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February 1, 2017 in Trinidad, CO
© Annette Meserve
The Land of Oz
It was the smell of the old Carnegie library, scents of wood floor varnish, old paper, and binding glue, that stayed with Annette as a kids, as she carried armloads of books, she and her sisters excited to learn about things and places they'd never seen.
It’s a rare smell these days, only found in the few odd Carnegies that haven’t succumbed to renovation, but it still makes Annette's fingers itch to flip through a storybook taken off a tall wooden shelf.
It was the Oz series that first offered her relationship with an author, long dead but no less vibrant in his storytelling. As L.Frank Baum's stories trundled home in her arms, his fairy country swept her away. His world was separated from hers by only a thin stretch of Deadly Desert, not so far away, really. It was a land where young women were powerful, talking animals had honor, and magic was used for the good of all... usually.
Baum became, for her, a kindly uncle and, through his books, she was introduced to the gentility of another age and the grace of unfamiliar words, cleverly used. He would pick her up and carry her to a place of wonder, a place where problems were solved by smart little girls, a place where even the Gnome King had to be polite.
It was Baum who taught her to read fiction but there was even more to it than that. As an adult, I’ve seen analyses of Baum’s work, experts proposing that his characters, his plot lines, indeed the Land of Oz itself, were metaphors for the circumstances of his time. Commentary couched in story.
In this, her dear uncle offered her another teaching on the power of fiction to explore alternate routes within a make-believe world, to play with the building blocks of a society and maybe find creative solutions.
Many authors have used story to say what couldn’t be said plainly. Fiction can make us think.
But in the times all that's needed is escape, a story can also be just a story, a friendly cyclone merely transportation to Oz and to an adventure with a cowardly lion and a hungry tiger and a bevy of clever little girls.
2nd Quarter 2020
An evening of Myth and Poetry