Fairy tales tend to be parables. They teach us to look beneath the surface (Beauty and the Beast), to exercise patience and to work to overcome obstacles (Sleeping Beauty), to avoid easy gratification and hold out for the real prizes in life (Pinocchio). In the fairy-tale films of the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, the meanings are often layered.
“. . . he was carried up, and a cloud took him.” Acts 1:9
Gravity, they say, is all about mass. Big attracts Big sucks big pulls big, like death, won’t let go. Still, We worship those who try: “Lucky Lindy,” St. Michael Jordan. Leonardo, bless him, forever plotting how To fly, or assuage the general jowliness of time.
Jesus was taken up, and Mary. St. Teresa of Ávila Had to cling to the rail during prayer to keep from Floating skyward—the Assumption being that things Sometimes fall up. But, come on, which way is Up? That is to say, which way isn’t? If Teresa was
A person of such faith, why didn’t she just let go? Like The man I knew who, after being told he had “maybe Six months,” immediately signed up for swimming Lessons. “Well,” he said, “I just felt that if I could learn How to float, I could learn how to die.”
And the graves were opened; and many bodies . . .     which slept arose, And came out of the graves after     his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and     appeared unto many. Matthew 27:52-53
When asked, “Just what is night anyway?”     Coyote closed his eyes,     Placed his burden basket over his head     And began making the sounds of hoot owl.         “The Burden Basket,” Elderberry Flute             Song, Peter Blue Cloud
What do you think of the little rumblings, the discontents, the warpings of fault lines and fissures? What seems to be said takes some thinking. He led captivity captive.¹ Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower part of the earth.² What could it have been to descend into the earth: the magma and lava the dark heat nearly sweat lodged there? Was it where he wandered with his ash bucket, his firepans and shovel after Calvary, after the graves were opened? What did the dead do the three days he was in hell preaching on last chance to the unchanced? Did they look at one another and didn’t quite know what to do? Maybe some saw their families on the street and weren’t recognized. How had they changed that they didn’t know them? It would have been too much anyway for the families to know their dead were only waiting on Jesus and had three days to kill and would have to leave again for a second parting while the families were still grieving from the first. Still others hid out, pulling their tunics and cloaks and head cloths about them, holding their little angers, the mistreatments, the rapes, the robberies, and waited on the edge of town for him to return from hell and take them in the air.
No one understood my nightly need to be reassured I’d wake up again the next day. Eyes closed, I saw no sheep but the tufts of pampas grass looming silver like a solitary path. The scroll hung above me, a verse in five and seven, its flowing hand thin and illegible—I still knew it was about our life not lasting very long. How is it that adults were okay with such a prospect? In July, bamboo blades rustled against paper cranes and prayer strips; I wondered how I’d made the cut, when I wasn’t a boy my father wanted, wasn’t a koi princess my mother said would magically turn her tail into a pair of legs. I looked for the fabled rabbits on the moon, a family of them taking turns to pound rice into pearly cakes along their dark, elliptical orbit.
A copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s and is expected to bring between $15 and $30 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold. One of two copies owned by Old South Church in Boston, it is one of only 11 remaining copies published. The proceeds will be used to help replenish Old South’s endowment once $7 million of it is used for deferred maintenance. The church historian resigned over the congregation’s decision to sell one of its treasures, but the rest of the congregation overwhelmingly supported the decision (New York Times, November 15).