Sometimes magic comes in unexpected forms.
This is a story of obvious magic, the magic of crystals grown in a left-of-centre classroom, from salts & food colouring.
This is also the story of unexpected magic. The story of a little girl finding a dead songbird on the side of the road. Of marvelling in the soft roughness of its skin, the smooth symmetry of its feathers, the dull glass of its closed eyes. This is a story of vulnerability & dignity in death.
This is a story where all the scary might-have-beens we warn children against just didn't happen. We warn children not to touch dead things. Fear of mites or worms, fear of disease. And if I hadn't been walking home alone that day, clutching my box of crystals, some adult or older sister would surely have stopped me.
But walking alone, I sat down and held the bird's tiny body close. I felt its still-strong beak and the looseness of its talons in death. It weighed nothing at all. I wanted to protect it.
So I did what I could, which is what we all do, every day. To protect the bird's dignity in death, to keep it safe from marauding animals, I laid its body gently in the cigar-box. I used branches to dig into the rich, peaty ground. When I could dig no further into the heavy earth, I placed the bird in its cardboard coffin. I refilled the hole with earth and pine needles.
And then I walked home from school, still on time.