Thursday, April 27, 2006

I can't lay eggs...

Charis’ Ugly Duckling picture book differs from the original version. Not only are her illustrations in color, the original includes an episode I haven’t read to my daughter at her evening bedside. Hans Christian Andersen describes a scene in which the late-hatching “duck,” after running away from teasing brothers and sisters, after escaping hunters and their dogs, now seeks shelter from a storm in a ramshackle cottage occupied by a tom cat, a hen, and a blind old woman.

The duck assumes a place at the bottom of the house’s self-absorbed society. The tom cat is master of the house because he can purr, arch his back, and throw off sparks if his fur is rubbed in the wrong direction. The hen who can cluck and lay eggs is mistress of the house. The duck, unable to do any of these things, is again mocked and ridiculed, especially when he tries to strike up conversation.

“If you can’t lay eggs, have the goodness not to speak,” says the hen.

“If you can’t raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks, then you have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are speaking,” says the cat.

So the duckling sat in a corner, feeling very low spirited, till the sunshine and the fresh air came into the room through the open door, and then he began to feel such a great longing for a swim on the water, that he could not help telling the hen.

“What an absurd idea,” said the hen. “Ask the cat, he is the cleverest animal I know, ask him how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive under it. Don’t imagine such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune that you have been received here. Are you not in a warm room, and in society from which you may learn something? But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs, and learn to purr as quickly as possible.”

“I believe I must go out into the world again,” said the duckling. So he left the cottage, and soon found water on which it could swim and dive…

The story continues as the duckling survives the first miserable year of his life and discovers in the new spring that he is one of the beautiful swans he has admired from afar.

This episode of the fairy tale intrigues me. We are each gifted in unique ways to make our world a better place. We each have talents and skills and abilities and passions that are different from everyone around us. Just because we can’t lay eggs doesn’t mean we have nothing to contribute to society. Our world needs warriors and peacemakers, we need flyers and finance folk, we need experience as well as new insight.

I am in the midst of a lot of transition in my life right now (new child, new job, buying a new house). In trying to maintain an even keel, I hear again and again a question my coach asked me recently: “What gives you energy?” The transitions themselves don’t necessarily produce energy, but the opportunity to swim and dive among all this newness gives me great energy.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

i went to "war" last week...