In the fury of new adventures, loose ends, and deep fear, I didn’t write last week.

Today, I want to tell you a story.

20 years ago, a young woman became a prisoner in an ancient house. The stairs creaked, the basement was a place of nightmares, the walls crumbled behind their papered surfaces. A monster came and went, but the woman wasn’t allowed to leave unless accompanied by him.

She comforted herself with brand new babies and the tricks and trappings of age old values. Though the house was old, she made it shine. Though there was no money to lavish her darling babes with glitter and gold, she invented games, sewed costumes, and told stories to entertain them. The monster came and went. Years passed. The woman’s sadness grew and grew until one day she discovered a hidden key that unlocked a door she didn’t know existed.

The first time she put the key in the lock and opened the door the magic of the room beyond filled her with terror. Soon, however, she was sneaking into that room as often as she could. Day by day, she grew stronger and braver. The monster resented her, threatened her, and tried everything in his power to stop her from going into that room, but its magic was more powerful than he. The woman knew it wouldn’t be long before she would be strong enough to make her escape.

Eventually, she did. Shoulders straight and muscles bulging, the woman built a new life for herself and her children. She reaped riches and was known throughout the land for her talents and skills. Every day she went into the room, now filled with the tools of her magic, and wrought beauty from chaos and every day she swore that nothing was more important than the work she did.

She knew it was dangerous, but she didn’t care. That room and its magic were worth whatever she had to suffer or endure.

After a time, the woman met her prince. Life blossomed into something shimmering and warm. There were occasional dragons to slay and trolls to avoid, but all in all, the woman was living a fairy tale.

Then, one day, the magic disappeared. The woman went into the room every day and looked for it. It wasn’t under the bench or behind the massive tools. It wasn’t in the rafters or hiding in a corner. This made the woman sad so she tried to coax it back by creating new things, different and more complex than what she had done. The magic giggled from where ever it hid and the woman knew she had chosen the right path. She went into her new work with a fury while the magic played hide and seek with her.

But while it teased and cajoled, the woman began to suffer an extraordinary pain. Each time she went to the room the pain intensified until she could no longer wield the tools of her trade, dance with her prince, or slay the dragons.

She started avoiding the room and her heart grew dark and afraid. After awhile, she used the secret key to open a new door and, low and behold, the magic was there. She embraced it and, giddy with delight, began a new kind of work.

Throughout the land, people cried for the work she used to do, the work that made the magic go away and the pain return, so every so often she went back to the other room and forced herself to give them what they wanted. She still loved that room and all its tools, still had the skill to produce even when the magic wouldn’t come along, and didn’t want to disappoint her people. She also didn’t want to believe that the pain was more powerful than she had become.

Walking a treacherous bridge between the two rooms, she started to slip. Cold fingered fog clouded her heart and black cliffs threatened to swallow her. She reached for something to hold onto and found only empty air. On her knees, she inched her way to a cave where she met with a shaman. The shaman looked into his cauldron and met her eyes. “If you want to walk instead of crawl, you have to give up something that matters more to you than anything else. Like a snake, you must shed your old skin.”

“But why?” she cried, knowing instantly what must be done. “Because the magic has been leaching from your bones and the damage is too severe for any spell, potion, or prayer. If you don’t, you will never walk straight, tall, and proud again.”

The woman thought about it, thought about the new room where the magic waited and the prince who loved to dance, and agreed. Then she told all the people in the land that she could not go back to the room and make the things they loved. They cried out against the injustice and the sounds of their voices caused the woman to crumble.

She felt all her power and strength seep out through her tears and, deep inside her hear,t she believed that the monster would return and drag her back to the ancient house. The only way she had bested him had been through the work she did in the secret room and now that she couldn’t do it anymore, how would she keep him at bay? How would she slay the other dragons, outwit the trolls, or continue to charm her prince? The new room had magic in it, but it was new, raw, and filled with only a small collection of tools to make work the people might eventually love as much as they loved her old work.

The woman cried in secret, leaked in public, and panicked all the time. The prince held her, though his eyes worried for her, and the people began to talk amongst themselves, spinning a tale they could believe instead of the tale she had told them. Anger flared and died, drowned by the river running down the woman’s cheeks. Without her old skin, she felt so naked and vulnerable she forgot where she had hidden her secret key.

Then, one morning late last week, the woman remembered and found it again, hidden in the mirror. She only had to look upon herself to find it.

**************

Sorry for not posting last week. I really couldn’t speak. I got my MRI results and had to face my biggest dragon. My diagnosis is severe osteoarthritis with complications and it is not treatable without spinal fusion, for which I am too young. If I continue making sculpture it will get worse. My life as a visual artist is over. Fortunately, there are many rooms and writing is something I love as much as making sculpture. I am also opening a new business, so if my posting is irregular over the next month, please forgive me.

If you want to see my art, here’s a link to my website. I’ll be taking it down in the near future.

Life happens in chapters. This is the end of one and the beginning of another. Bitterroot — the sequel to Pipe Dreams — will be released at the end of the month and my prince and I are off on an adventure across country to pick up our new teardrop trailer and take some much needed downtime. Thanks for listening to my story and talk to you soon.