The Cup We Thirst For

It is for living we are born
for tasting life, for drinking it down
in sips or gulps, to drink it all,
bitter or sweet, not
to turn the cup away, to keep it
safe and full, untouched.
This is the cup we thirst for,
that the dead yearn for.
It does no good to let it spoil.
Drink! Drink it down to the dregs
and ask for more!
No wine is sweeter, no water
can better quench your thirst.


Stories are the deep tap root of my life.

I read fairy tales as soon as I could read, inspired by a beautifully illustrated volume my grandmother gave me for Christmas along with an illustrated book of Bible stories. I quickly discovered there were more stories at the library and worked my way through Grimm, Anderson, Perrault, and the many-colored Lang volumes. When I asked for more, the librarians pointed me toward the mythology section, and I fell in love with Artemis and Athena. (Hercules was a right bore and the cover of the Norse myths volume had a picture of Odhinn that gave me nightmares. Besides, I wanted stories with girls, like me, not more tedious boys.)

I didn’t just read these stories, I lived them, I believed them. I expected every doorway might lead to somewhere other than where it seemed, that the right wardrobe might be a gateway to adventure, that every stranger was probably a fairy or god in disguise, waiting for the right traveler to pass their test and start the story on its way. I believed there were dryads in the trees and nymphs in the rivers and that if one were very quiet and very wakeful, they could be seen dancing in the moonlight after all the noisy adults went to bed, finally. I believed that courage in the face of adversity, kindness to those who seemed in need of it, and respect to those you met were the center of a good life.

I suppose I never stopped looking for that magic door until I realized that no magic door was needed. This world is both more wonderful and more terrible than m child self imagined, and the stories are real. I found my fairy prince, even if some days we both still suffer from the aftereffects of disenchantment. I have learned to fly with crows and to step through the doors in trees and to dance with a god of storms whose books were never on the shelves of our small county library.

Or maybe it is that I had not realized it, but I stepped through that magic door years ago,  the moment I dared to hope the stories were real, the moment I opened my heart to a world where courage and kindness and respect were the center of a good life.

What are we, after all, but the sum of the stories we tell?