Todd Landman Academic Magician
January 14, 2023Todd Landman

The Magic of Family

The turn of the new year is always a time for reflection and contemplation. This season, I had the good fortune of re-uniting with my mother and my brothers in Norfolk, Virginia, which gave us the chance to reminisce and re-connect after too many years of being apart. The demands of everyday life, coupled with over two and half years of the COVID-19 hiatus meant that we had not all been in the same place for quite some time.

Todd, Drew, and Hank Landman, Norfolk 2023

We all grew up near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the 1960s and 1970s on a farm nestled in a valley affectionately known as Hemlock Hollow. Our house was built in the 1750s, and we enjoyed access to land, a barn, and woods. We engaged in ice skating, sledding, fishing, swimming, hiking, sports and many other formative activities that have brought us both resilience and strength.

My older two brothers - Drew and Hank - studied engineering. Drew is now a professor of aeronautical engineering and Hank is an airline captain. My mother and I are social scientists, and this season we spent many hours in deep discussion about American politics, history, her own involvement in the struggle for women's rights in society and business, books, and many dimensions of popular culture.

Hank, Laura, Drew and Todd Landman, Norfolk 2023

Under a canopy of trees and enjoying unseasonably warm weather, we drank coffee in the garden next to calm water and wiled away the hours discussing so many different topics, including our beloved father, who passed away in 1997.

This long anticipated visit provided a much needed tonic to several difficult years, but also reminded me of the importance and the magic of family. My early years at Hemlock Hollow were ones of enchantment, and in my magical musings, I have written about the different ways in which my study and performance of magic have been processes that have yielded, contra Max Weber, a certain kind of 're-enchantment of self.'

My time in Virginia was also a moment of re-enchantment, as we three boys joined our mother for some serious down time. In addition to all of our discussions, I was also able to visit Drew's research lab at his university to see his latest work on autonomous airplanes, where the technology guiding the planes that he and his students design has advanced so much over the past few years.

Todd and Drew Landman, Old Dominion University 2023

Before departing for my return to the UK, my mother bequeathed a special magical item to me: our family's coat of arms, made of stained glass. The wooden frame, glass, and inscription - nullus volat altius ales - provide a wonderful grounding in our Dutch heritage brought to us through my father's move to the United States in 1955. This homage to our roots now hangs magnificently in The Magiculum, here in The Park Estate in Nottingham.

Nullas volat altius ales - 'no bird soars higher'

My father's memory and influence also carry with them a great love of music, and after reading a review of The Aaron Diehl Trio's tribute to the Modern Jazz Quartet, I write this post today while listening to MJQ's No Sun in Venice, which is emblematic of their sublime sound, subtly combining piano (John Lewis), bass (Percy Heath), vibes (Milt Jackson), and drums (Connie Kay).

The Modern Jazz Quartet - No Sun in Venice 1957

This music, one of my father's favourite recordings, would fill our house at Hemlock Hollow and reminds me of our magical family time together. Its understated beauty not only stands the test of time, but also reminds me of how truly meaningful impact can be achieved from the simplest of ingredients.

Simple ingredients also make up my own world of magic and underpin my own understanding of the importance of family. Our quartet is spinning magic from its own ingredients.

This year in Norfolk, that magic came home, for which I am eternally grateful, giving me the much needed energy as I head into the new year.

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