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  • randiesilverstein

Magic and Dark Matter

Dark Matter. After having Alex the astrophysicist over to my studio to see my artwork, my husband and I left Santa Cruz for our annual pilgrimage to Veneta Oregon to attend the Oregon Country Fair. This was my 33rd Fair, the Fair’s 49th birthday. I have been attending since I was a teenager. It isn’t your average Fair or festival. It is so much more and only those who have attended can really understand the enormity of this essential event. More than a music festival which are so common now, the sheer amount of entertainment, vaudeville, jugglers, stilt walkers, and crafters are sure to keep you wandering the paths for days looking for fun, friends and well.... Magic. And magic abounds. Special connections, old and new friends, gathering in a utopian community for 3 days in the Oregon woods.

As I said I have attended for 33 years. I have volunteered for 20. And this year I had a craft booth and showed my artwork. I had been looking for a new way to participate and being able to show my stuff to a new demographic was exciting. The fair draws 22,000 people each day, with around 15,000 volunteers, crafters and musicians and entertainers. That’s a lot of people. This year, I let the fair come to me in booth M58, along a shady path on Wooten Way, named for Bill Wooten, the founder of the OCF back in 1969. It was a hot fair. In the mid 90’s each day. It was brutal. When a breeze picked up and we saw movement in the leaves of the trees above us, we cheered. Needless to say, returning to Santa Cruz yesterday, to temperatures in the 60’s felt incredibly good and I’m so happy to be home.

The experience I had was multifaceted. I don’t do many art shows anymore, preferring to participate in Open Studios, our local art happening that takes place the first three weekends of October. I open my garage door which serves as my studio and folks follow those mysterious green signs around town as they make their way to the next artistic space. It is a great contrast to the voyage to Oregon, with 2 vehicles, 4 people, and a ton of merchandise created over the last 6 weeks! So when I was assessing my experience as a first time crafter at OCF, my mind wandered to my recent talks with Alex.

I have been assessing my success that extends beyond the financial. Beyond the physical, and into the metaphysical realm. Magical. Beyond reason. Synchronistic. The interactions that I had, the people I met left me questioning the rational causation. There seemed to be a deeper connection, a fortuitous meeting with an old friend, with someone I had never met before, and conversations that streamed in sync with my own thoughts. I experienced the fair as a small child, with wonder and delight, seeing things for the first time that had been there all along.

Dark Matter. We know it’s there, we just can’t find it. We just can’t see it. We believe it’s there. That is what the summary of the stuff says on Wikipedia. Magic. The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Something happens that cannot be explained. In a sense dark matter IS magic in that we have invoked it to explain something that we don’t understand, such as how and why the galaxies we see stay together. We make assumptions about a particle that may exist, that we have never seen, to explain this phenomenon, as similarly a primitive culture may have seen a sorcerer move objects without touching them. And I find myself ruminating on the power of the internet, the telephone and the rocket ship, and how these things would appear to the same sorcerer today. One might include the power of prayer, and religious rites that attributed natural events to the divine.

There are so many examples of this that I stopped googling for them and reached into my own experience for one. The Oregon Country Fair has a juried submission for crafters. For many years, all the craftspeople who you would see there, would display their work, in the same booth, with the same crafts, year in and year out. They were “grandfathered” in. Eventually as crafters changed careers, elders passed away (the fair is almost 50 years old after all) and the OCF grew in size and acreage, new booths were opened and new crafters were added. This year, I was asked by a new crafter to share his booth with him. It appears that I was on a list of accepted submissions from applying a few years back and so Ethan Kempf, a young blacksmith/bladesmith who was making knives, swords and spears, chose out of the many available crafters to call me. Many people vie to get to do this fair, but few are chosen. It was a special invitation. While we had never met before, and as we spoke more often, I sensed an older soul. A serious and gentle man who seemed to know what he wanted, to reach out and grab opportunity and experience as would any hungry hunter gather of the ages. I liked him immediately and felt a kin ship, mutual respect and admiration. When we did actually meet, I was impressed with his sense of character and his aesthetic. I sensed an extraordinary individual. I had nothing to go on. Just a, sense.

We were getting to know one another as we sat in our booth between flurries of customers and visitors. Talk turned to our considerations of spirituality. Not soon after, Thor appeared and seemed interested in the handcrafted knives Ethan had made. Ok, it wasn’t Thor, it was a guy in costume, but that’s just how the Country Fair is. Ethan was excited to see him and taken by this giant furry horned man, and a long conversation and sense of brotherhood ensued. Turns out that Ethan’s belief in the norse god is strong and unswerving. That while he had been an atheist, and later agnostic, he had reached out to Thor in prayer at a time he needed strength, and in his story his prayer had so clearly been answered that he had to embrace this god as his own. A story of a sword that broke in half ensued, but that is not the direction I’m headed right now. As Thor meandered away, Ethan talked enthusiastically about this encounter and how special and magical it was to him.

So, coincidence? Or Magic? The odds of Thor walking in as we were discussing our beliefs? Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

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