My sister and I are taking about family and afterwards I write about Wonderland. The way in which it frightened me as a child when Alice falls, and fall, and falls, and falls, and all the while the world is whirling upwards, downwards, outwards in patterns whorled inside each other like carnivorous flowers, too consumed with consuming each other to notice she is screaming.
Someone asks me if I’m mad, without asking that specifically, because you know, that would be unkind. I tell her I’m not delusional. Reassure her, don’t mention again the shadows I keep seeing out of the corners of my eyes, my white rabbits flitting out of sight each time I turn. Put it down to an over active imagination. Tell myself the same.
Spring plays peek-a-boo,
the white rabbit’s ears twitch twice,
I am clinging on.
Oh, I love this! I think many of us have “overactive” imaginations. That last line is wonderful.
There was a children’s book that came in a group of books for my daughters when they were little. Some kind of Scholastic Books deal maybe. It was about toys that go down the drain. I couldn’t even finish reading it to them. They were crying and so upset at the thought because those toys were alive. This was a pretty popular book, I think. It should have carried a big warning sticker on it. 🙂
Neil Gaiman gave a talk about ‘trigger warnings’ for books and how they seem like a good idea on the face of it, but when you look back at the books you read yourself as a child, how did the books that frightened you shape you? Would you have been the same person if you didn’t explore books without ‘warnings’ and in the end who sets warnings. It comes down to parental judgement in the end for very young readers, and then we have to learn our own sort of judgement for what to read.
That does sound like a very dark children’s book though. The one book I read as a child that I couldn’t get through was Day Of The Triffids. Still can’t pick it up.
Yes, I think you’re right about the warnings. Probably most kids were not frightened or upset by the book–it was a picture book–but they were distraught. But I never censored what they read, and my parents never censored what I read either. I probably learned a lot from just randomly picking up books. I don’t think I ever read Day of the Triffids.
I think it was the first dystopia I ever read. Giant, killer daffodils if I remember correctly. They could shoot venom which could blind you.
That about sums it up.
My older daughter insisted on Hansel and Gretel, over and over…it’s a creepy story no matter how you look at it. But obviously it served some need. (K)
Have you read Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber? It’s a fantastic look at fairy tales and their darker origins.
I’ll have to look for it. I do like Angela Carter. Thanks!
Oh I do love the second part especially… though I don’t think you are mad, and neither am I think that there is always that doubt, the white rabbit in the corner of your eye.
Thank you Bjorn and I’m glad you don’t think I’m mad. No more than usual at least.
We’re all falling, and we all see rabbits or elephants out of the corner of our eyes. I like the way you point it out.
Thank you Jane. Glad to know I’ve not lost the plot completely.
Nah. You’re completely normal for someone who’s slightly unhinged 🙂
Hahaha. I need that on a t-shirt, or possibly on a poetry collection if I ever get one published.
Good to know I’m not in this alone.
It is very, very rare that we are truly alone.
At my house we have portals, and we get spirit guests sometimes; often they walk by in the corner of my eye. As a child, I hated the mean old Queens of Hearts, and her propensity for beheading. As an actor, I appeared in a production of ALICE, playing the King of Hearts.
I didn’t know you were an actor Glenn. Thankfully I don’t think there are any portals in this house. I’m not great with physical house guests, nevermind spiritual ones.
“Why, oh why, didn’t (we) take the blue pill!” Now, we all get to see just “how far down the rabbit hole goes.” Love the Alice allusions!
I think you capture the unsettling nature of ‘Alice’ here. Funny how some books stay with uz
Fabulous, Carol. I love the overlap or fantasy and sanity.
I loved the Wonderland references, great haibun! The Cheshire Cat is one of my favorite characters.
I hated the book about Alice. But trigger warnings? No. I Don’t think so. Life doesn’t come with trigger warnings. Some things we take with us forever but then again, something’s we get over and move on. Keep hanging on girl. We all have our buggaboos.
Thank you. I will admit the book didn’t bother me it was more the Disney movie.
I hated the Disney movies as a child. Bambi scarred me for life.
Powerful post, Carol. I never liked Alice in Wonderland as a kid and your description brought realization – when the ground around you is always crumbling, you don’t want to read about falling.
Glad to know that I’m not the only one it unsettled.
I usually don’t tell people about those shadows and white rabbits either.
Ah, it’s a mind-boggling thing at times — delusion or an over-active imagination, the white rabbit has a tendency of catching us unaware. I love how you put “madness” into context through the Alice allusions and metaphors. “I am clinging on” definitely provides a much-needed hope. 🙂
Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It seems the white rabbit is a foe that catches a lot of people out.
I love this! I have an affinity to rabbits, maybe that explains a lot about me. I twitch and silently appear at the strangest times and places.
I’m never quite sure about rabbits. I come from a farming family so my rabbit stew isn’t unheard of, though I’ve never had it myself. I’ve always preferred hares.
Great post Carol! This is me sharin’ my truth. When I am concentrating on my writing I wear my reading/writing glasses, thich glasses – because I chose long-field clarity over reading clarity when I had my catarac surgery done several years ago. I wanted to read street signs, and see the rest of the world, without wearing glasses. Best decision I ever made. Miraculous! Now, as I concentrate on my iPad screen, wearing my glasses, occasional shadows or liitle formless critters will seem o flit by my peripheral vision from time to time, just out of the focal area of my lens. When I first saw them years sgo, I would glace over. Nothing ever there. I hardly give them a though anymore. I chalk them up to eye strain, to my diabetes, to my imagination leaking while in creative mode – or something other? Of course, these might just be our muses Carol?! Liked your write here. Alice Through the Looking Glass, Wizard of Oz, Grimm Fairey Tales, these are terrifying stories told, I believe, to trsumatize hildren to the afults amusement. Early Walt Disney gets in on this as well. Mamy cultures have traditional stories and ficticious characters to frighten children into behaving. Strange human fascination… enjoyed your hsibun here Carol… 🙂
Oh Rob, you have no idea how reassuring that is. From the sounds of it, it’s pretty common.
During my A-Levels my english teacher told us that fairy tales were originally oral stories for adults. It was people like the Brothers Grimm who took those oral tales and wrote them down, tuning them towards children more so than adults. Writers such as Angela Carter have since taken those stories and returned them to their original audience, writing fantastic books such as The Bloody Chamber.
‘ears twitch twice’ is the perfect touch.
I suspect adults forget how much children see and carry with them from their experiences. What we read as children can be very real.
Thank you Nora and your right. I’m not sure Day Of The Triffids would have the same impact on me now as an adult as it did but at the time it planted itself deep.