Monday, June 28, 2010

Emily's Refuge and the Crossing of Divergent Paths

In Pages in the Wind, Emily spends a month of every summer at her Grandma’s house.  She enjoyed herself during those weeks without the task of anticipating her father’s disgust and rage.  She could leave the hyper-vigilance of a little soldier on the battlefield, and enjoy being a child.  Instead of packing the weeks with constant activity, she allowed herself to breathe and savor the ease of being present in the moment.  At home, she was rarely present in the moment because she was always anticipating the outcome of the moment.  Being at her grandma’s house, encased in security and pleasure was a welcome respite from the constant turmoil in her fearful mind.  In those weeks, instead of using her imagination to escape reality, she was free to use her imagination to enjoy being a young girl.
This was Emily’s refuge.  She enjoyed the fantasy of being a child, using her vivid imagination to create skits and plays with her cousins.  Emily was the leader, the child with the imagination that captured the minds of the other children.  She loved to dress up and pretend to be a princess, and put on disguises to comb the neighborhood as a world-traveled spy.  During the evenings she would relax on Grandma’s porch and sing to her.  Grandma was her captive audience, always appreciative and asking for several encores before Emily closed the day with a goodnight kiss, and ran upstairs to her room feeling loved, safe, and happy.  She was grateful for those days; they were like opening a chest of treasures, holding them, living them, and ultimately carefully putting them away for the next time. 
The transition from grandma’s refuge to home illustrates a dramatic shift in young Emily’s psyche:
The long drive home was quiet for Emily for her father did not allow her to talk, and he rarely ridiculed Emily when her mother was around.  Her parents chatted about adult things until Emily drifted to sleep, knowing that when she woke up she would be home.  She knew that she would have to leave the other child behind and be a different Emily, on guard to avoid the mistakes that would ignite her father’s temper.    Her child’s mind was constantly looking for the right compass to point her away from evil, toward the path of goodness and worthiness so her father would accept her as he did her brother.  In Emily’s deepest fantasy, maybe he would even love her.
I wonder what this pervasive anticipation of violence does to a young mind.  Emily is far too young to know that it is a battle that cannot be won, so she continues to fight to be someone that is worthy of her father’s approval.  She is similar to a soldier in battle, strategizing, and trying to stay safe.  Emily is a soldier without a higher cause, however, with no comrades to help her.  Her only ally is her fertile mind which she uses to cope with the unrelenting stress inflicted by her father. 
Where is the little girl that was present at her grandma’s house? In a practical sense, she is battling her father – but in a larger sense is she in a battle with herself?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Author's Notes - Antidote to Evil?

In Pages in the Wind, Emily uses her vivid imagination to escape her abusive father. Her gentle nature cannot accommodate her fathers brutality, so she clings to what she perceives as good to counteract her fathers cruelty . Emily chooses to push the damage out of her young mind, and uses her imagination as an antidote to the evil she witnesses at the hands of her father. One of Emily's antidotes is the church. After a particularly vile episode with her father, Emily goes to the Catholic Church and escapes into an array of beauty and tradition that seems to calm her:

Emily's head was throbbing with pain, and she fought hard to bear it as she told herself it would end. She looked at the floor next to her and saw clumps of her golden hair. Her patent leather purse was flung open, and her crystal rosary was lying on the floor. Humiliated, she gently picked up the rosary, and with tearful eyes she stared at it as if to gain strength from the symbol of Jesus on the cross. She picked up the rosary, held it to her cheek, and placed it back in her purse. She grabbed the stool to put the hatbox back on the shelf. Somberly, she marched back to where the family had gathered to make the drive to church.

Emily walked into the church behind her parents, ensuring that she did not have to sit beside her father. Once seated in the wooden pew, she gazed at the majestic scene around her. She watched the candles flicker in the corner of the chapel and wondered what secrets burned in the hearts of the people that lit them and prayed. Her eyes were drawn to the stained glass, and the tranquil faces created in the glass. She watched the bolts of colors from the stained glass form a prism around the walls of the church, dancing and forming light-created rainbows.  As the colors performed, she watched the colliding rainbows gain strength as each flowed into the other.  The beams of colored light framed the sacred faces of the stained glass which fascinated Emily.  She was especially fixated on the image of the Virgin Mary. Her face was serious yet radiant as she held the baby Jesus. She marveled at her long flowing hair and the eyes that held a secret that would change the world forever. As she stared at the fluid images, she felt her anxieties fade and her body relax. It was a comfort to know that there were elements in the world that were inherently beautiful. 

I wonder if we all have antidotes to the trauma or difficulties in our lives. Is the absence of an antidote a certain road to destruction? What would Emily do without her grandma, and her own vivid imagination? In Pages in the Wind, the church is a safe place for her and it feeds her creativity and need to find the purpose of her existence. Emily uses her imagination to amplify what gives her strength to offset the brutality of her father. I just wonder if it will be enough...........

As a footnote for thought, have you used antidotes in your own life to shield you from difficulties? Much like a bite from a rattlesnake needs an antidote to counteract the venom, isn't that what we do? If there were no remedy to the poison of the rattlesnake, we would probably avoid going where the rattlesnakes live. But what if we couldn't? What if we could not avoid living in the same proximity of the poison? What then?