LotSF: Chasing Fear

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I tripped on a root, exhaustedly catching myself against a tree trunk and standing weak-kneed for a moment to try to catch my breath. I was becoming progressively clumsier as I went on, less and less steady on my feet, less and less able to keep myself going every time I tripped. My whole body felt like a throbbing bruise. Every muscle wanted me to lie down on the forest floor and give up.

And this felt so terribly hopeless.

Why was I out here, wandering the forest alone and injured?

How could I ever find my horse in hundreds of acres of trees, when I didn’t even really know if she was alive?

But I had nothing else. Nothing to lose. Nothing to do but keep moving, keep walking, keep trying to fix the mess I’d made. So I pushed myself away from the tree and focussed on putting one foot in front of the other.

Almost an hour after I’d started walking, as the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon, I noticed them. Bearskins. Creeping silently between the trees on either side of me, easily keeping pace. Their hungry, greedy eyes were fixed on me, glowing yellow and amber in the dying light, and my hand reflexively dropped to my hip. My sword wasn’t there. I was weaponless, surrounded on every side by dozens of monsters that could easily tear me apart.

But they weren’t attacking. They kept me surrounded, they kept their eyes trained on me, but not a single one of them stepped towards me. If I stopped walking, they paced restlessly, antsy and jumpy and skittish. They were afraid of me. Afraid of my ugly, flaming magic, most likely. It made me feel astoundingly powerful, knowing they wouldn’t dare touch me, but being this close to something so brutally dangerous raised the hairs on my arms and neck. It was so incredibly eerie.

The sun sank lower, burning the sky red and gold, and still I hadn’t even come close to finding Faith. I was tiring myself out, disorienting myself in this massive forest, and keeping myself company with a pack of bearskins–company that made my stomach twist into all sorts of horrible knots. This didn’t feel like progress. It felt like it was making things worse and I was growing desperate.

But over the next little ridge, I found a river.

Judging from the size and speed of the river (plus a pretty desperately hopeful bias), I decided it was safe to assume this was the same river the gypsy camp was built alongside. That meant that if I followed it in the right direction, I would find the gypsies and possibly even Faith. Except that I couldn’t figure out which direction would take me to the camp. I knew vaguely the direction we’d ridden to fight the bearskins, but had that been up- or downriver? I couldn’t remember enough to give myself a clear answer. I couldn’t even use the position of the sun–I’d never thought to pay attention to its location when we marched out.

I was lost. Completely and utterly lost, with a 50/50 chance of becoming found.

I could walk forever, trying to find the camp, and as injured and fatigued as I was… what if I didn’t make it? What if the gypsies weren’t even there? What if the bearskins finally realized I was too weak to hurt them and attacked me?

Feeling helpless and powerless and so horribly lost, I waded into the cold water. I walked past my thighs, up to my hips, water flowing under my dusty, ashy armour, before falling to my knees and letting the river rush over my shoulders and chest. My blood mingled with the water where it flowed past my damaged shoulder and I wished it would wash the rest of me away, carrying me along the river’s course, dumping my ashes into the lake where they would settle to the bottom.

I felt the water drag at my body, urging me to join it, to give up my pointless quest, to just admit that I’d failed and run away from all my problems. Its weight was so tempting, so soothing, and I wanted to follow wherever it might take me.

This was so, so hopeless.

But it was my fault.

did this to Nolan. did this to Faith. did this to myself.

So was going to fix it, damn it.

I felt it again, the little stirring anger in my chest, that ugly black hole where my magic used to be. It burned like a coal within my ribs, urging me up onto my feet, pushing me out of the river. I was angry. At myself, at the bearskins, at the woman who’d kidnapped Nolan, and that anger drove me on, drove me up, drove me onto the riverbank. I staggered, lungs heaving, feeling an electric energy build inside me that I could neither stop nor control, and I felt heat brush against the insides of my palms. I looked down at my hands, remembered the flames.

Small, lazy yellow tongues of fire dripped down my fingers.

The bearskins stirred anxiously in the shadows of the trees. I turned towards them, raised my hands. They pressed back, away, clamouring over one another to try to escape me. They were terrified of the magic.

The anger kicked up in my chest. I wanted to summon massive torrents of flame, I wanted to hurl them at the beasts and punish them for what they’d done to me. But I bit back, reined in the fury, held white-knuckled onto the fire in my hands. I would not let this anger overcome me. I would not let it consume me.

Because while the bearskins were doing everything they could to escape me, they weren’t fleeing randomly into the forest. They were gathering at a specific point, some of them darting off into the darkness but all of them following the same path. I walked towards them and they funnelled along that path, never straying, never breaking away.

There was something there. Something they felt they could run to. Something that made them feel safe.

Maybe it was the woman who’d stolen Nolan. Maybe it was something else.

But it was better than wandering alone in the dark.

The anger, the determination, lifted me above the pain and fatigue.

Fire clutched tightly in my hands, I took off after the fleeing bearskins at a run.

***

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I did it. I actually wrote a LotSF chapter.

It’s horribly late (it’s currently 1:23am, whoops) but it’s done. It’s here. I did it!

It feels good. It feels really good. I am proud of myself. And I am so much happier with the way this chapter went than the way it was going before.

Again again, thank you everyone for being patient and all of that, I hope this was worth the wait.

For those who are possibly new to the whole thing, welcome welcome. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope everyone is having a good weekend thus far. I will see you all sometime tomorrow (or later today, since it’s already Sunday) for my regular posting schedule.

Good night!

-Alex

 

 

LotSF: Guidance

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Author’s Note: as of April 1st, 2017, this chapter has been removed from the LotSF timeline.


PREVIOUS CHAPTER

ARCHIVES

“…Find Faith…”

I’d been wandering the forest for a long time. I didn’t know how long exactly, but I had a feeling it had been hours. The sun was starting to set. My body ached much worse than before. But all the anger, all the frustration, had been dulled by my ceaseless wandering to the point where I wasn’t feeling much of anything. I wanted to go home. I wanted to find Faith and Nolan and I wanted to go home.

The shadows of the trees around me were long and twisted in the falling sunlight. I stepped wearily between them, forcing my body to keep moving, afraid that I would just collapse if I stopped walking even for a moment.

I wondered how I was going to find Faith in a forest this big. I didn’t even know which direction she’d gone, and here I was stumbling along in what might be the complete opposite way. I thought briefly of calling out to her, to see if she would come to me. But as much as I wanted to, I felt mute. It felt like my throat was sealed shut. Like my lungs were empty. I couldn’t form her name on my tongue, let alone shout it loud enough for her to hear. And so I kept silent, and kept walking.

It was getting so much darker now. The sunlight was slanting down at a sharper angle, shining into my eyes, streaming like blades between the trees, blinding me as I struggled to guide myself. I squinted and raised a hand to ward off the harsh lighting, but there was little I could do to stop the sun. It was determined to shine as fiercely as it could and there was nothing I could do to dim it.

It was making it harder for me to get my bearings, though. I knew I was in an unfamiliar part of the forest, that much was clear, but my blindness made it impossible to see any paths snaking through the trees. I couldn’t tell where exactly I was going and it was driving me insane. I wanted to see. I didn’t need the headache this light was causing me.

And what was I even doing, wandering like this? Was I stupid? There was no way I was going to find Faith just based on luck. The enormity of the forest, the enormity of my task… it was overwhelming. What was I doing? I wasn’t going to find her. Frustrated and helpless, I growled and snapped a skinny branch off a nearby tree. I then angrily peeled off its bark, stripping it down before snapping it again and dropping it on the ground.

“What am I doing?” I muttered, turning circles as I ran my hand through my hair. This was hopeless. I would starve before I found Faith. But I was too restless to stop. So I kept moving. There was no point, but I needed to walk. I needed to find something.

And after several more long minutes, I did exactly that. I found a river, wide but shallow, lit up like a stream of gold fire in the last of the day’s light. I couldn’t be positive, but it looked a lot like the river that ran by the gypsy sprite encampment. If it was the same one, then I needed only to follow it and I would be back in familiar territory. Where the gypsies–and maybe Faith–would be waiting.

But which way? I could either go upriver or down, but I couldn’t remember which way would bring me to the gypsy camp. And if I went the wrong way, I would be worse off than I was now.

The sunlight thickened, reflecting blindingly bright off the water’s surface. I squinted and turned in a circle, weighing my options, trying to reason out my course of action. If I could only remember

“Alex.”

I spun immediately, my hand reaching for my sword, and then looked down at my hip with stunned disbelief. My sword was missing, something I’d failed to notice on waking after the battle. Heart pounding, I looked up at the source of the voice, ready to fight with my fists if I had to, but soon relaxed my posture when I got a good look at the strange woman. While she certainly looked human, it was clear there was something about her that wasn’t quite so.

“Alex?” the woman said again, this time making it sound like a question. I stared at her, unsure whether I should answer, and she stared back with curiosity vivid in her eyes. She crept forwards on bent legs like a cat stalking prey and I watched with wary interest. The golden light made her skin look like gleaming bronze and lit up her eyes like burning stars, but there was something else beneath the surface that made me think that maybe she was one of them.

One of the Small Folk.

“Why have you forgotten?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper, as she reached one trembling hand out towards me. Her hand seemed to call to me but I shook my head, resisting the urge to take it. I didn’t know this woman. I didn’t know if I could trust her.

Those burning eyes gazed long at me as her hand lingered in the space between us. “You have changed so much, haven’t you? And I do not think you like these changes…” She took another step forwards, shoulders angling towards me. I didn’t know how she knew me, because I didn’t remember her at all. I didn’t remember this wild woman, wearing the colours of the forest, her hair woven through with flowers. Maybe I had forgotten her when I forgot the language of the Small Folk. Maybe she was just another piece of magic no longer within my reach.

But yet… There was her hand. Just a bare two feet away. I could take it. I could join her, go wherever she was offering to take me, maybe even remember what I had lost. No. There was a part of me that knew I couldn’t do that. Whoever she was… I could not join her.

And I think she understood.

“The forest is deep in your bones,” she murmured, blinking slowly, holding me pinned with that steady gaze. “You have gone deaf to its voice, but you have not lost its blood.” She lifted her hand higher and turned it so that the palm was facing upwards, cupping the last of the sun’s flaming light. “Trust yourself. You will find your heart again.”

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to ask her a thousand questions–about who she was, what I should do–but I sensed there was no time. Because just as the last of the sun’s light began slipping out of the sky, she turned quick as an arrow and darted back into the trees. I shook my head, startled by how fast she had gone. It was like she’d never been there.

Except that the anger that had burned so constantly within me these past weeks had faded.

The darkness, the hopelessness–it was being drowned out, beaten back by a golden light.

I didn’t know who that woman was, or what she had done to me, but I knew that the gift she’d given me was priceless.

She’d given me hope.

***

Yay, another LotSF chapter!

Last week was my first week at work at that stupid factory job. Well, most of it was training, and I haven’t actually done any work yet, but I am officially initiated into the factory workforce. Yippee. There were high points and low points, not gonna lie, but for the most part… it was okay. Survivable, let’s put it that way.

The nice thing–and something I maybe didn’t expect–is that the people are great. I can’t even tell you how many times someone reassured me that the work wasn’t so bad, or how many times someone went out of their way to talk to me/make me laugh. I even have a couple sort-of friends, if you can believe it. So I shall survive. I may not be happy about it, but I will be alive.

And I have to say, writing this chapter was so wonderful. First of all, no anger in this one, so that’s a relief :P And just… writing about the forest, and the sunlight, and imagining what magics lie beneath the surface… it’s so soothing. I was thinking earlier today about how spring is coming, and I’ll be able to start pressing/drying leaves and flowers soon. I am beyond excited. It kept me very busy last year and I can’t wait to do it again :D

I hope you lovely people are doing well. You let me know if you’re not, okay? Cause that’s unacceptable. We gotta make sure you’re all doing okay.

Take care, guys :)

-Alex

This is My Faith.

Today concludes the Easter long weekend, and though I’m tired after having done so much in so short a span of time, it’s a good sort of fatigue. Because this year, I realized something that took me several years to understand.

Easter is the most faithful time of year for Christians. It’s the day that created the religion–yes, more important than Christmas, because even though Christmas is when Jesus was born, this is when Jesus died to save humankind from its sins and open the gates to heaven. Easter made Christianity as powerful as it is, by testing the faith not only of the earliest disciples, but also of Jesus himself. It teaches that one must maintain faith and hope even through the grief of pain and death.

Faith means a lot to me. The word itself, faith, is perhaps my favourite word for all that it represents, and it’s how I try to live my life–on the wings of faith. So you can imagine that a faith-based holiday such as Easter would be extremely important to me.

I was born and raised a Catholic, going through the rituals and sacraments of the church and spending many many hours learning about the Bible and its holy teachings. For several years, this was my faith. I believed in God and Jesus and prayed every night. My religion moved me, comforted me, empowered me.

But as too often happens, I reached a point in my life when my faith was seriously tested. It seemed like I had different ears when I attended mass, or different eyes when I read Bible passages. I suddenly found myself disagreeing with the Catholic doctrine. What the Bible was saying and what I had come to understand in my life were two very different things, and it got to the point where I realized I wasn’t a Christian anymore.

It wasn’t an easy realization. I tried to believe again, but to no avail. I simply do not believe in the Christian God or Jesus, no matter how hard I try to do so.

That shook me up. I’d lived so many years believing in Catholicism, that to realize I didn’t have anything to believe in anymore was a frightening notion. I thought perhaps there was another religion that would suit me, or even another Christian denomination, but it wasn’t until I took a World Religions course* my third year of high school that it clicked: I simply didn’t believe in doctrine. It had nothing to do with the religion or the deity, I just couldn’t believe in something I was told. I could only believe what I had experienced and what I had felt.

I believe in emotions, and magic, and kinship. I believe in friendship, and beauty, and love. I believe in strength, and courage, and selflessness. I also believe in gods, but none that belong to any religion but my own. There is no book that dictates my belief, only my own feelings. My own soul.

So now I come to Easter, a Christian holiday. For a while, I had no idea what to make of it, since I didn’t believe in Jesus. I just tried to enjoy the weekend, spending it with family, laughter, and of course chocolate. Though it had perhaps lost some significance, I was still happy.

But then, when I went to my grandparents’ farm on Saturday, my younger cousin had put a sign on the door. It welcomed everyone to the gathering, and at the end she wrote something along these lines:

“Most importantly, when you leave know that you are loved.”

It resonated with me. Easter was no longer about Jesus for me, but it was still about family. In fact, it was all about family. Being with the people I love, celebrating a time of year when faith is strongest. When I left, I really did know that I was loved. I am loved. I have faith in my family, and that brings me peace. This is my faith.

It was a journey and a struggle, to reach this point of understanding, of solace, but there are things in our lives that are worth fighting for. I believe faith is one of them. So keep on fighting.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

What does Easter mean to you?

May your faith not be dictated, but be true in your heart.

-Alex


 

*If there’s one important thing I learned in that class, it’s this: all the religions are reflections of one another. At their hearts, they represent the same core qualities–solace, peace, forgiveness–but simply put different names and faces to them. So while I may not be Christian anymore, I could never deny the power and truth of Christianity, or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism–any religion. I don’t think the name of the god or the holy book defines anything, I think it’s the power of the faith, which is something we can only feel for ourselves. Just as one disbeliever doesn’t make a religion false, neither does isolation in one’s beliefs make their faith untrue.

LotSF: Riding Faith

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CHAPTER 1

PREVIOUS

It was incredibly awkward, eating lunch surrounded by a bunch of chattering birds that I knew were actually sprites, and sitting across from Nolan, the only person I could actually see but also someone I’d just had a horrible fight with. So as I ate roasted squirrel as fast as I could, I made sure to keep my eyes firmly fixed on an inchworm working its way through the grass beside me, just so I wouldn’t have to look at anyone else. I could feel Nolan’s intense stare burning a hole in my forehead, but as long as he said nothing, I was content to let him stare.

I finished eating before he did and excused myself to go saddle up Faith. Nolan thankfully didn’t follow, leaving me to work in peace. Once her saddle and bridle were properly adjusted, I set about putting on my armour. I’d taken it off to eat lunch, out of courtesy for the gypsy sprites, but had been itching to put it back on ever since. I now felt my discomfort ease as I settled the pauldrons on my shoulders and felt the press of metal against my ribs. I put my sword on, too—there was no way I was going for a ride with bearskins nearby without bringing my sword.

I put my foot in the stirrup and pulled myself into the saddle, settling easily and picking up the reins. I nudged Faith forwards and she went willingly, picking up a trot when I asked for it. I posted instinctively, rising and falling in the saddle in time with Faith’s steps, and for a time there was no sound but the steady thump of her hooves and the groan and jingle of her tack.

After a while, we veered from the riverside and towards the forest where there was a path wide enough for me to ride along it comfortably. I asked Faith to canter and she sprang into it eagerly. Her hoofbeats grew louder as she picked up the pace and I felt our connection, as her strength surged and carried her forwards and my muscles worked in tandem to keep me secure on her back. We cantered quite a distance till she decided she’d had enough and I pulled her back to a walk.

Everything was so quiet around us. The sunlight was dappled on my face and the ground as it filtered through the still leaves high above, and there was no wind to stir the air or undergrowth. It was peaceful, except that I had never before been in a forest so calm. Usually, it was bursting with life, bursting with Small Folk, and it was nearly impossible to find such quiet. That was the way it was supposed to be. This was wrong.

Psychological.

The word hung over my head like a curse. Accusing me. Telling me all my faults.

You did this to yourself, and now you can’t undo it.

When I first realized I was deaf and blind to the Small Folk, before I’d been given a reason for it, I never would’ve guessed that I’d done it to myself. Why would I? I didn’t want to lose my magic. I’d been able to blame my disability on some unknown power, something I could probably attack or confront or at the very least hate.

The fact that that power was myself, and that I didn’t even know how or why I’d done it… I had betrayed myself. And now I was supposed to trust that I could handle fighting the bearskins?

I now had my doubts. With the anger in my chest, and the resentment I’d been living with… I was suddenly afraid that I wasn’t prepared for this fight.

Faith tugged at the reins and I realized I’d been clenching them tightly. I loosened my grip and gently steered her back towards the gypsy sprite camp. I didn’t want to go back there, surrounded by people who didn’t understand, but I didn’t want to stay here, either, in this hollow forest that was too quiet. I didn’t really want to be anywhere right now–I just wanted to stop, to curl up and sleep, and wake up when the world had righted itself and I felt like I could be a part of it again.

I can’t.

The thought was terrifying and I felt a momentary breath-stealing flash of panic. I wanted to pull Faith to a halt, to stop her moving forwards because I couldn’t. I couldn’t fight the bearskins. I couldn’t overcome my anger. I couldn’t get my magic back. I just couldn’t deal with everything right now. All I wanted to do was cry, but I couldn’t let myself do that either. If I cried, people would see. They’d see me as weak.

But I was weak, wasn’t I?

As Faith brought me closer and closer to the camp, closer to a battle I couldn’t fight, to people I couldn’t face, to a world I couldn’t handle, I felt my panic grow.

What was I getting myself into?

***

More LotSF, finally. I take a very long time to update, don’t I?

Ergh.

I have not had a good couple days. Frustrating stuff has happened, and though some of it is my fault and some of it isn’t, I’m in that state of mind where I assign all the blame to myself. I know that isn’t true, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve done everything wrong.

I don’t mean to write LotSF only when I’m upset, but that seems more often than not to be the case. I guess that’s good, in a way… I mean, this is supposed to be a personal journey.

I can’t.

I felt that more back when I was sick, but I’m still feeling it a little bit right now. I can’t handle everything on my plate right now. I can’t live up to the expectations I’ve given myself and others have given me. I can’t do everything I want to, everything I need to, so why even bother?

Hm. Life is presently kind of sucky, but this is when I need my Faith. I will be okay. I can do it, whether or not I necessarily want to do what it takes. I’ll be fine.

How are you?

May you approach every challenge riding on the back of faith.

-Alex

Flowers Under Bridges

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Did you ever drop leaves or flowers into a creek when you were a kid so that you could watch them float underneath a bridge? I used to do it all the time, but it’s something I’d neither done nor thought about until just recently.

The other day, my mom and I went for a nature walk along the river. We found bright yellow flowers and we each sent one floating down the river with a wish. I sent mine out straight from the riverbank, but my mom wanted to set hers adrift underneath a bridge so she could watch it come out the other side. That got us talking about the good old days, when flowers and bridges could keep my sister or me entertained for hours, and I thought at the moment that it seemed like a pretty funny thing to create such fascination.

But I thought about it some more and realized that maybe it isn’t so funny after all–in fact, it makes a lot of sense.

If you think about the basic design of a story, there’s always some sort of conflict. The adventure takes a turn for the worst, the villain gets the upper hand, and the hero has to work twice as hard to save the day. Every story is like this–we wouldn’t bother with them if there wasn’t any excitement or suspense.

The fact is, we like to watch our heroes be sent into struggle.

We like shoving them into darkness and chaos, confusion and doubt, fear and uncertainty, danger and conflict. We like to send them under the bridge, where we can’t tell what’s going to happen. We don’t know what’s waiting below, or how strong it is, and it can be doubtful as to whether or not the hero is actually going to make it out alive. We like these moments of darkness because we know that there’s no better feeling than seeing the deserving hero come out the other side.

The hero is our flower. We send the flower under the bridge where we lose sight of it. We don’t know what’s under there, or if the flower can make it out the other side. But we pin our hopes on the little plant. We stand there, looking expectantly at the water, rooting for that flower to make it all the way. We want so desperately for it to succeed, to withstand the daunting challenge we put before it, so that we know our hope and faith aren’t misplaced. We want to know that this precious beacon that we believe in is going to come through for us. We dread the feelings of disappointment and emptiness that come if it doesn’t show up.

The flower is our hero, our hopes and dreams, our desperation to know that there’s something in the world that will come through for us and won’t let us down. So while it seemed silly to me that watching a flower come under a bridge could captivate a child for so long, I realize now that it might actually be a need for a hero that creates the fascination.

Everyone needs a hero. Sometimes you just have to look at the little things to be able to find them.

What wish would you send afloat with a flower?

May your flowers always survive the darkness of the bridge and come through to the other side.

-Alex

More Than Just A Sandwich

When you search for the word “hero” on dictionary.com, you get this general definition:

He-ro / n: a person with distinguished courage and ability; someone admired for heroic qualities or deeds; a being with godlike prowess, sometimes honoured as divinity; or a hero sandwich.

That’s an incredibly vague definition, and it really doesn’t bring to mind any of the heroes I admire. To be honest, the definition kind of sounds like ingredients for a sandwich–as if courage, good deeds, and godlike prowess are all you need to make a good hero.

Heroes are, of course, a heck of a lot more than this. And every hero is different. They come in different shapes and sizes, with hugely varying personalities, techniques, and ingredients. Some heroes are simple, the everyday heroes who return lost money and give out free flowers. Then there are heroes like firemen and doctors, saving lives everyday; heroes who change the world and society; heroes who sacrifice themselves for a cause–and then there are the heroes we read about, write about, or watch on TV. There are so many different levels of heroism, it’s impossible to label just three ingredients that apply to them all.

In the spirit of the sandwich, here are some more ingredients that I think are important for making a hero. Just like sandwiches, the ingredients can be combined in any variation, and sometimes ingredients are left out or added. So consider this a condensed menu of heroic qualities, and see what some of your favourite “hero sandwiches” include.

  • Strength: strength of all sorts. Physical, spiritual, or mental strength. Sometimes their strength is in their conviction or faith, or maybe its their strength of love. Strength comes in all different types and can apply to all different qualities, but is a defining trait in many of the heroes who bear great responsibility.
  • Courage and Bravery: fearlessness, boldness, daring. This allows a hero to stand up to impossible odds and terrifying obstacles. It can be a matter of protecting something they love, or just doing what they know must be done. Courage and bravery wash away a hero’s fear.
  • Compassion: a love for those who are weaker or in need, and a desire to help. Compassion helps a hero to sympathize with others, gives them a reason to fight, and keeps their hearts pure and good. Compassion is also the link that binds a hero to the people he or she loves.
  • Faith: a belief in something that isn’t easily understood. Whether it’s a belief in magic, religion, or their own capabilities, faith helps heroes move through times of darkness and hold onto hope. It can be the shining light of optimism that brings a hero out of despair.
  • Endurance: the ability to persevere through difficult situations without losing hope or strength. Sometimes, there are circumstances that heroes can’t avoid. They are forced into painful situations and lengthy periods of trial, and without endurance, a hero’s defences can crumble.
  • Suffering: some sort of pain that sharpens a hero’s desire to reach his or her goals. I don’t like to see my heroes suffer, not really, but I like to know that they have felt pain. I like to be connected to them in the shared human experience of sorrow and injury, and I like to know that they are trying to eliminate the pain by achieving their goals. Not every hero needs to suffer, but many are made stronger for it.
  • Humility: acknowledgement of their humanity and mortality. Heroes may be stronger, braver, or fiercer, but they aren’t necessarily more invincible than any of the rest of us. They started the same way, born vulnerable and innocent, and in their flesh are undeniably connected to those less heroic. Not all heroes are the same as us, but all heroes can have a sense of humility.
  • Fear: a feeling of helplessness or anxiety. I feel that heroes who have fears and anxieties like most people are not only more realistic, but sometimes stronger than a hero who is entirely fearless. Whether heroes are able to overcome their fears or are defeated by them, there is strength in being able to fight them and continue on, no matter how scared they are.
  • Failure: an inability to succeed, whether because of overwhelming odds or a personal mistake. I don’t like the heroes who succeed every time as much as I like the heroes who occasionally fall down, who slip up, and who have to struggle to win. Sometimes a hero needs a chance to fight for what they believe in, and that’s impossible when everything in handed to them on a plate.

Everyone has different preferences. I don’t like olives on my sandwich, but maybe you do. So while I like a hero who suffers, maybe you don’t like to see a hero in pain. That’s okay. Whatever combination you like and however many ingredients you like, there has to be balance. A hero who has too much strength can become a monster, and a hero with too many failures can snap under the weight of despair. The exact same way that too much pepper makes you sneeze or too many onions makes your breath smell for the rest of the day. Everything in moderation.

So even though heroes are more remarkable than a simple sandwich, they’re like sandwiches in the sense that there’s a lot that goes into them. It’s what makes them unique.

What sorts of ingredients do you like in your hero sandwich?

May your hero sandwich be perfectly tailored to suit your own unique tastes.

-Alex

Tabby Travels

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Oh man.

I feel like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth. These past two weeks, my life has been pretty far from normal. It actually all started the very same night I posted about my headache

My writing buddy kitty cat Smokey is strictly an indoor cat. Yeah, she makes a few forays into the backyard to tiptoe through the grass and check out the mysterious space under the deck, but she’s never been farther than that, and never without supervision. So when we couldn’t find her anywhere in the house Tuesday night, it was a shock. We searched all around the yard, under the deck, in bushes, and up and down the street, calling and calling. At first, I was comforted by the fact that she wouldn’t have gone far. She’s never gone far before. But the longer we searched, the more I realized she actually had gone far. We couldn’t find her anywhere, and so were forced to leave her outside for the night.

I struggled with that. It was unlike her to wander away and not come back right away. She had never before shown any interest in exploring the outdoors, and I was scared that, having no experience, she would get hurt, lost, or be too afraid to make her way home. I couldn’t sleep that night, listening to the rain against my window and knowing that she was out there getting wet. I clung to the hope that she would be on the doorstep in the morning. She had to be, I thought. I didn’t know what I’d do if she wasn’t.

She wasn’t.

The next day was hard for me to get through. My headache was at the point where every step hurt my head, I just wanted to cry, I didn’t want to talk to people–I didn’t want to do anything but look for my cat. There had never been a time in my life when she wasn’t at home. We grew up together. When I sit down, she’s on my lap. When I’m writing, she’s there to help. When I’m not up before 9:00 on the weekends, she’s there meowing at my door to get me up. Even while I’m doing things around the house, I’ll talk to her while I walk past, or stop to pet her, or ask her what she thinks of something. I realized when she wasn’t there that without her, I feel kind of lost.

We kept searching as the days went by, roaming the streets, banging on tuna cans, and putting up posters and ads. Being in my house was hard. I felt her absence wherever I went, but I felt it even more sharply when I saw the abandoned catnip toy and the empty patch of sun. The fact that the rest of my family was feeling the same way didn’t help, either. At one point, a neighbour a couple streets down called saying she’d twice seen a cat on her deck early in the morning. I was certain it would be her, but when we went to check, there was nothing there.

One night before bed, as I wondered where my kitty was, I had the thought that she was out there for a reason of her own. I was willing to believe that she had gone so far without coming back because there was something she wanted to do. I didn’t know what it was, but I trusted her. She would take care of herself and come back home if she could and when she was ready. After all, I thought, she’s a cat. Most cats are smarter than people.

After that, I was better. Not great, but better. I tried to be patient, tried to keep my faith, and then on Monday on my way home on the bus, I got the best text I’ve ever received. My cat was home.

Someone had brought her into the pound and my mom went to pick her up while I was still on the bus, meaning that she was waiting for me when I got home. I gave her a huge hug and we bathed her, even though she didn’t look any worse for wear than when she’d left the house. She was a bit thinner, with some dirt on her paws, but she looked just the same–and happy, too. My mom said she’d been completely calm at the pound, not even being overly friendly until they were home. And once she was back safe, life seemed to continue without skipping a beat.

As she jumped up on my lap a few hours after her bath, acting as if nothing had happened and settling down in her usual spot, I stroked her and wondered. She was being a bit more affectionate than usual, and her legs were shaking, but I couldn’t tell if the shaking was from excitement or from fatigue. Either way, I thought that she didn’t seem particularly panicked about her long adventure–six days out on her own, enduring plenty of rain and who knows what sorts of wildlife. I had no idea what she ate or drank, but she seemed to have taken care of herself pretty well. It makes me believe even more that she went out with a purpose.

I wish I could ask her what she was doing. And I wish she could have told me she was leaving but she would be back. I have a feeling that if I asked her why she didn’t tell me, she’d say that I wouldn’t have let her go. I think she’s right.

And honestly, can I blame her for wanting an adventure? I know what it’s like to want to get out and explore, so I can see why she would, too. I’m just glad she’s home safe, and I think she’s pretty happy to be back as well.

Anyways, since then, I’ve been playing catch-up with just about everything–writing (I can’t believe I went for almost six days without writing), blogging, cleaning, and getting back into my usual routine. I’ll be back to regular posting now that school’s done and my kitty’s safe. It feels good to be back.

What did I miss?

May you trust those you love to take care of themselves when they need just a bit of adventure.

-Alex

Trade You For A Smile

Easter is later today (being half past midnight) and that means painted eggs, chocolate and jelly beans, and the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny has a lot of different faces. Some people think he’s a big pink rabbit that can stand on two legs, others think he’s small and white and carries a basket of eggs–and then there’s Bunnymund from the movie Rise of the Guardians. No matter the appearance, he serves the same purpose: delivering gifts and chocolates to children around the world.

The Easter Bunny never misses a house. He carries his gifts with him everywhere he goes, all across the world, knocking on doors and windows. It doesn’t matter who lives in the house. Children, teenagers, adults, elders; family, couple, or single–he will always come knocking.

It just depends if you let him in.

He isn’t disruptive. He won’t wake your children, and he won’t mess up any of the furniture. He doesn’t ask for food or drink, doesn’t need to use the washroom, and doesn’t track mud down the halls. In fact, he won’t say a word while he’s there. He just hops in, quiet and respectful, and leaves bright-coloured eggs, some goodies, and maybe a small gift or two. He takes special care of children, because he knows how much they love him, but he always has a gift for the older crowd, too. He loves to give, and doesn’t ask for very much in return, but there is one thing he requests: a smile.

Just one smile, if you can spare it. It doesn’t have to be big, you don’t have to show your teeth, but even the smallest half-grin will do. He knows that the smile is the seed, which will grow and blossom until it fills you head to toe.

The Easter Bunny’s true goal, the very reason for all his giving, is just to make you happy. If only for one day, or five minutes, or just a split second, he can make you a little happier than usual, he’s done his job.

And, secretly, deep down inside, he hopes that you’ll also say thank you.

It doesn’t matter what you’re thankful for. Family, nature, springtime, good health, chocolate–anything that makes you happy, that makes you smile, that makes you laugh and sing and dance. If you can spare just one smile, and just one quiet thank you, well, you’ve made the Easter Bunny a pretty happy guy.

Because that’s all that’s in his basket–not eggs, not jelly beans, not chocolate–just happiness.

***

The Easter Bunny gave me an early gift this year. He gave me the chocolate nests in the picture above, which I worked on with my mom. He gave me an evening and an afternoon with family, with good food, good people, and good memories. He’s already given me smiles and laughter, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll give me later today. I can’t remember ever being this excited for Easter–not even when I was a kid.

Thank you, Easter Bunny, for everything.

What has the Easter Bunny given you this year?

May you always let the Easter Bunny in, and find the time to smile. :)

-Alex