Dystopian Literature

This week I read 1984, The Giver, and Lord of the Flies.  At one point or another in my youth I read the spark notes or skimmed each of these, and was fully aware of the implications and genres of dystopian societies written in literature, but I have to say there is nothing like actually reading a really good book to truly draw you in and make you feel its cause. I was so moved by these stories I wanted to share my thoughts with you. (I should also say I have never seen any cinematic reproductions of these books, and I decided not to include pictures so you can visualize the scenes for yourself, too.)

There were passages in each of these that took my breath away. (Spoilers!!)

First, the heartbreaking star crossed romance of Julia and Winston…

“The room was darkening. He turned over towards the light and lay gazing into the glass paperweight.  The inexhaustibly interesting thing was not the fragment of coral but the interior of the glass itself.  There was such a depth of it, and yet it was almost transparent as air.  It was as thought the surface of the glass had been the arch of the sky, enclosing a tiny world with its atmosphere complete.  He had the feeling that he could get inside it, … The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia’s life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity and the heart of the crystal,” George Orwell, 1984

The paperweight comes to mean a world apart from the horror of socialism he faces every day.  It is a fragment of the past, and Winston’s hopes for the present and future; a safe bubble. It is no wonder that when he and Julia are discovered the paperweight is smashed into pieces.  I gasped and almost cried, (then tried to find a paper weight with coral in it on the internet.  Ha!) It was very similar to the conch shell breaking in Lord of the flies, although the symbolism differed.

I was most moved in Lord of the Flies by the description of Simon’s battered body being taken out to sea.  Simon was my favorite character, and no wonder, for he symbolized goodness.

“The edge of the lagoon became a streak of phosphorescence which advanced minutely, as the great wave of the tide flowed.  The clear water mirrored the clear sky and the angular bright constellations… Along the shoreward edge of the shallows the advancing clearness was full of strange, moonbeam-bodied creatures with fiery eyes… The tide swelled in over the rain-pitted sand and smoothed everything over with a layer of silver.  Now it touched the first of the stains that seeped from the broken body and the creatures made a moving patch of light as they gathered at the edge. The water rose farther and dressed Simon’s coarse hair with brightness. The line of his cheek silvered and the turn of his shoulder became sculptured marble. The strange attendant creatures, with their fiery eyes and trailing vapors, busied themselves around his head.  The body lifted a fraction of an inch from the sand and a bubble of air escaped from the mouth with a wet plop.  Then it turned gently in the water.
Somewhere over the darkened curve of the world the sun and moon were pulling, and the film of water on the earth planet was held, bulging slightly on one side while the solid cord turned.  The great wave of the tide moved farther along the island and the water lifted.  Softly surrounded by a frindge of inquisitive bright creatures, itself a silver shape beneath the steadfast constellations, Simon’s dead body moved out toward the open sea,” ~William Golding, Lord of the Flies

I mean.  Come on.  Isn’t that beautiful!? No spark notes or wikipedia page could have done that scene justice.  That sweet little boy, helpful and epileptic, had my heart full of tears. And with his death comes the great shuddered realization that the boys on the island are now taken over to their beastly savage desires. Literal light takes the last glimpse of light away from the island, and the Lord of the Flies will now rule in darkness. It was so powerful.

***And finally, The Giver. I have to say that I was disheartened by the use of implausibility in this book.  It is soft science fiction, and therefore distracted me in my suspension of disbelief. (I wish I’d been enthralled by Jonas suddenly seeing color, but instead I was wracking my brain about how that could be possible). But once I accepted the rules of the world written within the book, I was able to enjoy it more. ( I later found that this was also a complaint of critics when it came out). I even enjoyed the ambiguous end, where we simultaneously question whether Jonas survived, and accept his sacrifice as the best possible outcome for the community.

“For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps, it was only an echo,” ~Lois Lowry, The Giver

But what I loved most of all was Jonas’ learning how to love, in the example of his relationship with baby Gabriel. The first symbolic thing for me was the use of Gabriel’s name. The family is not supposed to know it, or even supposed to care for him outside of the nurturing center, but they use it.  This is the first sign of love: knowing.  Gabriel cries at night, a sign of feelings the community will not be able to handle, but Jonas is able to soothe him with the memories and color of beautiful things he’s been given.  This is the second sign of love: sharing. And then finally, when Gabriel is going to be killed because he is not able to stop crying at night, Jonas takes him with him at the risk of his own life.  The third sign: Giving. Through self sacrifice Jonas shows he is able to love Gabriel completely.

“‘Things could change, Gabe,’ Jonas went on. “Things could be different. I don’t know how, but there must be some way for things to be different. There could be colors. And grandparents,” he added, staring through the dimness toward the ceiling of his sleepingroom. “And everybody would have the memories.”
‘You know the memories,’ he whispered, turning toward the crib.
Garbriel’s breathing was even and deep. Jonas liked having him there, though he felt guilty about the secret. Each night he gave memories to Gabriel: memories of boat rides and picnics in the sun; memories of soft rainfall against windowpanes; memories of dancing barefoot on a damp lawn.
“Gabe?”
The newchild stirred slightly in his sleep. Jonas looked over at him.
‘There could be love,’ Jonas whispered.” ~Lowis Lowry, The Giver

And then as Jonas and Gabriel are fighting snow and starvation to escape the community…

“[Jonas] wept because he was afraid now that he could not save Gabriel. He no longer cared about himself” ~Lois Lowry, The Giver 

I also love how the last scene’s music is Christmas singing. (We know this because of the Christmas tree lights he sees in the window, and that it is December.)  Jonas has saved a child from death (Like Jesus saved from Herod) and found deliverance on Christmas Day.  (Or death and deliverance for the community depending on how you want to view the end.)  But either way, there are Christlike messages in there, and perhaps the echos are the resurrection of memories for the community he’s left behind.  Or the singing is of angels (like Gabriel’s namesake?) I would love to pick Lois Lowry’s brain about that!

Thanks for reading my thoughts.  I would love to hear anyone else’s views or thoughts of these books, differing or otherwise, or to just hear someone else drool over their beauty!

Clocks. Lion Fang. Thieves. Cotton Hair. Milk. Child-chain-grass. Blow Flower. Little Bunny Fufu. Wish Bubbles. Fairy wands. Little messengers. Wishies.

 Last night I asked my Flora Forager followers what they call Dandelions gone to seed, and if they have any traditions with them.  

 I could not have *wished* for a better response. People from over 30 countries gave me their names and childhood memories!  

 Children the world over have been spreading those lovely fairy seeds across the continents for generations. Wishes and dreams in every language have floated on the wind over every sea. It was a beautiful conversation to read, and lovely imagery to fall asleep to. Magic.   One person said they had never seen a Dandelion before and it made me so grateful for all those multitudes of weeds growing in my grass. A new beautiful perspective! 

 

A Poem

Fuzzy gray tufts froth around me,

Silver moon, violet sky.

Dark scatters of branches jumble with cold stars,

I breathe crystal air and sharp shadows,

Ice shards cut and ache.

 

Brilliant sparkles scatter through the silver,

Soft mist,  yellow light,

Heat radiates slowly from the pink horizon,

I breathe deeply of honeyed air,

The shards melt and dew clings to my cobwebbed caverns.

 

I, like persephone,

eat my jeweled seeds,

And plunge into darkness for a time,

But Demeter waits for me in her flowered Spring,

And I once again take up the light and beauty that is mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The murder of my confidence.

“You wouldn’t understand… It would be too hard to explain it to you,” said the manchild checking my groceries. I had asked him what he was studying at the university. There it was again, my confidence murdered by the quick summation of a stranger. My pigtails, my children, or perhaps just being a woman somehow pigeonholed me. My shoulders sunk a little and I fidgeted. What about me makes people assume I’m stupid? I thought. Beau once said he thinks I love Miss Marple because we have being underestimated by others in common.

Deep breath. I gave the manchild a slightly surprised face and smiled. “Oh?” I asked, challenging him. It was poetry theory. He gave me a weak (and unnecessary) explanation about what poetry theory was.

“Oh that sounds interesting,” I said cheerfully. “What kind of poetry do you like to read?”

He used a bunch of big words and spewed off a few names of men I didn’t know. “….that’s the kind of poetry I like to write.”

“Oh you write poetry?” I reiterated.

“That’s what I just said,” he scoffed.

Silence. I looked down at the credit card reader, my eyes wide, as if to tell the machine, “Can you believe this guy?” Then I signed it with my finger. I looked up and smiled. With all the passive aggressiveness this Seattle girl could muster, my face said, You’re a jerk.

“Do you read poetry?” he asked me. Probably to fill the silence.

“I do.”

“Oh really?  What do you read?” I think he may have rolled his eyes as he grabbed another thing out of my cart.

“I love romantics like Keats and Shelley.”

“huh…yeah they’re ok.  I don’t really like Keats. But the poets I like are a little bit influenced by them. They’re able to walk into a garden and notice the tiniest details like petals and…”

I inwardly smirked as Miss Marple flashed across my brain. Always being treated like a sweet old lady who wouldn’t understand, and much less someone who might hear them give away clues to a murder she knew much more about. I knew a thing or two about petals.

“Have you read Mary Oliver? She writes poetry like that.”

He looked taken aback. I’m not sure if it was because I knew a name he didn’t know, or surprise over me saying the name of a woman….or any name at all.

“No I haven’t.”

Receipt, my groceries were bagged and in the cart.

“Oh, you should check her out.  She’s great.” I was halfway out the door. His mouth was gaping.

“Hey what’s your name?”

I stopped and turned my head over my shoulder. “Bridget.”

“It’s nice to meet someone who actually knows so much about poetry. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

I don’t actually know all that much about poetry.  But my heart burst to see his opinion of my brain go from one end of the spectrum of miscalculation to the other. A tiny and insignificant triumph, and probably silly to write for a blog post, but I felt like I solved a murder.IMG_2008

Beeswax and rose oil and copper and dew.

So I got it in my head that I wanted to make my own scents from my garden. I have always been fascinated by capturing the soul of a place, creating a perfume or spray that has all the scents of say, a campfire under the stars, or a mountain Meadow, or forest flowers in your hair….

At first I thought I’d infuse oils.  My mom and I tried infusing oil with different kinds of her roses.  It was Mother’s Day afternoon and we labeled, cleaned, documented, and heated our rose oil.  It was disastrous. We used the wrong kind of oil and had to throw it all out.  But it was fun! And it was only the beginning.   I went straight home and bought a copper still online. When it came I got so excited I went straight into the garden, picked anything scented, and made my first batch of hydrosol. (The watery essence of the plants that comes from the mist boiled off of the plants.)


  What resulted was a sweet, fresh, strangely scented water.  It didn’t smell like anything in particular, but it was familiar.  I put it in a spray bottle and sprayed it on my wrist.  After the initial strong scent wore off I figured out the scent: 

The scent of my garden in spring! It’s the scent you smell when you walk out the door…bluebell, lilac, honeysuckle…but also earth and meadow and dew.

I’m hooked. 

 My next endeavor was making lip balm.  It will take lots more experimenting before I get it just right, but this morning I made a rose, beeswax, almond oil, beet (for color), and honey lip balm!  

   

 I made one yesterday with lilac and clover petals and geranium flowers for color, but I thought it would be fun to put petals in it, which was just messy so I scrapped it.  Pretty though!  

 And then something wild happened. A mystery rose that has been growing slowly in my garden finally bloomed after two years today. I posted it on Instagram to see if anyone recognized it, and a woman in France recognized it as one used for rose oil in her area.  How synchronistic is that? Just when I want to make rose oil, a rose blooms in my garden that will provide me with it. I guess it’s meant to be! 

Beau says next we need to keep our own bees so we can make our own wax. 

All in good time :)

  
 

The threat of life.

I posted a picture on Instagram that cost me 200 followers and my sanity. People were so upset by it, calling me evil and threatening to kill me. The picture, since taken down because my tender heart couldn’t handle any more, was my butterfly wing pyramid.

Now, after being shocked and hurt by the comments, I began to be very fascinated by the strong visceral response such an image created in people. I had a disclaimer on my subject line (These butterfly wings are recycled from an insect artist who had no use for them for one reason or another. She assures they were farmed and died of natural causes.)

So besides the fact that butterfly farming is a lucrative business for people who might otherwise cause deforestation with other types of farming, and besides the fact that no wild butterflies were harmed, and that the farmed butterflies were not even harmed, these people writing hateful comments to me were bothered by…

The severing of a wing of a dead insect.

(The wings came to me personally as wings, but someone along the line must have either cut them off of the insect, or they fell off and that’s why they couldn’t be used.  I’m not sure).

So my question is this:

Why doesn’t a leather hand bag cause the same kind of reaction?  Or milk? Or the use of antlers in decoration, even the ones fallen to the forest floor?  Or bones?  Or cut hair?

Why do butterflies in particular cause that kind of reaction?

I think there is a deep meaning here that these people aren’t even realizing exists.  I believe butterflies symbolize life after death.  They are this worlds closest thing to magic: wings from a chrysalis. 

I think the thought of a butterfly being harmed makes people feel like a soul, like beauty itself, is being harmed. Their bright colors and patterns, their searching for sweetness from flowers and starlight.  They are our world’s fairies, pointing towards a greater power, mimicking another voice.

I think this world fears death in ways we cannot truly fathom because we cannot truly understand life.

If my butterfly wing pyramid bothers you, I want you to search deep within yourself and ask yourself why. Perhaps there is an answer there waiting for you.

But don’t write me a death threat.  At this point, don’t write anything negative.  Believe me I’ve heard it all.butterfly pyramid

Black poppies and sweet peas.

   

Of flowers.

I got my paints out today.  It had been a long while! At first my hand felt sloppy and my touch was all muddled. I mixed too many colors together and wondered if I had succumbed to my petal art forever. But practice makes nearly perfect and I adore the end result!  

 I also tried out one of the lavish horizontal bouquets I’ve been drooling over on Instagram. I used flowers from my garden and my moms. Happiness! It felt like an arbour of roses on the mantle. 

 And speaking of mothers, I made this interpretation of Klimt’s Mother and Child for Mother’s Day! It’s a piece de resistance of sorts…the culmination of our adventure in Vienna and my newfound career as a flower fairy. I’m still excited to one day redo his elderly woman in paint!

Vienna to Dubrovnik.

Collages88“it feels like time travel” Beau said the other morning when I asked him if it really happened. We flew into Vienna, hit up the opera, the Belvedere Palace, Klimt paintings, little cakeries, and the royal treasury… listened to polka and marketed in Slovenia, hiked the aqua Plitvice lakes in Croatia, holed up in a renaissance Mediterranean arboretum, walked the castle wall of Dubrovnik, ferried in Montenegro, spent a blink of an eye in Bosnia, road tripped through the alps…then flew home.  It took less than ten days, 40 miles of walking, 42 hours of plane riding, and some of the greatest fun Beau and I have had together.

We needed the time just the two of us so badly.  We hadn’t been on a vacation just the two of us in 7 years.  Not even a weekend! It’s good to take a step back from the monotony of mundane life and remember…hey! We really like each other! And we adore our children, and missed them the whole time (and talked about them the whole time), but it was SO good to get a break. It was like one long date.  We chatted, laughed, skipped and held hands. We would read up on the history and info of whatever region we were in together over our crepes and coffee then explore and adventure whatever took our fancy wherever we were. We had long drives to talk about the future and the present and how we wanted to uphold our commitment to each other.  And a lot of times we were just silent.  Silence! With three boys under 8 it felt so good to just have nothing in our heads for a time. We could have been anywhere and it would have been good just for the time we had together. But we WERE in an incredible locale!

The pictures make it obvious, but Austria and Croatia could not have been any more beautiful.  Vienna is the cleanest, classiest, most beautiful city I’ve ever been in. And the riviera of Croatia is unreal. It’s so beautiful I could hardly stand it.  I sat eating my octopus salad staring at that clear water and was just so thankful that I have the ability to travel to far off lands, that I have a friend who loves to do it with me, and that I’ll have these memories for the rest of my life.