Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Little Madness

Frankly, Spring thinks it's the end of times.

Perhaps she didn't get the memo about the end of the world prophecy being postponed (if anything I'm going with the Mayans on this one). I understand, its easy to get all geared up for something, I waited until Monday to mail my student loan payments. I'm sure that any day now Spring will check her in-box and get on with exchanging the lion for the lamb and bringing May flowers.

Because it's raining, in an entirely biblical way. Hail and sleet, thunder and lightning, tornadoes and high winds, no locusts or frogs as of yet, but I'm keeping an eye out. I think Spring has been taking a leisurely walk down memory lane, and found a fondness for "The Great Flood" I'm not particularly enjoying the highlight reel. It's a bit damp. 

A Midwestern spring is kind of a weather whirligig, I've come to expect sunshine giving way to snowfalls late into May. This is where Spring cleans out her closet of mismatched weather patterns, she seems a little over zealous this year. Spring is uncertainty, she's a closed book, a complete meteorological question mark. Spring decides to dance in thunderstorms one day and bask in the sunshine another, threading flowers in her hair. While I'm switching out my rain boots for sandals on a daily basis, shaking my head at the changeability of Spring,  I often think of this poem. 

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!

- Emily Dickinson  

Emily is a kindred spirit of mine. Something about her concise and poignant prose perfectly captures the essence of Spring. I can only wonder what she would have written about this weather. I'm sure she would have gotten completely caught up in it, as I am wont to do. Spring fever may be the only affliction I endeavor to procure. 

Spring is nature's pretext to be a little ludicrous. That's why it's easier to act in the spring, to change without reason. To not think and just do, because it's Spring and why not? What's life without a little madness anyway? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Betrayals

Frankly, I was blindsided. 

Like Judas' kiss, it was a betrayal that left me hollow. The shock so complete, I could do no more than mumble incoherent sounds of disbelief and blink. He was dead. She'd killed him with a sentence, at the bottom of page 258. "He was dead," it read. 

The sting of betrayal is never as harsh, as unforgiving and as complete as when it comes from the heart of a well-loved book. As an unapologetic bibliophile that practically breaths the written word, I am not easily beguiled. I can find my way through plot twists, foreshadowing and character double-crosses with the care of the well-read, but everyone drops their guard eventually, inevitably you trust too much. 

Book Sculpture by Su Blackwell.
The pages bleed red. A gasp falls from my lips, my fingers floating above the traitorous words, my eyes questing for syntax that would clarify some error. How do you mourn the loss of someone that is imaginary? Surely a book is nothing to come-apart over; the character isn't really dead, just as he was never really alive. But, just as surely as he made me laugh, he made me cry. This is something deeper than losing a beloved character on the stage or film, and the more frequent deaths on the ever popular television drama. While the character may be dead, the person, the face, who exemplified that persona, lives on - it is only a half-death, a bitter-sweet leaving. 

Book Sculpture by Su Blackwell
Death in literature is whole, the character is completely erased. No more dialogue will appear, transitioned to the past tense. The characters left behind mourn, their world, however fictional, has been scarred by loss. Authors are not only the spinners of tales, wordsmiths forging great escapes into literary lands; they are the keepers of dreams, the view finder of our hearts.

"Trust me," the author says as she tears my books apart, her murderous quill tipped with blood. My fists clench, as I resist the urge to throw my book Benedict against a wall. Books are my escape, my light in dark places, my refuge. I hate when my book worlds go wrong. Authors can not be put on trail for killing off their own character, but they can be coerced, badgered and collectively pushed into fixing it.  As so learned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he executed a spectacular betrayal of Sherlock Holmes readers worldwide.

I will not allow my faith in books, however shaken, to falter. Wearily I will wait, with breath bated, my hand cautiously extended, for the rest of the story. Authors have the ability to raise the dead, to twist even the most real betrayal into a new story with a better ending, not necessarily happier, just better. For deaths are never endings just beginnings in disguise.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Paper Boats

Frankly, I didn't want to grow up. 

It's often a comment of the old and wizened that youth is wasted on the young. Not me, I knew how good I had it when I was a kid and I informed my mother that I was simply not going to grow up. Worked for Peter Pan. 

My Mom wished me luck with my endeavor to remain a kid forever, but said I probably didn't have much of a choice. Since I was having trouble finding the second star on the left and flying pixie dust. I was forced to concede this point, but under protest. 
I've found that "growing up" is actually code for "having bills" and that the measure of maturity is whether you pay them on time or at all. By this definition I have, to the disappointment of my younger self, grown up into a mature adult. But, I am still protesting. I believe there is a much missed element of adult-ness, which can be discovered by a simple shift in perspective. 

An ant's view of the world is radically different from mine, for example. Mostly because ants don't have to worry about paying back student loans, but then I don't have to worry about being eaten by birds, so I suppose it evens out. The point is as adults we can become so stuck in a certain perspective of the world. What was it about being a kid that was so alluring (besides the obvious lack of financial responsibility)? It's being able to look at the world with a constant shifting perspective.

What we often lack, is whimsy. That innate ability to view the world by the second instead of by the hour. Whenever there is any real conundrum, or question of what it is we are all doing milling about on this planet rocketing through space, the answer is never to pay our bills. Whimsy is what changes a puddle into a sea to sail paper boats upon.