This month I submitted the first draft of my MFA project proposal. This is the description of my creative plans, dreams, wonderings and wishes for the remainder of my time in graduate school. After spending so much time thinking creatively about my work -- building nests, folding origami, dancing in the studio, creating short videos -- I was having a hard time figuring out how to translate that into something word-based, and something with some academic structure.
The piece that I am developing, Land Home, is my revisioning of a fairy tale. My fairy tale.
I started my proposal by writing the introduction to the performative fairy tale that I'm building.
Below is the fairy tale introduction that I have drafted. This will give you a sense of where I'm going, and what lies ahead! The full-length performance piece will pick up at the point that this introduction leaves off.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, and also exactly right here, a Grown Woman set out on a journey to build a nest. In order to build the exact right nest for herself, she knew she’d have to leave the neat and manicured lawns she was used to, and travel to the depths of the forest for her answers. She also knew no one could travel to the depths of the forest alone.
She sent word to her friends to join her: the Fox would help her with the gift of invisibility, so that she could make her way to secret and dark places; the Rabbit would help her embrace her fears; the Deer would teach her the power of gentleness, the power to touch the hearts and minds of the wounded; and the Frog would offer cleansing, teaching her to sing the rain song of new life and harmony.
The Grown Woman arrived to the edge of the forest. There, she found an open meadow speckled with a few tall trees. Did you know that in old English, a meadow or a clearing in a forest was called a Leigh? When she looked closely she noticed that the trees were covered in writings – the transcriptions of journeys of the heart. She wandered from tree to tree reading the scrolling messages. Eventually she stumbled onto a cave. Slowly, cautiously, she drifted inside. On the walls of the cave were images that felt foreign and familiar at the same time.
After some time of allowing the images to wash over her, she walked out of the cave, only to discover another. This cave had trees, and on the trees were more images – men, deserts, woods, water and a voice she recognized. She soon found that there were several caves, all playing a varied reel of the same images. And that voice, what was that voice? At the very moment she realized that the voice in he caves was her own, the Great Owl, who cannot be deceived, appeared. She was accompanied by the Great Raven.
“What is this place?” asked the Grown Woman.
“This is the place where the questions live. This is the place that holds the journey of the heart. That holds the journey of place. The caves of these walls, the bark of these trees, tell your story. They tell you who to look for and what you must collect on your road to building your nest.
There will be 13 landmarks that you must return to. Notice them as if they were new. Be kind to them, but don’t linger. Should you find yourself in a difficult situation use this powerful word to transcend your reality… ‘okay’. Don’t forget it. It will be easy to forget.
Take note of the land along the way. It is your friend and your guide and your refuge.
You must be prepared to run.
You must be prepared to stay. And to build. This journey is long. You will fall over and over and over again. Be generous with everyone you meet on this journey. Offer a gift to everyone you meet, and they will help you weave the threads and twigs and leaves of this nest you seek.
Be generous with yourself.
Have courage You must sing and dance and remember and let go.
You will find treasures – men and land alike – who you will know. You will find that they’ve changed, become different and new, and are exactly themselves – their nature maintained.
You will look death in the face 13 times. Don’t forget your powerful word.
Have you invited friends to join you?” “Yes”, said the Grown Woman. “I invited the Fox and the Rabbit and the Deer and the Frog”.
“Good. You will need many more. The Fox and the Rabbit and the Deer and the Frog will know who else to bring. When you leave this meadow and enter the depths of the forest, your story will remain on this land. Your friends will gather here to prepare to follow you on your journey. Your story in this place is how they will find you.”
I asked Great Owl “how will I know when my journey is over? And when my nest is complete?”
“Grown Woman”, the Great Raven finally spoke, “Always remember the decree of our land:
Magic is all around. Demand that everyone stand in this magic with you. Everyone is a profound artist, especially the ones who don’t know it. The answers are in the land. We must go to the forest to find them. And we must go together.”
The Great Owl added “And as far as the journey is concerned, how will that ever be over?”
And with that, the Great Owl and the Great Raven flew.
I took a deep breath. And I began to run.