Sometimes you have to break the world with words.
I didn’t say that. Lidia did.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who was a witch. The little girl was born to a family of witches whose magic was deep and strong. They named her Rowan for her rosy cheeks.
The family of witches lived in a village. The village had a school for children. All the children in the village, even the witch children, had to go to school when they turned five. As Rowan grew her parents noticed her magic was different. At three she could walk between the realms of the living and the dead but couldn’t correctly pronounce the word “year.” Rowan’s mother assumed maybe she was just a late bloomer.
Soon Rowan is six years old and in first grade. It is expected that she go to school every day. No one knows that Rowan is afraid of the books in school. Specifically she’s afraid of the words in the books. She’s also really extremely afraid of the face her teacher makes every time she tries to correctly pronounce the words in books.
Even worse is when Rowan tries to spell, because she absolutely cannot and no one at school can teach her that magic. The magic of spells and spelling does not fit into the school’s scope and sequence.
Rowan hates school but she hides that fact like a good girl. Sometimes she pretends to be a unicorn at recess. The other kids think she’s weird. They are right.
Every morning Rowan’s teacher hands out sheets of white paper covered in black swiggles. Rowan slowly crushes the worksheets into tight balls under her desk. Crushing paper makes her feel better. Afterwards she carefully puts the balls of paper inside her desk for safekeeping because it seems like paper is of immense value at school. She thinks about how there’s no possible way the crushed paper balls are going to help her learn how to cast spells.
At least not the kind she’s interested in.
Rowan wants to understand spellings like autonomy and interdenominational and subtraction. She doesn’t understand the vast majority of what seems easy to other children, like long division and geography and Writing A Perfect Five Paragraph Essay™.
Rowan has a lot of questions that no one is interested in answering. Her questions begin in her head and then spiral down her spine.
The unanswered questions throb inside her like heartbeats.
Eventually Rowan goes deep inside herself, into her lumbar spine, and stores her magic there because she doesn’t know how to use it yet. All she knows for sure is that schools are not going to help her.
Year after year Rowan holds her magic deep in her spine. She feels shame for holding something as precious as her magic so deep inside herself but she doesn’t know what else to do. She does her best.
Then one day Rowan sees a post on Facebook. She follows the post to a website, and then to a store. Inside the store there are classes for sale taught by a wise woman. There is even a class called “How to Use Your Magic.” When she reads about the class Rowan feels her magic, long stored at the base of her spine, begin to stir. Rowan signs up for the class.
On the last day of the class Rowan is the only student. All the other students are busy or forgot or have already made up their minds about their magic, which is to Rowan’s advantage because now she can talk to the wise woman alone. Rowan asks the wise woman all kinds of questions about words, spells, and spellings.
The wise woman is patient. She listens carefully to everything Rowan asks, and then she says, “stories are made of words but every word has a story. Now is the time for you to use your magic to understand the stories of words so that you may weave your own stories. If you promise to be honest and think for yourself I will be your guide. I can see the magic in you. It’s time for you to learn how to use it.”
At the wise woman’s words Rowan felt the deep pressure of her magic begin to release from her spine. She sighed. And then she rolled up her sleeves and got to work.