan.


“Now you stay here for a little while,” Jaclyn said, “while that story sinks in. When you’re tired, sleep in the garden. When you’re hungry, you’ll find food on the table.”

Cathy let Jaclyn’s words settle into her. She grew sleepy and wandered into the garden for a nap among the primroses and holyhocks. When she woke she came into the kitchen, where a warm sandwich waited for her on the table. It smelled like ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, goat’s cheese, and bee pollen.


“There must be magic in this!” Cathy said. It tasted divine.


But after she’d eaten half of it, something started twisting inside of her. Was it just morning sickness again? Or maybe the sandwich wasn’t right.

“Jaclyn!” she called. “I don’t feel so great.”

“It’s fine, Cathy,” Jaclyn called down. “I added sparkroot and flower petals to the sandwich. It makes you feel a little funny for a bit, but not to worry! It’s an old recipe. For transformation!”


Oh, bother and chrysanthemums! It would all turn out all right, wouldn’t it?

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New World Symphony: The Neighbor


After school, Sempervirens loved to run through the meadows. Squirrels chattered, woodpeckers drummed old branches, the waterfall rumbled, and sparrows sang from the tall grasses. Sempervirens let the sounds wash over her. What she loved most was the feel of the air. She was a free-range kid.


Her parents never worried. They knew many of their neighbors, and they trusted their daughter to find her way through the wild lands that wrapped around the homesteads and estates.


Sempervirens discovered an old orchard tucked up in the hillside. Her first thought was that it was abandoned.


But then she noticed that the trees had been lovingly tended and bore heavy crops.


At the edge of the field below the orchard stood an enchanted-looking cottage. What witch, elf, or fairy lived here?


Sempervirens spied her friend Jaclyn down on the lane near the road. Maybe Jaclyn knew who lived there!


“Who lives in that little house over there?” Vi asked.


“You mean that house behind me?” Jaclyn said. “It’s a cute little cottage, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” said Vi. “It looks enchanted.”

“You think?”


Sempervirens began to take her route past the cottage most days. She hoped she might spy who lived there. What if it really was a witch!


“Who lives in that house?” she asked Laurel Haas.

“I’ve been in that house!” Laurel said. “Somebody magic lives there! She’s got these special magic powers, and she draws all the kids to her!”

“What for?”

“Who knows? It’s some kind of mission. But I don’t know what yet.”


One night, running home past the cottage, Sempervirens heard someone call her name.


When she turned back, she saw Bridget, Jennifer’s sister.


“Hey, Gigi!” Vi said. “Were you calling me?”


“Yeah! What are you doing here by Magic House?”

“Oh! Just nothing,” Vi said. “Just looking. Do you know who lives there? Have you ever been?”

“Yes. But Jennifer has not,” Bridget said. “I know the lady who lives there, see?”

“And what’s she like?”

“You’ll have to see for yourself! That is, unless you’re too scaredy-cat.”

If there was one thing that Sempervirens was not, that was scaredy-cat.

“I will go right now!” she said.

So she left Bridget there on the hill and marched right down to Magic House.


She knocked on the door.


When she heard a low voice say, “Come in, Sempervirens Bough,” she couldn’t stop her legs! They took her away from the house and right back to the middle of the lane.


“Come on, legs,” she said. “Stop being scaredy-cat.”

With legs stiff like mop handles, she turned and stiff-legged it back down the path, through the arch, over the doormat, through the little door! Her eyes were tightly shut against what she might find inside: skeletons? Vials of dried blood? Toads’ eyes? Fingernails? Something slimy-creepy hanging from every pillar and post?

But she smelled cinnamon and apples. And the home was warm, and music was playing–an Irish harp.


“Hello?” she said, tentatively.

“I’m up here!” said a familiar low voice.

She followed the stairs to the second floor, and there was Jaclyn Ball!


“Do you live here?” Vi asked.

“I do!”

“So it is, or isn’t, magic?”

“Oh, it’s magic all right! It’s enchanted!”

“I knew it!” said Vi.


“But it’s good magic, right?” Vi asked.


“Well, Sempervirens,” said Jaclyn, “all magic has everything in it! There’s no shadow without light, and light will always cast shadows, unless there is simply nothing there! And who wants there to be nothing there?”


Sempervirens and Jaclyn talked for a while. Jaclyn told her about how she had come to her when she was a tiny baby in a bassinet in a meadow and had left her with an elvish blessing.

Sempervirens didn’t really understand what that meant. She thought it was special, but it was also, maybe, a little mysterious. Spooky even.

“I’m getting a little bit hungry,” Vi said after a while.

“I’ve got some sandwiches in the pantry,” Jaclyn said. “You are welcome to them! Have you ever eaten elf food before?”

Sempervirens hadn’t. Would it be OK for her?

“Oh sure! A magical girl like you can handle elf food just fine!” Jaclyn replied. “Now I wouldn’t recommend it to just any girl or boy, but I’m sure you’ll do just fine with the food. And at any rate, you wouldn’t mind spending the rest of your days as a mouse-keeper, or a tiny cricket cowboy, or a spider wrangler, now, would you?”


Sempervirens wasn’t so sure about that, but she was very hungry. And the sandwich smelled delicious, like vanilla sunlight and mayonaise moondressing and sunflower stardust.


Just a little bite wouldn’t hurt.


Oh! Her mouth felt like it was getting smaller!


Her eyes were shrinking!


She was going to be a tiny person, after all!


No. False alarm! Her grin was normal, her eyes were bright, she could still reach the table when she sat in the chair.


Elf sandwiches tasted great! And she was still a girl, after all! She did feel a little extra happy inside, though. Maybe that’s the magic of elf sandwiches!


“That was the best meal I ever had!” Sempervirens said, after her snack.


“Delightful!” said Jaclyn. “So you have withstood the test!”

“Wait!” said Sempervirens. “This was a test?”


“It was indeed!” said Jaclyn. “There have been several tests, actually! Would you find your way here? That was a test! Would you have the courage to come inside? That was a test! Would you be able to withstand elvish food? That was a test!”

“And what if I hadn’t?” Sempervirens asked.

“Oh!” said Jaclyn. “I shudder to think of the consequences!”


“You mean, if I had failed, I might have ended up a toad somewhere under some old log?”

“Oh, no need to worry about what might have been!” said Jaclyn. “What matters is that here you are, Miss Sempervirens Bough!”


It had become very late–after midnight! And Sempervirens suddenly realized that she should be getting home.

“We will go together,” said Jaclyn.

Sempervirens had to run quickly to keep up with the hobbit-elf. By the time they made it home, it was much earlier–hours before midnight, even!  And her parents hadn’t even begun to think that they might want to worry!


“I really had an adventure!” Sempervirens laughed to herself as she sat in the kitchen. “And I withstood the tests! I guess maybe I was born for magic!”


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New World Symphony: The Old Ones

The old ones aren’t really old: they’ve just lived for a very long time. Sugar Maple taught them all the secret of everlasting youth decades ago.

When Cypress and Knox brought Squid to visit the old family home for the first time, she found herself in the midst of dozens of conversations happening simultaneously, and each of them seemed to be about something exciting and new.


“This is where you grew up?” she asked her mom over and over. It was hard to imagine Cypress, who seemed so at home in the big meadow, here on this plateau overlooking the desert, in a busy home where someone was always talking.

Not only that, but people kept stopping by. Squid thought that was neat. She even got to meet the mailman lady.


She wasn’t exactly sure what to make of her great aunt onezero. Usually, when Squid told a joke, the other person laughed and laughed. But onezero just said, “Uh-huh,” in a sweet, high, echoing voice, and looked at her, as if expecting more.


Even the people Squid wasn’t related to seemed curious about her.

“You’re Redbud’s granddaughter?” one of the guests asked her.

“Yes,” replied Squid. “Do you know about me?”


Squid liked it best when it was just her grandma and grandpa there. Her grandma was young, sort of like her mom, but with old eyes, and her grandpa was see-through.

“Would you buy me a new chess set?” Squid asked her grandma. “Please? I’ll use it every day, and I’ll get so smart! You won’t regret it? Please?”

“Let me think about,” Redbud said. “Ok!”

“Aw, Gran! You’re the best!”


Squid’s dad wanted to show her around the place.

When they got the garden, he whispered. “I’ve got a secret! See that cherry tree? Right there, that’s where me and your mom got married! It was a secret elopement! Just the two of us!”

“For real?” Squid asked. She still had a hard time picturing her mom and dad there at Cradle Rock.


In the afternoon, Knox got a text from one of the members of Cypress’s garden club.

“Hey!” he said. “Looks like we’ve got an emergency meeting of the club. A bunch of seaweed washed up at the bluffs, so we’re going to harvest it for compost. You want to come with, Squid, or stay here with the old ones?”

“I’ll stay here, if that’s ok. Is that ok with you, Grandpa?”


After her mom and dad left, Squid found herself alone in the kitchen. All the visitors had left, and everybody else was off doing something, and she sat at the kitchen, with the forgotten high school calculus books, and the sculptures of elephants and bunnies and the Freezer Bunny Easter egg.

It was suddenly very quiet, except for this buzz that was always going on in the background.


“Can I invite over a friend?” she called. No one answered. “Is it ok if Jennifer comes over?” she asked again. Still no answer.

So she called up Jennifer and asked her if she wanted to come visit at her grandma’s house.

And an hour later, there was Jennifer, walking down the path by the line of tombstones and heading straight for the chess board, where Squid sat trying to remember the ways the different pieces moved.

“This is far away!” said Jennifer. “Do you live here now?”

“No,” said Squid. “I just visit. I still live in the meadow.”


“That’s good,” said Jennifer. “I like the meadow.”

“Me, too!” said Vi. “It’s green!”


“So who lives here?” Jennifer asked.

And Squid explained about how this was the family home, and everyone that she was connected to had once lived here, and some still did, and in their heart of hearts, it still felt like home to everybody. Except her. For her, home would always be the meadow.

“Dad said I was even born here!” she said. “Only I don’t remember dry dusty air. I only remember green!”


“I like knowing where your people come from,” Jennifer said. “It’s like it’s part of you, even if you feel like the really-you part is somewhere else.”

“You’re my very best friend!” said Squid. “You understand me, Jennifer!”


Soon Sempervirens was so sleepy she could hardly keep her eyes open.

“Guess it’s time to go, huh?” said Jennifer. “Unless we want to have a sleep-over here, right?”

“No,” said Squid. “I wanna sleep in the meadow. That way, when I wake up, you know. Green.”


“Bye, Little Green!” said Redbud as Squid got ready to leave.

“Bye, Grandma. Will you come visit me at home?” she asked.

“Of course!” said Redbud. “I need to sample some of your mom’s famous ice cream, don’t I?”


It was a little bit confusing to Vi, having so many people in so many different houses, and she still wasn’t completely sure how all of them were related to each other or to her, but one thing she knew for sure: this was her family.

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New World Symphony: The Aunts

“Hey, was that Squid?” Ren asked Sugar when a pint-sized dynamo went running past them one afternoon.

“It sure was,” said Shug. “Hey, Vi!”


“Hi, Aunt Ren and Aunt Sugar!” Sempervirens said when she turned around and caught up with her aunts. “I’m on a mission! I need to write a report for school, and Mom said I’d get the best ideas over here!”


“We are loaded with good ideas, Little Green!” said Sugar. “Idea number one: eat more cake! Sugar-free, carob cake for health, of course!”

“I like that idea! That way, I’ll have plenty of energy for homework!”


“But what should I write my report on?” Squid asked.

“What are you interested in, Vi?”

“Everything!” Squid answered. “That’s what makes it hard to choose!”


“Whenever I feel that way,” Ren said, “I always ask Sugar what she wants to know more about, then she asks me what I want to know about, and then when I say everything, she says, ‘Then start anywhere!’ See, it doesn’t really matter where you start, Little Green, because if you’re interested in everything, then everything is interesting!”


“I really want to learn about magic!” Sempervirens said. “If I could write about anything, that’s what I’d write about!”

“Oh, I love magic,” replied Ren. “And so does your Aunt Shug. You have come to the right place!”


Sempervirens met Miss Penguin on the back path.

“I’m writing a report on magic!” said Sempervirens.

“Oh, that’s great, Little Green!” replied Miss Penguin. “I bet Lil Penguin would love to read it. Do you want to share it with her sometime?”

“Oh, she’ll hear it at school,” said Sempervirens. “It’s a read aloud!”


“Magic is a big subject,” said Sugar. “What aspect do you want to focus on?”

“The kind called enchantment!” said Vi. “You know, that makes you feel different? Like if you’re sad, then-then magic comes, and you feel happy!”


“I think I know just what you mean,” said Sugar, and she picked up her best violin.

She began playing a sonata by Mozart. As Ren and Sempervirens listened, they felt the music’s enchantment encircle them.


“How does it do that?” Sempervirens asked, as she took out her notebook.

“There are all sorts of theories about how music affects us,” Ren answered, “but I think that it has something to do with the vibrations, and how certain vibrational rates raise our own vibration, and then we’re lifted up to a happier energy!”


Feeling inspired by the music, Sempervirens began to write.

My aunt Sugar is a magician, and her magic wand is a violin bow.

When she plays, you forget everything that might have ever bothered you. It’s like nothing matters but what’s happening right then.

When I asked my aunt Renée about that, she said it was because the music moves us into the moment right now, but our problems stay back then.

I have decided that I want to be smart like my aunt Renée and musical like my aunt Sugar. My aunt Renée says that I can be whatever I want. I’m a girl, after all.


Her report done, Sempervirens went home.

Bryant Cho and Laurel Haas were there waiting for her.

“What’dcha write your report on?” Bryant asked.

“Girls, and how we can do anything,” said Sempervirens.

“I wrote mine on unicorns that talk backwards,” said Laurel, and then she left.


Bryant, grumbling under his breath about how girls were stupid, headed into the kitchen.

But Sempervirens saw a new girl across the street. She looked neat. She was wearing an overall skirt like Sempervirens likes to wear, and she had super short hair like Aunt Sugar’s, only her hair was blue on top.

“Hi,” said Sempervirens. “Wanna be friends?”


“Sure,” said the girl. “My name’s Jennifer. What’s yours?”

“I got lots of names!” replied Sempervirens. “In addition to my real name, which nobody ever calls me, they call me Vi, Squid, and Little Green! Take your pick!”

“I think I’ll call you Vi,” said Jennifer.


Inside, Bryant was making good friends with an ice cream cone.


He realized he didn’t have to make friends with Sempervirens to be able to hang out here and feast on the ice cream and popcorn that was always available. He could make friend with Vi’s dad, Knox. Knox was nice, he wasn’t a girl, and he liked Bryant’s jokes.


“So the llama said, ‘Don’t stare at my mama!'” Bryant said, and they both laughed.

It was getting late, and Jennifer had to go home.

“I’m glad I met you, Vi,” she said. “I got a feeling we’re gonna be good friends!”


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New World Symphony: The Uncle

Squid’s uncle is all kinds of cool. She thinks he’s about the greatest person around.


“Thanks for letting me come visit you, Uncle J. P.,” she told him. “Think I could come over every day?”

“Tell you what, Little Green,” he replied, “You can come over anytime you want, as long as you don’t have school or other places you’ve got to be.”

“Lemme take a picture so I can look at it on the days I can’t come. That way, you’ll always be with me, anyway!”


“Ok!” J. P. agreed. “But only if you let me take a photo of us on my phone, too!”


Sempervirens loved J. P.’s house. The amazing thing about it is that it’s an art gallery downstairs. Sempervirens thinks it’s special that the art gallery is private: the only people that can see it are the ones that her uncle invites inside.


She thinks maybe that’s because the paintings are too powerful to share with just anybody.


You’ve got to have a taste for magic to be able to withstand some of her aunt onezero’s masterpieces.


They do a funny thing to her when she looks at them. Sometimes, she feels really confident: her great aunt painted this! And sometimes, she feels really inspired: imagine being able to paint something that shows the world the way you see it!

Another thing that Sempervirens loves about visiting her uncle is that he lives in a neighborhood with lots of people, and he knows everybody!


Whenever she goes there, she meets somebody new and somebody amazing, like Rose, who seems like she’s from a family just as magical as her own.


Last time Squid was there, a whole bunch of neighbors were having a picnic, and she met Jaclyn, and Joel, and Aya, and a gardener who said she knew Squid’s mom, and another lady with two pigtails on top of her head like panda ears who said she was a good friend of Squid’s great aunt Sugar. It was so easy to make friends when everybody there already knew her whole family.


She even met her great grandpa there.

“Hey, Squid!” he said. “How are you doing, Little Green? What brings you so far from home? Are you here to see your uncle?”

“Yup,” she answered. “I come visit every chance I get.”


Great aunt Sugar is often over there, too. Uncle J. P. says she’s a patron of the store.

“Didn’t she also paint all the paintings in there?” Squid asked.

“Well, not quite all of them,” J. P. answered, “but a lot of them! I guess she’s sort of her own patron of herself, when you think about it!”


Sempervirens’ mom’s garden club members love to walk through J. P.’s neighborhood. Last time Squid was there, she and J. P. ran into John.

“My sister was telling me that the energy of meditation enhances the growth of plants, and that the growing energy of plants facilitates meditation. You’re a scientist, John. What do you make of that?”

“It’s likely,” replied John. “There’s a great deal going on beyond what we see with our eyes.”


Sempervirens loved it she could hang out with her uncle and his friends in the Commons. Their conversations were seasoned with jokes and stories and references to books they’d read.


Sometimes, you run into funny things in her uncle’s neighborhood, like Cathy Tea in a hot dog suit!


But of all the family, friends, and neighbors that Sempervirens might meet in her uncle’s neighborhood, none of them were quite as wonderful as her uncle.

Uncle J. P. is like a sunflower. He stands tallest and brightest, higher than all the other flowers in the garden.


“Were you waiting for me?” Squid called one evening as they made their way back to her uncle’s house after their walk.


“Sure was, Little Green,” he replied. “Let’s head on in and see what we can whip up for supper.”

Sempervirens followed J. P. up to the computer room, where he checked out a new recipe for stir-fried chicken.

“Are you checking to see if there’s an email from your girlfriend?” chuckled Sempervirens. She was just joking–she knew she was the apple of her uncle’s eye.


J. P. provided a show whenever he cooked. He juggled the knives, chopped in rhythm, and danced his way through the preparations of the meal.

And his creations were true works of art, carefully prepared to satisfy every sense.


“Do you think every girl has an uncle that’s as cool as you are?” Squid asked J. P. after supper.


“You think I’m cool, Squid? Thanks!”

She giggled.

“Do you know who your mom’s best friend was when she was about your age?”

“Was it you?” Sempervirens asked.

“Nope,” replied J. P. “It was her uncle Alder.”

“Was he cool like you?”

“He was kind of mean, actually. But Cypress thought he was the most amazing person ever. And he was never mean to her.”

“Well, you’re not ever mean to anybody, J. P.,” Sempervirens said, “and you really are the most amazing!”


There were so many things about J. P. that Sempervirens would stick on a list if she were to make a list of every feature that made him amazing.

But the coolest thing of all is the way he makes her feel when he looks at her.


“It’s like I got two homes,” she said to herself after supper. “If home is where you know that you can be all completely yourself, and that you’re loved head to toe for who you are, then I got two homes. Because that’s how I feel when I’m home with Mom and Dad, and that’s how I feel here with Uncle J. P.”


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New World Symphony: Squid


Fairy songs drifted across the meadow every night.

Remember, starlight,
remember us!

Search today
search each night.

Bring us home through meadow
or hedgerow

Hold it open
The curtain, the door

We are coming,
we are more.

The first infant that Jaclyn blessed hardly needed an elf-blessing to walk in magic, for Sempervirens Bough was born into a family of enchantment.


The baby’s ears were always open to songs too high for most to hear.


Her infancy, passed in the cool breezes of the meadow, bound her to the fairy realm, and in a family with parents and aunts who treasured a young one’s tales, she was not likely to forget their songs.


Jaclyn’s blessing served as an affirmation, a confirmation of Squid’s path and direction; rather than setting a new course for this young life, the elven words set firm the fairy way that she had been born into.


The years passed, and Sempervirens grew to be a strong and lively child, full of songs and stories that delighted both her parents.


Her mother’s jokes brought belly laughs.


And her father always had a ready ear for Vi’s own stories.

“We should plant bluebells, Dad,” she said.

“Why’s that, Little Green?”

“They make good fairy homes.”

“Bluebells it is, then!”


The three were bound together by their shared love of the outdoors. Each member of the family felt at home in the meadow or rambling through the woods.

For Sempervirens, having a mother who’d never lost the magic of childhood meant that she had a ready playmate, someone who understood that Tricer Triceratops was not merely blue plastic and metal horns.

In the evenings, the family liked to gather in the kitchen.

“So, what discoveries did you make today?” Knox would ask Sempervirens.


“I learned about blue!” Vi might answer. One day, she described how she’d hunted all through the meadow for everything blue.

“Blue things have the same buzz as the note C,” she said. “When Mom plays C on the violin, I hear blue!”


These evenings together were some of the happiest moments for the family.

“Can we make flower tea, Mom?” Sempervirens asked Cypress. “I want to taste purple and pink!”

“We could make flower tea!” said Cypress. “I think we’ve got some chrysanthemums ready to harvest, and maybe some roses, too! Would you like to taste white and red?”


Cypress found it inspiring that her daughter loved the garden as much as she did.


“Maybe we can grow elderberries!” she said.

“And bluebells,” said Vi.


Sempervirens’ favorite person was her uncle J. P.

“Did you get any new gnomes?” she asked him. J. P.’s store was known as the Gnome Emporium.


“You know,” said Knox, “if you and your mom buy all the gnomes, there won’t be any left for anyone else’s garden.”

“No,” replied Vi. “It doesn’t work that way. They’re what-do-you-call-it. Indefatigable.”

“We do have a good supply,” said J. P. “I think we’ve got plenty for everybody.”


It was Sugar Maple, though, who seemed to be perhaps the most mysterious of all her relatives. Often, Sempervirens would spy Sugar running along the periphery of the meadow, off towards the waterfall, perhaps, or through the long grass and flowers near the swimming pond. Sometimes, Sugar stood at the edge of the world and played her violin.

Sempervirens wasn’t sure yet what she wanted to talk to Sugar about, but she knew that one day, Sugar would have so much to teach her. She came across the word “apprentice” in her reading. And she thought that maybe, one day, if she were lucky, she could become Sugar Maple’s apprentice. It might be exciting to learn magic from the magician herself!


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