Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Not-So-Sleeping Beauty

I am Briar Rose, officially named Aurora (or Princess Aurora), best known in local folklore as Sleeping Beauty. I was born into a wonderful royal family, doted upon by not only my parents but my guardians, the three good fairies, and an entire kingdom of loyal subjects. I was even betrothed to a prince. I was blessed with supernatural gifts of beauty and song; however, as the stereotypical story unfolds, I am also cursed: upon the eve of my 16th birthday, I shall prick my finger and fall into a deep sleep until true love’s kiss awakens me.

To counter the spell I was sent to the forest to be raised by the fairies (acting mortally) until the threat had passed. I was taught to be quite tame and gentle, traits that come naturally having been by myself for so long; only the three women and the animals keep me company.

But now... now things have changed.

It’s the 14th Century and the evening of my 16th birthday, before the supposéd death sentence comes into effect. They’ve dressed me up in a poufy gown and suddenly they want me to get married! Well, I want to get married too, but not to some stranger in a starched prince costume, but to the man I love, the man I have been dreaming of since the day we danced in the wood. It seems like yesterday, and it was, but the connection we shared was worth this escape I’m planning. Fate has a hold on me no longer. The fairies and the royalty, as dear as they are, have lied to me for 16 years and it’s about time I take fate and life into my own hands.

I’m in the upper room of the castle where my “parents” are keeping me until they march me down the aisle. I’ve finally been left alone to try and process some of this, and I am not going to sit here even a moment longer than I have to. I am running away.

The castle walls are cold stone, bare and cage-like. One heavy and barred door is just behind me to the left, the only way in or out of this room. The fairies are somewhere on the other side but I don’t know where they’ve gone or how long they plan to stay away. The entirety of my life in the homely country cottage has been condensed to three cardboard boxes in the corner. Before me is a large mirror, and all I can see is the stupid dress they have draped me in, and the crown on my head – a symbol of imprisonment and death, as far as I am concerned. They keep talking about a spinning wheel? Who cares? I just want to get back to the forest before he gets there; it is with that boy, that man, that my happily ever after lies.

I am collecting all of the things I need to get back to the cottage – shall, basket with some key food supplies, comfortable shoes (trading my heels in for flats), and a candle, which I can’t find. I know I have to leave ASAP to avoid being recaptured, but I need the light to be able to find my way back, not that I really know the way. As the time moves along, I get more panicked, starting to talk out the rushed packing processes of earlier this morning. It wasn’t logical; I keep finding forks and toothbrushes together, my cloak was wrapping plates, and so on. The frustration is building rapidly.

I’m frustrated by the inefficiency of the clutter in the room (wondering all the time how much of the life I’ve know was false and empty) and I’m scared out of my mind at the life that waits for me if I stay (an arranged marriage to a man I don’t know and probably won’t even like, parents and people who love me but don’t know anything about who I am, aunts who turn out to be fairies with magical powers, a huge castle that feels so foreign and cold and isolating...). But from time to time I get swept away in anticipation of the life I could have with the.... man... well, his name isn’t that important... He loves me and I love him and even with the dangers of the world, even in getting home again, our love will protect me.

I want to get home, to the cottage in the woods, not because it’s my home but because that is the place where I am supposed to be meeting my love right now. I need to find that stupid candle and get out of here, somehow, without being seen – even in this ridiculous ball gown.

There are so many obstacles to face; I’m locked in the tower of a castle (how cliché) with one way out that is probably fortified by a hundred royal guards. I’ve been dressed up in a gown that not only weighs three times what my usual dresses do, but is also nearly florescent and could house a small country of people under its skirt. I can’t find the candle and although the room is lighted well, I think a girl of any stature carrying a full sized torch might be counted as suspicious. Time is also, naturally, ticking against me.

The stakes: if I get free and find my way back to the cottage in time, I will surely live a life full of love and romance and fairytale bliss. If, however, I am captured, I will be forced into a horrifying marriage to the ogre prince and I will be miserable the rest of my life. Or, on a more positive note, I will prick my finger on a spindle and fall into a dream-filled coma for the rest of my life... not a terrible option, when compared to the legal slavery I will be forever trapped in otherwise...

And so, I move to action. I root through my boxes, collecting the things I will need for my journey. Hiding the dress as best I can, I light the candle, grab some matches and quietly slip out the door without being seen.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Pip, Chip and Theodore

Over the past few weeks our cottage has been steadily collecting tenants. Unwelcomed as they may be, our new roommates have settled quite comfortably into their new home where they are apparently warm, dry and well fed. As a general statement they keep to themselves – they don’t use up all of our hot water and they don’t blast their music late at night – but there is an odd combination of severe territorialism and a complete lack of respect for personal space that has created some tension between the human and chipmunk populations.

We’ve tried asking politely. Chip, please stay out of my dresser drawers. There are things in there not for rodent eyes. We’ve tried demanding our privacy. Theodore! Get out of my space! And stop eating the popcorn. When you start paying for it, you can have some. Until then, back off! We’ve warned, begged and threatened with no avail. Even our heavily overused air fresheners won’t keep them away for long. It’s getting a little ridiculous.

With professional exterminators out of the question, Pip, Chip and Theodore have thus far been able to postpone their inevitable demise. We only know of one chipmunk that has met his Maker in our home, if chipmunks do indeed come face to face with the living God, and that poor rodent drowned in our toilet prior to our arrival. (We buried him respectfully in a closed casket service provided by the nearest Wal-Mart shopping bag, the strength of my slinging arm and the forest behind our cottage.) But the dead ones are of little consequence to us now; it’s the ones that refuse to leave and refuse to die that really irk the spirit of our home.

We have run out of viable options. We have done everything we can thing to get rid of these vermin pests. We have been left with no alternative action.


Apartment 714 has turned into a battle of wit. By rummaging through our bedrooms, the Chips have learned everything they need to know about us, and have used this information to abuse their stealth powers. Desperate times are upon us and we have called in for back up.

Meet our secret weapon of superhuman handy-man skill: Carl. Armed to the teeth with nails and with a hammer in hand, Carl took immediate action with no direction necessary and in moments everyone in the house knew that Pip, Chip and Dale had stolen their last chocolate malt ball.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from our experience with the not-so-friendly chipmunks of MBC; I have a professor who has said many times that a good story must reach beyond the fictional narrative and into the real world if it is going to be of any lasting influence, so allow me a moment to overlay the framework of this little allegory. Consider a simple substitution of title for each of these characters: Pip, Chip and Dale become Anger, Deception and Lust. If your life is open to them you won’t have to look far; they find their way toward the source of your survival (popcorn to prayer life) and ruin it, so slowly at first that you barely notice, then more and more directly until you feel like there is nothing you can do to stop the attacks. My personal efforts have no lasting affects and I feel not only invaded but also exposed, as though everything in my life has been tainted. Eventually there comes a point when you cannot help yourself any longer. You must call out for help or struggle forever in a winless war. So, who are you going to call? Not a handy-man, though the answer does lie in a carpenter...

The truth of the matter is that the things that hurt us the most, the things that get into the cracks of our will and corrupt the spirit are things that we invite into our lives; we ignore them or feed them and then fight the consequences instead of the root issue. The footholds of sin are secure; however, there is one who can free us from the burdens we carry and the messes we make... Carl used nails in the wall, Christ used nails in the cross.

So, I suppose this is the first of my “choose your own adventure” stories with a few possible morals and endings to choose from. The first is obvious; invest in some solid Tupperware and lock up your goodies. The second; protect yourself actively against rodents and the alluring snares deployed against mind and body... sin is attractive, chipmunks are furry and cute, both cause harm far beyond the mischief of the first impression. The final moral is a lesson I am struggling with on a daily basis; we are not created to be independent. God designed us to need Him, and as much as I love working on my own and trying to figure out the answers, there are times when I must, we must, surrender independence before we can ever be free.