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June 2013

Into the Woods, 15: Living Wild

Bluebells 1

"Thomas Merton wrote, 'there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.' There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying, I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then to sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage.

"I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock -- more than a maple -- a universe. This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you."

  - Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Bluebells 2

"Maybe freedom really is nothing left to lose. You had it once in childhood, when it was okay to climb a tree, to paint a crazy picture and wipe out on your bike, to get hurt. The spirit of risk gradually takes its leave. It follows the wild cries of joy and pain down the wind, through the hedgerow, growing ever fainter. What was that sound? A dog barking far off? That was our life calling to us, the one that was vigorous and undefended and curious.” 

Peter Heller (Hell or High Water)

Bluebells 3

“If it's wild to your own heart, protect it. Preserve it. Love it. And fight for it, and dedicate yourself to it, whether it's a mountain range, your wife, your husband, or even (god forbid) your job. It doesn't matter if it's wild to anyone else: if it's what makes your heart sing, if it's what makes your days soar like a hawk in the summertime, then focus on it. Because for sure, it's wild, and if it's wild, it'll mean you're still free. No matter where you are.”  ― Rick Bass

Bluebells 4

“There are so many unsung heroines and heroes at this broken moment in our collective story, so many courageous persons who, unbeknownst to themselves, are holding together the world by their resolute love or contagious joy. Although I do not know your names, I can feel you out there.”   - David Abram

"It is never too late to be what you might have been.
"  - George Elliot

Bluebells 5

Into the Woods, 14: Art From the Fairy Tale Forest

Nancy Ekholm Burkert

"What was the appeal [of fairy tales]? It's hard to be definite about that. The stories didn't have any direct application to our real lives. They weren't much good from a practicle point of view. At this time, we were living half the year in the Canadian north woods, and we knew if we went for a walk there, we were unlikely to come upon any castles, if we met any wolves or bears they wouldn't be the talking kind, if we kissed a frog it would most likely pee on us, and if we got lost, we wouldn't find any short-sighted, evil old women with patisserie cottages and child-sized ovens. Rescue, if any, would not be applied by princes. So it wasn't our outer lives that Grimms' tales addressed: it was our inner ones. These stories have survived as stories, over so many centuries and in so many variations, because they do make such an appeal to the inner life -- you could say 'the dreaming self' and not be far wrong, because they are both the stuff of nightmare and magical thinking. As Margaret Drabble says, there is a mystery in such stories which is beyond the rational mind."    - Margaret Atwood

Illustration for Snow White by Yvonne Gilbert

"From time to time, I still pull [Grimms' Fairy Tales] down from the shelf, especially when I am writing; I recently discovered details from 'The Maiden Without Hands' and 'Godfather Death' popping up in the novel at which I am currently at work. I found myself rereading the stories, mesmerized once again.; I was startled to realize that the fairy tales were still deeply twined into my unconscious life, and because the act of writing taps the vein of the unconcious so silently, the tales flood back into my current stories with their metaphors and morals at the times when I am most unaware, most deeply immersed in creation. I thought I could leave the Grimms brothers behind, but -- as with any strong and complicated relationship -- it has not proved to be nearly as simple as that."  - Linda Gray Sexton

Illustration for The Twelve Dancing Princesses illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

Nadezhda Illarionova

"Fairy Tales were the refuge of my troubled childhood. Despite all the messages contained in them about being a dutiful daughter, a good girl, which I internalized to some extent, I was most obsessed with the idea of justice, the insistence in most tales that the righteous would prevail.”
  - bell hooks

Illustration for Donkeyskin by Toshiyuki Enoki

"The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.”  - Marina Warner

Daniel Egnéus

"Early on I realized that stories could  save you. " - Julia Alvarez

An illustration from Little Red Cap by Lisbeth Zwerger

Kinder– und Haumärchen
by Diane Thiel

Liegt in dem Märchen miener Kinderjahre
Als in der Wahrheit, die das Leben lehrt.
—Frederich Schiller

(Deeper meaning lies in the fairy tales of my childhood
than in the truth that is taught in life.)

Saint Nikolaus had a giant gunny sack
to put the children in if they were bad.
It was a hole so deep you'd never come back.
A porch swing full of stories, where the smoke
went up in hot, concentric, perfect rings
and filled our heads with unbelievable things

A nursery heavy with a history
where nothing was whatever it had seemed,
where Aschenputtel's sisters cut their feet
half off — so desperate they were to fit.
And in the end, they also lost their eyes
when steel–grey birds descended from the skies.

Rotkäppchen's wolf was someone that she knew,
who wooed her with a man's words in the woods.
But she escaped. It always struck me most
how Grandmother, whose world was swallowed whole,
leapt fully formed out of the wolf alive.
Her will came down the decades to survive

in mine — my heart still desperately believes
the stories where somebody re–conceives
herself, emerges from the hidden belly,
the warring home dug deep inside the city.

We live today those stories we were told.
Es war einmal im tiefen tiefen Wald.


"This earth that we live on is full of stories in the same way that, for a fish, the ocean is full of ocean. Some people say when we are born we’re born into stories. I say we’re also born from stories."
  - Ben Okri

Indeed, we are.

Illustration for Sleeping Beauty by Kinuko Y. Craft

Sleeping Beauty illustration by Mercer Mayer

The art of the fairy tale forest above is: "Snow White" by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, "Snow White" by Yvonne Gilbert, The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by Ruth Sanderson, "Donkeyskin" by Nadezhda Illarionova, "Donkeyskin" by Toshiyuki Enoki, "Little Red Riding Hood" by Daniel Egnéus, "Little Red Cap" by Lisbeth Zwerger, "Sleeping Beauty" illustrations by  Errol Le Cain, Kinuko Y. Craft, and Mercer Mayer.