Posted by: LucidMystery | October 26, 2008

You Live Here, Get Used to It

Haha, no I’m not talking about Pittsburgh; I’m referring to a grander scale. By now, it should be no secret to you that my head is always in the clouds, and grounding myself is a challenge only mastered by constant reminders of where I really live. And I’m talking about that most scary of places–the realm where drudgery and repetition outweighs adventure and spontaneity. Evil lurks in corners, but there is no brave knight to brandish a sword and save us all. There’s no King Arthur or High King Peter. Animals can’t talk and fairies aren’t real. Instead of wizards and sages, we have politicians and “experts.”  Mysterious lands beyond daring seas are replaced by the potential of bacterial aliens after light years of cold, dark space. Magic and mystery exist only when bound in the pages of books; and instead of endless reaches of wide open country, we live in a stagnant world of cement and traffic jams. We live, my friends, in the real world.

I’ve been re-reading the Narnia books. That’s where this fit of malcontentment comes from. I just finished up A Horse and his Boy, which is more wonderful than I originally gave it credit for. (Let me just yell from the rooftops for the 85,493th time in the history of this blog how much I love C.S. Lewis.) Reading about Narnia and its neighboring kingdoms never fails to give me both a thrill of excitement and an ache for that kind of wonder. Maybe that’s why I love being out in nature so much. While walking alone down a wooded path, who knows what I might run into? I could be the first to find a proverbial wardrobe and be launched into a realm of fantasy.

Quite plainly, I’m a sucker for the fantastic. The first book I read to shreds was Ella Enchanted, which is kind of a replay on the Cinderella story (if you haven’t read this book, it may be written for tweens, but it’s still fabulous. Just never EVER watch the movie version. Shudder.) The story follows Ella, a girl cursed with obedience, as she tried to find the crazy fairy who gave her this “gift.” Along the way, she encounters ogres, elves, gnomes, princes, giants, friends, and enemies; but author Gail Carson Levine gives each theoretically tired demographic (ie, gnomes) a twist so that they are new and interesting to the readers. Flecks of magic dot Ella’s adventures, and her happily ever after is joyous without being trite.

Honestly, though, books do play a big role, but I don’t know whether my zeal for dream worlds is fueled or quenched by my imagination. At any one time, four or five half-stories are usually floating around in my head, each as crazy and far-fetched as the next; and I don’t know if their presence is what keeps me from being utterly depressed with the lack of adventure or if they only remind me of grandeur that isn’t happening while I write lab papers or stare at a computer screen of data. That’s another point; I feel like a scientist needs to be more practical than me. I’m so likely to daydream no matter what I’m doing. In all technicality, I could be in a stream collecting aquatic macroinvertebrates, while in my head, I’m thousands of feet off the ground on the back of a flying dragon.

Did I ever progress past kindergarten? No? Didn’t think so.

As far back as I remember, I’ve always have a bit a zeal for the sensational. When I was a kid, I used to make books all the time about the world of my imagination. I would take a bunch of pieces of paper, divide up my story on to each page, draw in my illustrations and then staple the whole thing together. Mom has a box of all my “books” somewhere, but I can distinctly think of one book she doesn’t have and I wish I had never given away. I went through a bit of a mermaid phase when I was 9-ish, and I remember I made one book about a family of mermaids. This particular book was supposed to pretty much be a day in the life of your average mer-family. I talked about the parents, the sisters, and the one brother and their routine activities, made more colorful but the pictures of crazy colored fish I drew everywhere. I remember when I was finished writing and illustrating this book, I was pretty darn impressed with myself. Finally I had been able to create something that would show other people at least one of the worlds I had in my head. My reasoning, the fate of a book of this caliber should be carefully decided. So I gave it to a “close” friend for her birthday, a move I have regretted ever since. To my knowledge, she never even looked at it. And why would she? She was a 9 year old girl busy with stacks of birthday presents; and over a decade later, I can see why that move was such a bad choice on my part. I remember at the time I was so disappointed at her lack of enthusiasm, I didn’t even try to recreate the book for myself. Boooo. I think that was around the time I realized not everyone gets as exicted as me about non-reality, and I stopped telling all but the people closest to me about my crazy fantasy lands. Haha, until I came up with this blog anyway!

That book, though, was an early point where I remember wanting to be able to see for myself the kind of place I had dreamed up. Just like any composer wants to hear the music he has written, I want to go off on mad adventures in my dream worlds. Likewise, I wish Lewis had been able to see Narnia, Tolkien had been able to see Middle Earth, Levine had been able to see Frell, Carroll had been able to see…well, come to think of it, I don’t know that I would wish that tripped-out Wonderland on anyone, including the guy who came up with it. And just think of how much fun these authors would have! It would be like coming home, but in a wild sort of way. I would bet Rowling would be the best Quidditch player to ever have come from Hogwarts, and Barrie could defeat so many pirates, even the Lost Boys and Pan himself would admire his bravado.

You know, if I put this much thought into my homework, I would be a straight-A genius. But it just doesn’t work like that! My brain seems to have an extra big planning area for absolute uselessness, and a disproportionately smaller area for things I actually need to know.

This could also be where I get my reputation for being a space cadet. True dat, folks!

In the end though, I know that there is no such place as Rivendell or Cair Paravel, no matter how badly I want it; and by keeping up my train of thought, I sound like the crazies who go to fantasty conventions and wear the elf ears to work at the computer store. No, I’m much cooler than that; why just this weekend, I went to a mussel conference on Saturday and the next day strapped in a pair of waders and kick-seined for fish (and my fellow classmates and I found two state listed threatened species!) Yeah…I’m definitely cooler than the conventions crowd! But in the end, I know that I live in the real world, I obviously always have, and I obviously always will. Can someone just let my imagination know that, please?

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