Friends and listeners, it’s been just over a month since I’ve last posted here, and the reason for this is that I have so much school work. Tremendous amounts! I mentioned in an earlier post that I felt extremely fortunate, at one point in the school term, to be able to cut out even one snow beast (reminder: Gerda and the angels must defeat the Snow Queen’s beastly, snowy soldiers in order for Gerda to reach the palace gates). I’m getting such a profound education at Pacific Oaks College, but there’s hardly time for the beautiful Mr. Hans Christian Andersen at the moment — a great artist I feel deeply indebted to. Alas! My shadow boxes have suffered for it, and my heart is breaking, too. They’re my imaginary family, and they want to know why I’ve forgotten them. Have you ever seen The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore? It’s William Joyce’s love letter to books, books, beautiful books. My relationship to Andersen’s characters feels a lot like that. The story’s characters are growing rather upset with me. Many artists have mentioned similar relationships with their characters, and now I finally understand what they mean.
Though this isn’t fairy tale related, I wanted to mention that my essay, Measuring Success: Recalling Larry Kramer, was published on The Press Enterprise’s Inlandia Blog.
I made it a point some time ago to stop looking at the statistics for both my website and podcast, but last Monday, when I posted the third mermaid podcast, I had no choice but to view the statistics. PodBean had modified their dashboard, and the statistics — apparently drawn from the various sources where my podcast is available — were thrust upon me. And yet, the statistics were…kind. I was surprised to learn that upwards of 75 – 100 downloads were taking place on a weekly basis. And I wanted to say Thank You. Thank you for your kind listenership.
Only this evening, someone told me he’d never heard of Hans Christian Andersen. “Really?” I said. “But what about The Little Mermaid?”
“Oh,” he said, lifting his brows in mild surprise. “Is that Andersen? No wonder the name sounded familiar.”
“You knew, never having realized that you knew,” I told him.
“You can be a voice for Andersen,” my wise friend told me over coffee as I began working in earnest on both the blog and podcast.
“It’s beginning to look that way,” I told her. “I feel protective of my faraway friend Andersen, the brilliant artist we forget to remember.”
Ever since that long ago evening when my mother read The Snow Queen to me and my sister on our purple leatherette couch, Andersen’s stories, their powerful significance, have been working their way towards me. Indeed, ever since I realized that the Snow Queen is also Narnia’s White Witch! She must be! And I’m trying to communicate their beauty the best way I know how — through the recordings and paper embellishments. Ah, how I love to think on these things! My husband once told me that I could stand to ponder Portobello mushrooms on occasion — as a change of pace.
I’m working on the fourth and final Little Mermaid podcast. I’ve had an easier time making the recordings than I did at our last residence. We moved the computer into the walk-in closet so I could avoid dealing with the humming refrigerator, but while it’s pretty soundproof in here, there’s no predicting when the pipes will “decide” to squeal. And when the pipes squeal, they do so with a grinding, growling, metal fierceness — as if the entire apartment structure has discovered something disagreeable within its walls that it must purge forthwith! I have to contend with the strange bellowing pipes at 4:55 p.m., 2:12 a.m., 9:36 a.m. — whenever they “decide” to commence screeching. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often, and I expect to finish the Little Mermaid’s journey soon! In the future, I’m also hoping to bring some other readers on board.
My next class in human development starts this Tuesday, and I’m grateful to have finished part 3 of The Little Mermaid recording — just in the nick of time.
Here’s the text I posted to my podcast site:
As I worked on this part of Andersen’s story, I found myself wincing at times. “Please don’t do this!” one longs to shout, as the Little Mermaid agrees, in a trembling voice, to trade her voice for legs. The Little Mermaid is too determined to give up her tail for a chance to be with the Prince — to marry the Prince. But there’s something else our mermaid longs for that often goes unmentioned (perhaps because we’ve forgotten?): in addition to her desire to be with the Prince, she also longs for an immortal soul. Indeed, her grandmother tells her that mermaids (and mermen, for that matter) don’t have immortal souls. Though mermaids can live up to 300 years, they become the foam on the sea when they die, whereas humans have a chance at immortality. The Little Mermaid finds this news especially disturbing. She wonders how she can obtain an immortal soul. Hans Christian Andersen believed in the immortality of the soul and he wanted, according to the authors of The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, to make this point especially clear.
The Little Mermaid seeks an immortal soul. Therein lies the heart of this story.
I found myself giving the “sea witch” an angrier edge than I initially expected, but when one spends this kind of time with the text, it becomes clear that the Prince isn’t worthy of the Little Mermaid’s sacrifices. But fortunately, the Mermaid will ultimately transcend even this. Her sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
Kay’s face is obscured, yes, but I love the way the fragment of glass glows — it’s an inner glow. You might even say that it glows with its inner “importance.” There’s either a word or phrase written on each. And though Kay loves each piece individually — so Andersen tells us — he cannot make out the Snow Queen’s riddle. In this particular scene, I’m reminded of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Each ring has its own script, its own message, its own binding power. Likewise, each piece of ice.
I’ve been painting, and gluing, and doing all manner of things to enhance the shadow box this evening. It wants to be a collage, and it’s moving in that direction. Which leads me to yet another short meditation on the creative process — not that I’m a stranger to these meditations. Indeed, between 2005 and 2008, I interviewed quite a few writers (and some of them were published) in personal a quest to understand the creative process. In mid-2008, when I uprooted my life by moving from Riverside to the Los Angeles area, my focus shifted as well, and my passion for interviewing writers waned. But four years later, this blog is proving to be another platform for exploring the creative process.
In any case, I intended to say that while working on each of The Snow Queen scenes, I’ve discovered that there are certain ones I haven’t wanted to do at all. This is one of the scenes I’ve resisted. Even so, I tell myself that I set out to work through the whole series, and I must see it through. “Do your work,” says the wonderful Steven Pressfield.
These icy environments have proved challenging for me, but I’m guessing this is because I’ve lived in Southern California all my life. “Write what you know,” goes the writer’s adage (especially if you’re writing your memoirs!). This writerly wisdom is obviously transferable to other mediums as well. For this reason, I resist creating icy realms.
Quoting from the text:
“In his eyes the figures were extraordinarily beautiful, and of the utmost importance; for the bit of glass which was in his eye caused this. He found whole figures which represented a written word; but he never could manage to represent just the word he wanted — that word was “eternity”; and the Snow Queen had said, ‘If you can discover that figure, you shall be your own master, and I will make you a present of the whole world and a pair of new skates.’ But he could not find it out.”
Earlier today I wrapped this sheet of glass in some old rags and crushed it with the thick soles of my shoes, thinking I could use the shards to illustrate the Snow Queen’s ice puzzle.
Then, later today, I handed a four foot glass shelf to a colleague, but as she rounded the corner, it crumbled into thousands of miniature glass blocks.
I dashed out of the room to see what had happened. It was the strangest shattering, a crush of aquamarine glass at her feet. And, almost as an afterthought, she held two squares of glass — one in each hand. (I’ve learned since then that we were handling tempered glass.)
“Look at this mess,” she laughed, as she continued to hold onto the bits of glass. “It just collapsed. I swear it.”
“Ah, yes! But before we throw this away,” I told her. “I could really use some of this glass for my project.”
“You are such a nut!” she said. “And the next time you try to hand me a glass shelf, I’m going to tell you you’re on your own!”
“I’m sure it’s what I’ll deserve to hear,” I winked in reply.
Not the most interesting picture, I’ll grant you, but I found this shadow box at my local Michaels and I’m pleased with it! It was such an excellent price, and the perfect height, width, and depth for my purposes. (In which case, I may need to invest in a few more of these.) I’m moving along to the scene where Gerda discovers Kay working on The Snow Queen’s impossible ice puzzle. I have about three weeks before my next class in human development starts up again. The classes at Pacific Oaks run seven weeks and are quite intensive. This first class was an excellent experience, and I absolutely know I’ve made the right decision to pursue this degree, but when I was in the thick of my assignments, I considered myself fortunate if I had the time to cut out a single snow creature.
For the last three days, I’ve been painting this box white, white and more white (seeing as it was pitch black). Once the coating is thick enough, I’ll add some blue, pink, turquoise. I have time enough in the next three weeks to make some progress on this next box, and hopefully the one after that! In which case, that will end The Snow Queen series, and it’s on to The Little Mermaid. I’ll tell myself, too, that there’s no need to rush. I’m always telling myself this, but I’m not sure I believe…myself. Hmmmm. ;-)