We’ve had a week or more of cloudy, damp days, and high winds, all of it typical of late March weather, but eventually it just felt pervasively gloomy. The living room painting and furniture rearranging and bookcase-moving and everything else triggered by the urge to re-nest is almost complete. I always hang prisms high in the clerestory windows and–finally–this morning, intermittent flashes of sunlight rewarded us with dazzling rainbows scattered around the newly-brightened room. They rekindled my hope and joy.
I’m not certain how my fascination with prisms began, but I think the origin may have been the film, Pollyanna, based on the book by Eleanor H. Porter.
The film debuted when I was 5; I read the book later. Disney, as always, deviated from the original story in many often-inexplicable ways, but the young actress, Hayley Mills, brought the story to life for me and, of course, the book’s overly-saccharine, moralistic language was somewhat updated in the film, even though the setting is true to Porter’s 1913, small New England town.
I suppose the visuals of the prism scene captivated me, and, in my mind, the way the bright rainbows also elementally transformed the bedridden and grouchy Mr. Pendleton (or Pendergast, in the film) were forever connected to their magic.
In a lot of the books I loved as a child, the young protagonist, through her own transformation, also transformed the adults in her life. These books offered me the first insights that healing and maturing were lifelong pursuits; maybe I associate that idea with prisms, too. They unfailingly create deep joy and invite a contemplative mood.
Certainly, every problem has its refractions, and what at first may seem a single troubling issue or one lacking a solution can always be viewed again through other lenses. And, once new perceptions are welcomed and entertained, we’re often led to change and grow. (Or not, as I always admit. Choices matter, and change requires commitment and, often, years of effort.) I think a lot of “prism-thinking” is happening in our world right now; some are willing to endure the hard work of pursuing transformative answers and others are resisting, for many reasons. (I wrote a children’s book about these very ideas, titled The Rare, Tiny Flower. It’s being illustrated by the talented Quim Torres, and will be published by Tra Publishing in January, 2022.)
A lot of the protagonists I loved as a child saw new possibilities for the way life could be lived, individually and in community, and showed flashes of feistiness when adults resisted what the girls finally “knew” to be true. I expect the authors were advocates of prism-thinking themselves. Consider Burnett’s Mary in The Secret Garden; L’Engle’s Meg in A Wrinkle in Time; Smith’s Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; and Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Many of my early, lasting role models.
The other and profound lesson I derived from Pollyanna was her orientation to gratitude, coupled with her prism-thinking. She played what she called The Glad Game, learned from her father, which invited one to see and bear life’s struggles and sorrows, but to balance their presence by opening to noticing life’s blessings as well: Yes, it’s been rainy, but green is happening everywhere and the gardens are growing. Yes, voting is being suppressed by people who fear change, but restrictive laws are being challenged in courts all over the country and a voting rights bill has passed in the House. Yes, we’re looking at new lockdowns because of disease variants, but we have masks, vaccines, new medicines, and ways to defeat the virus if we all pull together. If. We need prism-thinkers more than ever, but we need action coupled with gratitude and balance as well.
The Glad Game is one reason Pollyanna’s name became a euphemism for laughable candy-brained thinkers, shallow goody-goodies unable to see the real and present darkness that threatens our world. I don’t think that’s a fair judgement of Pollyanna, but cynics–often just bullies by another name–seem to be granted more deference than prism-thinkers for their fault-finding criticisms and opinions, probably because it’s natural to fear retaliatory verbal attacks. Far easier to agree, say nothing, and dodge the nasty ballistics. We’ve certainly seen where that’s gotten us as a country.
My childhood role models and heroines wouldn’t stand for it. And actually, each of them had feisty moments of confronting the perpetually oppressive and pessimistic, with strength and dignity. They, and their creators, taught me to stand up, speak out, and be proud of critical thinking that is divergent, open to change, co-created, and inclusive in its benefits. And to work at perceiving and giving thanks in all things for the goodness and gifts that co-exist in the world and in each of us.
Today seems an auspicious day: It’s Palm Sunday, which for many signals the beginning of the deep spiritual journey called Holy Week, ending on Easter Sunday. Today is also the second day of Passover celebrations; tonight will be the second Seder, and Passover continues to April 4. And at Full Moon Cottage, we’re also celebrating the March Full Moon. 🙂 Blessings on all your celebrations and efforts to deepen your humanity. Hang a prism: heal, change, grow, create, and keep at it.
I also wanted to let you know of this Zoom gathering on Monday, April 12, sponsored by one of my favorite independent bookstores, Kismet, and in support of National Poetry Month. I was extremely honored to have my poem, In The Time of Pandemic/And the People Stayed Home, included in this anthology: Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by the inimitable Alice Quinn. Several of the poets, myself, and Alice Quinn will be part of this event, and we would be so honored to have you join us!
Events | Kismet Books (kismetbookshop.com);
Crowdcast Registration: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/togetherinasuddenstrangen
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