Friday, August 15, 2014

In Wonderland

Alice opened the door and found that it led into
a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole:
she knelt down and looked along the passage into
the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed
 to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among
those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains,
 but she could not even get her head through the doorway...
[Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,
 ed. Edmund R. Brown (Boston: Branden, 1948),14-15.]
I've been a fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland for as long as I can remember. It probably started in 1985 when I first saw the mini-series directed by Harry Harris. It's a beautiful film incorporating both Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It stars everyone who was famous at the time, my favorite being Carol Channing as the White Queen. I made my parents "tape it" (back when VHS was the newest thing), and I watched it until I literally wore out the tape inside the cassette.

Many years later, Alice inspired my high school valediction:
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" 
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. 
"I don't much care where--" said Alice. 
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat (75).
I hoped the text would inspire my fellow graduates to put more thought into their futures than Alice had and to plan their paths carefully. It went ok.

As an adult, I find myself referencing Lewis Carroll's great work more and more often:

“If everybody minded their own business, . . . the world would go around a deal faster than it does” (70). 
“...we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad” (75). 
"Now, here you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" [Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1897), 50.].


The fantastic dream-like writings of a nineteenth-century author are surprisingly relevant to my life. Who doesn't feel as if the world is watching her, she is slipping into madness, and she can't catch up with her own life? How many times have I said to my editor in the last year, "I feel like Alice in Wonderland," referring to the publishing process alone?

A hibiscus bloom the size of my head.

This week I had the chance to spend three days in Wonderland. Not Lewis's Mad-Hatter Wonderland that is the now-frequent backdrop of my life, but Disney's "Golden Afternoon" Wonderland. In the last 10 years, my parents have turned their backyard into the most beautiful garden you've ever seen. Even in the Tennessee heat and humidity, there is always a breeze here. My mother's roses are breathtaking, my father's grass is perfectly manicured (actually, that's nothing new), the wind chimes are just the right tone, and a family of rabbits with parents the size of the Cheshire Cat lives there. It is colorful and inspiring. It's everything that I loved about Wonderland when I was a child.

Guardian of the Garden: "Ya-hooty 2"
But what would a day in Wonderland Garden be without its caretakers--my father the kind and guiding White Knight, and my mother the sweet-and-sometimes-frazzled White Queen? I have had the best time with my parents this week. I told someone that I hadn't had "quality time" with my mother since we moved to Denver, but she noted that we really haven't had so much one-on-one time since I married. We bonded. We did silly things such as getting pedicures with psychedelic paint colors only Carroll would approve. We talked about old boyfriends. We shared a secret and kept it from Daddy (for now).

I need to come back to Wonderland more often. It inspires me, obviously, but it also reminds me of my childhood and refreshes my spirit. When adult life makes me feel like disheveled Alice at the mad tea party, I want to be awe-struck Alice in the serene garden.

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