The Magic of Books

Photo montage: The Magical BookIlluminations

A leather-covered volume with its pages edged in gilt

Slipped from the deck into the sea but, cradled in the silt

Where oxygen could not intrude, nor prying eyes descry

Its ancient glimmer in the mud, a century did lie;

One century—another—no, nine centuries of dark

It passed in sleeping silence after falling from that bark.

And then one day, a ray of light passed through the waves above

Just at the perfect moment for a mermaid, as she dove,

To catch a glimpse of gilded pages in that sea-deep sun

And swim down to investigate this treasure—only one

Quick sparkle of that golden edge brought her so close to look,

To brush aside the lazy silt and so, reveal the book.

Nine hundred years in darkness had it lain in quiet wait

For just this passing moment to wake up, illuminate,

And catch the passing fancy of an unsuspecting maid

Who’d bring it to her grotto in the deepest ocean’s shade.

In dappled dark, her opal eyes lit up the page, and next,

She read it, eager, mesmerized, the calligraphic text

Transforming, leaping from the book, becoming swiftly wild

And glorious, and telling tales that moved the mermaid child

To bend with sorrow, weep with joy; to palpitate with fear;

To live the story as her own; and, as the end drew near,

To grieve that such a magic fable had to end at all,

For it had seemed so rich and real, had held her in such thrall

That she’d begun to think it true, this tale of mythic men

And women wondrous wise and brave—she turned to read again—

Thrice through, in fact, she read the tome, and every time the more

Believed its great, compelling tale of life beyond her shore.

Full hearted, then, she closed the book, but never ceased to wish

That other mermaids, other seas, and other sorts of fish

Than those she knew in her own place were, as the story’s, real,

And though once happy, now she longed to see and hear and feel

What was beyond her native coast. One day she must return

To where she’d found that magic book, and see what she could learn.

One day, indeed, an older lass, but nonetheless enthralled

By the old book (she’d read again six times, if she recalled),

She caught the rolling afternoon’s most fearsome wave and rode

Under its lashing, crashing crest to where the book was stowed

Within its silken, silty bed so long, so long ago,

And knelt down on the ocean’s floor, and watched the water’s flow,

And saw the ripples up above, a thousand fathoms high,

And wished a little inward wish that something from the sky

Up higher still would pierce the waves, would light for her one ray

Of visionary hope the way it had upon that day.

Out of the darkness streaked with kelp, the passing sea life came

To look at her, this pearly lass, but swam off just the same,

For curious though she appeared, they’d naught to give or tell

That would assuage her longing or relieve her of her spell.

For days she hovered in that place, to gaze with fading hope

And heave a soft and bubbling sigh, and comb the gentle slope

To see if some small, overlooked companion to her find

Would rise to hand and help explain; but none was left behind.

At last she turned, quite woebegone, to drift for home, undone,

Her childhood fantasies all dashed—but wait! A ray of sun,

One faded spear, had pierced the deep; it beckoned her to draw

Back to the place her book had lain, and in its light she saw,

But faintly, now, another book, this one yet older still,

And as she took it in her hand, she felt a silent thrill

Race up her spine. She sailed for home as swift as mantas fly,

Gripping her treasure to her heart, this book dropped from the sky.

There in the grotto, as before, she read with trembling care

The prologue to her favored tale, the key unlocking there

The meaning of that history and mystery so grand,

The explication of her longed for never-ever-land.

Page One of this tremendous tome opened the secret wide

And startled her to drop the book, for there she saw inside

The preface to her deepest loved tale of that mystic place

Began with an engraving of her own familiar face!

Around her portrait, mirror-like, the title read, in part,

“The Story of Our Lady-Queen, the Owner of My Heart.”

Her own heart skipped a beat or two ere she once more to read

Took up the opus in her hand, to see where it might lead—

There in the shell-lined grotto sweet, she pored over the lines

Telling her life from this day forth, as writ by kingly hand:

Who authored this spoke of his love, and how she ruled his land

Long years to come, and how, in sum, her people throve as well,

And in the book, she met her love, who had such tales to tell,

And read them through with eager joy, to see what else she’d learn,

‘Til by the end-page she loved too, and had begun to yearn

To know this King and how it came that time had backward spun

So that these books of things yet dreamed fell from the present sun.

The end-page held, as she had hoped, engraved once more, two eyes

Whose gaze made her young, beating heart in recognition rise!

She dashed outside into the swell, and ne’er looked back again,

To find that place the boat was moored, to greet the sailing men,

To follow them to distant seas where they in their bark would roam,

And find the heart that from its start had known she would come home.Digital illustration from a photo: The Mermaid's Tale

Amusement is No Respecter of Persons

For a universe where we’re all so hung up on our status, image and importance, the world as we know it is also the locus of a truly great leveler: fun. Very rare is the person, however high or low in the hierarchy of social or political or religious or educational import, who doesn’t relish laughter. Fun, and the love of it, are boundary-resistant. Childlike happiness should know no limits.

I know the little tale attributing to Queen Victoria the remark that ‘We are not amused’–a condition she can easily be forgiven for bemoaning, even if it was ostensibly because of someone else’s attempts to convince her of his own divergent sort of hilarity. Throughout history, contentment has been best enjoyed when it’s pushed to its jovial limits by gently encouraging frolic and humor, curiosity and amazement and amusement that can be shared. The current culture oughtn’t to hold anyone back from being pleased and entertained any more than these should be constrained by one’s politics, nationality, gender, tastes, age or any other facet of personal identity. Joy is joy, no matter what your nature or your preferred brand.

So I, for one, think it’s a good idea to cultivate smiles and laughter and playfulness as assiduously as I can. If I can share it with others, even better. If others can contribute some fun to the cause as well, we might be able among us to create a contagious stream of happiness that can expand further and further yet. Doesn’t that sound worthwhile, now, really?graphite drawing

You Inspire Me

Many people who know me think that I have two middle names. Legally, that’s correct–when I got married I took my spouse’s last name and just upgraded my original last name to being a second middle name. Most people get that I did not hyphenate but rather have four individual names. It’s hardly unusual, and even those notoriously fussy creatures known as federal agencies have figured out how to address me as a four-named person without batting a governmental eye.

But to be entirely transparent with you, I ought to add that I have a sort of unspoken additional middle name, that to which I’ve alluded here before, and it is: Lazy Pants. Okay, that’s two more middle names if we’re being truly precise.

Laziness is at the very center of my being. Believe me when I say that this is not bragging; I do realize that it’s not an enviable, admirable trait or one that should be emulated by others. But it’s my reality, and greatly affects what I do and don’t accomplish in this life of mine.

The happier news here is that I am surrounded by non-lazy people who not only know how to do fantastic things but get out there and DO them. This is pretty much a life-saver for your correspondent Miss Lazy-Pants. It means that someone more energetic and probably a lot more skilled is doing what needs to be done. Perhaps more importantly, it means that sometimes I receive the blessed necessity of a kick in the lazy pants to DO something myself, and better yet, the needed information and inspiration to help me do it better than I would have in the first place.

This is a gift I enjoy receiving regularly from those lovely people who, as family and proximal friends, make up my immediate daily surroundings and embrace me in their great and comforting network of support. Thanks to my life of blogging I have now got the auxiliary family of encouraging people to push me out of my comfortable lazy cocoon and make me willing to tackle actual projects, motivate me to do something new and maybe different and, just possibly, even useful.

And I thank you, each and every one of you. I’d say ‘you know who you are’–but a whole lot of you don’t even know that you inspire me, let alone how deeply you inspire me. If you’re reading this and I’ve ever, ever visited and commented on your blog, you have inspired me. Even if I’ve only lurked at your blog and never come out of my shell enough to say Hello or make a remark, I have probably learned useful things that lit a friendly little fire under my lazy pants to get back to work and do something that, if not useful in a universal way by a long stretch, will prove useful in improving me as a person and as an artist.

One of my regular inspirations and motivations comes from those bloggers who focus on making art, because it’s one of those things I love to do but often have to get pushed into starting no matter how much good I know will come from getting back to work. So today’s post is brought to you in part by the good graces of you, all of you, and I thank you.

Specific thanks for this bit also go to that marvelous pencil-wielding mistress of Drawing Saudade, who daily doses us with her creatures, characters, costumes and comforts in a marvelous flowing style that made me want to play with something similar for a change from my own typical stuff, as well as return to a longtime fascination with costume design. Thanks, friend!graphite drawing

Apparently I Executed the Secret Handshake Wrong or Something

digital artwork

Cinderella Opts Out

From your assessment of my deportment,

I must ask what the statement “of a sort” meant–

Oh, was I, I wonder, a shade improper,

Not brass perhaps, but a hint of copper?

Did I stand out from the regal crowd

By being a decibel too loud?

When I met the Queen, did I rudely greet her

With a curtsey too small by a millimeter?

Did I jostle the King, or step on his toes,

Or remark on the magnitude of his nose?

Have I shocked the royal entourage

With an unplanned glimpse of décolletage?

Say, what have I done in these latter days

To occasion such backward, lukewarm praise?

Do tell me where this prejudice starts

That substitutes etiquette for hearts!

I’ll not be one of the prince’s bijoux

Knowing I can’t have the wit to please you–

I’m off for home, where they make no sport

If my manners are only “of a sort”.digital artwork