Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finding Our Balance

Until reading Penny Blubaugh’s novel, Serendipity Market, I hadn’t thought of storytelling or writing as a way of restoring the world’s balance.

But it’s an intriguing idea, isn’t it?

Do you think we tell stories as a way of regaining our equilibrium? And do you think we read and write stories for much the same reason–to fill the space in our hearts so that we don’t feel so empty, so out of balance?

Toward the end of Serendipity Market, one of the main characters (Lizard Man) says longingly: “This feeling... I wish it could last forever.”

That’s a sentiment every reader can share, I think, whenever we find a book to love, a story that pulls us in with magic and love, mystery and truth, a book that we don’t want to end.

It’s a sentiment that’s shared wholeheartedly by Blubaugh’s reader, too, as Serendipity Market comes to a close, and the danger that opens the story–the world spinning out of balance– is avoided thanks to the tales that Blubaugh has conjured within its pages.

The tales in this book are Blubaugh’s imaginative spins on ancient fairy tales. These tales, as Blubaugh writes in her afterward, are “like a collected memory reservoir that we can draw on anytime.” (That’s another wonderful notion that Blubaugh shares with readers–that stories are a kind of collective reservoir of humankind’s memories.)

You know you’ve entered a magical world from the very first paragraph:
Sometimes it’s the way a leaf tumbles to the ground. Sometimes it’s the slant of the afternoon sun, or the way the moon shadows ring the rocks at the water’s edge. This time it’s the appearance of a yellow-green finch in March. Stories are all around, so Mama Inez and Toby always watch for signs.
Stories are all around us, Blubaugh reminds us, if only we pay close attention and learn to watch for the signs.

It’s Mama Inez and Toby, her dog, who first notice the telling signs that the world is spinning out of balance and take the necessary steps to restore its balance.

Mama Inez writes with her fountain pen: “You’re invited to the Serendipity Market at the end of the world. Saturday next. Bring your story, bring a talisman. Help us balance the world’s spin.”

And then:
She folds each invitation to fit, neatly, squarely, into the confines of the bird envelopes. Toby breathes on each letter, breathes until the wings begin to move. They’re sluggish at first, but soon the birds are circling the witch’s-hat tower. Mama Inez sends them on their way, kestrels to the south, hawks to the north, falcons to the west, owls to the east...
And, so, the magic begins, with Mama Inez waiting at her house at the end of the world to see which of the ten birds will return and which storytellers will make the journey to the Serendipity Market to help save the world.

This notion--that storytellers have the power to save the world--is part of the magic that pulled me into the story, perhaps even more so than the fantastic re-imaginings of familiar fairy tales like Red Riding Hood or Cinderella.

With each story that unfolds in this book of magic, I kept hoping each storyteller would manage with his or her tale to restore a bit more balance to the world.

Isn’t that idea at the heart of our own storytelling efforts?

Somehow--for whatever reason--we feel the need to set the world straight.

In some way–emotionally, psychologically, physically–our world is out of balance; something is amiss. And it’s through our stories, through the process of writing (and through the process of reading and hearing stories, as well), that we regain our balance and, in the process, restore the balance to the world.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the world regains its balance by the end of Blubaugh’s novel.

What is delightfully surprising, though, is how each story, thanks to Blubaugh’s willingness to explore new and unfamiliar emotional terrain, sheds new light on the riches that she discovers in these old tales.

Much like Toby breathing magic on the envelopes at the opening of the story, Blubaugh breathes her own special magic on the emotional truths in these tales, enabling those truths to come alive in the reader’s imagination and heart.

For information about Blubaugh's new book, Blood and Flowers, visit:

For more information on Blubaugh, visit her website:
or check out her Facebook page:

And for an interview with Blubaugh that appeared on wordswimmer, visit:

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