Why Does the Cricket Cry at Midnight?

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Happy Halloween reading!

~*~

I stayed late to finish the Massey project. Yup, lucky me. I’d lost the coin toss… again. I could swear those partners rigged it.

It was 11:30 p.m., and the last train left at midnight. I’m not going to make it. What choice did I have but to indulge in a taxi. Those drivers! The way they zipped in and out of the most impossible traffic. I paid the fare and gave a generous tip when we arrived ten minutes early.

They announced the track number, and a rush of people ran toward me and the singular door leading to the stairs. Already standing next to the announced entrance, I was the fifth person inside. How lucky am I? With the crowd on my heels, I clambered down the stairs. For a brief moment I worried about the danger should any of these commuters trip and fall. My world would come crashing down.

This was the train’s starting point out to the Jersey suburbs, which meant I had my choice of seats. Lucky me again. I walked between cars until I found my favorite spot; the eggplant-colored benches with the extra high neck supports. They were two across, and I hoped no one would sit near me. There was a real chance of having some space for myself.

I placed my briefcase on the seat to my right and folded my heavy winter coat carefully beside it. I moved to the window and sat down, peering at the blackness of the station. I closed my eyes. Finally, some peace. It had been a long, tough day full of chatter and concentration, argument and debate.

Then I heard it. So loud in my ear it might have been a scream against the softly whooshing background noise of the train taking off. It was distinct: a cricket. Am I the only one hearing this? Start and stop. Start and stop.

Normally, an irritant like this would have been quickly sought out and destroyed. I was neither a fan of the sound nor its intermittent nature. I didn’t know when the next burst of interruption might come. It was undependable, and I didn’t like that. I couldn’t determine his location, but if that little bugger kept it up, I’d find him in no time.

Tired, I longed for bed. The cricket chirped once, as if in agreement.

The train pulled out with an unusual lurch. Every sensation seemed exaggerated. We rolled along, gathering speed. Though the noise inside the train grew with its rocking motion, the cricket outdid it by far.

A train passing in the opposite direction was completely dark inside. My heart sank a little seeing that. I wished to go all the way home without the lights going out. The night was frigid, and even a few moments without heat would mean the inconvenience of putting on my heavy coat, which I probably wouldn’t do.

I raised my head above the seat backs to have a look around the car. Surprisingly, there was only one other passenger, seated all the way in the back corner near the door to the next cabin. He had on a long black coat with the collar pulled up around his ears. A hat covered most of his face. His skin was taut against his teeth, stretching from his squared chin back through his jawline.

Dressed all in black gave him a familiar echoing ring, like something from a Sunday afternoon TV Chiller Theater. An odor of mud and moldy leaves crept down the aisle. A chill filled the train car as a shiver ran up my back. Brrrr. Shake it off. Your imagination is playing with you, William.

I wanted to call my wife earlier, but to my dismay the cell was dead. I had been too busy to phone before leaving the office, not that they encouraged long distance calls from there anyway. I hoped she would just realize it was one of those occasional late nights and not worry. She was prone to worrying. And now, I’m worried too. Get a grip. You’re just overtired.

The cricket chirped. I jumped, briefly forgetting about tall, dark, and creepy. It was the distraction I needed. There it sat, on top of my briefcase, rubbing those stalk-like legs together. It tilted its head while we observed each other. Isn’t nature weird? I would never have thought up such a creature. I wasn’t the creative type like that. I loved orderly things, plenty of sharpened pencils in the containers, folders straightened, coffee poured to a comfortable level in the mug. The simple pleasures.

Another train flew by. It was also dark inside, though this time I could see two figures by the windows. One in the back and one in the middle of the cabin. They seemed familiar, but I couldn’t be sure. There was a slight change in the pitch of the cricket’s song. It slowed down a bit and wasn’t quite as high and energetic as it had been. I felt concern. How odd.

I leaned my head against the window and exhaled. The resultant steam left a patch where I could do as the kids did and draw some message or picture, but I chose not to.

Another train approached. It began to slow down. This time I could get a good look at it. Dark like the other trains, I again saw two figures, and in my memory they seemed identical to the last set except for where one of them was. As it slowed even further, I noticed the one figure, sitting, was shockingly familiar. The other hunched over him.

The seated man’s suit appeared identical to mine, his five-o’clock shadow visible across the darkened track. It could have been my cousin or twin, but no. I knew it was me. My own self. My whole body gave a quick, violent shudder.

The cricket let out a weak distant chirp. I wanted to check and make sure it was still safe on the seat beside me, but I dared not look away from this vision of myself, now slumped in the seat, head against the window. There was no evidence of breath steaming up the glass. What’s happening to me? Wake up now!

My heart pounded as both trains stopped. Palms sweaty, I looked at my briefcase. The cricket leapt off it and onto the back of my seat, as the man in the rear of the car rose and walked toward us. The cricket let out a loud screech. A desire to snuff out its life before something horrible happened came over me. It would be the kind thing to do. Get up! Run, William! The lights flickered, and then, only darkness.

 

A Random Scene in Time

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Here is a short scene. I lay it out before you, and should you have something you liked or that didn’t work for you, please feel free to make a note in the comment section below.

~*~

On the third day of her solo road trip, Verna stopped for more than fuel, a rest room, and truck stop fare. She no longer felt an urgency to keep going. Entering a small town along an even smaller, forested road, she parked on the main street. Finally able to stretch her legs and back outside the shops and restaurants, she took in the fresh air that smelled of honeysuckle, roses, and hyacinths continuing their way upward from the soil.

Verna followed a wind-driven page, blown from her research folio the moment she took it out of her backpack. She ran after it through the propped-open door. Glancing around, she found confirmation of what she knew would be inside. As if she’d been there a thousand times, she strolled in and sat at her favorite table where she could people-watch those outside and in.

Wait. She didn’t have any favorites here. It was irritating, being in this constant state of déjà vu.

She couldn’t believe she was here, in this place, taking her seat. Passing through New Jersey for the first time in her life, she couldn’t possibly have been inside “The Crooked Needle” before. She would have known it for certain. Everything was well-made, clearly from a different era, with many planes and rounds of rubbed wood. Shade and light reflected the late afternoon hour. Around that corner behind the cash register, there would be, what? She knew it was the spiral staircase. She wondered whether it was still there.

She recognized the satisfying aromas of coffee, bacon, and blueberry pie.

“What will you have for lunch today, Ma’am?” Startled out of her reverie by the alto voice of the waitress, she blurted out an old favorite.

I was thinking about having an A.L.T. That’s avocado instead of the bacon. Your tomatoes are homegrown, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Finest in the county. The family’s been growing them out back for over 200 years. You been here before?”

“Ye… I mean, No. No I haven’t. I’ll also have a seltzer with a twist. Thanks.” She jabbed the menu outward and turned toward the window to see a teenage girl looking in at her from the other side.

She knew she was tired from her long drive, but realized after turning away that there was something odd about the girl’s clothing. She wasn’t sure of current fashion, but enough to know that it probably didn’t include crinoline.

There was a familiarity in her eyes and the upward turn of her lips. I’ve seen you before.

 

Planting Trees in Correspondence

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Correspondence is one of my favorite forms of writing. It’s inspiring. It bleeds over into the way I ‘hear myself writing’ when I get into fiction.

I recently corresponded with a friend, in which she described the delight of a day of horseback riding. It prompted my own inner storyteller, and the following tree planting theme emerged. It’s a memory I cherished but hadn’t thought about in many years.

Me: When I first moved to Washington State from New Jersey, I stayed for a month on a hundred acre piece of land on Mount Hull in the Okanogan. I did many things while I was there, including apple-thinning and picking on vast irrigated farms. One thing I did and loved, when I was young and my back could take it, was planting MANY trees there, after a federal incentive so people could take employment in the wilderness area which had a mostly barter economy at that time. It was done because many mature trees had been clear-cut some time before (such a sad thing to see and walk in). If one was to encounter a clear cut wound in the wild, the best way to approach it would be with a baby tree in one’s hand. It made me think of Johnny Appleseed, though I don’t know much about how far west he got in his travels.

(I’ve since found out the following – courtesy of Wikipedia: John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.” Interesting. Not all the way to Washington State, but apples are the crossover.)

… and after my friend’s response, my reply:

Me: I love your letter. Thanks for what you said about the trees. It’s a sweet reminder of one time of beauty and service… and I like the opportunity to remember it. Looking back again, I realize that it was only one time in my life when I did such a thing. When I lived in Cumberland on a few acres, we planted over 100 trees, and I used to dream about them at night. I’d be coming back over a hundred years later to visit them, amazed at how tall the cedar and redwoods had grown, how colorful the sugar maple was in fall, how graceful the cypress, how grand the weeping willow up high over the river. It was hard work, but at the end of the day, all that was left was happiness.

Justification

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When I think about characterization, I develop arcs based, in part, upon the philosophies each character holds in his, her, or its heart. I want to know this about the characters, even if that information never overtly appears in the pages of the book.

 

A spectrum I like to use is whether the character values ends or means more… and whether they move from one position at the start of the story and end somewhere else.

 

One of my favorite books is ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love this book as I have from my early teens. While it is in no way thoroughly representative of my interests as a reader, I find it an excellent glass through which to perceive various philosophical, existential, and organizational questions about life and writing.

 

First up, these two statements:

 

“The ends justify the means.”

-OR-

“The means justify the ends.”

 

An interesting exercise is to take some favorite characters of your own, or for this example, from Tolkien, and see where they would appear on this spectrum.

 

I’ll mention Gandalf ™ and Gollum™ because of the many people acquainted with these characters from either the volume(s) or the Peter Jackson movies which take the books as their source material.

 

It strikes me that Gandalf considers the means the more important aspect on which to hang his wizard’s hat most of the time. Means are the ‘now,’ the moment within his control, to the extent that he has any . If he takes an action, he thinks about it in advance, constantly revising, if need be, and relying on intuition as well as his other senses to know whether it is right. If something he does runs afoul of his personal integrity or wisdom, he knows that he is likely to see this wrinkle exaggerated in the end results.

 

He values the importance of each step he takes, and lets the end take care of itself thereby, quite possibly in the direction he’d like to see.

 

On the other hand, there’s Gollum, and all he wants is the Ring of Power ™. He will do anything, take any means to get it, even though we get a split sense of dimension what with the two sides of his personality occasionally bickering, cajoling, manipulating. As long as Gollum gets the ring in the end (don’t worry, no spoilers here), he is happy, for the most part, with whatever means he has taken.

 

Not surprisingly, it would seem that Gandalf and Gollum think about one another or at the least, figure into each other’s vision of the future and/or past:

 

Responding to Frodo who expresses outrage that Gollum was allowed to live after Gandalf’s last meeting with him, the latter speaks one of my favorite quotes (of many) from the book:

 

SPOILER WARNING:

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least. In any case we did not kill him: he is very old and very wretched. The Wood-elves have him in prison, but they treat him with such kindness as they can find in their wise hearts.”

OKAY – safe again

 

Admitting that one cannot see all ends may be the elixir that bestows a healthy dose of respect for means.

 ~*~

This is one axis to look at in the characters and the story, and it can be a fun one. If I cross this axis with a second, things can really heat up, debate-wise. This is why, for example, I mentioned ‘personal integrity’ rather than societal or relativistic. More on this later…

 

-Does this method of drawing out characters resonate with any that you love, hate, or both – that you’ve read, seen, or written?

 

-In this example, Gandalf is considered ‘good’ though he, like all wizards, is ‘subtle and quick to anger’ when meddled with, while Gollum is something quite different. Are there examples in stories that spring to mind where those polarities are reversed for protagonist and antagonist?

 

We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

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“Ella… the Untold Story”

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For today’s post, we are sharing a short story written on Day 25 of Andrea’s Creative Writing course. The prompt on that day was one that is especially fun as fairy tales often contain skeletal story elements, ripe soil for creative change and embellishment. Here goes the prompt: “Write a fairy tale that changes the ending and other elements of the original.”

“Ella… the Untold Story”

  “Ella, are you going to sit there all day while I’m out hunting and keeping the kingdom safe?”

“Yup. Pretty much. You promised me an exciting life, and all I get to do is stare at these same four stone walls.”

His tone softened as he sat down next to her. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. You know how the other kingdoms are always trying to take us down. If anything ever happened to you, I would be devastated. There’s plenty for you to do around here.”

“Like what, dear King? Order this one around or that one? I am watched 24/7. I’ve freakin had it with the microscope I live under. The only time I get to myself is when I’m on the throne, if you know what I mean. Even then I’m not so sure. I see how the others look at me when I leave the loo.”

“Oh Ella. You’re being paranoid. No one is watching you.”

“If you say so. But I don’t buy it. Not one bit.”

“I’ll prove it to you. Go for a walk around the garden. No one will follow you. I promise.”

“Okay. I’ll do that.” Ella gave him a kiss on the cheek and was on her way.

After she left, he went behind the large wall tapestry and entered his mission control. “Keep an eye on her, boys, but not too close. I told her she wasn’t being watched, and I don’t want her to get suspicious.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. We won’t let her out of our sight.”

“You can ease up on the powder room camera. I guess she can have a little privacy there for now.”

The king noticed the disappointment in the man’s eyes. He wanted to smash his face into the desk, but he refrained. He needed his men loyal, and hurting this one would not be good for morale.

***

I know he’s watching me. I can feel it. Ella kicked the dirt with her glass walking shoes. Ever since they got together, every pair of shoes had to be made of glass. Really? I know he thinks it’s romantic but enough already. My feet are killing me.

“Hello Mister Mouse. How are you today?”

The tiny creature looked up at her and with a turn of his head, smiled. She knew the mouse was having a good day.

Ella wished for the freedom he had. Even at her evil stepmother’s, she had time to herself. Who knew it was going to be like this?

“Can you help me, Sweetie?”

Ella walked to where she heard the raspy voice. There was a turtle lying on his back in the shade under a big oak. He was smiling at her too. Nothing surprised her these days since she knew magic was real.

“How may I help you, Mister Turtle.”

“If you could turn me right side up, I would be ever so grateful.”

“No problem,” and Ella immediately righted the turtle on his feet once more.

“I’d like to be Frank with you. I am your Fairy Godmother’s half-brother on her father’s side. I am here to de-wish you.”

“De-wish me? Whatever does that mean?”

“Well, I know you wanted this, but not ‘this’ exactly. You know the old saying, ‘Be care…’”

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I know that saying all right. So how does this de-wishing process work?”

“You have a choice. You can either leave things as they are, or you can go back to the way things were.”

This is it. What I’ve been hoping for all these long months. “Hmm. Which do I choose?”

“Sleep on it. Your true heart’s desire will reveal itself in the morning.”

“By the way, what is your name, kind turtle?”

“I already told you. My name is Frank.”

“What? Oh, yes. I guess in an unconventional way, you did.”

Ella thanked Frank, waved goodbye, and headed back to the castle. She quickly passed the king’s chambers and entered her sleeping area. It was a long boring day and she was ready for bed.

She awoke from a deep sleep to a screeching sound she hadn’t heard in forever.

“Cinderella! Get down here now and make us breakfast!”

“Oh no. I made a mistake. I don’t want this again. Please bring me back.”

Ella opened her eyes to the king’s face. He was nose to nose with her.

“Good morning, Sunshine. It’s wakey wakey time. You have a big day ahead of you.”

“Really? What do you have planned for me?” Ella sat up. She was excited at the prospect of an adventure.

“Well, you said you were bored, so I gave the chef and maids the day off. You get to take care of the whole castle. Isn’t that exciting? Enjoy your day, Love. I’ll see you tonight.”

“Frank!! Come back!”

Tortoise

Thank you for reading.

If you feel so moved to adapt a fairy tale of your choice, we would love for you to share it or its URL here in the comments.

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Breadcrumbs and Echoes

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Once, a couple of months back, we wrote down the title of this blog post, not knowing then what it might turn into when we used it. We wrote no content, just the title. The time is now,  so we are talking about what breadcrumbs and echoes mean to each of us.

~*~

 {Leslie –>}  Breadcrumbs make me think of two things simultaneously: my grandmother’s cooking and fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel. Of course, Grandma couldn’t be further from the antagonist in Hansel and Gretel if she tried.

 

However they both lead to the same place. Hansel left breadcrumbs so he could find his way home… and I have my own set of memories and food that bring me back to when Grandma was still with us. Home. Those ways of communicating with past and future are vital in life, and they are also something we consider when we’re writing.

 

Foreshadowing and flashbacks are breadcrumbs.

 

One more word about fairy tales from my ‘don’t want to stand on a soap box:’ To me, they are the DNA of storytelling. ‘Just the facts, Ma’am’ kind of thing. They are the skeletons to which we add specific settings, characteristics, and developed themes, each in our own individual voice.

 

They are so familiar to all of us that we recognize them even where they’re embedded in more complex tales: the three brothers, the helpful person along the wooden path, the animal side of human nature, like the wolf in Grandmother’s clothing. Echo and Narcissus – a beloved tale from childhood.

 

Echoes make me think of whales– communication between their families and friends over the miles. Animals in general as well – for a girl whose dearest thought was once to grow up and be a veterinarian in the Sydney Zoo since age seven.

 

Now I’m left joining those two concepts in a meaningful way. Let me give it a shot.

 

Grandma told me stories all my life. They were a combination of folk stories from her native country where she was born and many everyday and miraculous stories from her own life. Ah, what a life. They are part of mine now. These gave the children, myself included, breadcrumbs back to other lands and our own ancestral tales and people.

 

Here’s what it boils down to: everything is story and therefore communication. It can be drawn from past, present, future, and other species.

~*~

{Andrea –>}   I really had no idea what I was originally thinking when I saw the title. I only knew that it meant something to me. What comes to mind are the steps I’m taking and the intuition I’m following.

 

Breadcrumbs someone left for me to follow and the echoes in my mind guiding me where to go next.

 

It has been quite the journey writing this book with Leslie and following the steps along the way.

 

Sometimes the breadcrumbs weren’t there, and I had to stop and look around. They disappeared for days at a time, but then the echo came in and told me where to pick up the trail.

 

They aren’t leading me to a candy cottage but they are leading me to something very sweet. I appreciate the breadcrumbs and echoes. I continue to keep my eyes and ears open for them on a daily basis.

 

Hmmm, what’s my next step? “Oh there you are. Thank you. So happy to see you again.”

One Rotation of the Earth Around the Sun

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Happy Birthday to me today. Happy Birthday to you on your day.

It might sound selfish, but no.

Upon reflection, I heartily want to wish you the best this life has to offer.

May my special day and its energy become your special day and energy too.

I’ll share. I feel good about how we all benefit from moving all that’s wonderful from one to another.

Be well and happy!

One Word Here, Another There… Which One’s Best?

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I’ve learned about word choice over the years.

 

It’s another one of those writing components like sentence fluency and voice that we can use to assess and revise our drafts. It’s helpful to have traits and a vocabulary to check in on when making pass after pass over the draft. Constructive feedback can hail from these components… as well as the feelings that come from the words and content chosen.

 

When I started writing as a child, I thought it was a place to display my vocabulary. I used the most prestigious and complex words I knew.

 

That is how I wrote for a long time. While a complicated word may come closer to being specific at times, if a simpler word does the trick, that’s the best way to go. Simple = Powerful.

 

Words are the clay we have to work with in our drafting. In the first draft, I play, but I have to be willing to let the originals go if simpler words communicate a more direct path to a truer meaning.

 

A well-chosen word can make all the difference between cutting to the heart and landing flat.

 

Here is a paragraph from a first draft, un-reworked origin story from one of my manuscripts. If you feel like it, read it over, and see whether any word choices jump out as feeling ‘on’ or ‘off’ and please comment (again, if you feel like it) to let me know your better choice.

 

>” It didn’t seem that far away, but night was a dangerous time to go wandering far afield of shelter and fire. Still, there was something calling to each man, individually… A small voice from the north whispering words of encouragement. Most thought they would be able to find it in the morning. Get a hunting party together to investigate, but each knew in his own heart that he would be going alone. To find the prize for himself. Shielding his intentions from the others’ potentially penetrating gaze, each man glanced surreptitiously around the circle, only to find all men but one doing the same thing.”<

 

Most of the resources for these components are to be found in classroom or on school websites. They include such specifics as:

 

-Sensory words and images,

-Precise nouns and pronouns

-Powerful and memorable verbs

-Figurative language

And….

-Memorable adjectives.

 

Here is a resource for more development on this particular writing component.

 

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Playing with and learning one writing component at a time leads to more awareness. New levels of writing await you as you practice, play, and sculpt your pieces.

 

Most of all, enjoy your writing. Readers know how you feel by your choice of words among other things. On the phone, for example, if you smile as you speak, your good cheer can be felt. Similarly, these feelings you experience while writing are communicated as the piece is read by another. If something moves you to tears or goosebumps, there’s a good chance others will feel that too.

 

We practiced finding more precise word choice with many of our sentences during this simple blog post. It’s everywhere.

 

Questions from Memories, a Story Makes

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One way I like to use memories to create a story is by asking questions.

Below is an example of a memory and following it, some questions I might use to write a developed piece of fiction.
The more questions I have, the better, because then I can choose the story’s path clearly. Not only that, but some of my questions will be silly if I’ve allowed myself to be open and imaginative. Who knows but that it might be the most helpful question of all.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
My boyfriend and I were in New York City for hijinks back in 1976 or thereabouts…. It was when I was at my first university.
We had gone to the vicinity to see the Hayden Planetarium’s star-filled trip through time, but it was closed for repairs. That’ll show us. It’s best to do research BEFORE going to the city.
At least in our disappointment we were soothed by the nice day it turned into, sunning ourselves on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History. It was the large building next to the planets.
We were sitting there, trying to make stone stairs into a cushy recliner and endlessly debating our possible infinity of next step choices, when this Well-Dressed Man came running down to us from the top stair.
“Have any time to take in a show? It’s not for a while yet.”
“Er… huh?”
“Well, you see, I have these members-only tickets for the Pompeii Exhibit tonight after they ‘close’ the regular museum, but something’s come up and I need to leave. It’d be a shame to waste ’em as it’s been sold out for some time.”
“Yeah…. sure. We’ll take them,” I said.
I think my favorite parts of the exhibit were the overall feeling of being in a bustling town from a long time gone. That, and the everyday quality that showed up in things like the graffiti, the paving stones and mosaics, and the shop signage that incorporated the gods of Roman mythology in a rather human way.
Mercury’s fish mart is a bit odd, though, as a) he was not associated with water, but air… and b) all these years later there’s an abundance of mercury in our fish.
It was extremely moving to see a whole city transported with such care for details – excavated from volcanic earth. It was especially the last exhibit, though – the contorted shapes of three people and a dog… hoping, trying with all their might to flee the molten river quickly approaching.
I don’t want to do these beings any disservice by making assumptions about their experiences in the last moments of their lives. They could be back right now, reading this blog for all I know about the ticking of our or any other universe.
What I will say is that my heart ached for three days thinking about that dog. Of course I cared about the people too. I think it was too close to home for me to dwell on them. Maybe that was all I could handle or relate to at the time, try as I do to put myself in others’ situations.
All in all, it turned out to be a lively, educational exhibit, ending on a bit of a sad note, because after all facts are facts. Things arise from and go back to ground to seed for another season, perhaps.
Interestingly, the most dramatic personal note of the evening was my trip toward the ladies’ room. As the Well-Dressed Man told us, the museum was closed. It was only ticketed members and employees who would be in the museum for the exhibit, which took up the entire first floor.
So, I asked one of our friendly red-uniformed attendants where might the ladies’ room be?
“Oh, that would be on floor 3, Miss. You can use stairs or elevator right over there.”
As I started climbing up, I immediately noticed it darkening once I left the well-lit first floor. By the time I got to floor two, it was dark except for some emergency lighting rationed about the stair opening.
As I started to advance on the 3rd floor, my head passed floor level and I was in for quite a shock. To the right, just inside a VERY high-ceilinged arc was the barest hint of the immense skeletal jaw of a full-grown Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I stepped back one or two stairs.
Yeah, I knew they weren’t alive… but I could feel their presence. For heaven’s sake, they were bones… and yet something reptilian or early mammalian in my brain reacted with great fear.
Finally, I climbed to the full landing of the 3rd floor – having long forgotten about the loo… and stared to the right: at the vast hall of gigantically terrifying and truly fascinating creatures left behind in time.
I made up my mind, right there in the dark, that I would walk the long length of the room, slowly, and back up the other side. Perhaps with the regular museum-goers and full lighting, it would have been a less frightening experience, but here on this night, it was all I could do not to run. My heart raced, and it was a little difficult to take a full breath.
I dared myself. I absolutely had to in order to do this thing I wanted to experience alone. I started walking… and the fear began in my lower rib cage, communicating with my feet, which were moving very slowly. I stared up in awe at these creatures to whom I would’ve been an ant, or at least a mouse, and trembled a bit. I looked at each one, wishing I had enough light to read the signs, but THEM themselves: their bones glowed eerily white and were easy to see clearly.
All these decades later, it is a bright spot in my memories of that time. Connecting with the ancient from two distinct periods leaves a deep impression of the through-line of life.
Alone like that, my personal perspective was clarified by existing completely in the moment. I had the rare opportunity of being with extraordinary relics under those circumstances. It’s a gift that continues for a lifetime.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
Oftentimes the best fiction has a seed in real life. If I wanted to create a longer and perhaps fictional account including this night, one way I might get there is by going over each paragraph and asking myself questions. I could also have someone else read and ask the questions.
Some questions I can think of when reading this piece are:
– Who was that Well-Dressed Man really?
– Was there anyone lurking on the third floor, waiting for me?
– If so, how did he know I would be there?
– Did I notice any movement in either of the exhibits that no one else seemed to see?
– Who were the dinosaurs individually on display? Had I known one of them before?
– Why did I have such an intense reaction on the 3rd floor? Was there some underlying cause?
– Were there any strange and potentially foreshadowing occurrences on my way into the city?
– Was I now tied to a debt by accepting those tickets?
– Was my boyfriend still there when I went back? If not, why? Had he been taken?

Northern Gods and Human Mythology

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All my life I have been interested in mythology… there’s so much to learn about human nature and story in these varied tales, interwoven in time and space.

 

As Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell and others have repeatedly said after their far flung travels, these types of stories have appeared with new names and different costumes and clothing all over the world… most often without any contact between the different cultures. They are a step or three up in complexity from the basic skeletons of folk/fairy tales, yet closely related to them.

 

One of my favorite myths in Norse Mythology is the myth of Baldr, beloved of all the gods. He is the youngest son of Frigg (goddess of the earth, marriage, childbirth, and motherhood) and Odin (king of the gods). His oldest of many brothers is Thor.

 

As a young man, Baldr began having prophetic dreams of his own death in the near future. His mother started having similar dreams soon after. Baldr understood his destiny and that his death would be instrumental in bringing about Ragnorak, the last war between good and evil. After that the world could be healed and rebuilt, so he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

 

Sounding quite similar to many other mythologies at this point…. Baldr was to come back, in elevated form from the dead after a certain period of time.

 

Frigg, unable to accept her son’s intended sacrifice, sets about securing promises from the elements, the environment, diseases, animals, plants, and stones, “requesting immunity for Baldr from all kinds of danger.” Once she is successful with all but one plant named mistletoe she deems ‘too young’ to ask, word was sent to everyone to convene.

 

Although Baldr and Frigg have no knowledge of when or how his death will occur, Mom is feeling pretty secure with her strategy for his protection at this point.

 

The gods get together and decide to have a new game by “making sport of Baldr’s newfound invincibility in that ‘shot or struck, Baldr remains unharmed.’” They take turns with all manner of material to throw or propel at him, but each falls to the earth harmlessly in its turn.

 

Mischievous Loki, jealous of Baldr as ever, finds out about the mistletoe. He fashions an arrow from it, and then gives it to Baldr’s blind brother, Hoor, encouraging him to join in the game.

 

Baldr dies, pierced by his brother’s arrow, and falls into his mother’s arms.

 

I see this myth at play in my sorrow at the too-early deaths of so many strong young men, sacrificed to the side effects of their art or someone else’s war. After all these years, it’s worked its way into my psyche to the point that I grieve as if some of them were known to me, personally. I think culturally, too, it is in force…. as James Dean, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, and so many others with great potential…. all the soldiers at war as well – are elevated to a mutual grief. I’m prone to it, I think…. due to my early imbibing of that story.

 

Youth, Beauty, Potential, and Belovedness… gone in an instant, yet the effects of their sacrifice still to come.

 

We also notice this myth at work when we write and determine the fates of all of our characters. It is a difficult thing to perhaps wound and/or kill off  developed and beloved characters, but oftentimes someone has to do it. The harder it is to do it, the more profound an impact it may have on the story. It is a sacrifice, not only for the character(s), but the author themselves.

 

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