I’ve been reading back over Mariel of Redwall lately. I saw it on my bookshelf the other night, and a Something that is partly a ghost from my childhood, partly just my love of mice and sword-fighting and abbeys, and partly the fairies that come when it rains you to sleep called out to me; and I got out of bed like someone in a dream, or a cartoon that smells something heavenly cooling on a windowsill somewhere- that’s what it felt like, like I was floating through the air by my nose, airborne with the sheer desire for the thing I was floating toward. It’s actually interesting that I should use that analogy, because the first thing I did when I snuggled back under the covers with it was to open it up and just smell it. It’s funny, but as I did it I thought for a split second, why on earth am I doing this? It was a strange, uncontrollable urge that came to me from that unidentifiable Something, the same Something that made me pick up the book in the first place. I think I know what, or rather who, that Something is.
There’s a part of the child in me that seems to be very much dead, you see. I have always had a problem with nostalgia- ever since, I think, I’ve had anything to look back on and miss. The prospect of growing up and becoming one of those tall people all around me who seem to be so very sad, who seem to be so very… wrong- in every sense of the word- terrifies me. And I have fought valiantly, all my life, to stave off the beasts that try to drag me up into their world. And as I’ve fought, I have learned to laugh in their faces, to be less afraid; to ignore the scratches that bleed through, to believe that I was winning, that they couldn’t win. But even as I’ve fought, I’ve been slipping, unconsciously, into the snare they’ve set for me. They’ve taken part of the child in me prisoner, and I fear I shall never see her again. But if I do, It will be because I will get her back with my foil- this I will get to shortly. She is my faith in goodness. Well, not exactly goodness itself, but the fact that it must win in the end. In real life. I believe in God, and that he is good, and that he can help anyone, in any circumstance, no matter who’s up against them. I just don’t believe so firmly anymore that he will. I don’t say this to make anyone feel sorry for me, or try to make me feel better, or to tell me, once again, to believe in happy endings. I don’t need that. I’m happy enough most of the time- for the Circumstances, which I must acknowledge, but about which I will not write on the Internet. I will leave those who do read this to ponder over the mystery, and perhaps, some day, I will tell them all about it (maybe).
Back to Mariel. Mariel and the other Redwallers were there every day I stayed home from school sick, every time I ran into my room and slammed the door in a fit of pre-teen angst and cried over the pages of a book, every time I just felt like treating myself to a cozy afternoon alone, and every time, they hugged me, welcomed me, loved me. I read that book at least seven times over the course of first and second grade. (Is is creepy that my first literary crush was on Saxtus -a pre-pubescent mouse- and a monk, no less?) I am, and hope always to be, a creature of Redwall. I am a creature of Redwall because I need to be part of something bigger than myself, part of a home. I am blessed to have grown up with my mum and Mitty. They are the best family a girl could ask for, and I miss them dearly. But a home is different. A home is a community, a family made up of little families, a family of friends. That is what I have found in Redwall and in fencing, and I thank God for giving it to me. Today (while I was reading Mariel of Redwall in Algebra, which always feels a little rude, but I have to sit there for ninety minutes and all she checks is the homework and I finish that in the first fifteen minutes so I’m jolly well not just going to listen to her explain to us how to do it when I can have and A in the class and do absolutely nothing but Spanish homework and pleasure reading in it, am I now?), I came across Brother Simeon’s defiant words to Graypatch:
“‘Alas, I will never see anything for I am blind; but I can sense a lot. I can feel that you are both evil and desperate. They say you have only one eye. I am surprised at you- even a fool with half an eye could see that you will never triumph against good if you are evil.'”
My foil will win back my faith in the triumph of good over evil because of why I love fencing, because of why I am a creature of Redwall. Fencing is a realization of what I could only read about, what I could only pretend to have in Redwall Abbey. When I walk into the gym, I feel hugged, welcomed, loved. I am in the midst of such a warm community of good creatures, and I love them all. And we are fighting our demons. We must be alone on the strip, but we are really all fighting the same thing. A fencer’s eyes see clearly. They see good and evil. And they glow with the “battle-light”, the same light that shone in Joan’s and Mariel’s and Saxtus’ and Dandin’s and Lucy Pevinsie’s eyes. A fencer wields a foil. I call it a foil not to exclude the other weapons but because that’s what it is. It is a tool to foil the evil with. And whatever I don’t believe, I believe that my foil will win. Otherwise it wouldn’t be called a foil.
Maybe that part of the child in me is much closer than I thought, after all.