Exploring Different Points of View (Or, Riding Along with an April Witch)

When I was growing up, in the now-vintage years of the 1980s, I used to like to pretend.  I pretended I was an explorer, navigating the river basins and leafy pathways of tropical rain forests.  I pretended I was an astronaut, drifting through the black depths of space, my rocket ship on auto-cruise as I sat back, sipped hot chocolate from a Styrofoam cup, and read back issues of The Fantastic Four (remember, I was ten years old when I was visualizing all this!)  I pretended I was surveying the uncharted regions of the ocean floor in a deep-sea submarine, discovering new species of aquatic flora and fauna.

ff74

 

But most of all, I play-acted.  I would invent games, scenarios, sporting events where players–actual and imaginary–squared off in a battle for the ages.  Sometimes I’d be by myself in the basement or backyard, offering a complete play-by-play of the action.  I’d “play” nine innings of baseball, running through the lineups, making managerial decisions and switching pitchers when the situation dictated, impersonating every batter on both teams.  Sometimes I’d recruit my friends–the same ones who served as the inspiration for the protagonists in The Eye-Dancers–and together we’d shoot baskets or throw around the football, each of us in our world of make-believe and magic.

magic

 

As I grew older, went to high school and then college, little changed in this regard.  I’d still pretend as often as I could.  I would tell people that I never grew bored.  How could I when I was always a mere thought away from a home run in Yankee Stadium or a forehand winner up the line at Wimbledon, or a lively give-and-take in an embassy in Paris or Tokyo or Prague?  Sure, much of the time, my focus was on the here and now–homework, family matters, friends, career paths.  But when I had a moment, when I could break away from the grind, those were the times I let my mind roam and wander where it willed . . .

pathswanderingwherewill

 

*****************

In a short story from 1952 titled “The April Witch,” Ray Bradbury writes about a seventeen-year-old girl named Cecy who possesses the extraordinary ability of entering into other beings and experiencing the world through their eyes, their senses.

aprilwitch

 

The opening paragraph of “The April Witch” makes this crystal clear:

“Into the air, over the valleys, under the stars, above a river, a pond, a road, flew Cecy.  Invisible as new spring winds, fresh as the breath of clover rising from twilight fields, she flew.  She soared in doves as soft as white ermine, stopped in trees and lived in blossoms, showering away in petals when the breeze blew.  She perched in a lime-green frog, cool as mint by a shining pool.  She trotted in a brambly dog and barked to hear echoes from the sides of distant barns.  She lived in new April grasses, in sweet clear liquids rising from the musky earth.”

greenfrog

 

But more than anything, Cecy wants to experience love, feel love, something her parents have warned her about.  “Remember,” they say.  “You’re remarkable.  Our whole family is odd and remarkable.  We can’t mix or marry with ordinary folk.  We’d lose our magical powers if we did.”

losemagicpowers

 

So, unable to pursue a real relationship in her own form, Cecy inhabits the person of a young woman named Ann Leary, who she then coaxes, through her supernatural abilities, to attend a dance.  In this way, vicariously, Cecy experiences her first kiss, her first date, her first, soft taste of romance.

***************

Cecy’s story hits home for me on a number of levels.  First, of course, she is able to do, quite literally, what I could only pretend to do as a boy growing up with an overactive imagination.  In her case, she wouldn’t need to wonder what it would be like to serve an ace at Wimbledon.  She could inhabit the body of the player who produces the shot, feeling it for herself.  My initial reaction to this might be envy–what a gift that would be.  If we possessed such a power, we could experience anything we wanted, any notion that took root, any desire that compelled us to dream and imagine and aspire to something that, otherwise, would be perpetually and irrevocably out of reach.

couldhavedreamandimagineanything

 

But then I consider it again.

We do have such an ability.  We can experience whatever we want.  We can drive a race car at 200 miles per hour.  We can climb Everest.  We can journey through the eyes of a mysterious “ghost girl” and come out on the other side, in a parallel universe.

everest

eyedancers

 

We can dance across the canvas of the sky, using the stars themselves as our springboards.

stars

 

Anytime we write a story, anytime we read a story, we are seeing the world through the eyes of someone else, living as vicariously through them as Cecy herself does as she enters the bodies of frogs and crickets, flower blossoms, or young women out for a night on the town.  The possibilities are endless, limited only by the scope of our imagination and the roads we choose either to walk along or bypass.

flowerblossoms

 

With The Eye-Dancers, for example, I was able to inhabit the consciousness, the points of view, of four distinct and different characters.  In short stories I have written, I’ve seen the world through the eyes of a small-town shop owner dealing with a declining profit margin and an odd customer who won’t leave him alone; a man haunted by a recurring dream of falling to his death from a high-rise; a clown in a traveling circus who discovers something horrific in one of the towns his troupe stops in; a husband coming to terms with the accident that has crippled his wife; a thirteen-year-old experiencing the moment when he knows, unequivocally, that he is no longer a child; a patron at a Chinese restaurant who reads a haunting, ominous message in his fortune cookie and then must struggle to overcome a long-held fear.

fortunecookie

 

Sometimes, as a writer of stories, as a creator of characters, I feel like a patient with multiple personality disorder engaged in a form of therapy, as effective as it is magical.  It’s no different, really, from my flights of fancy in years gone by–it is no more, and no less, than the written manifestation of them.

We all write, read, watch, partake.  We all dream, imagine, and long for something better, something more.  We are all, each in our own way, riding high, aloft on the currents of the wind alongside Ray Bradbury’s April Witch.

ridingthewind

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. BroadBlogs
    Apr 10, 2015 @ 18:13:01

    I have often wanted to live, for short periods of time, in the experience of others. So glad you pointed out the opportunity that was right in front of me: that I can do that through literature.

    Reply

  2. Christine Sun
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 02:14:34

    Nice article. Thank you. Can I suggest that as writers, what we are doing is not exactly to experience what other people have felt and done, but to imitate it. We are trying to re-create their experiences and to make it as realistic to the readers — and to ourselves as well — as possible. It is like the Turing Test, or I should say the “Imitation Game”. Once the readers cannot tell which experience is real and which is made up, then we can say we are successful as writers.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 13, 2015 @ 18:38:22

      That’s a great point, and you are absolutely right about the blurring of reality! In fact, one of the best compliments any writer can hear is that his or her words moved a reader to tears or laughter–as if they were really experiencing the events right alongside the characters in the story.

      Reply

  3. hbhatnagar
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 09:12:40

    The power of imagination… It served me well growing up too. You brought back some lovely memories. Thank you. 🙂

    Reply

  4. evelyneholingue
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 16:17:09

    You aren’t too vintage yet, Mike! Pretending is different from wanting to be someone else. Fiction allows us this great possibility. Either reading or writing fiction. I also like that a lot, Mike, and I think it opens our imaginations and help us to create better characters. See you!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 13, 2015 @ 18:40:38

      Thanks so much, Evelyne! That is one of the wonders of literature, isn’t it? We can experience things on a very real level even if we haven’t actually experienced them in “real” life! (Whatever that means.:) Always great to hear from you!

      Reply

  5. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 18:11:03

    Just what I needed to hear this morning, Mike! I need to step into my characters shoes more often…write from the inside out, rather than the other way around. Ahhhh, another level to crafting the magic…many thanks!!!

    Reply

  6. Sonya Solomonovich
    Apr 12, 2015 @ 00:18:45

    I remember that story, and I totally loved it. It was so magical, the atmosphere that Bradbury created. It actually inspired a story I wrote when I was in high school about a young witch.

    Reply

  7. eemoxam
    Apr 12, 2015 @ 12:01:27

    Great post, and I’ve never read that story! I certainly will now.

    Reply

  8. jjspina
    Apr 12, 2015 @ 20:43:44

    Fascinating post and story! If only we could live like Cecy through others to experience things for the first time. Nice job as always writing gripping posts, Mike! Best wishes!

    Reply

  9. Aquileana
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 22:11:36

    A very well penned post… I love the way you unravel different perspectives and their further possibilities over here… All the best to you. Aquileana ⭐

    Reply

  10. laura kilty
    Apr 14, 2015 @ 22:59:27

    Beautiful post- will have to read The April Witch now. “We can dance across the canvas of the sky, using the stars themselves as our springboards.” What a sentence! Thank you for the wonderful inspiration.

    Reply

  11. theywalkthenight
    Apr 15, 2015 @ 21:23:30

    Your pieces always hit home for me, I’ve had my moments of trying to figure out my characters and getting feelings of what it might be like to have a multiple personality disorder…but like you mentioned it’s all in the experience, and we have many to share in our stories. Thanks Mike!

    Reply

  12. kelihasablog
    Apr 17, 2015 @ 01:36:09

    Great post Michael 😀

    Reply

  13. isabelburt
    Apr 21, 2015 @ 13:27:24

    So today I would like to be… 🙂 Simply thoughtful post, as ever, Michael. Thank you!

    Reply

  14. Sheryl Wright Stinchcum
    May 06, 2015 @ 17:12:22

    There’s no limit to your imagination, Michael. Well done.

    Reply

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