Through the eyes of others …

Almost one year ago I had the most amazing cruise of my life. I was on the Norwegian Star and had the fortune to meet the greatest group of strangers. They came from India, Canada, America and Australia. They were fun, interesting, exciting and I shared a special bond with each of them. In all my years of cruising I had never had a such an extraordinary bunch of people that I have actually wanted to spend time with, listening, learning and sharing. It was at this same time would learn my time on the Star was coming to an end. Knowing these people made my departure easier …

I was cleaning my hard-drive today and found this wonderful gift from one of those friends. Shanna gave me an illustration and her interpretation of my routine Shape of my Heart. I hope you like it as much as I do …

Shanna Woods illustration - me
Shanna Woods illustration - me

Shape of My Heart – Shanna Woods

Seated on a small black stool finely polished for audiences attention, a man shuffled a fresh deck of cards with a jovial smile spread across his face and eyes lit up like twinkling stars. As he spoke he made gestures, and talked about experiences he’d witnessed and been present for. From the stage; centered in the middle between three equally full sections of chairs, he eyed the brightening faces egging him on to show the mysterious art of illusion: Magic. “I hope you enjoy this. It’s my favorite.”

Trailing off into a quiet lapse of silence he gazed down at the deck of harmless cards and began to move them. Shifting the cards in stacks before shuffling them together and breaking them apart like poor lovers. A few claps from the rows of unknown spectators met his ears but he tuned them out and focused entirely on the one card with a scrawled name in blue felt.

Bringing the deck back as one the ends of his face twitched hearing the music begin to filter, directing him in the way to amaze the crowd in sync of the song. At each passing word his hands took on a life of their own, arching back and grabbing tips of the ends of the cards; shielded behind the veil he altered and bended as his own. What was shown seemed normal but to him it was nothing less than a routine. But no mattered how much he performed it to hundreds of anticipating eyes he always welcomed the furious applauds blowing away his hearing and the cat calls whistled from strangers both impressed and delighted.

( He deals the cards as a meditation
And those he plays never suspect
He doesn’t play for the money he wins
He doesn’t play for the respect )

A lengthy pause followed his perfected folding. A slip of the cards went unnoticed, crashing against his palms hedge and hurriedly pushed back into the deck. His eyes glued themselves to the crimson thin pieces, each identical to the last. But to him, and only him, they were all individual. Breaking apart the chain he held out the cards in both hands, lifting both sides over the other half. Keeping steady the hypnotic display he swung them out in a ring, spiraling like staircases leading further into the illusion that this was magic, not a false forced show.

He didn’t look up once. What he knew was there would have distracted him and forcing back temptation he paused at the last note and turned over the top card: Samantha. A grin broadened his face, lessening the faint lines of aging on his face as the applause broke through again and looking up with a Cheshire cat like look he turned the card and placed it in the middle of the deck.

( He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance )

Now lost once again he began the same cut, expertly honed to do the same action with the finely tuned grace from magicians long before him. He argued it was practice rather than genetics but who could be right in the end? Riffling through them the magician spun them sideways and cut them again in three different places, slapping the last load down—here came the climax. Spreading out the cards as if to say pick a card he imagined the audience taking a deep breath in anticipation, they knew something amazing was just seconds away ready to blow all logic and reveal only his truth. Grasping the deck loosely he flexed his right hand, creating the effect of an incantation to summon all the desired cards to the top, and with eyes half closed and teeth flashing brightly at the spotlight and camera fixated on his hands he abided by the songs rules and followed obediently.

( I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart )

One by one each ace of the desired suit were flipped over. First the ace of spades, a heroic lone soldier in the deck. With alluring designs upon it, it became the easiest likeable card, and deadliest with doom written in its history. A harbinger of death and ill fortune he pictured the valiant soldiers of war running along the battlefield, and the explosions of fire assaulting them from the other side, and counted the bodies that fell and the cards needed to calculate the death toll. How could such horrendous acts in the past taint this card so in black death?

Hearing the next note he quickly spun the card over and hid it carefully inside the deck, brushing alongside his pinky holding open the slot specifically for the roaming aces. The ace of clubs casually flipped over with the faintest of touches. Gazing down for a split second he ushered the card away, clubs were not an object of war unless during the barbaric years of history.

Placing the ace in the same spot, slipped right under the lonely spade he made a hand motion and turned over the next card: Ace of Diamonds. Money. Diamonds. A thought passed alongside him. Diamonds did indeed mean money, but no amount of money equal or less would stop him from performing his art—his special art for people who appreciated his magic as entertainment.

Bringing that back he pressed it down at the bottom under the rest of the aces and stalled at the last card. Defying the harsh gravity he manipulated the timing, though not slowing it down at all but giving the impression that it paused in its fall to land right on time. The ace of Hearts. No amount of hearts could express his love to his family, because hey, its his job! Slipping that back he pressed the deck together, grasping it solidly once again and continued on par of the song.

( He may play the jack of diamonds
He may lay the queen of spades
He may conceal a king in his hand
While the memory of it fades )

Grabbing the top card he swung the Jack like a flipping coin and flashed it fully to the spectators, pressing it down on the top of the deck before giving it a half hearted shake and slipping it mid deck, sticking out face down. As if by a doppleganger possessing the cards he gave it a flick from his index finger and revealed it again—the Queen of Spades. Making sure he demonstrated the single card he allowed the maelstrom of others like it to swallow it whole and took the top card. Mimicking the Jack of Diamonds grand entrance twirl he clenched the card with bare knuckles tensed. One by one the cards unraveled themselves in his hand and fresh in memory as one, he spread all four suits of the same card, the King, angled effectively in the air receiving a stunned silence. Looking up for the first time he dared not to blink at the crowd or allow his eyes to water at the intense light shining down on his person. Though it was a mere fragment of a second given to him to soak in the positive emotions rippling through the audience he took the energy and bowed his head back down, resettling the cards and resuming the numbered dance.

( I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape, the shape of my heart )

One by one the flips were made. Every move coordinated themselves with song, every hesitated second added a little more to it the presentation, and every note sent his heart soaring with eagerness of what awaited that would truly baffle the crowd. Slipping the cards inside the desired place he altered the final step, stretching it out with the note by separating the deck and fanning out the cards along his hand and leaving a chunk of the rest immobile in his other. While the music slowed he crept closer to the top card, pushing it encouragingly with the ball of his thumb toward the make shift fan until the numerous cards caught a fraction of it underneath their weight and assisted in pushing it over.


Noise erupted from all sides. Hoots and hollers of amazement echoed. In midst of it all he only felt obliged to do more and drawing the fan closed he slipped the cards into the deck and cut them again, showing Samantha’s card for all to see. Knowing the stares were directed largely at the screen rather than his actual person, respectably looking for flaws in his show, he brought the cards up and faked putting the card into the pile. Haphazardly running his thumb along the outside edges of the deck he didn’t move anything but his hand devoid of cards and pointed upwards. Seeing the camera move along his hint he impishly grinned at the laughter and surprise and rising excitement at having fooled all. The written card hung in his teeth for a lasting second before he let go of it, returning it back into the secure stable hand he dropped it slowly down, rotating it consistently until it reached its home—the deck of impossible tricks.

( And if I told you that I loved you
You’d maybe think there’s something wrong
I’m not a man of too many faces
The mask I wear is one
Those who speak know nothing
And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places
And those who fear are lost )

As the music started up again the magician showed the written card once again, but did not slip it inside the deck. Rather than doing that he pressed the card down gently, folding it enough to give an equal curve granted to visually appease difference from all other straight cards. Difference he imagined would be necessary to prove that his deck was not forged or fake.

Cutting the deck in half he positioned the card in the middle of the two and slowly pressed it down, snugly fitting it in its place. Pressing the thumb and middle finger together he dragged his fingers upward, carrying an invisible string and in an instant, a curved card appeared at the top. Turning the respected crimson paper over he smoothed the bent card straight and accepted the vicious claps.

He knew they would be talking about that one for ages—a trick that made one keep guessing. That was his goal. Unraveling the cards in his hand one by one he secured them tightly into a solid block and slipped the card back where it originated from and began the routine once more. This time his hands followed instinct, cutting the cards perfectly like during the first verse-horizontally, vertically, clumps of cards side stepped each other to reach the front until he was satisfied. Bracing himself once more he flexed and began the finale.

( I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that’s not the shape of my heart
That’s not the shape of my heart )

As the music soared from the speakers the aces revealed themselves from the top once more. The omen of death first, its inkling picture blazing in the spotlight. Grabbing the deck as a whole he moved it replacing the top card with the clubs, skirting the duties of the soldiers. Balancing the method he let the deck fall back before riffling through it again and shape shifting it to the winning card of diamonds and luxury.

Lifting this card he looked at it, considering how he had got here—had reached this far in life and made it with so much more than he ever imagined. And no matter what happened he could always count on three things to continue to be by his side. Crookedly he angled the card, constantly rotating it and gently letting it touch the deck and removing it slowly. Given the tiniest of shakes to the fragile paper he turned it face up in the air to reveal the ace of hearts.

The one person whom he heard hollering religiously during the performance clapped first as he bent the card with the end of his thumb; there were no strings attached to the card and no double lift to be seen. But that was far from the truth. Sleight of hand was meant to be a secret—to trick the eyes of the believers and convince the realists of the world.

Drawing back in his seat the magician did not gloat to the encouragement but merely set back the deck and re-arranged the ace into another spot inside the deck. Positioning the cards carefully in one hand he found the stack to be heavy but comforting—between two finger he criss crossed the cards, cutting them in spirals and odd forms until he saw the card. He mentally counted down all the cards to that one card that would make or break his hypnotic performance. Touching the cards with his two fingers he swung it with little more then a push across his lap in the air. It flew and landed like an airplane made well and with bated breath to which he held no doubt he slowly overturned it.


He allowed the smile to show now. He allowed his eyes to see past the light to the audience occupying every seat. Where would he be, he wondered, if their weren’t people like them to see him? People he could scarcely begin to count on his fingers their nationality, history, language all cultured and brought up differently. It was overwhelming no matter where he performed and egged on such he brushed back his coat and placed the deck visibly back into his pocket.

Feigning his finish he waited. Reaching up with a finger he scratched his neck before opening his mouth….and letting a handful of cards flow from his mouth like an untamed river coursing down a waterfall. As the cards fell one by one he stopped one card, biting onto it at the edge and upon releasing it was clear as day, the four of hearts, with Samantha’s name boldly written along it.

“Ladies and gentleman with the final show of the Norwegian Sky, two time world champion, Shawn Farquhar!” As the announcers voice echoed with aid of a microphone he slid off the stool he occupied and walked to the front of the stage. Bowing at last he reveled in the appreciation at his talent and years of practice. As he bowed he could see one by one—then in clumps—people who probably never heard of him giving him a standing ovation. Heart swelling he could only smile warmly and wave back..

Somewhere during the hand motions he paused to clasp his hands behind his back, remembering his fathers words. The simple sentence he told everyone else during his performance with the thread of life. Words that expressed the way he lived life now. To expect the unexpected and take the bad with good and seek the mystery of the next days bringing.

‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift….that’s why they call it the present.’

And there were no finer words than that.
Shanna Woods
Dedication Fic
Shawn Farquhar
The most amazing person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

“Friendship isn’t a big thing – it’s a million little things.” – annon


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