My next entry in the 100 Untimed Books challenge I’m filing under prompt #90: Fear to Feel Safe.
Horse, Flowers, Bird by Kate Bernheimer is a dark, quirky, twisted collection of eight tales. It was recommended to me as a short compilation of reimagined fairy tales, but I think I’d be hard pressed to put it in that genre. Although exactly what genre it does fit isn’t clear to me either.
The tales are short and each stars a girl or young woman, estranged and/or strange, moving through and experiencing the world as a place of alienation.
The stories are strange and oddly haunting and my brain won’t likely give them up easily. Still, I was disappointed they weren’t the fairy tales I was expecting, as I’m trying to make more room in my reading this year for them. Of course it’s not fair to judge the book by a misguided expectation, and in releasing the need to see them as fairy tales, I can allow myself to appreciate them as eccentric dark imaginings, troubling and strangely poetic.
Using my floriography rating system, I’m putting together a boutonniere of Begonia (dark thoughts), Black Thorn (difficulty), Yew (sorrow), dead leaves (melancholy). Definitely not cheery reading, but perfect for a stormy evening.
An additional plus of reading these stories is that I felt compelled to search around for definitions of fairy tales. It didn’t take long to hone in on this definition which my affirms my understanding, offered by the beloved Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms.”
I can’t help but think these times we’re living in are calling for us to be particularly mindful of how we see things and to remain open to opportunities to expand our understanding.
Speaking of seeing things, I’ve been noticing polka dots all over the place. They’ve become a big favorite of mine again – recycling in and out of popularity with me in an unpredictable cycle. But they’re clearly back in favor. In the photo above is a wooden bird from Sweden that was my mother’s. It’s at least 60 years old and I certainly did my part as a child to wear down those polka dots. I was always rubbing it, enchanted that there were polka-dot birds.
I’ve added the book Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage and Other Graphic Patterns to my reading list when I read an excerpt that declared polka dots were once a symbol of the plague. Symbols and fairy tales – yes, those are languages that delight me deeply.
What about you? What have you been reading? Have any fairy tale recommendations for me? Ever spotted a polka dot bird? Find the work of Clarissa Pinkola Estes inspiring? Do tell – you know I love to hear.