Now, what SHOULD we do?
Well . . .
What would YOU do
If your mother asked YOU?
from The Cat in the Hat
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1957
I can do anything with a big ball of string!
from A Big Ball of String
written and illustrated by Marion Holland
Beginner Books/Random House, 1958
…Come, Boy, sit down.
Sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.
from The Giving Tree
written and illustrated by Shel Silverstein
“Little girl, I curse you with my family’s curse! You will never be happy again!”
it turned out she was.
from Extra Yarn
written by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Joh Klassen
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins Publishers, 2012
Now Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself.
And so did everyone else.
from Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
written and illustrated by Peter Brown
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Time to cut yourself a slice. It’s going to be tough to choose, but don’t worry about getting the perfect one. Every slice of the universe is the best slice.
How could it not be? It’s ours.
from How to Bake a Universe
written by Alec Carvlin
illustrated by Brian Biggs
Norton Young Readers, 2022
And so at the end of the calendar, I begin with endings. Since I have so many favorite picture books, I pulled several from my bookshelf, well all but one, anyway. I’ll leave it for you to guess which one* is from my local library.
Besides their variations on a happy ending, even Mac Barnett’s Extra Yarn, they all end with a nod to the future.
Dr. Seuss left his readers with a literal question. One that started a controversy about parental authority (in my day) and racism today. For the record, the book encourages children to think about their actions and what kinds of behaviors are acceptable. Also, it is not racist, at least not intentionally. People make meaning from what they read and experience. That is perception. It is not Truth.
What new inventions will the exuberant narrator find for a big ball of string?
We’re left wondering about Shel Silverstein’s Tree. Was she really happy?
Will Annabelle keep knitting until the whole town is snug and warm? Then maybe her country and maybe the world? The universe?
What will Mr. Tiger’s and his friends’ freedom look like?
How will we treat our wonderful universe?
So, is every ending the chance for a new and different beginning? By the end of a successful story (novel, play, movie, or even a well-written biography) the main character has discovered how to navigate this wild, unpredictable world and has gained a new perspective. That is not to say that every story has a happy ending. Far from it. Sometimes resignation can turn into acceptance: how things are, how they’ve turned out. Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman is one example. There are many others. But even that is not all. It’s up to us, the readers, the imaginers, the planners, the do-ers to continue our stories. To discover the real, the possible.
Several years ago, an insightful and wise rabbi gave a sermon that connected what our text of the week was with what was going on in our world. I don’t remember how long ago I heard it or even the “current event” he referenced, but the image he drew for us was not the circle of life that Simba in The Lion King made so famous, but a cyclical life as a spiral. What if we travel, instead of around and around on a flat plane, we also travel higher and higher in a spiral? We will return to each point on our spiral-shaped cycle on a different level, with a different perspective.
Even when our journeys send us traveling lower and lower like Willy Loman, or even on a combination of highs and lows like an emotional roller-coaster, our cyclical, spiral journey implies no beginning, no end, just change.
And in the end, change is all there is.
—be curious! (and gain a new perspective)
FB: Closing the door on 2022 feels pretty good in many ways. No crystal balls here, but a peek into 2023 feels pretty good, too.