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Filtering by Tag: The Chronicles of Narnia

Strange Lands

Chrysta Brown

black-and-white-991996_1920A big bank just released a campaign with the following line, “A ballerina yesterday. An engineer today. Let’s get them ready for tomorrow.”  When I saw it, a chuckle snuck out before I could muster up the will to be outraged. And I should be outraged. I should be offended and threaten to pull my patronage, at least, that’s what the dancers that make up a bulk of my Facebook newsfeed tell me. This advertisement is just one more national campaign that invalidates the important contribution artists make to society and discourages young people from careers in the arts, or whatever.

Here are the ways I’ve been compensated as a dancer from least to most frequent:

Cash Food Wine Class Workshops on how to deduct donated (free) labor from my taxes Networking Opportunities Exposure Experience

Here are the forms of compensation accepted by my landlord:


So when I see the advertisement with the young lady leaning over a complicated bit of science, what I feel is closer to envy than anger. To quote Roxanne Gay’s essay, “Strange Lands,” about why she decided against being a New York-based writer, “I’m not as interested in struggling or suffering as I once was.”  In fact, I cannot say, with full certainty that if someone were to approach me with all the expertise necessary to be an engineer or astronaut that I wouldn’t take the skills and request a very large glass of wine to pair with that bowl of porridge and maybe some cheese to go with that wine.

I would look back, though. I'm like Lot's wife, and the music-filled studio, the dimly-lit stage, the blank pages are all different rooms of home.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy of The Chronicles of Narnia were told at the end of book one, “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”  At the end of book three, they were lovingly, but promptly, kicked out. “You’re too old,” Aslan told them, “and you must begin to come close to your own world now.”

Though Aslan sent them back to the world of rainy, English afternoons and crowded train stations, he did not take away their crowns, wipe their memories, or reclaim his love. They become members of two realities, both royal and regular at every minute of every day, with the knowledge and experience from one world influencing their decisions in the other.

This multifaceted, dual citizenship is something we admire as long as it stays between the covers of the stories we love.  Once we take that same situation off the page, however, it warrants judgment.  The ballerina who finds just as much pleasure in putting together dances as she does in putting together computers is shamed and pitied, as if she, like the characters we strive to create cannot love the order of the office and the possibilities of blank spaces that exist to be filled with movement, color, or sound.  

The world is strange. It is calm and predictable in one moment, and uncertain and chaotic the next. We honor these things in our work. Perhaps, it would be a good thing to celebrate them in other people.  Perhaps, it would be a good thing to celebrate them in ourselves.

Moving the Wild

Chrysta Brown

10 Brown PhotoSomewhere between Philadelphia and Baltimore there is a poorly marked road. It is a suspicious dirt path lined with tall trees. While a normal person would perceive the sound of the wind rustling through the trees as one of the God-given gifts of nature, I understand it to be the spirit of the forest whispering an ominous and scratchy, “Get out!” My parents, however, are braver than I am, and we keep driving until we reach a wooden sign in the shape of a giraffe that reads “Zoo.” This zoo is home to a random assortment of animals: buffalo, goats, a porcupine, alpacas, zebras, some bears, two tigers, a wolf, some chickens, some turkeys, rabbits, and several peacocks that run around screaming like children in need of attention. There is also a giraffe named Geoffrey. For about five dollars, you can feed Geoffrey a few twigs of leaves from trees grown at the zoo. That is why we are here.

When my turn comes, I give Geoffrey the first offering. He his sticks tongue out and wraps it around the branch, tickling my fingers in the process. “His tongue is scratchy!” I tell the zoo employee. She is immune to this wonder, and she nods her head the way someone would if you just told them that ice was cold.

My mom, camera in hand, asks, “Are you going to get him a friend?” The male employee tells us that the zoo is currently raising money for a larger giraffe habitat that will accommodate multiple giraffes. He then informs us that in the wild giraffes do not travel in traditional herds. “They are always coming and going.” I read this fact on Wikipedia a few years earlier. Apparently, giraffe groups are in a constant state of evolution. Giraffes come and go every few hours and scientists define their community as “a collection of individuals moving in the same direction.” I love that phrase. It makes me want to leap in circles.

“Do the other giraffes get mad when one leaves?” I ask. The female zoo employee looks at me with a face of sheer boredom. She’s probably going to make fun of me on Twitter later. The male employee shrugs, “They are probably used to it.” I look at Geoffrey. Does the decision to leave come with weeks of emotional turmoil and guilt? Do the giraffes who choose to stay abruptly cut off communication with the deserter because forgetting that someone existed is easier than missing them? Does the departing giraffe spends the entire journey from point A to point B thinking about going back to his friends. Geoffrey doesn’t provide an answer to any of these questions. Instead, he sticks his tongue out and takes a branch this time sticking around to pose for a picture.


One quiet morning I am sitting in my bed holding a copy of the entire The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m supposed to be packing because I'm preparing for a move of my own, but I am begging C.S Lewis, (Uncle Clive, as I like to call him) to give me a reason to stay nestled in the comforts of where I am. "He'll be coming and going," I read about Aslan. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down—and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right.”

I’ve always seen Aslan as a character who arrives, but this is the first time I've realized that he is also someone who leaves. It has never occurred to me that Aslan spent most of the books traveling, arriving, and walking away. Moreover, while the characters who knew and loved him missed him, they didn’t hate him for leaving because they recognized that where he was going was somewhere he needed to be.

I have moved at least eleven times in 27 years. I don’t have to wonder for very long what would possess a giraffe, a lion, or a person to leave familiar surroundings and communities to wander to somewhere new. When I moved to Philadelphia, I wanted it to be my forever home. I wanted this to be the place where I planted roots that would grow deep and wide. But I am not a tree, and physical roots do not come to me naturally no matter how much I want them to. Today, however, I don't feel so convicted. I think about the way Aslan does what he needs to and quietly slips away, and the giraffe who wakes up one morning and decides to turn left instead of staying with the group. I think it is time for me to go and I think it might be all right. I think it is quite all right.