On September, 29th, WonderLit had its first anniversary (!) so this special little blog is a toast to WonderLit.
I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, where the mountains were hardly more than an hour away. It was always such a joy to think that I could go to the mountains any time I wanted to immerse myself in the natural world.
To me, WonderLit is that kind of place, a magic mountain with caverns and passages that are filled with treasure. At any time, I can go there and follow the trail of a story, or go into the storehouse of the Story Finder and find the thread of something I can think about, write about — something that will inevitably lead me to a valuable insight and perhaps to a poem, a drawing, or even a song.
I never had this before. I remember long before WonderLit, before fairy tales, before storytelling, way back in my twenties, wondering, what on this good earth am I going to write about? There are so many people writing. Why does my writing count?
I wanted to write about life, about what was sacred to me. I didn’t have a spiritual path and I wasn’t inclined to follow gurus. As hard as I tried to understand institutional religion, I couldn’t divine the living meaning of religious rites and texts. It wasn’t until I took a second look at fairy tales that I found a living source of myth. Here we have stories with human-like characters and landscapes that reflect the journey of life. We can enter a multi-dimensional field of perspectives that broaden and deepen our insight. “Myths are really about the nature of nature,” Robert Bringhurst wrote in The Tree of Meaning. Through a fairy tale, I can speak from a tree’s perspective, or from the perspective of a lily on a pond. The stories hold me while I tell the tree’s truth, while I tell my own.
Lately I’ve been mining the treasure of The Story of King Loc, a fairy tale about a young woman who is taken into the depths of the mountain. I’ve been looking at humans from the perspective of dwarves, and seeing the dwarves in their cavernous foundries, making marvelous things out of the elements of the earth. I’ve been imagining a species that knows more about the earth than we do, and is wise beyond our years. They move very slowly, and they see by a different light, a light that I’ve been slowing down to see the world by.
It occurs to me that WonderLit is not for busy people. I love how some of my subscribers tell me that they just can’t get to WonderLit right now, but they want to get to it sometime. They like knowing it’s there. I certainly share that feeling.
I have to admit, though, I’m not very comfortable with marketing. I’m much more interested in finding and putting treasure in the mountain than broadcasting its existence. Maybe the web is a good place for WonderLit, maybe it’s not. Maybe it will be discovered by many, maybe only a few, but in any case, it’s finally in the world, and that gives me great satisfaction. I have always wanted to have a trail into the mythic dimension that takes me straight to the heart.
It really has never mattered to me whether or not the artistic outcomes will be considered great art. What has mattered are the intrinsic experiences of the tellers. That said, I’ve been privileged to witness many moments of supremely fine art.
So I raise my glass to WonderLit. This magic mountain has been in the world for a year, and every day I get to look out at it from my (computer) window. I often go for hikes, and sometimes I take journeys that go on for years. As they say, “there’s gold in them thar hills,” and “them hills” are here. The gold’s in us.
That’s fantastic to hear, Becky! Sometimes you only need to take a dip to get a whole body of work moving. Over the summer, I did the Warm Up with a fairy tale called The Story of King Loc, and it started a flow of writing that hasn’t stopped since! I thought to myself, hey, this stuff really works!! Haha!! BEST wishes to you!!
Dearest Michelle- I guess I am one of those busy people! But this is what Wonderlit has done for me, although I have not "done" Wonderlit in a very consistent, committed fashion: I am well into the writing of a new novel. I have put writing aside for twenty years and have now delved back in. It is a wonderful place to be. It's not fairy tales, but it's what I love! Thank you for your inspiration!
Well, for certain you are blazing that trail, Michelle–thank you!
Your references to the perspectives of the dwarves connect with some reading I have been doing. The book, by Douwe Draaisma, is called Why Life Speeds Up as You Grow Older, and the chapter I am currently reading focuses on the causes of ‘childhood amnesia,’ that is, on the reasons most early memories are inaccessible to us. One thing the author notes is that “the way in which adult perceives and interprets reality differs too radically from the perception and interpretation of a toddler for any later associations to lead back to these early memories. The world seen at knee height has disappeared. Even if an adult returns to a room left unchanged since he was a small child, that room is no longer the room it used to be. The interior with chair legs at eye level and tables that have nothing but an underside has vanished.”
However … if, as you suggest, we use our imaginations to see with the eyes of one of these fairy tale dwarves, who knows what treasure we may recover …