Do You Believe in Magic? That song plays in my head as I think about Leonard Olson. The short little guy with white hair and a white beard whose character delights audience members in my one-woman show “If I Were Me… I’d Know What I Want.” He looks like a gnome in overalls straight out of a children’s book.
I met Leonard on April 12, 2016 on my 58th birthday. (I was born in ’58, makes it my magical birthday)
My brother Bruce and I stumble into his enchanting Kaleidoscope Factory in the small town of Pocahontas, Iowa. Surrounded by CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) and field after field of genetically modified corn, this beacon of light is filled with kaleidoscopes, wooden labyrinths and magic pixie dust dispensers. A sign on his wall reads “It’s really hard not to smile when looking through a kaleidoscope.” He peaks over his elf-like glasses while making an egg-shaped kaleidoscope on his lathe. Catching the twinkle in his eye, I know this is no tourist trap selling over-priced trinkets. This guy’s energy attracts me like a moth to a bright light on a dark night. His voice bypasses my mind and speaks directly to my soul with wisdom, playfulness and imagination.
I’m not an impulse buyer, but today my adventure-starved inner child demands I buy the teleidoscope, labyrinth and magic pixie dust dispenser. A teleidoscope is so cool like a multidimensional view of whatever you want to look at. No presets like in a kaleidoscope but faces and pictures and ceiling fans. The possibilities are endless.
There are a lot of kaleidoscopes and teleidoscopes, but just one magic pixie dust dispenser. Bruce’s inner child must have been starving even more than mine. He picks it up when I’m not looking and adds it to his collection of purchases. I feel like a little kid who had their favorite toy taken away. In between my disappointed sighs, I take a picture of it to capture a digital bit of magic. I even whisper to it on the drive home, “I’m so sorry he got to you before I did. You obviously belong with me.”
Fast forward a year and a half. I call Leonard to see if he remembers me. Not only does he remember me, he offers to rent a local theater and give me 100% of the donations if I perform my show in Pocahontas. The only day open in my schedule is August 29th.
Curiously, that’s the exact day, the 20th anniversary of his heart attack. He quips, “I can’t think of a better way to commemorate this anniversary than being acted out in your one-woman show.” He attributes his survival to leaving the corporate world to do what he loves.
After a lifetime of hearing what’s not possible, I’m believing in magic again. Why did everything align to allow this to happen? Leonard graciously promotes the show far and wide. How does the local paper get my promo picture on the front page with such little notice? I change my flight from Seattle to Chicago Fringe Festival stopping in Iowa on the way. No fee and the weather looks ideal.
As if all this isn’t magical enough, my brother (who knows nothing about the content of the show) asks me if I’d like to have his magic pixie dust dispenser. He’s giving it to me! This comes out of the blue the night before the show. He and his family live in southern Minnesota so they all pile in the car to make the trip to Pocahontas. He’s going to hear how much that magic pixie dust dispenser means to me under the bright lights of the Rialto Theater.
Ironically, some of my teenager lines from the show parallel what my niece and nephews are experiencing now. After the show, my 15 year old nephew says he no longer feels obligated to do what society expects of him. Comments like his remind me why I wrote and continue performing this show. It gives deeper meaning to Emerson’s quote 15 minutes into the show, “To be yourself in a world that’s constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” My college boyfriend from 35 years ago knew me as the shyest person on campus. He drives up from Des Moines to witness me act out 12 different characters in my hour long show. I’m being true to myself now and doing what I love. He tosses a $50 bill into the donation jar. The money’s nice, but redeeming myself after all these years is priceless.
Could this magic be happening because Leonard and I are basing our decisions on intuition?
Leonard is an authentic guy who walks his talk. After tech rehearsal he drives me to his nature conservancy a few miles from the Kaleidoscope Factory. The land is wild and free.
He inherited this land and rather than allowing genetically modified corn to be planted there he decides to let the land rest. He explains that if 10% of the farmland in Iowa is allowed to be natural without using chemicals, we could stop the nitrate damage fueling the ever growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. At first glance his land may offend some. It looks a bit unruly. The neighboring farms have pristine rows of corn planted by computer to be exactly the same distance apart. Because of routine spraying of chemicals, there’s not a weed in sight on their land. Leonard’s nature conservancy has weeds. He explains the basics of permaculture and how weeds can be beneficial to the health of the soil. He believes in biodiversity with plants and with people.
Like Leonard’s nature conservancy project, our own true nature may offend some. I remember clergy and high school teachers reprimanding me when I dared to share my true nature. (Nothing vulgar or disrespectful, just my unique creativity) I felt controlled and modified. How often do we suppress our own natural talents to get approval or acceptance? How often do we do it to others? “If I Were Me… I’d Know What I Want” is my 50 year journey coming back to my true nature. It’s about being real. It’s about sharing our truth. I get glimpses all the time now that the more we tap into our natural authentic selves, the more magic appears in our lives.