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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A living fairy tale for my muse

Most muses expect to be fed occasionally. Some whimper for chocolate, others demand shopping sprees. Mine usually is satisfied with a pot of special blend white tea, kept steaming on a warmer for the evening of writing. But, once in a while she begs for an outing to someplace exotic. Lush settings captivate her. While taking lit classes in college, she prodded me to read every 19th c. novel she could find. That included the entire collection of Thomas Hardy, whose settings of mist-shrouded moors covered with purple heather in Wessex are every bit as memorable as his romantic characters, Tess and Angel, Bathsheba and Gabriel. She balks at workshops on world-building, maintaining a keen eye and an overactive imagination serve better. Nothing pleases her more than an afternoon at the beach. Once my toes are wiggling in sand beyond the towel's edge, she skips my pencil across pages at lightning pace.

Last Saturday I took my muse on a new adventure to the local Renaissance festival. I hoped she'd like it, since unnaturally cool Florida winter weather precluded beach days. And she did.

A curious array of earthy scents greeted us: fresh-milled wood chips underfoot; vendors newly-tanned leather vestments and boots; toasting cinnamon-dusted nuts; spirals of sandalwood incense. Visual delights also intrigued her. The grounds lay amid a grove of gnarly trees draped with Spanish moss. Their swags swayed with magic around tents belonging to tarot readers. Street performers and festival goers alike dressed in costumes, a variety of old world fantasy mixed with buccaneer accoutrements. Diaphanous layers of ladies skirts flowed like dreams. Coins adorned hats, headdresses, belts, wristlets, and necklaces – catching dappled sunlight and jingling with each step. I expected something of a pirate theme, following from the popularity of the Gasparilla festival, a pageant given by Ye Mystic Krewe in honor of their captain, Jose Gaspar. The result – a surreal tapestry.

Enchantment and swashbuckling in every direction. A human chess game and giant sand castle thrilled imaginations of young and old. Druids lay half hidden, clinging to tree trunks. A pickle vendor alerted me to fairies climbing in branches above, planning mischief. Celebrators extended cordial welcomes to all. The eclectic merriment painted an unwritten scene from Alice in Wonderland. My muse drank in the splendor of that living fairy tale.

In the days since, I felt her scrambling for characters to add to the new world. When finished, she hands me a complete setting and characters, detailed with personalities and attire. If she enjoys the characters enough she will lend a hand with plot. Then, my muse rests and sips tea until impatient with my plodding for months over what she created in days. I'm always behind, thankfully. She plays hard and works hard, never leaving me with writer's block. But the best gift is seeing the world through her eyes. A writer's blessing.