In M. Night Shyamalan’s faux gothic film The Village, a late-19th-century community lives in enforced isolation; the deformed, bloodthirsty creatures who inhabit the woods outside the village prevent access to the world beyond. What makes the film an imitation gothic is the double plot twist.
As I stood, rooted, winter-locked, my hand outstretched in southern sun, the lizard leapt to the branch of my arm as if there was nothing at all to fear. As if I was the tree he sought, he rested, weightless, green as grass, pink throat-fan ballooning with each small breath, and I felt something ease inside, a sweetness rising, as he ran, quick as raindrops, up my trunk, toe pads tickling as he touched, oh so lightly, neck, cheek, hair, like a blessing, or a prayer.
If you are a regular listener to radio’s A Prairie Home Companion or a bluegrass fan, chances are you know the signature sound of Sam Bush, a mandolinist who commands his instrument with sublime grace one moment, ferocious jig energy the next.
It stands in the water stilted head cocked like a hammer; faster than the eye it hooks a flash of gray and then a glimpse of silver quickly swallowed. I wish the canoe to silence, hold breath with the day a ruffle of air and feathers an explosion into grace and it’s gone a hundred yards away. I begin the painstaking task of easing oar and self across the surface towards this totem an avatar granting pure life, motion, a reason to be. It wings forth again in perfect silence and falls perched on the stillness that stretches its hand out over the water down deep into the mud the fish that are blind to the roots into me where even now I am winging
So that things contrary to common sense Seem suddenly truth revealed And some unappealing sight Is clearly Imago Dei, devilishly alight As though lit within at core By the very darkness we abhor And symbols of my soul’s best hope are cast As models of betrayal, despair and death; Then, Eve’s fruit tasted and offered to Adam Becomes Mary’s Gift as First Fruit Of a new covenant of pardon And the abandoned Garden Because of Him Becomes the New Jerusalem;
So, let that mind be also in me, The one that takes in my off-stage acts, You know, Those walk-the-walk naked facts, Even my sneaky judas-pacts And transforms them all Into something nothing short of new, Like being born, Like out of any godforsaken Friday Easter morn.
When Toni Morrison taught creative writing at Princeton University, all her students had been told in previous classes to write about what they knew. She said to forget that advice because first, they didn’t know anything yet, and two, she didn’t want to read about their experiences. She told them to imagine people outside their own experience, such as a Mexican waitress in Rio Grande who could barely speak English. It was amazing what these students came up with, Morrison said, when they were given license to imagine something outside their realm of experience (American Theatre, March 10).