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Cookies and Kindness by Jena Ball

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” –Winnie the Pooh

As a child I firmly believed in magic. Moreover, I knew exactly where it lived and was most likely to flutter, slither, waddle, glide, gallop or swim into my presence. They were the “in between” places where the harsh electric lights and rigid rules of the grown-up world (in which I was always messing up) fell away. Places like the cool, dark shadows beneath the camellia bushes, the tops of certain trees where leaves whispered stories while the branches creaked and swayed, and the liquid edges of rivers, lakes and oceans.

These are places where focus shifts, the all of “me and you-ness” drops away, and it’s possible to look into the eyes of another creature with a smile of recognition. Shall I tell you about some of my favorites?

  • A hot Southern California afternoon at the age of eight. I was comfortably curled beneath one of my favorite bushes watching the pill bugs trundle about their business when a small patch of earth began to shake and shift about a foot away. I had no idea what to expect, but I kept very still so as not to disturb the magic. Moments later a furry, dirt dusted head with bright round eyes and long, very yellow incisors broke through into the world above ground. We were so close that I could see her nose twitching and smell her gopher scent – a combination of damp fur and dirt and something akin to bad breath only nowhere near as offensive. I could feel her surprise as her twitching nose caught my scent, but there was no fear or alarm on either side. We simple took each other in.
  • A deep sea fishing boat on the Pacific Ocean.  My father and his fishing friends are sitting in the cabin, smoking and talking about lures, spinners, jigs and other horrible ways to catch and kill fish. I am standing at the bow, holding tight to the guard rail to keep from being tossed overboard as the boat plowed its way through swells. My cheeks, lips and eyelashes are covered with the salty sticky spray that is blown into my face each time the boat hits a wave, but I hardly notice. I am too busy calling to the dolphins.

These incredible beings, with their watercolor skin and explosive breath have captured my imagination in a way no land bound creature could. It’s all I can do to keep from jumping overboard to join them when they appear, riding the surf created by the boat with athletic ease. When a particularly strong and curious fellow flings himself into the air to get a good look at me, I am beside myself with delight. The dolphin’s flight brings him almost level with the deck and our eyes meet. Surprise, curiosity, pleasure and the eternal dolphin smile. It’s all there and nothing my father and his cronies say later about dolphins being nuisances that scare away the fish can spoil the gift.

Moments like these are why I write and read stories for kids. They are my excuse to slip back into the shimmer of “in between” to find and share tidbits of magic – small reminders of our truer, less separate selves.

The magic doesn’t always work of course. Some days the kids are tired and cranky, or the reality of having to sit in their seats, breathe chalky air, and try to absorb information from adults is overpowering. But on Friday December 13th. at the Barnes & Noble in High Point, North Carolina the magic was palpable. There, watched over by Winnie the Pooh, an Elf on the Shelf, and the approving smile of Ms. Frizzle, we gathered in a circle to read about kindness. The story came from the latest CritterKin book, “Meet the Mutts,” and told the true story of how a tiny, paralyzed dachshund named Ricky Bobby was rescued from a puppy mill and found his forever home. Here’s what happened: http://www.pinterest.com/critterkin/critterkin-readings/

Copyright 2013 by Bethea Productions and CritterKin