Myth, Magic, and Mandarin Blue

John William Waterhouse Pandora

I had a grand week with my students this week…I got hardly any shelving done–or at least none that left a visible impact on the auto-replenishing return shelves…but what conversations!  This quarter, the global studies class I help with is in Egypt.  Recently. we’d spent a while speaking about the Nile river’s northerly flow into the Mediterranean lending itself to migrating groups from further south and how the culture of a place is created by the people present in a given social/physical location.  If people traveled to Egypt from the south, then, it is reasonable to assume that they brought with them the portable aspects of the culture they lived and helped create in their former homeland–music, food traditions, etc…including Story.  Given that, we looked at stories from Sudan, the most immediately southern country relative to Egypt, and Greek myths from north of Egypt.  We spent a whole period on a three page Sudanese story about a wise mother who was teaching her son, the sultan, how to know when someone is a true friend.  Then came Pandora, Perseus, and Medusa…the coming into the world of despair, pain, misery…and golden-winged hope…and confronting fossilizing evil.

After we’d been through the wringer, and they calmed down a bit (the version I had begged for more than a little drama in the re-telling aloud), we teased out the themes of all these tales….Sharing, being True, the reality of evil and hurt and misery, and the presence of hope that will never leave…  and then I asked them to finish sentences they would recognize– “Do not be afraid….”  “I am with you!”  “Do unto others…” “…as you would have them do unto you!”  Slowly the light began to dawn….the themes are universal, are essential, fundamental, and live in wisdom, experience, and where humanity/divinty converge! For the Greeks, in the Gods…for Christians, in Jesus…and in us, made in the image and likeness of God.

Noodler’s Blue from Ink Nouveau

Truth, wrapped in Story…  Story that can be told in so many different ways–including pen, ink, and paper.  This week, I received in the mail a bottle of fountain pen ink.  I had paper towels on hand, but no matter how careful I was when filling the plunger, splurch, drip, smear...my fingers and thumbs have now been baptized by an ink that has serious and unanticipated staying power.  Consequently, when speaking on gmail to a friend, I noticed her eyes following my hands as I spoke.  “It’s ink–sorry!”  “You have been working magic!” was her reply.  What an amazing response!  What an amazing friend…

California Mandarins

Which brings me to this morning. I had a sack of small citrus fruits that were too tart to eat by themselves.  Rather than keep trying as is for the sake of using them up, I decided to consume them as juice.  I peeled about twenty of them, plunked their tangy, tender, segments in the blender, and with several hits of “liquify” and a squirch of honey, voila, goodness in a glass.  And the goodness came with me, because my hands now bore the intense, incredible, zesty clean zip smell of the rind….my hands that are already stained with ink.

Standing over the sink, marveling at the pleasure that combination brought me, these beginning lines came without thinking–

Just before she said yes to the wind’s invitation, she smiled deeply and thought with her head slightly tilted– “Today is a good day for this… I am feeling rather mandarin blue…

It begs to be continued…I wonder where it will want to go?

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