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.”
I was, no kidding, a visiting writer in a kindergarten recently, And the children asked me many wry and hilarious questions, Among them is that your real nose? and can you write a book About a ruffed grouse, please? But the one that pops back into My mind this morning was what do poems do? Answers: swirl Leaves along sidewalks suddenly when there is no wind. Open Recalcitrant jars of honey. Be huckleberries in earliest January, When berries are only a shivering idea on a bush. Be your dad For a moment again, tall and amused and smelling like Sunday. Be the awful wheeze of a kid with the flu. Remind you of what You didn’t ever forget but only mislaid or misfiled. Be badgers, Meteor showers, falcons, prayers, sneers, mayors, confessionals. They are built to slide into you sideways. You have poetry slots Where your gills used to be, when you lived inside your mother. If you hold a poem right you can go back there. Find the handle. Take a skitter of words and speak gently to them, and you’ll see.
Patients at the Maple City Health Care Center in Goshen, Indiana, have a new way to pay for medical services. They can join Martha’s Gift program, which knits blankets for babies in the community, and receive a credit against their bill. The knitting happens in a group setting in which people joke, laugh, and share their lives. The center serves low-income people and the uninsured. It has a sliding scale payment plan, but offers community service projects as another way to pay off bills. The knitting program not only makes health care more affordable but counters the isolation that often accompanies illness (Elkhart Truth, December 31).