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A gift of ordinary magic

Have you ever received a gift which delighted all your senses? A gift given for no occasion other than friendship?

The promise was, "it will lighten your heaviest load," followed by the thoughtful reminder, "if the magic has fallen from your life and you find yourself walking the dotted lines of linear thought, living as if you'd seen the movie, and know which way the story ends, it's time to dance with a whisk."

Yes, that's right, a whisk.

"Causing a Stir: The Secret Lives and Loves of Kitchen Utensils" by Prathro Sereno (Mansarover Press, San Anselmo California, 2007, $16.95) speaks to dancing with whisks, laughing with soup spoons and boldly courting pickle forks. In this colorful little book, kitchen utensils are lined up, tine and bowl. Each is given its own alluring, poetic description accompanied by a friendship-infused watercolor illustration. The painted faces of what appear to be friends of the author are beautifully and intriguingly "windowed" into each utensil.

Too much whimsy, you're saying? Are you scoffing at the silliness of it all?

Be still. It may be the perfect gift. It gave me incandescent joy.

I was prompted to reflect, somewhat pensively, on the single, shared wooden-handled grapefruit spoon on the breakfast table when I was growing up "all dressed up with no place to go." I recalled fondly the many heavy metal ice cream scoops I have dipped into rounded cardboard or plastic containers — and the promise of comfort they offered, "sweet and rich."

This book even inspired me to retrieve my great-grandmother's acorn-patterned slotted spoon and polish it, caress it.

It helped me "slow down and listen deep," just as it promised it would.

I received my little tome, which I shall ever think of as a gesture of imaginative love, from two amazing people. They are our friends and he is our neighbor. Each has an unrelenting sense of humor and an eye for the beauty of words, music and art. She plays the violin, mandolin (sort of) and piano. He rolls out old refrains, by ear, on a truly-smoking saxophone. They are in their 80s but seem much younger — attractive, vigorous, fun to be around. The two met in college, lived interesting, scholarly and adventurous lives — apart — and then reunited decades later; not to marry, but to love and enjoy one another "¦ to share a "time-rich world."

I think he's the dinner knife ("balanced and flexible, relaxed and versatile") and she's the lemon zester ("savoring the flavor of life on the tip of her tongue"). Or maybe they are salad servers, "emissaries from the lost realm of harmony."

Can you tell I adore these age-wise people and this book of fresh, illuminating verse they've bestowed upon me? I read it in 10 minutes and later spent an afternoon with it. I laid it down and picked it up again, each encounter enriched and enchanted me in some new and unexpected way. As the reviewers suggest, it is "as accessible as the utensils it celebrates "¦ and will fold humor and wonder back into your days."

Ah, yes, I've been given a gift of ordinary magic.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.