Isabelle Encounters…

Just some small bits of a children’s story I am trying to write for my niece and nephew.  I need to flesh out the idea before I can go any further.

Isabelle Encounters

Once upon a time there was a princess.  She lived in the town of Baldonnel, with her mother the Queen, her father the King, and her brother, Prince Sebastian.

Baldonnel was a beautiful village at the edge of the world.  The town was nestled quietly in the middle of Whitewood Forest, and was beautiful and grandiose in a way that can barely be described.  Isabelle and Sebastian had lived there their entire lives and loved every single inch of their home.  Their rooms were in the south end of the castle, high up in one of the turrets, and overlooked the moat that encircled the entire castle.  Every morning, when lessons weren’t on the schedule, Sebastian would wake up Isabelle by jumping on her large, white, canopied bed.  “It’s a beautiful day outside”, he’d yell, whenever the sun shone.  Or “let’s go play in the rain”, whenever it didn’t.  His favourite thing to yell, “it’s snowing, it’s snowing!’  Whenever winter would come, his favourite time of year.  Together, the two best friends, would run down the castle steps and out the huge front entrance, across the bridge and into the forest.  They could get lost for hours running around the woods, and exploring the land that would one day belong to them. 

Isabelle was thirteen years old and perfectly content in her life.  She maybe never thought there was anything spectacular about herself, but she didn’t know self loathing either.  She was average height, if a bit skinny for her age, with shoulder length blonde, curly hair.  She had blue eyes, but not sky blue; more like the sky on a rainy overcast day.  Her mother told her she was beautiful, and she guessed she believed it, but it never really factored much into her life.  She was too busy playing in the mud with her brother to care too much about her looks, and she had few people to compare herself too.   

Sebastian was the spitting image of his father.  Tall for his age, and even at eleven, looking every day more like a grown man.  He had dirty blonde hair that he always kept haphazardly long and messy.  He had the bright blue eyes that Isabelle always thought she was missing; sky blue, on a clear and cloudless day.  

One day, by the murky waters outside the castle walls, the two children stood by the water’s edge, daring one another to jump in.  “It’s too dirty!”  Isabelle yelled.  “It’s too deep!”  Sebastian replied.  But they both laughed loudly and continued to push one another closer to the edge.  It was a sunny day outside, and without the prospect of lessons on the horizon, they were free to do as they pleased. 

Isabelle and Sebastian reached the edge of the forest.  Past the point of no return.  It felt to them that if they took these next few steps, there would be absolutely no turning back.  They knew they had to continue on, knew that for the sake of their kingdom they had no choice, but those next few steps were still the hardest they ever had to make.

After a brief pause, and a brief glimpse into each others eyes, both Sebastian and Isabelle stepped forward.  Out of the forest, out of Baldonnel, and into the unknown.  From here, they didn’t know what to expect, whether they could handle it, and what would be waiting in the lurking new world that now surrounded them.

To get their minds off of their newfound fears, they began idly chatting about nothing, but the importance of their words grew greater the farther they stepped away from home.  Because although White Wood forest could seem scary and spooky at times when the shadows stretched across the open spaces between the trees, when noises like the creaking of trees followed them, echoing loudly no matter where they were; it was still their forest.  They belonged there, as did the rest of their village, and it was there they felt most safe.  But out beyond the safety they had always found in the trees, there was the unknown, and wasn’t that the scariest of all foes?

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Magic at the Circus…

It always feels the same way.  The same kind of disconnect in everyday life.  No one understands.  No one can ever understand.  And what do I have but my words to help explain everything to them?  What other possibilities are there for me?  So I try to explain.

It’s like this.  There are certain people in this world who live above, I’ll call them upper dwellers.  And others who live below:  Lower dwellers.  I know it’s not always so black and white, but for now, that’s how it feels.  So imagine these upper dwellers and lower dwellers, and they’re watching a circus.  The upper dwellers, they can sit through it, they can enjoy it, they applaud at the end, but they never really understand all the work that goes on behind the scenes to put such a spectacle together.  They think it’s beautiful and amazing and stare in awe at the power of it all, but they never really question how it all works.  They can see all the magic, all the wonder, but they never stop to think about how it came to be.  They never even consider that there might be a deeper meaning to everything that’s happening in front of them.

Then there are the lower dwellers.  They can see the circus, but not from quite as clear an angle.  It’s all a little fragmented to them, never quite as enjoyable maybe because they can see through the act.  They can see the greater spectacle.  They can see the cranes, the wires, the pulleys; they see all the contraptions used to make the magic happen.  It’s beautiful and amazing, but they can never quite appreciate it the way those upper dwellers can.  The magic is a little bit ruined for them, and for the most part, that’s okay.  Even though their seats are way worse and their view detracts from the spectacle, even though they know they are looked down upon for their wacky notions about harnesses and cranes and the truth of what is really going on, that’s okay.  It’s okay because for some reason they feel privileged for seeing this different side of things, a side that feels like the truth.  A side that feels as though they have all the knowledge of what’s really going and those upper dwellers, sure they get to experience more magic, but maybe they’ll never appreciate it in the same way.

So it’s kind of like that.  It’s kind of like the circus, but with life.  Those people who get to see the magic for the magic, they have it a little better sometimes.  They don’t have silly notions of fear and the inevitability of death.  They don’t think about things with a film of doom and gloom and sadness and pain covering their eyes.  But that’s okay.  We lower dwellers don’t mind.  We don’t mind knowing that while they get to enjoy the experience of life a little bit more, we get to see the truth.  And we don’t want to become like those other people.  Most of the time, we like it here.  Most of the time we like seeing all the ins and outs, all the secrets of the world.

But if I’m being honest, and I will be honest, there are times, every once in a while, when it gets bad.  Like bad in a way that feels like the end is coming and nothing makes sense and nothing matters and everything is pointless.  Bad in a way that makes you unable to breathe, to see straight, to hold out your hand without it trembling maniacally.  There are times like that.  And in those really bad moments, we wish to be sitting way up high on the bleachers with those upper dwellers, unable to see any of the secrets the circus has in store.  We wish to see only the circus for the front it is putting on, for the magic it is trying to sell us.  We wish to see the circus the way they do.  No wires, no cranes, no fear, no pain.  Just life without the behind the scenes view.  Without the notion that we really are the truth and everything that we fear, that is the reality.

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A girl, a boy, a man, a woman…

It always begins in the same way.  There’s a girl or a boy, a man or a woman.  They have something to do, some place to be, some higher purpose that consumes them.  Then, something goes terribly wrong, causing the very rock on which they stood to faulter in some alarming way.  They overcome whatever obstacle came close to stopping their very dreams, and they move on.  They fulfill the very thing they were meant to fulfill from the beginning.  Every story, an epic tale of wish fulfillment.  Yes, there were hardships along the way, but they came out the other side; this girl or boy, this man or woman.  They came through it stronger and better and ready to face the world more fiercly than before.

But what of those who don’t have such fateful tales to work with?  What of those who don’t have a final destination where they must belong because it is the only thing in the whole world that makes sense?  What about those hopeless wanderers with just an ordinary life and nothing to gain as they steadily trod from day to day?  Do they not deserve a story because their lives were not fated so beautifully?  Or do we write of those beautiful fairy tales because we all suffer the monotony of an unimportant existence?

I want, just once, a story of a girl or a boy, or a man or a woman.  One who has no purpose, no deeper meaning to life.  They learn no lessons about the importance of being, and they suffer just because sometimes people suffer.  And sometimes they are strong and sometimes they are weak.  And sometimes they want to be alive and sometimes they don’t.  And sometimes life is too hard for them and they don’t know why, they know they are inches away from giving up, but they don’t.  And all the while they are wondering why.   Why is any of it important?  Why is work and school and love and death important?  And they wonder, and they keep wondering, but without the significant moment where it all makes sense.  They wonder and wonder and eventually have to come to peace with the fact that they will never recieve any answers.  And not receiving answers doesn’t make them stronger, and coming to conclusions on their own doesn’t make them anything.

That’s what I want.  A story where the protagonist has no mission to fulfill, no soul fulfilling duty that answers the questions of life.  I want the boring reality:  that we never get to know any real answers and yet we somehow have to live day by day by day with that fact.  The boring reality that we don’t know what comes next, we don’t know why we fulfill these mundane tasks that are inevitably meaningless in the world.

I want that but I don’t.  The stories of those special people who get the privelage of fate, they keep me alive on most days.  They keep me hoping that one day I too will have a purpose, a meaning, an answer.  They keep me hoping that one day I can stop being afraid and start living instead of aimlessly wandering from moment to moment with no destination.  Living day to day only fulfilling the duties I’m told to fulfill, doing what needs to be done out of necessity instead of desire.  The stories of that girl, that boy, that man or woman, they pressure me forward into a greater unknown.  Maybe we really are all stories in the end.

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Morning Story

I wrote this very story in my first year of University before I moved to Toronto.  I was given an assignment to write a morning story, an afternoon story, and an evening story.  I always liked this one the best.

Morning Story

It’s the kind of early that feels unnatural. As though the world hasn’t yet begun. Perhaps I am the beginning, perhaps it starts with me. As the sun slowly rises and the day slowly comes into being, all thoughts of the night before come thundering back. They come back strong and they come back painful. It all feels different on the other side of the sun. It may still be full of hurt, but at the same time it seems somehow clearer. The blame can be replaced, the guilt can be diminished, and the anger can take the place of a sadness that seemed to be the only possibility in last night’s darkness. As the sun ends the world for another day, the feelings will shift once more. They will continue to shift with the rising of the sun until one unnatural morning as the world and I begin, they will vanish without a trace.

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On Hope

She awakes in the midst of that dreaded downward spiral.  The kind that makes her want to keep falling, the kind that makes her want to continue down that wretched hole, down to where everything feels comfortable and okay.  Sure, she feels sick down there.  Stuck in that damp darkness, surrounded by her fears and her never ending thoughts; but there is a comfort in it too.  She finds something pleasant in saying to herself, “Well, this is officially as low as I can go.  It can’t get any worse then this.  And here I am.  Still making it…poorly, but still alive.”

So what does she do when it feels like the end of the world and it feels like there is no way to get out of that deep, dark pit?  What does she do when a part of herself wants to stay hidden forever?

The truth:  She has two options.  The first is fairly obvious.  She can choose to stay.  To stay deep down there and wallow in the pity that is her life.  She can stay down there and remember all the bad in her world and all the wrong that has been done to her and all the troubles she has faced and she can cry.  And cry.  And cry.

But there’s a second option too.  A harder option.  But who says harder isn’t good?  Who says harder isn’t worth it in the end?  So the harder option when she’s down there in that hole?  She puts on her Friday smile.  She has hope that things will get better.  She has hope that there are things in this world that give her butterflies.  She has hope that there are people in this world that make life feel like life.  She chooses hope.  For a better tomorrow, or a better day after that, or maybe a better next month because sometimes it takes time.  But in the end, that hope might just be worth it.  In the end, that’s all there is
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3am

This is another part of another story.  It needs some work, but I like it at its core.

On this particular night, it was 2am and I was reading, hoping to fall asleep sometime before the sun came up.  My phone rang and I saw that Taylor was calling.  A 2am phone call didn’t frighten or surprise me, these were our waking hours, this was when we thrived.  I answered to an immediate, “I’m bored.” And responded in kind, “me too, I’m just reading as usual.”  She immediately responded with, “Let’s do something, come pick me up.”  Again, this didn’t surprise me.  To most people, the world had turned itself off for the night, but to us, the possibilities were endless, even in our small town.  “What are we going to do?” I asked, mostly because I had to.  I didn’t really care what the answer was, I was ready for adventure as much as she was.  “No idea.”  She answered typically.  “Okay, I’ll be there soon.” 

I got out of my pajamas and put on the only outfit that could translate into appropriate attire for any situation we would find ourselves in.  Tight jeans and a fitted t-shirt.  I grabbed a cardigan and my purse and after touching up my make up, I headed to my car. 

Twenty minutes later we were in my car with no destination.  Nothing was open, we couldn’t go to a bar, and we weren’t nearly popular enough to know of people throwing any sort of party, so we drove around to contemplate what could entertain us until we might finally be able to let go enough to sleep.  After mild contemplation we decided to go to the casino with what little money we had, even though it was over an hour drive away.  We stopped at a coffee shop and grabbed hot drinks for the drive and got on the highway.  We knew it was silly to go so far, so late, but we had no responsibility and rampant insomnia, so on we went.

The drive there was almost always the best part, we got to talk about life, and what was bothering us, and there was always, always a lot to say.  That night our focus, once more, was on our minds.  It seemed selfish and egotistical, but it was the only way we knew how to work out the emotions we didn’t understand.  We talked of nothing but ourselves and the inner workings of our minds.

“I had the strangest dream this afternoon,” Taylor said, “I was giving a presentation and all my teeth started falling out.  That means something doesn’t it?  Losing your teeth?  It probably means death.”

“Knowing your luck, you’re right, but I think in dreams, death means change, so maybe that’s a good thing.”

“Teeth falling out can’t mean change.  That doesn’t even make sense.  Maybe it just means I’m incredibly vain.”

“Well your dreams got that one right.”

“Haha.” She forcefully laughed

“I had another hi-def nightmare, but this time I was the murderer, killing off my friends, who were strangers, one by one.  That has to mean death.”

“I’m pretty sure all your dreams about killing people mean death, it’s all you think about Jane.”

“No shit.  That can’t be healthy.”

“It could be worse, you could be killing people while your teeth were falling out.  Now that’s a nightmare.”

“I think we have different views on what is terrifying in this world.”  I responded.

Taylor, getting serious, replied, “that much is obvious.  Dying terrifies you, obviously, without a doubt, one hundred percent.  I think living scares me more.  I think I’m fucking it up, doing it all wrong.  And sometimes that terrifies me, and sometimes I find it hilarious.  I don’t think that’s super healthy either.”

“Well, neither of us are obviously super healthy.  Mentally I mean.  I hope to God we are physically.  Oh shit.  Is He going to smite me for saying that?”

“You and your religious superstitions, now those are certainly not healthy.”

“We should make a list, top ten unhealthiest things about our lives.  Then we can work to make it better.”

“I think number one on that list should be deciding to drive an hour and a half to a casino at 3 oclock in the fucking morning.”

We finally got to the casino and started to feel the toll of the long drive and our dwindling energy.  We took our allotted money, just twenty dollars for me and considerably more for Taylor, and headed inside.  We both got glasses of coke to perk us up, and then started searching for the perfect machines.  I searched for one that had something to do with vampires or wizards, or anything in the current fantasy book I was reading.  I figured it might be good luck.  Again with my superstitions.  Taylor looked for one with the flashiest lights and the biggest jackpot, probably a more logical approach, if logic touches anything in a casino.  We sat down a few machines apart and began to silently waste our money.  Nothing much happened while we were there, I went through my twenty quickly, then I watched while Taylor won, then lost, then won, then lost until she was finally through her stash.  By the time we were ready to go home it was 5:30 in the morning and we were starting to feel like we might be able to sleep. 

“You’re not allowed to fall asleep on the ride home, no matter how tired you get, this was your idea.”  I say to Taylor once we’re back in the car.

“Okay, okay, I won’t.”

But I know within five minutes on the straight and dark highway I’ll be alone to my own thoughts once more, she never was one for long car rides.  I turned the music to a level that I could hear and enjoy without waking her, and thought about the night.  I only lost 20 dollars and a tank of gas but I felt much more empty.  I always hoped these outings would fill me up inside, make me feel alive and happy in a way I’ve only read about in one of my books, but I’m almost always let down and I suspect the same is true for Taylor.  We tried and hoped and failed at experiencing emotions other than dread and depression, and for a while, hours even, we keep it at bay, but the truth of it never leaves us. 

Soon I was back in my bed, back to chapter 20 something of whatever book I was reading, and slowly as the new day started to begin, my night time insomnia abated and finally allowed me some sleep, some rest from the day and it’s stifling emotions.

 

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Get to Know Me…

Just a quiz I found online.  I like doing these.  I learn about myself too.  Please fill out yours in the comments.

Would you rather…

Watch, Star Wars, or Star Trek?
Star Wars.  Even though I didn’t particularly like it all that much, something about Star Trek always bothered me.
 

Read on a Kindle or paperback book?
Paperback.  Always.  Or Hardcover.  Anything with real paper that I can touch and feel and smell.  God I’m sentimental.  But seriously, I tried the Ebook.  I even read a number of books on it, I just can’t get into it.  I understand it’s perks.  I even see that it’s better for the environment.  But I will always need to own a hard copy of a book.  I hope they never go away.

Go to a play or musical?
Either, I’m not picky.  I love to sing, so when I know the musical, it’s great fun.  But I have enjoyed many plays as well.  Any reason for a night out is good for me.

Go to the theater or a movie?
I go to movies all the time, I love going to the movies, but I’m still going to say theatre because I don’t get a chance to do it frequently and the tickets are so damn expensive.  If given the choice, if I had the money and there were enough interesting plays, I’d probably choose theatre.  The movies could win out because they have fountain pop.

Hike or bike?
Hike.  Love it.  Love the scenery and the nature.  I used to love to bike but it makes me too nervous in the city.

Wear jeans or chinos?
Jeans.  What are chinos?

Have a Margarita or Pina Colada?
Margarita.  Not a fan of coconut

Drink a glass of Guinness or Fat Tire?
Neither.  Yuck

Visit Europe or Mexico?
Europe.  Europe.  Europe.  Europe.  Europe.  Europe times 100.  Times infinity.  God I want to see all of Europe!

Vacation in Hawaii or Alaska, and why?
I could do either.  Alaska seems amazing.  The animals and the culture.  But Hawaii would be spectacularly beautiful as well, in a completely different way.  For my state of mind right at this moment, I’ll say Alaska because I’d love the chance to see a whale.

Go skiing or snowshoeing?
I’m going to say snowshoeing because I’ve never been and I skied a million times when I was younger.  Also, for some reason, even though I grew up skiing, the thought kind of scares me now, snowshoeing seems safer.  Plus, it’s like hiking in the snow…..which seems awesome to me.

Travel by plane, train, or automobile?
Depends.  There are a few train rides I’d love to take.  A train ride through different European countries seems romantic.  There are a few train rides in Canada that are probably beautiful.  So romantic me says train.  To get all the places in the world I want to go, plane, just for convenience.

Enjoy a houseboat or speed boat?
Sail boat?

Go climbing or zip lining?
Climbing.  Zip lining is too scary for me.  I’ve done rock climbing, but only the fake kind.  I don’t know if I could climb in nature.

Go to a comedy club or dance club?
Comedy.  I’m not a great dancer.  Nor do I enjoy that kind of music much.

Have a night out or evening in?
Depends on my mood and what’s on the agenda.  If the evening in is reading, I’d almost always choose to stay in.  If you tried to drag me to a dance club, Definitely an evening in.  But a movie, a date night, a drink night with the girls, a beautiful moonlit walk; those things could persuade me to go out.

Watch TV or read a book?
Book.  Always a book.  I mean I watch T.V., don’t get me wrong, but in this either or situation, always, always a book.

Go canoeing or waterskiing?
Canoeing.  Although I’d probably TRY waterskiing.  I doubt I would ever manage to actually do it though.

Camp in an RV or stay in a tent?
I like the idea of a tent more, and I’d definitely camp in one, but the realist in me says I’d probably really enjoy the RV more.  I like beds and I hate bugs.

Use Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook.  I try twitter occasionally.  But I just don’t get it.  I would only use it to retweet someone else so it became pointless.  Plus my life is in words.  I can’t say all I need to say in 140 characters.

Choose a free trip or money?
Free Trip if it was to the right locale.  If I won money I’d probably use it to travel anyways.

Win the lottery or find your perfect job?
Everyone will choose the lottery, but I think that lifestyle would be bad for me.  I need a reason to wake up in the morning, otherwise I’d sleep all day.  I truly would be so happy if I found a job that made me happy and fulfilled (it wouldn’t hurt if it paid well too).  For me, if I won the lottery, I’d sleep all day and accomplish nothing.  I’d do nothing to change the world.  I don’t want that, I want to leave an impact, however small.

Swim in a pool or the ocean?
In a pool.  I’d rather take a walk down a lovely beach and watch the ocean, but I’ve had too many ocean mishaps to actually want to swim in it.  Beautiful to look at though, I’d look at an ocean a million times over swimming anywhere.

Travel by sailboat or cruise ship?
Sailboat.  It ends up I’m quite the romantic.

Watch sports or play sports?
Play, I guess.  I would suck because I haven’t played a sport in years.  But I just can’t get behind the idea of watching sports.  Seems so utterly pointless to me.

Play dodgeball or kickball?
Dodgeball I suppose.  For no real reason.  I would get injured at either

Get to know someone new when you learn how they think:

What would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
A library.
 

If you could do anything you wanted right now, what would it be?
Travel all of Europe and see every castle and cobblestone street.  Drink a coffee in the restaurant where J.K. Rowling wrote the beginning of Harry Potter.  Write something there too.

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
In my mind:  Be a writer.  In reality:  Sleep.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
I think I’ve been fairly obvious with this one, but I’ll say it again.  EUROPE!  ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE!!!

What is your favorite memory?
This ones getting tricky.  No one memory stands out as the best in my life.  I have a few good ones.  I have a lot of terrible ones.  I have a lot of lost ones that I just don’t remember.  I’ll keep it short and sweet and go with the moment I met my niece.  She’s perfect.

Who is your favorite author?
J.K. Rowling.  She amazes me no matter how many times I reread Harry Potter (her other books are good as well 🙂 )

What is your favorite book?
Uuumm….You get where this is going I’m sure, but okay.  Harry Potter.  All of them.  If I had to choose one, I’d say The Half Blood Prince.

What was your favorite activity in gym class?
Those turtle things you sat on with the wheels and the handles that you wiggled back and forth to make it move across the room.  Those things were weird and amazing. 

What has been your biggest challenge?
Fear.

What is your biggest success up until now?
Graduating University.  Although a degree in English Literature apparently does not guarantee one a job.

What does your perfect day look like?
Sleeping.  Hiking.  Eating.  Writing.  Reading.  Drinking tea.  Seeing my niece.  Maybe taking a bath depending on the weather.

University or life experience, which do you feel best prepares you for life?
Life Experience.  I may say I’m proud that I graduated University, but it taught me absolutely nothing about getting a job or the real world.  It just indulged my reading whims for five years.

What is the one thing that should be taught in school that isn’t already?
Common sense.  Can you teach that?

If you were to create a piece of art, what would the subject be?
Fantasy.  Magic.  Bravery.

What one thing would you change if you had to do it over?
I have a large number of things I’d change if I could, but there’s no point dwelling on them.  I think I’ll keep them to myself.

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
1920 – be a stereotypical flapper girl.  Daisy Buchanan.  In reality, it probably would be a lot of men treating a lot of women really poorly.  As a woman, now is probably the best time for me to live.

What does your life say about you?
I can be lazy.  I fall down a lot.  But I have hope.

How would your friends describe you?
I hope as kind and thoughtful.  Probably they’d say I’m anxious and scared.

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