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Briar Roses and Ink Shadows

When I am dissatisfied, and finding it hard to settle in myself, I always gain comfort and steadiness from what I have loved for as long as I've been loving things : fairytales and the ancient histories of islands on the far side of the world - England, Greece. It may be because I grew up with those stories, and so they are the heart of my nostalgia. Or it may be because the libraries of my youth were dusty and quiet, and in the dustiness, in the quiet, the old stories still lingered like benevolent ghosts. They are mostly gone now. The libraries are bright, polished, computerised, loud. But I have those ghosts still in my heart.

I have Oliver Cromwell, an ancestor from one side of my family who tried to destroy the other side of my family. I have Cecily of York standing in the marketplace with her children, awaiting the coming army of her enemies. I have Ariadne watching a black-sailed ship glide away from her and Danae coming at last to shore. These people are more vivid to me than those in the coffee shops and streets of my neighbourhood. My friends wonder exasperatedly why I don't travel, but how can they understand my worry - if I stand on the road Richard III took to London, will I be overcome with joy or broken-hearted because dreams treasured in the imagination are destroyed by contemporary realities? To have seven seas between me and those beloved places at least keeps them timeless and safe.

Someone asked me this morning how I value simplicity and maintain it in my life. I discovered, upon trying to answer them, that I don't (although I wish I did). Peace is textured like heavy paper, layered with briar roses and ink shadows, loved as fiercely as those of a would-be king's wife, and covered in centuries of fingerprints. I can not sit in quiet contemplation of the light or quiet; always there must be story.

Perhaps I would have a better instinct for simplicity if I'd been raised on plainer language and more straightforward tales. Captain Underpants instead of Jason and the Argonauts. But it seems fairytales and a thorough education in old histories have quite ruined me.

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  1. I, too, am similarly ruined :) Enid Blyton's Tales of Long Ago is the first book I remember reading all by myself in bed at night... No wonder I jumped at the chance to learn Latin and Greek when I went to secondary school!

  2. vive the ruination by good story!

    i wish more people were similarly "afflicted" by early and thorough exposure to deep story and history and art...as well as "ruined" by immersion in the natural world.

    btw, i loved the title of this post. :)


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