January 9, 2005
Flavoring my reality
I am a book re-reader, a fact that causes a lot of teasing to come my way, in my house. I am re-reading L.M. Montgomery's "Emily" series. It's a comfort thing for me, without knowing exactly why I need the comfort. Old familiarity, I guess. Or some kind of strange need to feed my homesickness, odd as that may sound. I test the edges of my homesickness, sometimes, like a loose tooth that I can't keep my tongue from fiddling with.
These books satisfy some part of me. I was and am such a fan that I visited L.M. Mongomery's home and gravesite while on Price Edward Island, and even took in an "Anne of Green Gables" play, back in '91? '92? Somewhere around there. The part of me that longs for simpler times, I guess, gains satisfaction in those times described in the books, and the rich and wonderful childhood I lived at the time when I first discovered Emily and Anne. I have photographs of my childhood bedroom in which the Emily books can be seen resting on my nightstand - when I was ten, eleven, twelve. I've read them so often that the pages are yellowed and dog-eared, and cracked along the spine. They smell like old books smell - dry and musty with a scent that can be tasted. These books have travelled twenty years, three thousand miles, three moves, a marriage, a divorce, and another marriage with me. They are always there and allow me to reach back through time when my life and my mind were quiet, my ambition and my goals were child-like in their grandeur, and the lessons that I had learned to that point were, for the most part, gentle.
I think I believed myself a "kindred spirit" with Emily (and Anne, from which books the term comes). In the dramatic over-fancification that overcame me at times (and still does, I think), I matched my life and personality point for point with the heroines of the stories. Orphaned, with an over-active imagination that left me somewhat misunderstood. Living in old-fashioned and parochial surroundings. Basking in the fresh, clean country living. Having the strange ability to get into scrapes while actually having the best of intentions. Possessed with the need to write. Owning a definitive and in-bred streak of stubbornness (which I share with my Grandmother). Feeling a passionate sensitivity to the beauty in the world. Listening to the evil little whispering cynic in my mind that derided human foibles, from which my tendency toward sarcasm was born. Feeling that I could more fully appreciate the details, small and large, that comprise the fullness of living. Creating grand and fanciful worlds out of commonplace surroundings. Feeling a marked difference in nature between myself and my relations. And, having the commonality of being brought up by a generations-older matron.
It makes me feel a little bit silly, now, to think back on the melodramatic personification of my own mind. Pretentious, to say the least. I imagine I was laughed at quite a bit, though it's not as if I outwardly demonstrated the drama inside my head. "Deep as the sea," I suppose, but obviously I wasn't the only girl like that if books are being written with characters that I identified with so immediately. I liked to use big words. I enjoyed being absorbed in books; from encyclopedias, to dictionaries, to histories, to my favorite and preferred fiction. I kept a journal from the time I could write, nearly. I created and abandoned dozens of self-assigned tasks to chronicle my life - daily recording my good and not-so-good actions, writing down every turn of phrase or word that caught my admiration, dozens and dozens of "descriptions" - my relatives, my friends, my teachers, my surroundings, my pets. I think I still even have a description of the sunrise and sunset that is the definition of drivel. I thought it to be brilliant, at the time. I felt as if I had painted a picture with my adroit selection of words. Now I'm just glad that I left the majority of my writing safely in the corner hutch of my bedroom, instead of sharing it with the judgmental world at large.
What an odd child I was. Paving the way to become an odd adult, I suppose. Though idiosyncrasies are better tolerated in grown-ups than in children. Especially children living in a reality that is fortified with a healthy dose of ubiquitous imagination - a sort of self-defined actuality. A condition I thought everyone lived under, until I was introduced to pragmatism. Sometimes I think I lived more inside my mind than out of it. In my mind, I was holding the demeanor of something that couldn't be described, spoken of, or written about. I could see and feel myself in moments of triumph, respond aloud while inwardly authoring what I would really like to say, hold fascinating conversations in my mind, imagine myself in great adventures half-conceived, be aware of personalities and dialogues in the non-speaking denizens of the world, and at the center of it all, know that fairies and dragons and magic were real. Somewhere, somehow, just beyond my reach.
I am no savant. My understanding of life extends no further than anyone else's. But I think that it's not altogether unhealthy to live in a form of creative reality that allows you to function within the world, but withdraw yourself from the less appetizing aspects of it. Escapism is not destructive, in my opinion, if it allows us to fortify our sense of peace.
Words are not my slave today. I can't seem to get down what I really mean. Not that I live in a dream world with purple skies and fairies that hide behind every tree. More that I can hold a feeling within my mind of my ideal reality, and as such flavor my actual reality with it.
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