The Misplaced Egg
The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is a story about an egg misplaced. Somehow a swan’s egg gets into a duck’s nest. The story doesn’t tell us how that happens. It just begins with the odd egg being a matter of fact. A barnyard mother duck is sitting on her clutch of eggs waiting for them to hatch. Finally the little ducklings are born, all are doing well. The mother duck is upset because there is still one egg, the largest egg still to hatch. The mother isn’t sure what to do.
An old duck comes by and takes a look at the egg and declares it is a Turkey egg which she has had experience trying to hatch. She tells the mother duck about her involvement and how it turned out to be a turkey chick and how when it was time to teach the ducklings to swim the turkey chick wouldn’t get in the water. She advises the mother duck to abandon the egg but the mother duck decides to spend the extra days sitting on the egg. When the egg cracks open and out pops the creature inside she is amazed at how ugly it is. It has big feet, grey down plumage, long neck, a large beak and is twice the size of her other babies. This poor thing is pretty unappealing, perhaps it stayed in the egg to long or maybe it is a turkey. She takes her babies down to the pond and they all jump in including her ugly duckling… As it turns out the ugly baby can swim and swim better than the others… She decides it isn’t a baby turkey.
When she takes her babies to the barnyard all the other animals comment about the “odd” one. Everyone picks on and ridicules the ugly duckling until the ugly one runs away.
We all have had moments, or periods in our life when we felt like a misplaced egg … an ugly duckling that can’t purr or lay eggs. These are difficult times. We wonder who we are and where we belong. We look for our tribe, our kindred souls. It is a time when we feel alone and unsupported. If we aren’t careful we can start to hate our self or hate the others. We have no role models, no friends and no sense of our worth. Hans Christian Andersen tells of the poor baby duckling’s struggles and wanderings. At one point the baby almost freezes to death.
In the story the cygnet notices all the different animals, wonders where he might belong. When he sees the mature swans he is impressed at their beauty, skills and graceful nature. As a young one he is not old enough to join them as they migrate to their winter grounds. It isn’t until the baby finds his “people” his fellow swans that he can really see himself. When he looks at his reflection and is amazed at how he has transformed. When the children see him on the pond with the other swans and declare that he is the most beautiful of all he arches his long graceful neck and swims with pride and happiness. Like the ugly duckling all of us need to realize that are uniqueness is what makes us beautiful.
Tar baby is one of my favorite stories of all time. Decades later, “Please, please don’t throw me in the briar patch,” still makes me laugh. It’s become a stock phrase around our house. Thinking about the briar patch, I started wondering about mine. I suppose it consists of the leaves of books and thorny words and ideas supported by stout pragmatic branches; a place where I’m extremely comfortable, but many people aren’t. We all have our briar patches though, full of hidey holes and escape routes, places to take refuge in even from ourselves.
This is a story about the Trickster getting tricked! Tricksters, as the stories never hesitate to point out, are particularly susceptible to getting gulled. Br’er Rabbit is shadow boxing with the Tar Baby. Cockiness and self-righteousness have landed him in this pickle and pride gets him more deeply enmeshed by the second. Sound familiar? It does to me. The Jungians say annoyance with the character traits of someone else occurs because suddenly we find ourselves staring in a mirror and disliking what we see. The stubborn intractability of the Tar Baby is a part of Br’er Rabbit he doesn’t want to acknowledge. Being a Trickster he wants to be cool, suave and flexible, able to shuck and jive his way out of any situation with insouciant aplomb! Heaven forbid he should be seen to be stuck in his own shit, like all the other marks. But that’s exactly what happens. Nevertheless, our wily rabbit has at least one more trick up his sleeve and escapes into his first last and best defense – his childhood refuge – the place where he was “born and bred.”
This collage grew out of this picture of a tar-covered rabbit sent to me by a friend. It took me a while to track down the artist’s name. When I found Darla Jackson’s site, I fell in love/awe with her ability to render animals so faithfully. It’s obvious to me that she observes them carefully them, with deep respect and eyes of love. Isn’t it interesting how influenced we are by everything around us? Working with a picture of a sculpture, I unconsciously created a three-dimensional collage. I sliced up an old champagne cork and raided the button box to make Tar Baby’s eyes and ears. Adding a dimension to the collage made me think about layers. This story is layered in meaning – On the surface we’re shown the value and pitfalls of an elaborate social system of greet and respond that allows people to safely establish who exactly they are talking to and how far they can trust them (kinsfolk being more reliable in theory than strangers). Then there’s a lesson in the futility of emotion-based argument. At bottom we hit perennial wisdom “Know Thyself.”
In the same way I figured out what my briar patch consists of, it behooves me to ruminate a bit on the nature of my Tar Baby.
Adam & Eve The Serpent
The Serpent is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols. Its meanings are highly complex. The Serpent is a symbol of life and death, it is solar and lunar, light and darkness, good and evil, wisdom and blind passion, healing and poison, spiritual and physical rebirth. The presence of a serpent is often associated with female deities and the great mother.
In some cultures snakes are fertility symbols, and in others they symbolize the umbilical cord, joining all humans to Mother Earth. The snake is assigned many aspects. It is shown as a Dragon, a snake twining up a trunk or staff, and as a Naga sheltering the Buddha.
In Christian mythology, the snake acts as tempter. It convinces Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The snake is evil, the devil himself. In many religions, the devil is a supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind.
After Eve and Adam have eaten the fruit, God confronts them. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. God expels the two of them from the Garden and places a Cherubim at the entrance to keep them out. In his anger, God tells Adam that he will live by his labors, Eve will suffer in childbirth and the snake will forever be the lowest of the low.
In Gnosticism, the snake is thanked for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve. With knowledge, Eve and Adam are freed from the Demiurge’s control. I want to give credit to the serpent and to the woman who listened to the snake. Eve took a bite of the apple and a) she didn’t die, except to her old naive self and b) she was wiser and more conscious for having done so. By sharing her discovery with Adam he became wiser too. So instead of seeing the snake as the devil and the apple as sin, we need to be thankful for the disobedience, the curiosity to listen to something outside of the box, explore life’s possibilities, grow beyond childhood and listen to the wisdom within.
The Fisherman and His Wife
(The Brothers Grimm)
Week #1 The Big Picture
In the telling of this story, the Magical Fish is often a Flounder. I looked up Flounder to see what they look like. I also discovered some interesting facts about this type of fish.
Founders grow to about 15 inches and weigh around 2 pounds. They are a group of flatfish species. They are found at the bottom of the Ocean, Pacific and the Atlantic, and in lagoons and estuaries. It is the left eye flounder that lies on its right side. They are usually brown but vary in shade depending on the color of the substratum. The Flounder in our story is “Special” he is the shade of gold. The blindside of the Founder, the side facing the bottom, usually is white.
Flatfish like Founder are unlike most other fishes in that they begin life as a bilateral animal, swimming similarly to other fishes. However, as they mature they lie on the bottom on one side of their body. At this time a metamorphosis begins and involves complex modification of the skeletal structure of the head, and rearrangement of the nervous system and muscle tissue. Additionally, the eye on the side that faces the bottom migrates to the upper side of the body.
Comparing the transformation of our Magic Founder with the stagnate Fisherman and his Wife is interesting. The Wife is dissatisfied and greedy and the Fisherman is complacent. Neither is interested in real change. The Fisherman is caught between disturbing the talking Founder who is really a prince and his demanding wife.
The Sea portrays the fish’s emotions. As the Fisherman returns over and over again to ask for more and more – he calls the fish singing the same chant and the fish replies by asking the same question. The fish never expresses his feelings but the Sea tells tells us. Each visit the Fisherman finds a different Ocean. The waters change, the waves change, the sky changes but the Magic Fish remains the same. Whatever is asked of the fish he gives freely and in spades. The granted wish is even more lavish then the request. The Fish is very generous and abundant.
Yet it does not satisfy the greedy Wife. The hole in her life is not filled or satisfied by material “things.” Having more power does not seem to help her either. Since nothing seems to extinguish her neediness, the great fish in his wisdom takes it all back. The two are returned to their former state. The Fisherman is still complacent, he only wants his wife to stop nagging him, and his Wife is as happy with nothing as she was when she had nearly everything. There is no transformation, nothing has changed.