Magic in her Words

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On Today’s Menu:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
** Share some humble pie
for the birthday of a rather successful author.
** Linger to ponder
the power of a good metaphor.
** Savor a last ½ cup
commemorating a veteran.
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First Sip:

I always surprise myself on my ability to turn a phrase.
Words are, in my not so humble opinion,
the most inexhaustible source of magic
capable of both inflicting injury

and remedying it.

– Albus Dumbledore
in Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows
J.K. Rowling


Slice of Cake:

Many people tell the story of how, as a single mother living on assistance,
she wrote the first Harry Potter book in cafés.

Or they tell the story of how twelve publishers rejected the manuscript.

But my favorite story about J. K. Rowling 4
is that after she was very rich and very famous,
she published a detective novel in secret—using a pen name.
(This was in 2013.)

Her secret lasted less than three months.

It was the arts editor at the London Sunday Times who discovered
that The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
was really written by J. K. Rowling.

But in that three months, this “debut novel” had time to
gain modest sales and quite good reviews.

Rowling said that she’d enjoyed working under a pseudonym.1

I admire Rowling for wanting to challenge herself as a writer
and for seeking feedback that would be unencumbered by her reputation.

As for her biggest booksa small detail I love is that
she gave her main character the same birthday as herself:

Harry Potter’s birthday is July 31, too.

Happy 54th Birthday
J. K. Rowling

– born July 31, 1965
in Yate, Gloucestershire, England.

Some of my family’s Harry Potter books
plus ticket stubs from
seeing Harry Potter movies in Christchurch, NZ in 2003
and Berkeley, California
in 2011.


Linger Awhile:

I sometimes find,
and I am sure you know the feeling,
that I simply have too many thoughts and memories
crammed into my mind.

– Albus Dumbledore
in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling

I’ve been thinking this week about how good J. K. Rowling is with metaphors.2

Here are three of her metaphors that I quite often find myself thinking about.

Side Note:
For those who have never read the Harry Potter books
(and thank you for reading this far if you haven’t!):
Yes, there are spoilers here.
(But not real big spoilers.)

The Pensieve

A shallow basin lay there,
with odd carvings around the edge;
runes and symbols Harry did not recognise.

– from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling

In his office, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore keeps a pensieve.
It is a stone basin where he can store memories,
allowing him to both clear his mind and organize his thoughts.

Dumbledore placed his long hands
on either side of the Pensieve and swirled it,
rather as a gold prospector would swirl for
fragments of gold…
Frowning slightly, he prodded the thoughts within the basin
with the tip of his wand.

– from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling

This is such a perfect metaphor for what keeping a diary does for me.

One simply siphons off the excess thoughts from one’s mind,
pours them into the basin, and
examines them at one’s leisure.
It becomes easier
to spot
patterns and links, you understand, when
they are in this form…

– Albus Dumbledore
in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling

Dumbledore siphons off excess thoughts from his mind by pouring them into his pensieve.
I siphon off excess thoughts from my mind by writing them into my journal.

Dumbledore prods the contents of his pensieve, trying to spot patterns and links.
I re-read the contents of my journals, trying to spot patterns and links.

Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we both find ‘fragments of gold.

A Protective Layer

The title of the very first chapter of the very first Harry Potter book
is titled: The Boy Who Lived.

This chapter contains a mystery:
How did Harry, a mere baby, live through a cataclysmic event
when everyone else present either died or was
so damaged as to be thought dead??

Later we learn that his mother’s loving care (and sacrifice)
had given Harry something tangible—
something he wears like a protective second layer of skin.

When Harry was attacked, this protective layer saved his life.

To me, this seems a dramatic illustration of how, in real life,
the loving care that children receive early on gives them benefits
that are measurable years later.

In other words, it reminds me of John Bowlby’s attachment theory.

Attachment theory was my favorite concept from Psychology101 class.
It’s the idea that when infants have a warm, secure relationship with their early caregivers,
they learn how to regulate their feelings, safely explore their environment,
and develop successful social and emotional relationships throughout their lives.

(Well, that’s my inexpert and simple paraphrasing of this
important and complex theory anyway.)

The point is: Loving care lasts. That’s the real-life magic.


Each September—after a ride on the Hogwarts Express—students are driven
from the train station up to the castle in a horseless carriage.3


The old-fashioned-looking carriages are pulled by… nothing.
Or so it seems.

Eventually we learn that the carriage is, in fact,
pulled by a team of magical creatures—
large, skeletal, horse-like animals called thestrals,
with white eyes and leathery black wings.

The thing about thestrals is this: They’re only visible to those who have both
witnessed a death and understood loss in a profound way.
Harry sees them for the first time in his fifth year.
In other words, not until after he has seen and mourned
the abrupt death of a classmate.

Around 1988, when I was newly married,
newly graduated from college, and working at my first professional job,
a neighbor in my apartment building became a widow.
She was around the same age as me.
Several weeks after her husband died, I saw her—
she was coming down our street as I was walking up—
and I said to her… I can’t remember what exactly.
But I seemed to be simultaneously saying a little too much,
and much too little. I felt awkward and unwieldy and inept.

I was embarrassed.
(And, when I think of that poor woman, I still am.)

I hadn’t yet learned how to respond to the idea of death.
I hadn’t yet seen the thestrals.


“Half Cup More”

Harry Potter and J K Rowling
weren’t the only ones with a birthday this week.

Wednesday would have been my father’s 100th birthday.

My niece and me.
We brought
along my dad’s Stetson.


Four of his kids
and two of his grandkids
took a road trip down
to the military cemetery
in Central California
to put flowers
and a poker chip

on my dad’s grave.



You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?
You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever
in times of great trouble?
Your father is alive in you…
and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him.

– Albus Dumbledore
in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K. Rowling

Take-Away Box

Silvery light was
coming from the basin’s content
He could not tell whether the
substance was liquid or gas.

It was a bright, whitish silver, and
it was moving ceaselessly;
the surface of it became ruffled like
water beneath wind, and then, like clouds,
separated and swirled smoothly.

It looked like light made liquid—
or like wind made solid.

– from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me a note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

notes & footnotes:

The reviews of a first novel by the
“novice writer Robert Galbraith” included
Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, both on July 15, 2013.
The story of how the secret got out
in the London Evening Standard by Maxine Frith (July 16, 2013)
and in The New York Times by Sarah Lyall (Jan 26, 2017).

An article about dementors as a metaphor for depression
from Time Magazine (Feb 11, 2016) by Ashley Ross.
Dementors are creatures that are very unwelcome at Hogwarts;
they drain happpiness and hope out of anyone who gets too close to them.

It occurs to me that this little play on words
is lost on children who wouldn’t know the
history of the term ‘horseless carriage.’
“Some people had seen horseless carriages,
called automobiles, on visits to the city
a few were aspiring to own one …
If the horseless carriage driver wished to pass an animal-drawn vehicle,
he was to give the signal by a bell… and

passing speed was not to exceed four miles per hour….
Fines from $10 to $100 were imposed for failure to obey these rules.

from The Eastern Shore of Virginia by Nora Miller Turman

The dangers are obvious…
Horseless carriages propelled by gasoline might attain
speeds of 14 or even 20 miles per hour.
The menace to our people of vehicles of this type
hurtling through our streets and …
poisoning the atmosphere

[calls] for prompt legislative action
… In addition, the development of this new power may
displace the use of horses, which would wreck our agriculture.

– from the US Congressional Record (1875)

Personal note added in September 2021

Trans people around the world deserve our respect and we need to listen to their messages.
They can be among the very most vulnerable to violence and discrimination.
I strive to become a better ally.

In June 2020, after making various statements and hearing the consequent backlash,
JK Rowling released a 3,600 word essay on her website talking about trans issues.

I’m totally unqualified to assess anyone’s mental state, but here I go anyway:
It sounds to me that, in trying to heal from the trauma of domestic abuse and sexual assault in her own past, JK Rowling has constructed rigid boxes of good guys and bad guys. Trans rights activism has complicated her boxes and is threatening her personal ‘how to stay safe’ narrative. Now if she were simply an individual taking time to work through her issues, that would by one thing—but no. She is a cultural icon and a multi-millionaire who’s got a ginormous megaphone heard by half the world.

Here are some excerpts from JK Rowling’s June 2020 essay:

After saying:
I know and love trans people.

Rowling reasons like this:
If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased…
Erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to
meaningfully discuss their lives

Then comes what seems to be her real fear:
When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman …
then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside.

She accuses trans activists of:
…doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class.

I believe Rowling is doing demonstrable harm;
She’s endangering trans lives by trying (and failing!) to keep women safe and strong.

So what should I do?

A) Keep the books. Enjoy the movies.
The world of Harry Potter is an integral part of an entire generation’s own coming of age stories.
And I feel like Rowling’s got way too much money to be fazed by a boycott.
(Though if I were to buy a Harry Potter book at this point, I’d definitely go to a second-hand book store.)

B) I want to support organizations who support people who are most at risk of harm from Rowling’s statements.

** Below are some trans activist organizations **

5 Trans Justice Organizations to Support (Today and Every Day)
Emma Specter
Vogue magazine
March 31, 2021

For the Gworls
For the Gworls hosts monthly parties with the goal of raising money to help Black trans people pay for their rent and gender-affirming surgeries, and although the organization is not currently holding events due to COVID-19, it is still devoted to crowdfunding assistance.

Trans Lifeline
Trans Lifeline provides direct peer support for trans people in need, operating a grassroots help line that has answered more than 100,000 calls as well as offering microgrants to provide trans people with the support they need to correct names and/or gender markers on identifying legal documents.

Emergency Release Fund
The mission of the Emergency Release Fund is to ensure that no trans person at risk in New York City jails remains in detention before trial, particularly since trans people face increased risk of harm or death in detention; the organization is devoted to raising the funds to pay cash bail for the detained trans community.

Transgender Law Center
As the largest trans-led organization in the U.S., the Transgender Law Center is devoted to challenging the legal system on behalf of the trans community, as well as maintaining a robust Legal Services Project that provides connection to resources for those struggling to navigate the legal system.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Named for civil rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera, this organization’s mission is to “guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.” The Sylvia Rivera Law Project offers legal, social, and health services to underserved members of the trans community.

** Here are three more **

The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

National Center for Transgender Equality
Throughout the US, increasing numbers of transgender people are coming out and trying to live safe and productive lives. Too often, they face discrimination, harassment and violence, resulting in unemployment, homelessness, and negative health outcomes.
NCTE’s theory of change includes the belief that we must work in concert with all communities who face discrimination, violence, or limitations on opportunities because of race, nationality, class, religion, ability, and other dimensions of identity.

GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.


Please note:
Whenever you click on ‘Post Comment’ your comments always come to me first. Then I post them below.
If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.
© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

2 thoughts on “Magic in her Words”

  1. This is such marvelous stuff, Kelly!
    “Stuff” doesn’t capture what I want to convey. Maybe these words do: recognisable, relevant, and rich.

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