Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another walk through the wardrobe

I've been feeling more nostalgic (nostalgicer?) the past couple of weeks. 

The other day while driving home from some errand or another,  I was trying to keep Lily awake (if she falls asleep for even a minute then, in her mind, that counts as an adequate nap and I get to spend the afternoon with an aggressive 2-and-1/2-year-old and my evening catching up on work I wasn't able to do. So you can see, naptime are of critical importance). Methods for keeping her awake in the car involve singing loudly, telling her to keep an eye out for cows and other livestock, plying her with fruit snacks, shaking her feet and -- when all else fails -- pulling up this creepy app on my phone where she presses different letters of the alphabet and an animal or mythical creature that starts with that letter pops up. Her favorite letter is U for unicorn*. It's creepy because there's creepy music that plays in the background and the person who says "U, unicorn" sounds like an alien who learned English in preparation for a hostile Earth takeover. 

Anyway, as I was handing her my phone with said creepy app ready to go, I got this flash in my mind -- a vision of road trips from my childhood -- long hours often wedged between siblings spent staring at the countryside, scouting for cows or (even better!) horses or falling asleep to my dad's music (usually a Windham Hill Sampler) and my parents talking about work (snoozefest!!). When I wasn't counting or sleeping I was reading. I could miss entire states lost in books (when I said long car trips, I meant driving from Virginia to Maine ... so lots of states). I suddenly missed those days. My pillow leaned up against the window (or my brother) and a good book. 

These days I'm still often wedged in the backseat between siblings (well, not my siblings, my kids). If I'm reading anything, it's "Dr. Seuss's ABC" or "Stay Safe With Dora" or something like that. It's a different sort of happy.

Books have always been a part of my life. In piles at the foot of my bed when I was a kid. Toppling over on my nightstand (or filling up my Kindle) as an adult. And I'm realizing more and more how much they've shaped me and the person I want to be (obviously) and how they're shaping my girls. Lily regularly points out things out in the world that's she's heard about in stories and Jovie loves flipping through pages and gnawing on them (well... at least she's doing something with them...). 

I think they might have even made me buy my house. 

See, exhibit A:

Ack! It's a naked squirrel.
This is a very random light post in my backyard. Oddly enough, it features a squirrel. I love our house for many reasons, but this is a big one. Because my first thought when I saw it was Narnia -- and the light post that little Lucy Pevensie stumbles upon after wandering through the wardrobe. 

“This is the land of Narnia,' said the Faun, 'where we are now; all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea.” - C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
My dad read me the "Chronicles of Narnia" when I was growing up. And I read them again myself over and over. I was kind of obsessed. In fact, for a long time I was pretty convinced I could find a closet that would lead me to a magical world (and I was probably too old to be dreaming about such things, but I did nonetheless). 

While sorting through some old stories I came across one I'd written in fifth grade about a down-and-out handmaiden who stumbles through a magic tapestry and ends up in the made-up world of Varn.

I've always hated drawing profiles ... but I love trees!
As it turns out, she's actually Queen of Varn and had been spirited away to England years before when her own world was under attack. When she returns to rule, she meets some old friends, a dwarf named Garlin and a pegasus. 

No people profiles! More trees! A merry dwarf!
Attached to the final copy of the story are several drafts and a map of sorts:

It's a plan of my story, including the setting, plot, characters, conflict, rising action, climax and falling action. 

I had grand plans for this story. There was going to be an evil wizard who my protagonist was going to have to defeat in order to reclaim her throne. The wizard never materialized -- nor did any conflict really. 

It seems I have a long history with getting stuck in a story. It might be time to pull out Mrs. Lynn's handy story map and come up with a plan. 

Maybe I should re-read "The Chronicles of Narnia," while I'm at it. Maybe what my story is really missing are mythical creatures and a little person. There are plenty of trees in it anyway.

(On an unrelated note, here's my latest column -- it's about being a bad parent sometimes. Or just being a normal parent who has a bad day every once and a while).

*It's funny to see Lily develop an interest in unicorns and horses and 2. What is it with girls and horses (or horse-related creatures? See pegasus).

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