I haven’t been one to publish posts related to Halloween, and this year was obviously no exception.
Now that we’re a few days into November though, it occurs to me that an allegory I wrote some months ago might mesh well with such themes.
I wrote it as part of working through an old trauma whose effects unexpectedly rearose. The tale follows a common mythical style complete with building suspense and an abrupt resolution.
As with past allegories I’ve written, some symbolic elements are deliberate, others unintentional — discovered only later to my startlement. Still others remain mysterious even to me.
The darker tone reflects what it can be like to confront past harmful experiences we thought we had resolved or had convinced ourselves we’d successfully got beyond.
Even though I’m leaving the deeply impacting real-life scenario unrecounted, I hope its allegorical expression offers readers a relatable and satisfying encounter.
Once there was a curious young woman.
She thirsted for knowledge, and she was open-hearted toward others.
When others shared their knowledge, she believed them.
When others told her of themselves, she believed them.
When they said they cared about her, she believed them.
One strong, smiling, confident man invited her to his house.
It was a modest house with only a few rooms, but they were lovely and well kept.
Although she was young, her family was gone, and it had been a long time since she had a home she belonged in.
She did not mind, for she loved visiting others’ homes.
And she loved to explore. She loved to explore their homes, their ideas — and the people themselves.
At the confident man’s house, there was comfort and belonging for her. And she stayed.
He told her she needed protecting, and that he would protect her.
When he sometimes had to go away, he made sure she was locked in — for her protection.
For such a small home, the basement was large.
But it was not very deep below the house, so the stairway down to it had not many steps.
Most of the basement was taken up by a hallway which wound around the four outer walls to reach a single room at the center.
The hallway was not well lit, and the basement room was always locked.
A separate entrance from outside the house also led down into the basement room. It too was always locked — for her protection.
She had never been down there. There was no need.
One key was kept on its own hook right out in the open, next to the door on the main level that led to the basement. A second key the man always kept on his person.
There came a time when he announced to her that he would be away for a while, and that she must take great care to stay safe in his absence.
He said everything she would need was provided for on the main floor, that there would be no need to go downstairs, and that indeed she must not do so.
On the first day he was away, she cleaned and tidied up all the living area, so it felt newly beautiful and comfortable and organized and safe.
The second day she spent all the hours engaged in handicrafts and other pastimes.
On the third day her curiosity and exploring spirit nudged her.
As she sat knitting in her safe beautiful organized comfortable living room, the fingers of exploring thoughts kept gently tapping her shoulder.
She ignored them many times: “What need have I of anything that does not already surround me?”
At length she also said to herself, “Since I am safe, what harm could possibly come from finding out something new?”
She finally set down her needles and yarn and with a flutter inside approached the door leading to the basement.
She removed the key for the basement room from its hook and slipped it into her pocket. The door at the top of the stairs did not have a lock, and the doorknob turned easily.
Descending the first step, she felt for and found a light switch and flipped it on. A bulb over the stairs lit up, but it was so dim, she returned to the kitchen for a flashlight.
She started down a second time. Each stair step creaked. Landing safely at the bottom of the few steps, she saw that the ceiling was not far above her head and that bulbs of the same dimness lit the entire hallway.
Aided by the beam of the flashlight, her eyes adjusted comfortably to her surroundings. Her thoughts were quiet as she stood aright and took self-assured steps along the hallway.
At the first corner, she heard an ever so muffled growl. It was so faint that she attributed it to her imagination. Turning in the next direction, she saw that the continuing hallway exactly resembled what had come before. As did the hallway after the following corner.
One more turn and now she was in the final portion of the hallway, alongside the fourth wall of the building’s foundation. Here the occasional faint growl was becoming less muffled. But her curiosity and exploring spirit did not allow the sounds to deter her.
At the door, she paused. All was silent now.
She dug the key from her pocket, and found it slid into the lock easily. So very easily.
The door creaked but swung open, just as easily.
It was dark inside. Dark and silent.
As she aimed her flashlight into the dark and silent room — the beam illuminated the face of the man himself!
At that split-second, he roared and pounced and tried to devour her.
Her sheer determination enabled her to slip his grasp…
She managed to scramble past him toward the other door which led outside…
To her immense relief, it was not locked! In one fluid motion she yanked it open, rushed out, and leapt up the few stairs into the daylight — and never returned.
“I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.”
The public library in my hometown was among my favorite buildings to visit as a little girl. Leading up to its grand entryway were smooth steps from either sidewalk direction; I can still hear the soft tss-tss-tss of my little soles landing and sliding a smidge at each rise. The opposing sets of stairs met at a platform facing the enormous doors, and the imposing limestone edifice welcomed me into its world of literary delights like a stern grandfather with a playful heart.
When I was in my teens, it was razed in favor of a new structure a few blocks away. But the destroyers left standing the great limestone facade which still adorns that block forty-plus years since, now surrounded by rejuvenated green space.
An old friend once opined that leaving the fragment behind seemed silly to him. I could not see it more differently. To me, it is a brilliant gesture of admiration for an architectural exemplar of that era, as well as a connection to childhood. The sun is always shining in my memories of those library visits, and a glimpse of the gray face still warms the little girl in me.Continue reading
(Update: the attribution should be to Benjamin Brewster, not Yogi Berra.)
That thinker doesn’t look very comfortable.
Leaning back in a rocker — now that’s my preferred contemplation pose, knitting needles clacking or netbook keys tapping.
Thinking about thinking, writing about writing, posing quandaries, positing solutions.
That’s some of what i had in mind when i conceived of this site years ago, in particular with the Ruminations tab.
To me the term has always had an agreeable association with “a reflective thinker characterized by quiet contemplation” [Free Dictionary].
For obvious linguistic reasons, i recently wondered if there could be a relationship to the thirteenth century Persian poet Rumi. As fitting as that might be, the theory apparently has the lamentable disadvantage of not being rooted in fact.Continue reading
That’s it, end of quip.
I thought of it as i was considering what writing is like, and what this year has been like.
Writing is gazing back and forward at the same time.
The raw material of experience and imagination forms an idea…
In shaping that idea for an audience, i’m looking ahead toward how the past-birthed notion might connect with the reader.
Even if i am its only reader, my future self usually takes something fresh from rereadings of past private expressions.
Personal essay writers and bloggers perpetually distinguish between the “I” and the “we” to decide which of our thoughts to impart.
Two kinds of intimate writing i bristle at…
Starting too many sentences with the phrase (or attitude), “We all…”
Or starting too many sentences with “I” — if they end without drawing me in.
The question is, What makes any one person’s thoughts of interest to another?Continue reading
“You see a [wo]man with too many books, I see a [wo]man with not enough shelves.”
“A tedious argument of insidious intent…”
I recently saw this phrase used as a social media tagline — and it wasn’t a T.S. Eliot account. It struck me as a pleasing expression; i didn’t immediately recognize its origins.
I should have. I studied Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in college, though that was admittedly more than a few years ago.
Looking up phrases online, mine and others, is something i make a habit of in order to properly attribute them or to make sure one i’m about to use is original.
Rather than assume its social media user had concocted this one herself, the online search for this snippet rewarded me with a reminder of Eliot’s stunning craft.Continue reading