Tag Archives: Fantasy

Kids And Stories

Last week my year with the fourth grade CCD kids ended. On Sunday I’ll be finished with the high school Freshmen. I think the break will be nice. This was my first time teaching younger kids, and next year I want to have a better idea of how to manage things, so I’ll take a couple of days, or maybe a week or so this spring or summer to figure out a good plan. I’ll be teaching the fourth graders again next year, and I’ll also be teaching fifth grade, so I might have some of the same kids. I’ve decided to move on to tenth grade, too, partly because my cousin will be in tenth grade, and I think I’m his confirmation sponsor. Honestly, I forget if that’s what we’ve all decided.

A couple of days ago a little boy and his friends across the street saw me coming home from my CCD lesson, so I went over to say “Hi.” I don’t know how it came to it, but we ended up talking about an imaginary world my friends and I invented when we were in middle school. We didn’t have time to “go there” on Wednesday, but I promised them I’d come back over as soon as I could and we’d build a fairy house so the fairies could take us there. So today I spent about an hour playing in an imaginary world that I haven’t visited in nearly ten years.

It was an odd experience because their idea of Mythic Island is not what my idea of Mythic Island was. Granted, my friends and I had six years on these kids when we came up with the idea, but it’s like I’m blind there now. It’s sort of disorienting. It’s not that my imagination’s going. I can proudly say that I have more imagination than most people can handle. I guess maybe part of the issue is that when we were there, there was a wolf demon to contend with. Part of it, too, is that these kids don’t understand that co-mingling stories is a bad idea, and they want to bring Star Wars into it. The writer in me cringes at the thought.

Anyway, all that aside, we had fun. We ran around, found some dragon eggs, and I told them some stuff about magic I made up off the top of my head. The weather should be nice this weekend, so they’ll probably want to play some more. I’m hoping this doesn’t become an every-day thing, though, because I’m going to get nothing done. At the same time, having to come up with stories and ideas for these kids on the fly might prove to be helpful in coming up with stuff for my Mythology.

Speaking of which, This past week, I finished one story, and am getting a lot done on another one. The one I’m working on now is pretty dark, but certainly not as dark as the next one I’m going to do. I’m realizing that several of my stories are darker than I had originally thought they were going to be. It seems like a lot of mythology is like that. Still, I’m going to try and find ways to get some happier stuff in there, and some of my darker stories do have happy, or somewhat happy endings.

The kid who I was playing with earlier and his mom actually watched my bird while my family and I were in Florida last month. His mom is friends with my mom, and she told my mom earlier that her son keeps asking her for “bear stories” every night, and it drives her crazy because she feels like she’s not very creative. Stories have always come fairly easily to me. Sometimes I get a little stuck, but something always comes along. I’m not sure what it is.

Life would be so boring without stories. When I was a kid I wanted to be anywhere but the real world. I feel differently about that now. The worlds of my favorite stories are a lot scarier than the real world. Harry Potter has to deal with Voldemort almost constantly. Frodo has to deal with the Ring of Power and the Eye of Sauron constantly. The Jedi have to deal with the power of the Empire and then the First Order, and the overwhelming power of the Dark Side.

Granted, we probably have some pretty freaky stuff going on in our world that we don’t even know about, not to mention the spiritual warfare that’s often hard to see. The thing about those other stories though, is they don’t have God in them–not just a god, but the God. They don’t have the God-who-is-Love who’s got our back no matter what; who’s willing to go as far as to die for all of us. I’ve thought about that a lot as a writer. Every time I start to think I’d rather be anywhere else but the real world because something bad happened or I might have more control, or something, I realize, “Yeah, but in that other world I wouldn’t have God.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Day 3

I’ve had an interesting day so far. It technically started before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I lay in bed and made up a weird story for an hour and a half or so. It wasn’t bad for bored-at-two-in-the-morning. I remember a lot of it, but I don’t think I’ll bother writing it down. I think it’ll be my secret insomnia story.

I got up around 10:15 because I was supposed to come up with the lesson plan for today’s CCD class yesterday, which doesn’t take long, but I forgot, so I needed to have time to do that plus eat lunch. That all got done and the lesson itself went swimmingly, although I think I occasionally get a little too complicated for my nine-year-old students. When I was a kid I hated CCD. It wasn’t taught well. I just want them to know Jesus. I definitely didn’t know him when I was a kid.

After my lesson I came home and assessed my mosaic. My dad and I got a lot done last night, and I realized I just need to glue one more design piece down before starting on the background, which is going to be all black tiles. It was cool to realize that I now know how to complete the puzzle. We ended up talking a bit about mosaics in class today because, surprisingly, most of the kids didn’t know what they were. One of the kids asked me what mine looks like. I told him it currently looks like a mess.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do mosaic things, though, because I had to get upstairs before Kathy came over. She was super nice and cool and kind of reminded me of our family friend who lives in Florida. What she told me was so reassuring. I, Katie Curtis, can become a consecrated virgin. I still have a lot of thinking to do, but I’m pretty sure this is exactly what I want, and there’s nothing getting in my way that I can see. She said the next thing I should do is read a document on this vocation that’s provided online and meet with the director of vocations in Boston.

The most helpful thing she said, though was that, while I’m working through all of this, I can say that I’m dating Jesus. It sounds weird, but I’ve been wanting to be able to say that for a long time. I’ve loved him for a long time in a way that has felt more than friendship, and I haven’t known what to call it. It was just this weird in-between thing. I think I’m right. Everything is telling me that I’m right. It’s kind of ridiculous. Right now I’m listening to very weird music that I’m not sure I even really like, and I haven’t got anything done on my Mythology today, but I don’t even care. I’m in a stupidly good mood.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Earlier I found myself almost reverting back to my automatic bitterness about it, which is obviously silly. I love it when people are in love. I have turned into a sucker for corn. It’s kind of pathetic, actually. I’m not lonely anymore. I haven’t been for a long time. I have no reason for disliking Valentine’s Day, other than bad memories from when I was in high school and the first couple years of college.

I got my sleep schedule out of wack again because my friend was over and we stayed up late last night. Luckily, I think I still got some good stuff written on my Mythology today. That project is still a baby, so it’s a little early to be thinking about a title, but I kind of can’t help my mind reaching in that direction. I can’t just keep calling it “My Mythology.” I’m taking a bit of a break from that right now. I’m going to stay up late again tonight, so I’ll work on that some more once my family has gone to bed. I’d like to work on my mosaic with my dad. I started it yesterday, and I think it’s going to look great.

It’s interesting to think about working with broken glass as an art form. It seems kind of counter-intuitive. How could all these broken pieces turn into something so nice? I just like to pick each piece up and hold it and look at it and put it exactly where I want it, and even if I have a picture in mind, the pieces may not fit exactly how I want them, so I have to rework my idea very slightly, or I have to reshape the pieces, and sometimes the misshapen pieces inspire me to come up with something better than what I originally had planned anyway.

I’ve been waiting to hear back from a woman who I was in touch with a while ago because she is a consecrated virgin. We were thinking about meeting the day after tomorrow. I haven’t heard back from her, and earlier today I had kind of a funny thought. I thought, “She’s probably been planning something for Valentine’s Day.” Then it occurred to me that she’s not married. Then it occurred to me that, actually, she is–just not to a “regular” man.

I was sitting in my kitchen, looking out the window, maybe drinking coffee or something and thinking about the whole thing the other day. As part of the ceremony, like in a “regular” wedding, a woman gets a ring, and I realized I want that. At the same time I found myself asking, “Am I allowed to want that?” And then of course I realized that was a stupid question. I think sometimes, in fact, probably more often than not, God wants me to be bolder than I am. Wanting to be that close to God could never be a bad thing.

So tonight and tomorrow I’ll write and pray like I always do, and I’ll work on my mosaic like any other day, and I’ll probably watch 24 with my dad. We do that, too. It’s not very warm and fuzzy corny, but my bird is warm and fuzzy. Anyway, my mom was going to make heart shaped chocolate chipped cookies for my CCD students on Wednesday. It’s a day late, but who cares.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Conversation

Awhile ago I found a little green book on the coffee table in our living room. I picked it up and started looking at it. It had a picture of someone hanging onto a cross in a heart on the cover and had that old book smell that I can’t resist. It was filled with super old poems meant to help people through doubt or fear or what have you. I read a couple of them. They weren’t really “my thing,” so I put the book down and left it alone, but I kept thinking about it. Why did we even have it? Where did it come from? I asked my dad, and he said he had bought it a long time ago in a used book store. He just happened to be looking at it on a whim. It seemed like a pretty weird thing for my dad to buy. I was never really under the impression that my dad would be interested in this kind of thing. I decided to “borrow” it, but I didn’t look at it again for weeks.

For several weeks now I’ve been trying to finish the third story in my mythology. It’s a very short story, but it’s complicated because it’s about how death enters the human realm. In my mythology, the spirits in various realms are the equivalent to gods, though there isn’t much of a hierarchy, and they don’t interact much with humans. In this story Death personified tricks Wisdom personified into allowing him to accompany her and the soul of a little boy into the human realm. I won’t spoil exactly how the story ends.

This story was hard to write partly because the main focus of most of it is the exploration and musing of a spirit cartographer named Anthes, and also because I wanted to write an origin of death story in which death isn’t humanity’s fault. I think it was hard for me to write because of what I believe in. Another reason, however, has to do with the action of a character in a previous story who created a barrier between realms that is very difficult to cross.

Every week my friend and I have Story Time on Sunday nights. Several weeks ago we began watching “Once Upon A Time” on Netflix. I can’t even explain how much we both love this show. It’s such an insane, complicated, fun, magical story that takes place across multiple realms. The stakes are high. The characters have depth. The funny thing is, it’s often predictable, and often not. The writing, meaning the actual script, isn’t always totally perfect, but I can’t expect it to be, and most of the time, it’s good or great.

My friend doesn’t usually have work on Mondays, and I can sleep late, so we usually stay up insanely late. We are addicts, but at least we admit it. This Monday he did have work, though, so he left early… early here meaning midnight. I wasn’t tired when I went upstairs, and my mom said she wasn’t either, so we considered watching a movie, but I could tell God wanted my attention, so I went to my room.

I don’t remember everything we talked about, but after a while he told me to open the little green book. I opened to a random page and found a poem written by an anonymous author. The first stanza was this:

Body and mind have tried
To make the field my own;
But when the Lord is on my side,
He doeth the work alone.

I don’t really even know why, but this did a lot for me. I spend so much time in fantasy land, whether I’m writing or playing a game, or what have you. Sometimes it’ll suddenly occur to me that though I love stories of every kind, and as scary, unpredictable, and chaotic as the “real world” is, and as powerless as I am, I want this world because the God that I know and love is in this world. While we were talking he said, “I redeemed you. I’m helping you.” I needed to hear that. I know it’s not just that he’s helping me with my story, and that’s not really the only thing I was thinking about. Sometimes he interjects things into our conversation that don’t exactly make sense in context, but end up being exactly what I need to hear.

I read an article about really listening to God. I’m not sure I’ve ever audibly heard his voice, but I can tell when he’s speaking to me. Sometimes it’s through song lyrics. Sometimes it’s through other people. Sometimes it’s something the priest says at church. Sometimes it’s through my own thoughts. Other times it’s more abstract. Communication doesn’t just happen through words. Most of the time we recognize it through body language or the way a song makes us feel. Sometimes God speaks through sunsets or moonlight or thunder or bird song (or maybe my bird being weird).

The truth is, God tends to be fairly quiet, but what he does have to say is important, and sometimes earth-shattering. It’s important to listen because he will let people ignore him. After Story Time on Sunday, I wanted to just watch a movie with my mom, but I could tell he was saying, “Please come hang out with me. I have something important to tell you.” I didn’t hear words in my head, but it was a feeling, and it was easy to put into words. It’s sometimes easy to forget that God wants people to just spend time with him. I’m learning that sometimes that means just sitting around and talking about stuff.

What does any of this have to do with fantasy stories? I love the idea of magic. I grew up on Harry Potter. I still love to have in-depth discussions with my friends about Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. God gave me the stories that I love. After Story Time, though, I often get that now fairly familiar feeling that translates to “Katie, can we hang out for a minute?” God gave me so many of the stories I love at his own expense. Sometimes I get so sucked in that I forget to thank the one who led me to the stories in the first place. The point is, God is ultimately the writer and creator of everything good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

New Mythology

When I started this blog, I wrote a short, seven-part mythology that somewhat followed the creation, fall of humanity, battle for dominion, redemption narrative. In hindsight it wasn’t very good, but it was fun to write. Mythology and fantasy stuff in general always is. I mentioned in a previous post that my friend and I are going to be working on a fantasy podcast together. That still hasn’t got started, which is a bit annoying because neither of us are overwhelmingly busy; we’re just on different schedules. While I’m waiting for that to get going, I’ve had an idea for another project. I think college made me used to working on several projects at the same time, and quite frankly, sometimes writing my novel is tedious. To be completely honest, it takes place too much in the “real world.”

My newest project idea is another book, but it’s not a narrative. It’s a book of mythology. I’m going to split it up into several parts. Today I wrote out a table of contents, which is by no means complete, to help me figure out exactly what I want to do. So far, my idea includes: something along the lines of my original seven-part narrative, a section on Realms, a section on Spirits, a section on Creatures, a section on People, and a section on Places. This is the kind of project I’m best at, and I already have several ideas to start filling in a few of these sections. In particular, I want to use this to figure out who in the world the Falcon of Destiny is. Whenever I play D&D with my friends I request the Falcon of Destiny incessantly just to be a nuisance, but I have no idea who or what he is. I just like to call my bird the Falcon of Destiny because it sounds cool.

I also have a vague idea for a character simply called The Tree. Like the Falcon of Destiny, I’m not exactly sure what she does, but what I do want to do is make sure that all the characters in my mythology are at least somehow interconnected. They all matter to each other. The Tree wouldn’t be The Tree without the intervention of the Falcon of Destiny who charged her with the protection of (what I haven’t figured out yet). He did (whatever he did) to spare her from Fearolf who wanted to kill her (for what reason I don’t know). Like i said, I have to fill in the details, but my characters all mean something to each other.

The hardest thing for me will be making the map. I already have one significant description of a specific place, and once I have several significant places figured out, I’m going to have to explain how to get from point A to point B and what mundane things are between these places. I’m not good at figuring out reasonable distances compared to travel time, in particular. With this in mind, I’m thinking once I’m done writing all the descriptions and stories, I want there to be illustrations. It don’t want to just tell people who the Falcon of Destiny is, I want them to be able to see him. I don’t think finding an illustrator will be too hard for this, though.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Say It Anyway

Sometimes I find myself about to write about something, whether it be about God, faith, my family, creativity, writing, or what have you, and a little voice in my head says, “I’m sure people have heard that a million times from a million different people.” Then another little voice in my head says, “Say it anyway. Maybe you can say it a little bit different so that it will click for someone in a way it hasn’t clicked before. Maybe hearing it this time is the last time they need to hear it for it to make sense. Maybe hearing it this time will help them to understand it in a different way. Even if no one listens, say it anyway because it may not matter to anyone else, but it matters to you.”

This happens to me a lot. Have you noticed that good stories never get old? I have watched Lord of the Rings, and the Star Wars movies a thousand times by now, and I could easily watch them a thousand times more. Every time you read a good story or watch a good movie, you pick up on different ideas or different symbolism. Different things take on different meaning and more significance. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging when I say I can quote quite a lot from the Gospels because there’s just so much there and I’ve read them so many times.

The other night I was at Adoration at my church, and sometimes while I’m sitting there I just “talk,” and I don’t remember exactly how we got to this, but eventually I just stopped and thought, “You know, you’re a story-teller. You told and tell a lot of stories. Could you tell me a story? It doesn’t have to be anything new. It could be something I’ve heard before.”

Immediately I started thinking about all these different ideas about light. I remembered things like: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” and “A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Then I remembered that while working on my novel the other day, I had a segment where Aven, one of my main characters is in prison, and he has a weird experience where he sees darkness, and realizes that this is what he’s seeing. This is significant because he’s blind. He realizes that there’s a difference between being blind and seeing darkness. Finally, I remembered a story I’ve been working on recently just for fun where the main characters have to find the Soul of the Light to break a curse that has been on their kingdom for hundreds of years.

There’s a part in Lord of the Rings where Frodo remembers he has the light that Galadriel gave him. He has sent Sam away because he’s been tricked by Golem, who has left him to die in the spider cave. Galadriel gave this to him saying, “May it be a light for you in dark places when all other lights go out.” When Frodo lights it up, he’s in panic mode. He’s desperate. For him, all other lights; all hope, has gone out. I really don’t think Galadriel’s gift is meant to be taken only literally. Hope is often symbolized by light, and light is even sometimes symbolized by other things. At the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy the shire appears bright, beautiful and peaceful. At Bilbo’s birthday, there are fireworks, there is light. When they leave the shire, they are cast into a dark forest, and are followed by the black rider. There are many juxtapositions of light and dark in Lord of the Rings, particularly in reference to specific places. Where there is death, in particular, there is darkness.

Eventually, though, even Galadriel’s light can’t keep Frodo out of danger. Even that light goes out, but Sam comes back. Forgive the sentimentality, but Galadriel’s light could not keep Frodo out of danger. It failed, but Sam’s loyalty didn’t. Sam’s loyalty was a light that really couldn’t go out. For those who might argue, Sam did not leave by his own free will. Frodo told him to leave, and in fact, he held to his loyalty to such a high degree that he obliged. He knew that many of Frodo’s decisions and judgments were wrong, but he allowed his friend to make those choices, determined to protect him while he could. Truthfully, the more I watch Lord of the Rings, the more I think Frodo isn’t a very good friend. He has his reasons. His task is not an easy one. Regardless, Sam is seriously devoted to him, and in the end, it becomes clear that Frodo is appreciative.

The point is, Loyalty has to be mutual, and it takes perseverance. Frodo and Sam do not have an easily relatable or translatable relationship because yes, they are friends, but they have slightly different social status. Sam is Frodo’s servant. By the end, it seems like this slight status difference is gone between them. This is only possible because of what they went through together. At the end of his life, Jesus says to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father, I have made known to you.” Being a friend of Jesus changes our position in the Universe, whatever that may be.

I took a long time thinking about two things in particular. What does it mean to be full of light? What is the difference between being blind and seeing darkness? I think both have to do with one’s outlook on the world. We spend a lot of time, when thinking about external spirituality, trying to figure out our position on X, Y, or Z, or wondering whether a particular practice is appropriate in worship. Internal spirituality is often much more abstract and simple. We spend our time praying or listening to music or simply musing. I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about how God actually views the world, and how, as his friends and followers, we’re meant to view the world. This is important because our outlook on the world affects our actions in the world, and our internal spirituality. If we have a generally negative outlook on things, we will lose hope. The hope we have; the light we have is, therefore, at risk of going out.

This also relates to loyalty in that our outlook on the world is connected to our outlook on people in general. A positive outlook allows us to be more trusting, more open, and more loving. It allows us to live more freely as God would want us to live. Often, we don’t openly talk about God or faith or spirituality in general for fear of judgment. If we have a more positive outlook, we will be much more likely to trust, and much more able to forgive when our trust is taken advantage of. This obviously does not mean that we should throw caution to the wind in every situation, but being more trusting and forgiving also allows people to trust and forgive us.

To see darkness is different from being blind. To be blind is often a metaphor for being unaware. Seeing darkness is to know that there is light or hope, and not know how to find it, or to see it and refuse it or give it up. I think a tangible example of this might be in one of the final scenes of Return of the King. Sam is trying to help Frodo get to where he can get rid of the ring. He tries to give him hope by reminding him of home, but Frodo says, “I’m naked in the dark with nothing, no veil between me and the wheel of fire…” In response, Sam says, “Then let us be rid of it. I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Sometimes we do have to carry people until they can see the light again, or maybe even for the first time. That can mean a whole lot of different things, and sometimes it just means making sure we pray for them. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Sometimes people can only rely on God to carry them, but there’s no one more trustworthy, no one more loyal, and no one more capable. Jesus says these things with certainty and authority. They’re true and unchanging.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

A Shared Story

When my mom and I got back to our neighborhood from running errands, my friend was outside his house, so I had my mom drop me there. We hung out in his yard for a little while, and then we went for a wander. Somehow we ended up talking about Mythic Island. It had nothing to do with what I’ve posted over the past few days, but by the time we got back to our neighborhood we had decided to go back. We used to play Mythic Island with a huge group of friends, but we’ve decided to keep it between the two of us. We’re going to treat it both as a story and as a real, significant world, as if it really does exist. After every adventure we’re going to talk about what happened and record our conversations so we can post it as a podcast.

This got me thinking. When we played Mythic Island, we treated it as real. We would bring things from this world into that world and vise-versa. We agreed that it would probably be a bad idea to allow things from that world to come into this one. This is really just for logistical reasons. We want to be able to shut the game off, as it were. We didn’t close the door to this world when we were in middle school, so we would often see dragons flying around on the highway and such.

For weeks now I’ve been trying to get my friends together to play through a D&D campaign I’ve been working on. We just can’t seem to get everyone together at the same time. I suspect I will be in charge of coming up with a lot of the Mythic Island story because I have more time, and I think I can use a lot of the same ideas. I’ll probably have to alter the plot quite a bit because my friend and I are largely coming up with the new chapter of the story together, and we’re basing it off of where we left off about ten years ago. Can you feel the nostalgia?

The idea of my D&D campaign was that several hundred years before the characters even come in, there was an epic war. The children of two brothers who were very prominent nobles became the rulers of two opposed kingdoms, and at one point, one of the kids killed his uncle. His father cursed him and created the Darkness. That kid’s soul was then tied to the Darkness and was not allowed to die. The ultimate goal of the campaign was to first find out that there is something more abstract called the Light, and then to find out that there is a soul tied to the Light. Once they learned this, the goal of the campaign would be to find the soul of the Light. That soul would then lead you on a mission to either destroy the Darkness along with the soul that is attached to it, or to convince the soul of the Darkness to befriend the Light, thus destroying the Darkness, but not the soul.

Of course I’m over-thinking the whole thing. I think the idea of playing a story instead of simply writing it is strange to me. When we played Mythic Island as middle school kids it was only natural. It’s like it’s foreign to me now because I haven’t done it for so long. I’m going to have to get used to it again.

We stopped playing this when we went to high school. That year I took an acting class, and I felt like I was terrible at it. I guess I never equated playing the story with acting, and if I had, I still don’t know how I would have graded myself. Granted, in that case I was playing myself in an imagined situation. D&D definitely has an aspect of role-playing, but we really don’t try very hard at it. We spend a lot of time just trying to figure out what the heck we’re supposed to be doing. I think the Mythic Island scenario will be interesting because we’re the Dungeon Masters as well as the players.

When we played it as kids we spent a lot of time running from the bad guys. We made our own lives difficult, but that made the game more fun. We know what’s going on in Mythic Island now, and once again, we’re intentionally making our lives difficult. The battles will be harder, and the bad guys will be scarier because we’re older, more sophisticated, and more creative. Of course this also means our solutions to problems and our schemes will be more complex. I’ve been wanting to do this and I’ve been trying to talk my friends into it for a year now. I’m so happy we’re going to be doing it.

I’m still going back and forth a little on how I feel about keeping it between the two of us. At one point in time we had a small army of friends with us. At the same time, we were the most invested in the story, and sometimes our other friends didn’t take it seriously enough. The nice thing about it is that this friend and I don’t often hang out without other people any more. The truth is, we really don’t have that much in common other than our shared obsession with Star Wars and our history with Mythic Island. The game started with just the two of us anyway. I don’t think it’s at all a coincidence that I started thinking about this more, lately.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Look At The Sky

The other day I realized just how much I stare at my phone. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I realized that for the longest time, I had not looked at the sky. After realizing this, I realized just how much I don’t pay attention to as an adult that really seemed to matter when I was a kid. As a kid I would just sit and stare at the sky and think about a million things and nothing. It seemed like there was so much more in the world. I didn’t notice when I stopped doing that. I didn’t notice as the world became smaller and faster.

I’ve been trying to make a point to look at the sky now. I still don’t always remember. I think it’s important. I used to see pictures in the clouds. I don’t see pictures anymore, but I still think the sky is beautiful. I think it’s important to appreciate the things God made. If it wasn’t important, he wouldn’t have made things beautiful. The world could have been black and white. As an artist, I don’t always know why I make things or write things. I just can’t help it, and even though I don’t have an explicable reason for them, I love the things I make. I imagine God feels the same way, particularly about people who can love him back.

It’s funny that a lot of things in the world can keep you alive in one case, and can kill you in another. I like fire. At one point in time, fire was integral to the survival of the human race. In fact, for several years we’ve heated our house with a wood stove through the winter because it’s been cheaper. Fire is something I can still stare at for hours and think about nothing and everything. I like to play with fire. I like to watch stuff burn (yes I know that sounds weird) because it’s interesting and beautiful.

I’ve said this before, but I have over one hundred cousins of various removes, etc, so I just call them all cousins. Anyway, at camp this summer my mom had to explain to one of my cousins who has some form of developmental problem that he couldn’t touch fire. He understood that it would hurt him, but he thought he could run to the lake and put it out before it got too hot. Like me, he thought fire was beautiful and interesting and just wanted to understand it better.

Two years ago, when we had a record-breaking winter, my dad went hiking and made a video. It was snowing and sub-zero on the mountain, but my dad had the time of his life. He loves cold and snow. When I was a kid I liked it. Listening to the weather forecast and hearing seventies and eighties instead of eighties and nineties makes me a little sad these days. At the same time, a part of me is hoping for another record-breaking winter. If it has to come, I’d rather it come in full force. When we got Seamus, we tried to give him some snow to play with. He was afraid of it. He’s a really stupid bird.

I wonder if it’s easier to appreciate things when you think about how you relate to those things, or when you project yourself into a story or an idea or a situation. In my last post I talked about Mythic Island. There was a specific way in which to get there. You had to build a fairy house. Fairies would show up and live there, and in return for building them a house, they would do things for you. In particular, they would create a magical portal that would allow you to get to Mythic Island. A fairy house is a tepee made of sticks and leaves and things. The better the fairy house, the more fairies it would attract. The more fairies you had, the more they could do for you. When we hung out in the woods as kids we would think about these things, and we would build fairy houses just to be nice. We had more of a reason for being there.

I think it’s harder to relate to the world when our worlds are our computers. On Facebook and WordPress and wherever else we “exist” we create the versions of ourselves that we want that particular world to see, and we see the manufactured versions of everyone else. We can look at pictures of clouds and fire, but they’re no substitute for the real thing. When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, it was like going back to Mythic Island. At the time, though, things from Mythic Island would come into the “real world” and we had to help dragons get back home. I guess maybe that made the world seem a little bigger, too.

What I didn’t realize as a kid was that the world is really big. It’s just my little piece of it that’s small. In Mythic Island we could ride our dragons hundreds of miles in a day, we were powerful, and time didn’t make sense. It was our world, and that’s why it seemed so much bigger than the “real world.” I guess I just kind of miss being amazed by the sky. The world really hasn’t changed. I’m just more easily distracted, and ironically, I think I’m less patient in some ways. For the longest time I didn’t want a cell phone. Everyone my age (eleven or so) had one, but I didn’t care. Then when smart phones became a thing my mom practically had to force me to get one. And a few days ago I realized that I forget to be amazed by the sky.

Don’t forget to be amazed. Even if you’ve looked at something a million times, look at it again. Listen to that song you love again. Smell those flowers. Climb that mountain. Eat that cookie. Go back to Mythic Island.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Our Cockamamie Quest

Yesterday I worked for several hours on the first leg of a journey my friends will soon embark on. I’m going to be the DM for my friends while my brother’s at school. I think I have some fun ideas to work with. It’s actually kind of terrifying being in charge of a little universe, and working on this kind of story is very different than working on my novel. I can only plan for so much because they might do something I didn’t see coming at all. I’m starting them off with a fairly obvious premise, but they do have to figure a lot of stuff out.

I’ve been having kind of a hilarious email exchange with my cousin. It started several weeks ago and our initial question was whether or not Jesus likes little kids. It was just a silly, hypothetical debate, but it’s since moved into some actually serious questions. It’s awesome because my cousin lives in Canada, and since texting country-to-country is expensive, we don’t talk much except for at camp and at Christmas. The whole thing is funny because we’ve been simultaneously having a Star Wars debate about whether or not the Dark Side of the Force is inherently evil. My position is that it is not.

I also started playing Skyrim yesterday. Anything involving dragons is automatically epic in my book. I’ve thought dragons were awesome since I was five. I’ve also started reading the Wheel of Time series, which is a humongous monster, but a huge story is no longer intimidating to me. I read the Bible cover to cover. It took me ten months, but if I can stick to that, I can most certainly stick to a long fantasy series.

I’ve also been more seriously working on my book again. It would be simply unfair of me not to dedicate this thing to God because my strategy for dealing with writer’s block or simply for coming up with ideas has been to say, “God, I’ll type, you write.” Quite frankly, he’s written a lot of my book, whether literally or not.

The point of all this is that I am completely immersed in stories lately and I love it. The other night, my friend and I watched the first eight episodes of Stranger Things, which was so great because the main characters are a group of four middle school boys who play Dungeons and Dragons and get wrapped up in a very real extra-dimensional, good-versus-evil battle. It reminded us so much of when we were kids. When other kids were doing whatever it is normal kids do on Friday nights, we would ditch the “real world” and head for Mythic Island where we plotted and fought against the wolf demon Agorauth.

It’s funny. When I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with the “real world.” I made up stories and tried so hard to escape into those stories. I guess I like stories so much because I can predict what’s going to happen a lot of the time. The real world is much more unpredictable. I love stories for what they are. I love stories about different realities where dragons are real, but I love them as stories in the real world. They make the real world better.

For a long time I didn’t like my own story because I didn’t understand my own story. Maybe it’s cliche to call a life a story, but that’s how I think of it. I like my own story. It’s unpredictable, and the world it takes place in is scary, but the worlds of all the best stories are scary. Some of the best stories take place after the end of the world, or some catastrophic meltdown. Realistically, most of the stories I like–most of those worlds–are a lot scarier than this one. This one’s just the scariest to us because we’re living in it. What also tends to be true of my favorite kinds of stories is that humans (or other humanoid creatures, elves, etc) are more powerful than they are in the “real world.” Characters are a lot more capable of taking care of themselves.

In this world God says “surrender.” It’s the most counter-intuitive thing a person could do. Our instinct is to armor up, grab a sword and fight against whatever evil confronts us. We want to fight because we think it’s our job. We think we’re the main character. In Mythic Island, my friends and I were the main characters. In this world we’re only seeing our little pocket of reality in a finite blip of time and space. At the same time, we’re not insignificant. In church on Saturday we sang a song, the chorus of which was: “Long have I waited for you coming home to me and living deeply our new life.” We’re not the main characters in the epic story that is reality, but we all have an important part to play. We matter and what we do matters to the story. God made us because he loves us.

God says “surrender.” We have to surrender to something. We may not be the main characters in The Story, but we’re the main characters of each of our own individual stories that are significant to The Story. Ultimately, everyone has a destination and their own mission to complete. I like thinking of it that way.

Surrender means listening. Surrender means trusting. Surrender means embarking on the cockamamie quest that is your life. In the best stories; the ones that matter; the one’s that really influence you, the characters are asked to do seemingly ridiculous, impossible things, but these things are asked of them by someone they respect and maybe even love, and they wouldn’t be asked if it wasn’t of utmost importance. You’ll also notice that they aren’t told all the details at the start. They are presented with a problem, they are told what to do, and the details become clear as they move along. This is true in the Gospels. It’s true in real life. Jesus says “Follow me.” His first followers didn’t ask why. They didn’t ask where they were going. They didn’t ask what they were supposed to do. They trusted him. If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons or a game like Skyrim, your character is presented with the same kind of scenario. You’re given something to start with, and as you move along, things become clear. Our first “quest” as Jesus’ followers is to learn to surrender; learn to trust.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Those Places

Sometimes my epilepsy gives me weird symptoms. I won’t go into all of them, but one thing is particularly interesting. Sometimes it doesn’t do much other than give a distorted visual image. The funny thing is, I can describe this image in quite a lot of detail. Usually, when I get this visual distortion, I see a room. It’s not just any room. It’s like it’s made up of colored light, like the light one sees when the sun is shining through a window and colors appear on the floor. There is a big window across from me. I can never see what’s outside the window, but it’s always there. There is also sometimes the silhouette or shadow of a desk, and a man sitting at the desk. The image always comes and goes very quickly. I often wish I could see more.

Very recently there was darkness on my mind. It was more than just sadness. It was like I had discovered a dark place in my soul. It wasn’t an epileptic symptom. I was trying to make sense of things, and instead of an explanation, I saw this. It was mountainous. There were no trees or plants. I don’t know what was behind me, but ahead, there was an expanse of gray stone, and in the distance, rocky hills. There was darkness all around me, but there was light on the horizon. The light barely reached me, but it reached, nonetheless, dimly showing me where I was. Initially, I wanted the light to go away. I wanted it to let the darkness take over. It was like the light was alive. After a couple of days this image or idea went away and took the darkness with it.

When I was younger, mostly when I was in high school, I would fantasize about meeting the perfect man; the love of my life. I had this image in my head of a man in a dark room, down on his knees, praying for me, because I was praying for him. My heart ached for this person I was waiting for; who I had made up. I sometimes tried to visualize myself in that room, bending down to touch him, and to help him up, but for some reason, I never could. I eventually said goodbye to him. I said, “I’m sorry. We’re never going to meet. You’re waiting for someone else, and I bet you’ll meet her.” I’ve only thought about him a few times since, and even then, only briefly. I think he has found who he was waiting for.

I did find who I was waiting for. I had a dream about him. I was in complete darkness, but for some reason I could see his silhouette. He told me to follow him, so I did until I saw a light off in the distance. He said again to follow him. Then I woke up. I wonder if the man at the desk in the room of light is the same person. I think I’ll find myself in that room someday. It always seems like I can see the light, but I’m not always in the light. It seems that sometimes to find the light, you have to find the darkness first. You have to see war to recognize peace. You have to be lonely to recognize love.

In that dark place in my mind, I initially wanted the light to go away. That initial desire only lasted a minute because as soon as I realized what I was feeling, I wanted the light to stay. I couldn’t let it leave. I held onto it for dear life. It wasn’t just light. If it had gone, I would have been alone. There was healing in the light that hurt my eyes at first. It said, “Don’t look away. Come this way. Just keep looking. Follow me.” I want to make that place brighter. If there is light in me, I want to find a way to let it shine.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!