"If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad." (Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey)

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door… You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

One day last summer, my mom and I took a walk. We went to Buttermilk Falls State Park to hike what we call the Lower Trail (though I think it’s really called the Bear Trail.) We got lost. Which was odd because we (my mother, brothers and I) used to always walk that particular trail in the summer when we were little. But there was no denying it—the once familiar trail that wound its way through the woods had somehow vanished and we found ourselves standing in the shrubbery in what appeared to be someone’s back yard. One with a tennis court in it. There was not a soul in sight.

We discovered then that we had followed a trail called the “Duck Trail.” A few steps next to it was one called the “Doe Trail.” We decided to follow it to see if it might lead us back to the trail we remembered.

It didn’t.

It led us back to the backyard. On the other side of the tennis court. Odd. Ahead of us was a gravel drive.

I’ve always said about myself that, if I were a cat, I’d’ve long been dead. Such is my curiosity. I suggested that we follow the gravel drive. And so we did, all the while expecting someone to catch us. (Perhaps the Queen of Hearts.) But we came upon no one. The drive turned into a blind curve flanked by rows of fat firs. And then suddenly we were facing the back end of what appeared to be a very fancy and white apartment building. There was a white tent set up in the expansive back lawn, complete with white wicker chairs and floral cushions. Still there was no one around. (But I couldn’t help suspecting that if we remained hidden for just a few moments, we might catch a tea for some White Queen.)

We continued on toward the building and, upon turning a corner, as if things could not get any more bizarre, came upon a life-sized chess set. This was when I knew we had, in fact, fallen down the Rabbit Hole. Then there was an awning marking the entrance to some sort of spa. Stairs led down, and at the bottom stood a bronze lion as though stationed to devour anyone without a proper invitation. Faint, withering music hung in the air above the lion like some acrid smelling Oriental incense.

And still not a soul! We had fallen upon a ghost town of a parallel universe. Only a few moments later, we realized we had come upon La Tourelle from behind.

You know that odd feeling you get when two separate parts of your life collide? I imagine it’s rather like having your boyfriend meet your parents. Only… not half as awkward. I had never been aware that one could access La Tourelle via the Lower Trail of Buttermilk Falls. Those two places remained in separate dimensions in my mind. And having them all of a sudden collide—with me in the middle—created something like a supernova in my head.

That’s sort of the same kind of bizarre feeling that lies in the difference between deciding to do something… and then actually having to do it. It’s the distortion with which Change contorts the familiar. It’s the way I feel whenever I’m about to do something crazy—that heart-racing, sickening anticipation before the leap. Anything seems simple enough when it’s a month away. But three days? Two? I haven’t done anything terribly crazy in a while, so I’m afraid I’m out of practice. In fact, I’ve always been inclined toward the cautious life. But then… what is it they say about the cautious life?

Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all. For now you are traveling the road between who you think you are and who you can be. (Meg Cabot)

I suppose that’s one of the reasons I feel this needs to be done. (Though I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. I’m pretty sure that Someone upstairs gave me the idea first.) I’ve certainly tried to be less cautious, but I never took it as far as it ought to have gone. That particular part of me needs to change. And it is the very thought of Change looming on the horizon that’s making me nervous. Rather like the Jabberwock—

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

Terrifying. But it’s there, waiting for me on what will be my own Frabjous Day (March 18, Moving Day), and it must be confronted. Perhaps it’ll tell me where I can find my lemons. In the meantime, I just hope I don’t forget to pack anything.

Taking a leaf from the Mad Hatter’s book (I wonder if that’s wise?), I seem to have lost my muchness. I know I can be much more “muchier” than I am now. It’s buried somewhere deep inside and I just need to dig it out. The only question is... have I the courage?

And, oh, by the way—why is a raven like a writing desk?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That was a great day! The feeling of "falling down the rabbit hole" is quite infectious - I wish I could get it back. And, yes, you and I are far too cautious. I like your quote about courage. Happy St. Patrick's Day.