Arrival

Arrival

(copyright 2018)

“What exactly is the point of all this, anyway?”

Anastasia Donald asked herself this question many times. She was exhausted. She was lying on a cot in a daze, picking up one baby and putting the other down. The trailer she was in was so small that she simply fed and changed the babies in the same place. Every once in awhile, she would get up to use the toilet, and then she would return to her cot and usually fall back to sleep. She could see daylight and nightfall through the windows, but they had virtually no meaning to her. Her caregivers coaxed her to get up and take a shower – the whole time of which, she felt guilty for using up their water.

At least her new quarters were larger than her car, for which she decided to be thankful.

“What do you mean?”

She had not realised that she had accidentally asked the question aloud this time.

“I don’t know – I think I’m still babbling nonsense,” she backtracked, nervously looking at the woman who was making tea in the kitchen. “Sorry to have bothered you.”

“You’re no bother,” the woman insisted. “Considering you gave birth to twins ten days ago in the middle of the woods, you’re no bother at all.”

“It’s been ten days?” She was not sure if that seemed like too long or not enough time.

“Yes, you’re doing a great job so far! Here, have some tea. We’re in for a cold spell.”

“Thank you.”

“The point of this is we’re safe here for now. We’re as free from the invaders as we’re going to get.”

Anastasia smiled weakly at Leanna’s words.

“Thank you for looking after us.”

She realised that both babies were asleep at the same time.

“Of course! We’re neighbours, aren’t we? Friends now. All together in the woods!” Leanna laughed. “Bet you never thought you’d see the day.”

“Everything is new now.”

“Well, we’re going to make the best of it.”

“I just wonder what the point is of fighting anymore, sometimes. I mean, I know that sounds stupid after risking my life…”

Leanna gave her an odd look.

“I mean, I know I’m younger and all, but aren’t we fighting for our future? For our kids? For who we are?”

“But what are we, exactly?” Anastasia asked.

“Well, we’re still who we always were, I guess. All different kinds of people. But we did have a good thing going, didn’t we? We were getting on the right track before the war. We believed in a free and equal country – however badly we failed to achieve it. We’re still fighting for that.”

Tears ran down Anastasia’s face.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what? You’re here, aren’t you? You still want that country, don’t you?”

She nodded.

“Well, then here we are!”

“What do you want me to do around here?”

“Get better and take care of the babies! Then maybe you can start babysitting Nicky and Jasmine. After that, who knows? Maybe you’ll singlehandedly take on the army.”

“With a dirty diaper?”

“Well, I’ll be right beside you with another one, okay?”

The two women laughed together.

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Thoughts on Freedom

copyright 2018 (text)

“Mama Anna, why do you go out singing all the time?” Jasmine asked her stepmother. “It’s scary when you’re all gone!”

“Well, you don’t have to worry – you have your Uncle Gabriel and Auntie Leanna here with you. They will keep you safe.”

“But why do you go out singing? Do we get a lot of money from it? Or food?”

Anastasia admitted to herself that they did combine supply runs with gigs, but that was not what Jasmine was asking.

“Well, we do get food and medicines and all kinds of things like that when we go out. You know we always have packed the car and van full when we get home! But no, we don’t get much money from singing. That’s not the point of it.”

“Then why?”

She looked straight into the little girl’s inquisitive eight-year-old eyes.

“We sing because it makes people remember. Remember what happened in the past, remember what happened recently, remember the invasion, remember that they are not free like we are here in Frozen Lakes. And because at the same time, we sing to help people forget their troubles, their sadness, the invaders watching their every move. And mostly, we sing because it reminds people that we can still resist, no matter what.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Well, singing isn’t very dangerous – although I nearly fell off the stage once!”

“But do the invaders like it?”

“They like some of our songs – we try to keep them happy too. But singing is not illegal, especially when we pick old songs. And I’d gladly sing defiantly in their faces! With a big grin on mine.”

“Have you ever been arrested?”

“Not for singing, no. We just sing and occasionally fix a sign or poster. Things that the invaders think are silly and not worth bothering about unless they are really, really angry. And they haven’t been that angry with us yet. We can all pray that they won’t be, ever.”

“But you do illegal things? Like, against the law?”

“Well, we don’t call ourselves the Canuck Pirates for nothing! Sometimes, we do things that are not legal, but not wrong. Like singing a song about defying the government when the government is mean. Sometimes, governments are mean! Especially invaders who take over other peoples’ homes.”

“Like what happened to my Mummy?”

“Yes, like that.”

“And you write things on walls?”

“Just fixing signs – even though it is illegal to spell them that way now. And we have maple leaf tattoos – that symbol itself is illegal too. The government thinks that it is important that these are against the law.”

“Can I get a tattoo? Can I come with you? You know I like to sing. Me and Juno could sing with you!”

“Well, Juno is only three – she would get very tired! But someday, when you’re both bigger, of course you can! You have to ask your dad about the tattoo though.”

“Don’t we always have to follow the law?”

“No, not at all. We sometimes get in trouble, but laws sometimes need to be changed – and certainly challenged. Like how Nicky needs you to play hockey and soccer against him so that he can get better, even though you still win. When he gets bigger, he’ll win sometimes!”

“Are we ever going to win, Mama Anna?”

Anastasia sighed and shrugged, sitting back into the chair.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. We win right now by simply still being here. Whether we win or not will probably be up to you.”

“Can you teach me your songs?”

“Of course.”

The minstrel boy to the war has gone,
In the ranks of death you will find him.
His father’s sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him.
Land of Song, cried the warrior bard,
Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee.

The minstrel fell, but the foeman’s chain
Could not bring that proud soul under.
The harp he loved never spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder.
And said “No chain shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!

 

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Once Upon A Time Season 7 & Final Thoughts

Well, Once Upon A Time came to as good of an end as it could, seeing as it was a very long and convoluted story. Ultimately, (spoiler alert) everyone lived happily ever after until such time as something else might come along. Some characters got their happy ending, others met unfortunate ends, and some characters are really only beginning their lives and we can assume that they will go on to have many more adventures – we just won’t get to see them anymore.

And that’s a good thing.

I loved this show and certainly enjoyed watching it and following the story for seven years, even if I didn’t watch it consistently this past year. I enjoyed the stories and the characters. I do think that it was a show about hope that inspired many people – myself included. But it was getting to the point where it needed to end.

I really liked that they reinvented the story for the seventh season, bringing in new characters and a new setting. That was badly needed – but also alienated a lot of fans. I like shows to change and evolve, but I can see why some might think that it was just getting too complicated or too different from its original premise.

The first season of the show felt like a miniseries – as a lot of shows initially do. It told a tight-knit story that resolved in a fairy-tale fashion in the season finale. If the show had not been renewed, it would have still been a very good story in of itself. However, as soon as the show continued, the writers had to come up with new ideas and weave it into the original story. The setting expanded. More characters appeared. The rules of magic had to keep being updated. But most importantly, the villains gradually transformed into heroes in their own right, while the heroes became increasingly complex and took their turns into villainy. For those who wanted a straightforward fairy tale, this show was not that.

But that was arguably part of the point of the show. It is a story about hope, change, and good triumphing over evil. Not “good guys” triumphing over “bad guys” – but the good in each character triumphing over the evil. That is why the three main villains of the story become heroes. Incidentally, that is why those characters also became the most popular with fans as well as the writers – they were much more relatable and we wanted to see them win over the evil in themselves.

What I also enjoyed about this show is whenever I thought the writers had painted themselves into a corner, they managed to bring the story back to its main focus in a believable way. Sometimes, the story arcs were a bit painful, but they ended mercifully. I admire the way the writers decided to go ahead with story arcs anyhow, making the show feel like a book series. We got to explore themes and worlds, meeting new characters that we wanted more of or that we wanted to see die in one episode. The core characters remained the same, but we would have grown tired of them without the guest characters.

Because of the subject matter and the relatively family-friendly (er, child-friendly) nature of the show, especially in later seasons, Once Upon A Time will probably continue to have a loyal fanbase. Its themes are timeless and it not even very dated in its “real-world” portions. Let’s face it, it’s also a Disney product, so it is going to be well-marketed!

I enjoyed this seven-year run and definitely think that the 150 hours of my life that I spent to watch it (although slightly less, since I PVR’d a lot of episodes and skipped through the commercials) were worth it.

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Eternal Love on a Summer’s Evening

copyright 2018

The sun sets behind the trees,
The river flows calmly on,
The insects are buzzing,
The birds are singing,
The air is gentle and warm.

Supper has been cooked and eaten,
The smell of woodsmoke and fish linger –
Well, fish has a habit of doing that,
It is a calm evening,
Restful after a long day of work.

It is a tiny cabin beside the river,
A happy pair of newlyweds
Sit together outside the door,
Gazing into the sunset,
Thinking of the past, and hoping for the future.

They don’t see the young man
Sitting on the far riverbank,
Happy to know they are safe,
Proud to call them family,
And showing the little boy at his side his new home.

When next the boy would see it,
It would be covered in snow,
The river would be frozen,
And it would be endless white,
The fire would be roaring as best as his father could keep it.

And when next the summer came,
The boy would be almost big enough
To test his wobbly legs on the grass,
Causing his mother terror
That he would fall into the water.

But the boy would have a long life,
Not that his parents yet knew it,
Someday he would build
A grand house and farm
Where once the cabin had stood.

The young man would keep watch from the riverbank and woods,
Upon the namesake who would never meet him in life.

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The Tree

copyright 2018

Sometimes she indeed wondered:
What if the tree had fallen the other way?
What if it had been her beloved –
And not his brother –
Lying dead beneath it?

Would she have left and never returned?
Gone to town and married a soldier?
Plenty would have had her,
Tears and all,
She was not afraid to work.

Would she have left and never returned?
Gone with her aunt and stayed alone?
Keeping house with her,
Perhaps inheriting it,
The two of them forever.

Or would she have gone to comfort him?
The brother – he would have been distraught,
He would have felt he failed him,
Felt he had failed her,
And that he ought to care for her instead.

She had always found him pleasant,
But it was his brother that she had always loved,
Would she have married him?
Shared a bed with him?
Made a life with him together?

She could not dream of it,
She could not think of it,
She could not imagine what such a life would be.

And yet still she wondered:
What if the tree had fallen the other way?

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For Much Too Long

copyright 2018

She went to bed in joy,
Excited to have guests,
Their house had been quiet,
Their family small,
For much too long.

She was still unsure,
She was not used to men,
Except for their servant,
It had been only women,
For much too long.

She was baffled by the boys,
They were well-mannered,
Not like the men she saw,
There had been so many soldiers,
For much too long.

The one was polite and pleasant,
He complimented her Sunday dress,
The other thanked her for the biscuits,
Between mouthfuls, staring at his plate.

She went to bed in joy,
Dreaming of dancing,
Dreaming of biscuits,
She had been hidden
For much too long.

 

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Musings On Fanciful Hagiographies

Disclaimer: I am simply a layperson and these are my observations. I am not claiming to speak for any authority other than my own.

Maybe because I have been thinking of realism in fiction lately, and with it being the Easter season, but it has occurred to me that one of the main reasons that so many early Christian saints have been rejected lately is because their stories are no longer real and relatable. There is still so much that we can learn from the early saints and emulate from them, but instead, people latch on to the supernatural elements and either ridicule the whole story or assume that they themselves cannot be saintly.

It is easy to see how this happened. Saints from pre-500 had over a thousand years of their stories being retold and embellished before the Protestant Reformation and the rise of the scientific era. Many of these stories were the popular entertainment of the Middle Ages. (Stories of female martyrs were especially popular.) It is only natural that elements were added and new stories created for the purpose of entertaining the audience. The saints were following in the tradition of heroic epics – divine intervention in their birth, abilities beyond their age, early wisdom, and taking on authorities with a righteous cause. Oh, yes, and the ability to wield magic. Christian stories changed “magic” to “God’s power”, but the ability to take dismembered remains in pickle barrels and restore them to whole, living persons again is magic nonetheless. (It does make for a good story!)

But even in regions where these saints remain popular, there is a sense that they are special and “not like the rest of us”. Now, I’m not arguing that they were not special! Nor am I arguing that they did not have the grace of God working in them, or that any of the story elements are outright false. Of course, it is entirely possible that God gave St. Nicholas the ability to restore dismembered people to life. It is entirely possible that He caused the wheel that St. Katherine was supposed to be killed on to break (although why he then allowed her to be beheaded is another question) and for milk to pour out of her neck. It is entirely possible that He caused all of the snakes in Ireland to flee from St. Patrick’s staff. However, while these are certainly memorable parts of the story, are they really essential?

All that these stories do is serve to set the saints apart from the ordinary faithful. St. Nicholas is not remembered as an extraordinarily generous and faithful bishop, but as a magical wizard. (A very generous and selfless magical wizard, however.) Other saints have not suffered so much embellishment, but they are still seen as supernatural. They are supposed to be examples for us, but these hagiographies set up barriers rather than paths.

What started me thinking about this was my patron saint, St. Katherine of Alexandria. There is a lot of controversy about her, specifically whether she existed at all or whether she was entirely invented for propaganda purposes. While I am a strong advocate for scholarship and historical thinking, I am doubtful as to how far back one can go before one can truly say “I don’t know what happened, and there is no way to know for sure.” Is St. Katherine a composite character? An invented character to justify attacks on pagans a century after she is supposed to have lived? A real woman, martyred circa 305 just as the story goes? A larger-than-life woman who had magical abilities?

While I see nothing wrong with her being a composite character, I don’t think she is. I do believe that she is real and that she was martyred – but I am not fussy about the exploding wheel that killed onlookers or the milk from the neck, or other supernatural bits that have been added later. She was an intelligent young woman who had the gift of preaching. She might also have been beautiful, but that was not what convinced most of those she came into contact with to convert to Christianity or furiously reject it. She refused to marry, or at least rejected her father’s arrangements for her.

There is nothing in her story that a Christian should not try to emulate: faith, resistance to society norms, using the talents that she had been given (intelligence and oratory, in her case), sacrifice, and not being afraid to die for her beliefs. No need for explosions, visions of a supernatural wedding, or milk from her neck. The former was probably added to the story to make it more convincing that she had God on her side (rather than the wheel being faulty or sabotaged), while the latter two serve to make St. Katherine seem more conventionally feminine: “See? She got married to Jesus, so she is really being a good and faithful wife after all. And the milk proves that she was nurturing and motherly. Blood is much too dirty and boyish.”

While that is a paraphrased quote, it is based on actual medieval tradition. None of this is outright wrong and served a purpose in its time. However, it diminishes how God really did work through St. Katherine in 305, and it does not work for 2018 either. St. Katherine is not Wonder Woman. She preached and tried to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and she died because of it. She rejected earthly glory, including wealth, social status, and having children, because she believed in a greater glory.

Indeed, all of the saints, ancient and modern, did simply that. They may have done extraordinary acts in the process. They might have even done superhuman feats with God’s help. But they were real people whom we can emulate, and that should not be diminished or rejected.

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