Miscellanea in the pool on a Sunday…

My children throw everything in the swimming pool.

I wish they wouldn’t, but it seems to be part of their play. Sometimes they’re out there for hours in the afternoons after school, talking to themselves, stripping bark off the old stumps in the backyard, peeling papayas and sweeping black dirt into the pool.

I knew Sierra was going to do this when I saw the broom, but I couldn’t bear to break the spell until the last minute, and then it was too late. Garden soil drifted through the chlorinated blue to the bottom, where it rested like spilled ink. She looked up, startled, when I called her (Sierra, dirt does not go in the pool! But why not? I’m making mud balls!) and then, finally, as if it were the only other option, she came inside to play a computer game. 

Another day, a Sunday, I was drawn outside by a family of papayas huddled together on a boogie board, a scene that clearly needed to be Instagrammed. I was distracted by a sliced papaya floating in the pool and, deeper down, a shipwrecked lawn ornament in the shape of a hummingbird. 

In my daughters’ minds, I know, each random piece had a story, a reason for being in the pool. What does it say about me that, instead of fishing them out like a responsible adult, I photographed them?


This is what I saw.

Miscellanea in the pool.

I can play this game too, I thought. But, since I don’t know their stories, I’ll make up my own.*

(*Note: Each story is exactly 50 words long. Because 1. I was never gonna get around to publishing this blog otherwise. Wish I had more time to write… and 2. Conveniently enough, they now fit pretty perfectly into this week’s WordPress creative writing challenge.)


The boy next door had a papaya tree. She sneaked over there sometimes. They’d shake the tree, cut the fruit, then– juice dripping, sticky hands–share it, sitting in the shade. They didn’t talk. Or mostly he talked. They’d sit side by side, then she’d come home. Momma never knew.


Aunt Sophie had a hummingbird hatpin. He found it in the room at the end of the hall with the junk boxes and that weird book about Münchausen syndrome by proxy.

“William! Where are you?”


He covered the book; clicked the light.

The hatpin he put in his pocket.


She walked along the perimeter of the pond, and the wind through the saw palmettos made a satisfying sound, like dried bones. The sun, trapped inside the water, was boiling. She’d left his body in a ditch up the road, and she wasn’t going back. Yeah, she felt lighter already…


And that, my friends, is how writers play. :)

How do you play?

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2014

Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found: Sophie Blackall

Fort Mason, San Francisco, photo by Jaime Greenberg

Fort Mason, San Francisco, photo by Jaime Greenberg

San Francisco, Sunday morning, February 24, 2013
I had an hour to myself, and instead of visiting the glass dildo store next to our hotel, I stayed in the room. I was reading about fernet branca on my phone and marking a map of the city, when I noticed you on this blog. I don’t know you at all, but I totally feel you. Missed Connections, I think I might be in love…

Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found: Sophie Blackall: Amazon.com: Books.
(That would be illustrator Sophie Blackall’s wistful, hopeful book/blog about love at first sight, what if and almost-could-have-been, as told by real-life strangers in Craigslist’s Missed Connections section.)

Sophie Blackall we shared a bear suit

Saturday, October 17, 2009 – m4w – We shared a bear suit at an apartment party on Saturday night. I asked for your number and you gave it to me, but somehow I don’t have an area code written down. I had a great time talking with you, and I don’t trust Chance enough to wait until I see you in the elevators…

Sophie Blackall my dreamy neighbor

Thursday, October 14, 2010 – My dreamy neighbor who plays obscenely loud music – w4m (Greenpoint) Sometimes when you have played music late into the night or come home in the wee hours and turn it on, I knock on our shared wall or scold you the next day, but all along I am thinking how dreamy you are and how I just want to make love to you.

Sophie Blackall throat tattoo

Friday, January 22, 2010 -Train – Hey, guy that got on at 1st Ave dressed all in black with the throat tattoo. Thanx for existing.

Beautiful. Funny. Sometimes truly heartbreaking. But, definitely, highly recommended.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2013

Ode to Magic

Magic fairy

Magic fairy

I recently read a blog in which the writer, a mother imagining the world through her five-year-old son’s eyes, was lamenting the loss of magic in her own adult Christmas experience. She wondered, specifically about Santa, but really about life in general, “Do I let him believe in magic knowing how fast it could, and one day will get ripped away? …do I encourage it?”

My short answer to her is, yes, of course you should. But I suspect she doesn’t really need me to tell her what to do.

My long answer is this…

I’m an adult; I know ‘the truth’ about Santa—but I still believe in magic. I know magic exists; it’s real. I can feel it inside me as surely as I feel my own bones. And most importantly, I know it when I see it

You see, the tricky thing about magic is it’s everywhere and all-the-time, but you kinda have to know where to look for it. It’s not always in the form you’d expect. (Well of course it’s not—I can hear my eight-year-old daughter, an ardent Harry Potter fan, whispering in my ear as I type this—it’s magic!)


One early summer day my friend Jonathan came over to visit and brought his seven-year-old nephew to play with my daughters. We ended up at the neighborhood park where we ran into a bunch of kids, all about that same age. As the shadows grew longer and the light began to shift, Jonathan announced to all of us (because he’s just amazingly cool like this), “The sun is starting to go down. C’mon let’s find a good spot to watch the sunset!” We all followed him to the highest spot on the playground, where the kids continued to run around, slaloming through lines of trees while we waited for the sun to set.

Wow. A magic moment.

Wow. A magic moment.

After a long time, it was the blue-haired kid in the hockey jersey who noticed it. Peering through the trees at the melting sky, his eyes suddenly got wide. “Look!” he shouted. “Everybody look! I see a rainbow!” He turned to me. “See? See it!? It’s right there. There’s a rainbow in the sunset!”

I squinted. I couldn’t see the rainbow. But the boy, there was something different about him. As he stood still for just a second beside a low wall on the periphery of the playground, the air tingled with a tiny spark of something… wonder, possibility, ideas taking shape… Yes, just-there: magic! Everything stopped and I felt it. For a second, the whole world was drenched in it.

Maybe I’m cheating here a little bit. I’m describing a child’s experience. Everything is new to children, and everybody knows magic is how children see the world. But the very best magic is transformative, for everyone involved. When I talk about the boy discovering a rainbow in the sunset, I’m really not telling the whole story. What I really mean to say is, watching the boy’s face, as he stood still for just a second beside a low wall on the periphery of the playground—I felt a change in me.


Years ago my husband and I took a trip to Italy. While in Rome I decided we needed to visit the famous catacombs outside the city. On the car ride there I was excited; I couldn’t stop thinking about what we might find, “Do you think we’ll see bones? Will there be bodies? Maybe skulls? Do you think we could touch them?” Brett had no idea, but he knows me well enough to understand I was about to be majorly freaked out by whatever we were about to see– and also well enough to understand there was no use in talking me out of it.

Rainbow in a spider web.

Rainbow in a spiderweb.

Inside the catacombs, deep underground, our guide– a Catholic priest from Ireland– led us through the burial chambers of early Christian martyrs and popes, past the peculiar sad effigy of Cecilia, patron saint of music, through shoulder-width earthen tunnels lined on both sides with body-sized niches. No bodies anymore in this burial chamber, but that didn’t lessen the emotional impact. The energy inside the empty tombs was intense. The farther we walked into the underground dark, the tighter my chest got, the more I had to fight the urge to shove past our small group of tourists and escape.

Finally our tour wound around one last passageway and I could see stairs and sunlight. I couldn’t handle the psychic energy of the place anymore– or maybe my imagination was running wild. I rushed for the stairs, pulling Brett along with me, “Let’s go, let’s go,” I said. “I have to get out of here now. Let’s go.” Our guide stopped us, puzzled. He was in the process of herding our group into a tiny cave of a room to the right of the stairs. I knew there was absolutely no way I was going in there. “My wife needs to get out of here,” Brett explained. “She’s claustrophobic.”

This wasn’t the exact truth, and although I’m not hugely religious to speak of, I felt bad lying to a priest. The priest stepped forward and looked into my eyes. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “God bless you.” He reached gently towards me and I stepped back, reluctant to have a stranger touch me. He pressed on, and slowly he drew the sign of the cross on my forehead, right at the spot where my third eye might be. Ohhhhhhh! I could feel the energy as he laid his hands on me. Coming from somewhere outside of him, it coursed through him, pulsing and focusing through his fingers and into my body. “Be well,” he said.

I was well. Truthfully I was euphoric. I don’t know when in my life I’ve ever felt such a deep sense of peace and well-being. And power. Where did that come from, I wondered? For days afterward, maybe weeks, I could still feel the imprint of the cross on my forehead. “It’s like magic!” I said. “Or a miracle, that’s almost the same thing right.?” My husband, a martial arts student, always practical, said, “It’s ch’i.


So, I’m an adult. You can take this to mean that I don’t believe in Santa Claus or (probably not) fairies, or even boy wizards (sigh). And I don’t, at least not in the same ways I did when I was a child. But that doesn’t mean my sense of wonder has just totally disapparated. There is too much undiscovered, unexplored and unexplained in the world for me to give up that easily.

After all, there is a certain truth that lies behind belief in magic—that feeling of possibilities and wonder and everyday amazement—and I don’t ever want to let that go.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2012


Oh, I’d forgotten about bubbles!

On a recent road trip, my little girls and I discovered the perfect bubble wands: over a foot long, their bubble-blowing ends shaped like giant purple flowers. When we tried them out at the gift shop by the beach, waving them lazily in the air around our bodies, we thought they made the most wonderful, hugest bubbles ever. Viscous rainbows on a mission, floating past the heads of passersby, rising up into the humid sky like silent, untethered balloons: they were beautiful.

After we got home I searched our cabinets, rounding up forgotten bottles of bubble soap for us to pour together into the bin where we would dip our wands. When the girls saw that most of these bottles came with their own little wands, they had to try them out. They breathed in, pursed their lips, and blew out medium bubbles, and tinier ones, and minuscule ones that darted around our kitchen happily like sunbeams.

When I took the wands and started to blow, the girls danced and sang and popped and giggled in the shower of bubbles I created. For a while time stopped, like a bubble frozen in flight, and we just were, in that place at that time–anyplace, anytime–until the moment popped (because that’s what happens with bubbles) and we came back into our lives. Only this time a little different,  somehow seeing things with newer eyes.

Some people meditate on their breath, or on a mantra, or a flickering candle flame. I dream of meditating on bubbles.

Feel it: uncomfortable and questions and worries and doubt. Fear. Breathe in… Now blow! See the fear dance away, transformed: circles and circles of rainbows, floating worlds, possibility, hope, laughter, lightness. Magic.

Right. I’d forgotten about bubbles.

I’m glad I remembered.

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2011