As I may have mentioned once or twice, spring has been springing her for quite some time now and I'm loving it.
No matter how often I see the flower shoots coming up in late December, no matter how often we're surrounded by blooms here while my eastern friends are digging themselves out of blizzards, our early spring never stops feeling magical to me.
And this year, to add to the charm and magic, I'm in a new home and have a yard for the first time in... forever. I have no knowledge of what the previous tenants planted so each growth that springs forth from the earth or blooms out of what looked like a weed is both a mystery and a surprise to me.
|Dress: Soprano ; Tights: Reitman's; Boots: Ecco; Cape: a gift; Earrings, and necklace: vintage; Right hand diamond ring: Birks; Diamond solitaire: heirloom; Barrettes: Stylize|
(In putting this post together, I tried my best to find the names of all the artists I used but I wasn't always successful. I should say also that not all of the images here come from the period I'm discussing, but they do presage or echo that period and, thus, I chose to use them. If you can give me dates and artists' names where I haven't done so or where I've made a mistake, please do.)
Unlike the real women of the day, in their corsets and fussy outfits, these women were natural and free, dressed in vaguely Grecian gowns, often in forests, and always surrounded by or even wearing flowers. They weren't just in nature, they were a part of it.
They were desired, mysterious, lovely, and often associated with the ancient and the magical.
|By Florence Harrison|
|By Edward Robert Robert Hughs|
|By Warwick Goble|
In the late 19th and early 20th century, they were something of a pin-up girl.
And, as with the idealized images of women in magazines today, her look was impossible to achieve in real life...
... though there were certainly women who tried, just as women try to achieve physical "perfection" and whatever version of beauty is trendy today.
|By Michael Frederick Howard|
You remember Titania, right? She's the queen of fairies who, through an enchantment, is tricked into loving an ass, a foolish man with a donkey's head. It's funny and it's fun but I can't help but think that it's also payback for the power she wields both in the world of magic and in the world of men.
When I was looking for images of her online, I found mostly images of her asleep, being enchanted, or being made a fool as she fawns over her beloved donkey man.
I found very few images of her in her full power...
|By Arthur Rackham|
|Note the few streaks of grey.|
Her power was frightening. What chaos would she bring?
Her mystery made one uncomfortable. What did she know? What would she hide? What would she reveal?
|By John Gilbert|
But, really, what do the the three witches do wrong? They simply tell the truth in such a way that a power hungry, murderous couple misunderstand them and start what is to become a bloodbath of, yes, epic proportions.
Old legends, epics, and fairy tales repeatedly give the same message: Watch out for those older women of magic and nature, all swathed in cloaks and mystery.
I was born in 1970. At forty-three, I would very much qualify as one of those frightening and vile hags of lore.
What powers might I have?
What nefarious deeds might I inflict on the world?
Who knows what older, nature women are up to? They just have too damned much power...
... with their magic and potions and crystal balls and magic wands.
|By F. Juttner|
Indeed, the girl she hates may well be a younger version of herself: the beautiful woman of nature so idealized in art. This younger woman whom she persecutes is, in essence, her replacement.
Think of Snow White.
|By Arthur Rackham|
|By John Everett Millais.|
There are, of course, some exceptions. Think of Ozma in The Wizard of Oz book series -- though, when you think about it, she's really not that old and the youth whom she treats so well is too young to be a real threat.
After all, it's also in the Wizard of Oz books that we find one of the most horrifying and literal versions of this witchy woman in the person of Lady Langwidere. She literally steals the heads of beautiful women so she can change heads each day the way she changes outfits.
Would she want to try my head on for size?
I'm too old.
So let us return to that poor, banished, younger innocent. No matter how entrapped she is, her sweetness and her rapport with nature bring her comfort. Cinderella finds it with the birds, whose freedom she craves.
|By Anna Brix Thompson|
So does Mary in A Secret Garden.
|By Emma Lazauski.|
And that place is generally a place of magic...
... or nature, or both.
When I was a little child, cruelly abused, I could relate to these stories. I could relate to their horror. I could relate to the loneliness of the heroines. I could relate to finding comfort in communion with nature.
Of course I wanted more.
I wanted to find a secret garden too. I wanted escape.
I wanted to discover how to grow life out of nothing.
I wanted magic.
I wanted power.