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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Open Sesame" peppered with Shazam

Jim Banholzer

In a rich Arabian adventure from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, while working late one night the poor woodcutter Ala-baba “just so happens” to overhear forty thieves visiting their treasure trove, which is sealed in a cave by magic. He hears the words Open Sesame used to magically swing ajar the heavy stone door and after the bandits leave, uses it to access the shimmering jewels.

The concept of using magic words has frequently been utilized in enduring fables. Gandalf had difficulty remembering the words to open the door to the Mine’s of Moria and had to sit down to intensely explore his subconscious mind for a spell, until he finally recalled that it was “Mellon”, the elvish word denoted for friend that opens the door to well-being. I’m even told that Harry Potter used this trick once or thrice in similar fashion.

One evening as I was grumbling in my search for some magic words to help me stay awake on a midnight shift, I started thinking about how certain specific words can be used to open other useful doors. “Open Sesame” as metaphor –if you will. Not long ago, I had written a story, which spoke about my sadness of losing our beloved shack on Trail Creek in Ketchum to the whirlwind of a wrecking ball. Not only were my housemate, Laura and I losing our home, the circumstances were such that this would be the last day on this good earth for our beloved dog, Maddie. On this dark late October evening, we feared that along with the eradication of our adored home, we would also lose some of our precious memories of the place.

Laura had thrived in the cute cottage for eighteen years -essentially most of her adult life. We had hoped that the sugar maple tree in our front yard could at least be retained, so that when we traveled by, there would be one symbol for us to hold onto & identify with from Ketchum’s good old days.

The developer had announced to us that they would try to salvage the maple in the riparian area. Alas, due to space constraints of the tight working space needed for machinery for maneuver about, the tree suddenly disappeared like magic. I decided to express our forlornness in the form of an ode to the giant sugar maple. While concentrating on therapeutic writing, the phrase “Shedding Maple Syrup Tears” suddenly appeared on the paper. After a few minutes, I was fortunate enough to realize that this phrase would fit well as the title.

Shortly thereafter, I started wondering if I had heard the phrase somewhere and perhaps that I was plagiarizing again. Better go check “The Google”. I soon determined that nobody on record had used that specific phrase, but did find a nice poem by Allison Keane called Candy Life, in which she mentions “maple syrup tears”

I invested several weeks polishing up the shack's maple tale. It finally felt as though it was fine-tuned enough so that readers might enjoy it. When I came into work after the story was published, a well-respected colleague at the newspaper, Betty Bell went out of her way to approach me and said, “Jim, I really enjoyed that story you wrote.” As I look at it now, this compliment coming from a woman, who was writing columns well before I could even read, was probably the highlight of my writing career. I thought that if Betty Bell enjoyed this story, then that was good enough for me, and by that mark I am a success.

I felt that my labor of burning the midnight ethanol to get the words just right had on this occasion opened a door to Betty’s good heart –as she in turn reciprocated without fumbling on turning open the mostly hardscrabble lock attached to mine. This made me want to encourage others to focus on finding and using the proper magic words in timely manners to open wide the doors to their beloved ones hearts and souls. My hope is then that more people discover how much unlimited Shazam can be found deep inside the elvish word for “friend”.

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Notes from Wikipedia:

According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. In early Hindu legends, tales are told in which sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality. "Open sesame," the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity.

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