Hello, I will call myself Marantha, and this is my story. It is a story of a far simpler time…a time when it was safe for children to ride their bikes blocks from home…a time when people could sit on their porches in the summer twilight, sipping tea and talking, without fear of someone driving by and shooting at them…a time when the word “family” meant more than just humans linked by blood living under the same roof…a time when there were no video games, no computers, no cell phones to block a child’s imagination and make them blind to the wonders and magic of the world around them.

It was a time when we, both young and old, could curl up in a comfortable chair and lose ourselves between the covers of a book, a book that was not simply a cookie cutter shadow of every other book, a book that was judged not on its saleability, but was judged on the story’s ability to ”paint a picture” with words that transported the reader to mystical, magical, and sometimes frightening, places limited only by the reader’s ability to imagine those places in their minds as they read.

I was raised in a what today would be called a “poor white trash” family environment. We had little money and had to often depend on charities or the government food program just to have food. We wore hand-me-downs that other people no longer wanted.

But somehow, some way, my mother always saw that there was one thing that we did not do without…books.

Whether they were old copies of National Geographic that local libraries let her have that they were going to throw away, or copies of bible stories given to her from local churches that they had used in their nurseries and that, quite often, had pages torn away or colored on. But she read them to us anyway, filling in the missing parts with her own words. And we listened, spell bound.

I can only recall one year out of my entire childhood that we owned a television, an old, battered thing that you had to use pliers to turn the channel, and that only showed in black and white, but we did not stay inside, glued to what happened within that tiny square screen, for there were far too many things outside to be seen, to be explored, to be imagined.

Through the stories that my mother had read my sister and I, we were able to see the world in a whole new way. The vacant lot that had lain next door to one of the houses we had lived in, and which had had weeds even taller than we were, would one day be a deep, dark, mysterious jungle through which we would wander, hunting the creatures in the stories from the National Geographic books, or it would be a magical forest, inhabited by fairies, pixies, elves and even, if we were terribly, terribly brave, by ghosts and goblins and wicked witches whom we would have to overcome in order to find our way home. Our world was limited only by our ability to imagine what we wanted it to be.

But my mother was not only a very good story teller, she was also a very good seamstress. So good, in fact, that the money that she earned sewing for other people, the very people who looked down on us, often meant the difference between having food or not having it. And one of my happiest memories of her happened one Christmas.

Mom had an old metal dome topped lunch box that served a very, very special purpose. That lunch box was what she called her “Christmas Box”, for it was where she would put whatever change was left when we went shopping.

And no matter how hard times became later, she never, in all the time that I can recall her having that box, took even one penny from it to use for any thing we might have needed. The only time she would open that box was the first week of December. She had decorated it with bits and pieces of wrapping paper and she would clear off the dining room table and then, as my sister and I would sit and watch her, she would oh-so-slowly open that lunch box and reach in and begin, one by one, carefully pulling out those coins and setting them, like tiny soldiers, in little stacks.

Some years, if things had been really hard, there might only have been enough for her to get my sister and I a candy bar, or maybe a package of the little circus crackers, but then sometimes there might be enough for her to get us a package of pretty hair clips or pretty socks.

But it was never about how much she could get us, or what the gift was, the true gift was that it came from her. We always knew that even if it was small and simple, even if it was wrapped in the comic pages from the neighbor’s newspaper, or in nothing more than tablet paper and held together with twine, we knew that it was wrapped in love and tied with the strings of her heart.

But that special Christmas, the one that I remember the most, was the one that was when I truly learned what love and sacrifice meant.

My mother began feeling ill about the last week of November that year. At first she managed somehow to hide from us that she was not well.

But then, just a few days before the day she usually opened the box she came downstairs and nearly fell, due to the fact that she was so weak her legs gave way as she went to step down a step. Luckily, the bannister was strong and she grabbed it and managed to stay on her feet. I had gone downstairs to use the facilities, and was just heading back up them as she was coming down. I had intended to knock on her door, as I had had a nightmare and wanted to talk to her about it.

Always, when I had a bad dream, she would sit with me and she would have me tell her about it. Do not ask my why, but somehow, talking about those dreams in the daylight somehow made them less frightening. And here is the weird part, I almost never had that dream again after talking to her!

But when I saw her nearly fall, I think my heart just about jumped out of my chest. She managed to make it downstairs and to the kitchen by holding onto the walls, but her steps were very slow and shaky. I was not very old, only about six or so, but I somehow sensed that something wasn’t right.

My bad dream forgotten, I watched as she began preparing breakfast. Several times I saw her sway and grab hold of things. By the time she had breakfast on the table and had sat down, it was plain to even myself that something was terribly wrong. Getting up from my chair I walked over and touched her on the face, laying my hand gently on it in an attempt to comfort her and let her know I was there, just as she had done so many times with my sister and myself. Her skin was burning up.

Mom had taught me how to use the telephone and shown me which of the numbers that she had pasted to the wall were for the doctor, police and other such emergencies. As I said, I was only about six, if memory serves, and very scared.

My sister was still asleep, and other than my mom, I was the only one awake. But I knew somehow that she needed help. I called our family doctor. Back then doctors still made house calls and he came as soon as I told him how she had been acting for the past little while and how she had nearly fallen and how hot her face was.

When he got there, he checked her over, then gave her some medicine. Then he told her to go lie down on the couch in the front room. I ran upstairs and got the blanket off of my bed and covered her up. She asked me to carefully bring her the oil lamp that sat on her beside table and her sewing box.

Once I had gotten those things and brought them to her, she asked me to pull out the box of cloth scraps that she saved from the various sewing projects that she did for other people, many of whom brought the lengths of cloth and the patterns, buttons, zippers and whatnots that were needed to make what they wanted to sew, and then told her she could keep the cloth that was left over. So I also brought the box of scraps to her. By this time I had begun to become curious why she wanted all of this.

I found out that night, or rather very early the next morning, before daybreak, when I had gone downstairs to use the facilities. That night I had made sandwiches for my sister and I from whatever I could scrounge from the refrigerator, as mom had fallen asleep and was still sleeping when supper time came. The doctor had told me to try to be as quiet as possible so that she could rest and get better.

When I had crept down the stairs that night, I noticed that the oil lamp, which had been unlit when I went to bed, was casting a soft glow through the doorway of the living room, which was directly across from the staircase. Curious, I tip-toed to the edge of the door and peeked around it, and froze in shock, for there sat my mother, small piles of what were plainly doll clothes scattered around her, head bent, sewing on another doll outfit.

From the number of piles, she must have been working on them for some time. I slowly crept back upstairs and used the chamber pot she kept in my room for when I was ill and could not go downstairs, and then crawled back in bed. She recovered, with the help of the medicine, in a couple of days, but I never could get the courage to ask her about the doll clothes.

When the time came for her to open the “Christmas Box” she brought it to the table and had each of us sit down. She looked so very sad this time, almost as if she wanted to cry. Slowly she opened the box and began to take out the coins.

But where always before there had been at least four or five stacks, now there was only one. It had been very hard that year, and things had been pretty rough. If it had not been for government food banks and some of the churches, I honestly do not know what we would have done.

But I had not realized just how bad it had been. When she placed the last coin on the stack, she simply put her hands in her lap and stared at that stack for a moment, and then tears began to roll down her face. Looking up at my sister and I, she told us that she was so sorry, but it looked as if she would not be able to get us a store bought gift that year.

My sister started crying, saying that Santa didn’t love us anymore. It took us like forever to get her calmed down. Nothing more was said as mom gathered the coins and put them back in the box.

Life pretty much returned to normal. But at the back of my mind two things were very clear…one, that no matter how bad things had ever gotten, mom had always managed somehow to see that there was at least one gift under the tree and two…what had she been making those doll clothes for? Was she going to try to sell them? Where they for a church bazaar?

And why had she been up so late that night when she was so weak and sick, sewing by the light of that oil lamp, as though she just had to finish?

I got answers to all of those questions Christmas morning when my sister and I came downstairs to find not one, but five presents each, beneath the tree.

That Christmas my sister and I each got two shoe boxes jam packed with doll clothes, a doll each, that though they had obviously belonged to another child, had been mended and dressed in a beautiful outfits, a doll house each made of boxes that had carefully been put together and covered in bits of paper and fabric scraps, and a shoe box filled with little pieces of furniture made from match boxes and other odds and ends.

But the most wonderful gift of all was what proved to be a sixth gift, one which had not been beneath the tree.

Mom watched us open our gifts and then went to the tiny closet that was under the stairs and returned with two hangers draped in fabric. When we carefully removed the fabric we found matching dresses for church, hand sewn, with tiny eyelet lace around the collars and little puffed sleeves, and the little poofed underslip that went beneath the dresses that had been made from netting.

Now I understood why mom had been so determined to finish those doll clothes. They were her gift to us. She had evidently realized that she would not be able to add anything to the Christmas Box far earlier in the year and had begun making the gifts them. It was then that I realized, even at that age, just what truly loving someone means.

And I have been searching for that selfsame love ever since.

And there was one very happy outcome from her gifts of love. When we went to church the Sunday after that Christmas, so many of the women were impressed by our dresses that several of them wanted her to make them for their daughters.

In the end, she made not only enough money to buy each of us a store bought dress the following Christmas, but she had enough left to get the electric mixer she had wanted for so long so that she could make us homemade waffles and cakes when we could afford the ingredients.

Which only goes to prove that there is truth in that saying…love is the one gift that keeps on giving. For in the giving of her gifts to us, the gifts that she labored over with so much love, she was herself gifted with the work that gave her the thing that she desired.

And even though she no longer walks this mortal plane, her gift of stories, and the love for books and the showing of the power that words can possess to transport us to lands and places that are only limited by our ability to imagine is passed on in this that I now share with the world.

For it was the memories of the joy that I received through the words from the hearts, souls, and minds of others, that gave me the urge to create, if only in a small way, that sharing myself.

Unlike the stories of today, which are compacted for brevity and faster reading in the fast paced world we live in, those books that my mother read to me, many of which still survive today, contained words that were like brush strokes on the canvas of our minds…each one adding to the picture in vibrant, exciting colors.

They sparked our imagination, they pulled us along from one sentence to the next, from one paragraph to the next, painting pictures in our minds as we followed their journey through page after marvelous page till we came to that last one…and those dreaded words…”the end”.

Reading those words was like stepping forward and suddenly discovering that there was no ground to support your step. For just a few heartbeats, it was as if you floated in a void between the world of the story and this one.

In today’s fast paced world, very few actually read true books anymore. Even authors that are “all the vogue” often fall by the wayside when the person interested in their story simply says “I don’t really have the time to read the book, I think I will just wait for the movie”. They do not realize that in the time they were “waiting for the movie” in the search for instant self gratification and convenience, they could have read not only that story, but many others as well.

And they do not realize what they forfeit in seeking a second hand version that has been warped and changed to fit the view of what the editor or agent deemed to be the wishes of the masses over “hearing” the story straight from the source, its author and originator. It is somewhat comparable to eating cold pizza, it is still pizza, but it lacks the warmth that brought out those wonderful, tantalizing aromas and tastes.

Do not get me wrong, I have nothing against movies or television, though I have only owned a television perhaps one tenth of my entire life and I am well past “the age of majority”, so to speak. No, television has its own place and purpose. But it, and movies also, both have several drawbacks to losing one’s self between the covers of a book.

One of those drawbacks is that a movie is told through the viewpoint of the director’s translation of the author’s story, always with the thought of how much money it will make in the box office, or how many viewers approval ratings it will earn.

And just as with real world language translations, much is added…and much is also “left on the cutting room floor”, abandoned, discarded as “not popular”, “not in style”, “not what the public wants”.

The author’s story, the thoughts, dreams and ideas that they sought to share with the world, by the time the editors and agents finish with it to make it “acceptable”, becomes little more than a pale, carbon copy image, with slight modifications, of a thousand other such of its kind that preceded it.

Television and movies present the viewer with one formatted, predefined, regimented, pared to the bone, pale ghost image of the author’s original story, no matter how many special effects they use or how much gratuitous violence they throw into them.

Television and movies only show a translation of the author’s voice that has been edited, corrected, altered to reflect what the producer perceive as something that can and will be accepted by the masses in general, usually with the goal that those selfsame masses will cough up the one thing that the producers of that television show or movie honor more highly than they do the voice and talent of the author of the story on which their pale imitation of the author’s voice produced…money.

Oh yes, the movies add glitz, glamor, loads of special effects, and lots of violence and dramatic action, but here is something to think about…

If you took all of those things away…

What would be left?

If you took away all of the “exciting add ins” and left only what remained of the actual story that the movie was based on, what would be left?

Would it be something you would pay money to go see?

Would it be something you would sit through for one to two hours?

Would you even last five minutes trying to watch something that made no sense at all without the very things that had been taken away?

Would you be able to sit there and watch what amounted to little more than a fifth grader reading a book report in front of the class? I do not think so.

And books that are accepted by editors and agents these days face the same fate.

They are edited, revised, forced to conform to a mass market that is, as with the producers, based on what the editor or agent personally consider to be the thing that “the general masses” wants, and for the selfsame reason that the producers mangle and destroy the author’s work…money.

The author, in order to even get past the critical, supercilious, arrogant “I am both your maker or your destroyer” eye of the editor and/or agent, is forced to write, not the words they truly see in the way the author envisions their story’s telling, but rather to write in empty, insipid, predefined format that is meant to please as much of the masses as possible for the sole purpose of saleability.

The authors of today are forced into little tiny predefined cubicles, boxed in, hampered by the looming specter of possible public rejection in the form of the editor or agent, who act in the capacity of gods who can, with the stroke of a pen or the tap of a keystroke, consign the author’s story to the wasteland that is wherever they send those stories that they do not deem profitable and in conformance of what they personally judge to be the desire of the masses as a whole, and who also act as the not so humble mouthpieces and “crystal balls” of wisdom and all seeing knowledge of what those self same masses desires are.

If an author sends them a story rich with the resonance of language and phrase, a story that paints a picture so vivid through mere description on the written page that any reader with even only a minimal amount of imagination in their soul can see it as they read, I can nearly guarantee that that author would be commanded by those “all knowing gods of the desires of the masses” to “lose the imagery, shorten the descriptions, condense the character description information” to the point where what would be left would be a “paint by number’ version of the Sistine Chapel done with crayons by a five year old.

In short, it would no longer be the author’s story at all, it would be the editor or agents version of the story, for it would no longer be told as seen and envisioned through the eyes of the author. All the editor or agent would lack is their name as the author.

It would be comparable to the coloring pages we received as children in school, we were given the freedom to choose our own colors, but we were forced to all color the same exact picture, using predefined lines and images. And woe betide those who went outside of those lines, or, heaven forbid, had the actual temerity to add by even one line to that generically generated format!

Oh woe betide the child that, who upon receiving an image of a teddy bear that was an exact, carbon copy duplicate of all of the images of teddy bears possessed by their classmates, that child not only colors it in all the bright shades of their imagination, but commits the absolutely unpardonably forbidden sin of adding wings and a halo!

The teacher does not see the beauty of that child’s imagination…does not see that “seeing the possibilities” in the adding of those little extra touches…no, the teacher sees only that that child did not “conform” to what was the predefined, instructed, regimented rendition of the image of the teddy bear that was acceptable by the masses.

The end result is that that child’s work is not only cast aside, even worse, that child is left feeling like an outcast and a failure.

I, sadly, was, and even now am, one of those children, for I too strain at the confines of regimented lines, when what I truly desire is to set my imagination free, and be accepted as myself in the freeing of it.

Many of the books and stories that I grew up reading, should they be placed before an editor or agent in today’s world, would more than likely not even make it any further than that aforementioned wasteland for unwanted books.

Take for instance one that used to be a favorite of mine, MOBY DICK. It starts out very slowly, the first few paragraphs or pages devoted to little save “setting the stage” for what is to come.

By today’s standards, it would be rejected simply based on that fact alone. Yes, it takes some time getting to the action in that book, but oh, the way the author describes the setting as seen through the eyes of the character!

The words, a mere collections of letters and symbols used to convey thought, oh how they jump off of the page and pull you in! And all before you even realize it. The process is so subtle, so gradual, that you do not even realize that you left this world nearly ten or twenty pages back!

I have given the opening to that very story below. But before you read one single word, I challenge you to empty your mind of everything modern, to erase any and all knowledge of the world of movies, television, and all other imagination destroying devices that have become so much a part of our modern lives.

I challenge you to make your mind as a blank canvas for the words to perform their magic on. Though couched in the language of a time long gone, I think, if you will accept my challenge, that you will, as you read, begin to see the very things that the character is describing.

You will, for just a moment, be able to see through the character’s eyes. There is no ticket line. There is no admission cost. There are no giggling teenagers in the front row, or crying babies, or any of the other things that distract. And best of all, you are limited by only your ability to imagine and envision what you are seeing, rather than having that ability taken away by a predefined format.



Call me Ishmael. Some years ago–never mind how long precisely–having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and seethe watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs–commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?–Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks glasses! of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster– tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand–miles of them–leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues,– north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?

Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries–stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke. Deep into distant woodlands winds a mazy way, reaching to overlapping spurs of mountains bathed in their hill-side blue. But though the picture lies thus tranced, and though this pine-tree shakes down its sighs like leaves upon this shepherd’s head, yet all were vain, unless the shepherd’s eye were fixed upon the magic stream before him. Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies–what is the one charm wanting?– Water there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key.

Now, if you did in truth read that as I challenged you, and you have even the faintest breath of imagination left in your soul that has survived today’s modern inventions, can you, in all truthfulness, not state that you could not envision the things that the character described?

And yet were this same story, this same set of paragraphs, this same voice from the distant past, to be placed on the desk of an editor or agent today, should those poor, blind souls not expire from shock and dismay, their first act would be to order it edited.

They would, from their lofty perch of knowledge of what the masses want, immediately decree that it be edited, shortened, all extraneous information and descriptions removed, all “empty words” deleted…if not the entire thing!

And this is only one among many. If those voices from the past were presented to an editor or agent today…

How many do you think would survive?

I write, I wish to be an author, and yes, I will freely admit, it would be nice to be paid for the stories, for the wherewithall from any book sales would improve my current conditions.

But the money is not at the root of the problem, what is at the root of the problem is the means by which I would have to forsake the story as I see it in order to gain the approval of the masses.

I do not care if I never become a household word, I do not care if I never become the worlds greatest author, I do not really care how much money I earn from the book’s sales, as long as it is enough to help me survive and get the basic things I need.

Anything beyond that is beyond my ability to comprehend. I am a simple person. I do not court the favor of the world, for it has always rejected me.

Let another be up on life’s stage, dancing, I am content to be behind the scenes, changing the music to which they are dancing.

All I want, more than anything, is that just for once, I could prove to the world that I have worth, that I am not a “cast aside” as I have been looked upon my entire life.

And I want to prove to those who ridicule, mock, revile, and often fear or hate those that are different that we also have things that we can offer this world.

You see, I am what, in this world of today, is, to use the current “politically correct” term, “enhanced”, for I suffer an emotional illness. Society does not look with favor on those that are different, that do not fit, that “color outside the lines”.

I just want to prove that even those that are different, for whatever reason, can still be contributing members of not only society…

But of humanity in general.

In short, I want to be accepted, not for what the world wants to form, change, shape or “edit” me to be, but rather for who I am.

Change is necessary, to a certain degree, as is gaining knowledge, but not when it means ceasing to be who I am.

I once joined a writer’s critique’s group. Many things I posted, and each had something not right. But that group coldly and uncategorically cast me out…banned me permanently…because of this message.

I have this to say to any editor or agent who should happen to read this message…I do not seek to change the minds and opinions of others, nor to change them, for they, just as myself, are deserving of respect as them-self’s, but neither do I apologize for my words nor my stand on this matter.

Just as they are them-self’s so am I. Either accept me as I am or accept me not at all, but do not seek to change me into something that is your vision of what you think I should be, for your efforts will be doomed to disappointment.




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