I recently watched Pan's Labyrinth (El Labertino del Fuano) . The movie came out in 2006, and I have had the title scrawled on the crumpled post-it that resides at the bottom of my purse to remind me what to borrow from our library. The catalog listed it as in, but after months of searching the P section and not finding it, the movie found me. First let me say, if you haven't seen this, do. If you can't stand some violent scenes, fast forward through them like me, but really, see this movie. I wish I could crawl into the writer/director Guillermo Del Toro's mind and root around a bit. The way this movie found me is particularly fitting considering this is a story of a young girl's encounters with a fairy tale world in the midst of a real revolution. I am sure there is some debate over religious symbolism and such, but as with all fairy tales, this story is about good and evil, and the slippery gray stepping stones between them.
While at the library earlier this week, I slipped into the conference room, where I rarely go unless it is to extract a wayward child, seating myself facing the tall reference shelves. I set to writing, but after an hour or so, I lost my momentum and I leaned back in the seat to stretch my neck, staring into space. When I looked up to the highest shelf, I noticed a dvd case out of place. It was flat, half of it hanging over the edge. Being a mom, I couldn't resist the urge to put it back neatly with its upright companions. I had to stretch up on my tippy toes; I even considered climbing on a chair if the librarian had not been in view. The movie fell off the shelf and hit me in the head. Humiliations galore that were all worth it once I realized I had found one small thing I had been searching for.
A few days later my husband made a comment about children being over scheduled. I pondered this, rolling it around in my head mixing with Del Toro's images for a few days, until (as all important revelations do) it came to me in a dream. I was talking to a young girl, one morphed out of bits of several I know, and she was reciting a laundry list of her daily activities. Every minute of every day was scheduled so she only stopped moving when she fell exhausted into bed at night. I asked her if she ever had time to get bored. Bored? She didn't even know what I was talking about.
I explained: when you have nothing to do you get really bored and stare at walls. When you think you are going to shrivel up and blow away from all of the nothingness you are doing, a door appears on the wall. The door looks different to every one, but you'll know your door when you see it. Open the door and there, on a table, you see a black iron key. The end of which has been hammered and forged in flames until your initials curl in the looping bow. Take it. The key unlocks the chest that is collecting dust in the groove between your brain hemispheres. The chest is your imagination. Unlock it and you own the universe.
If you have children, want to have children, or ever happened to have been a child, please let them get bored. In our efforts to keep ourselves busy, we have stunted our capacity to discover who we are, what we are capable of doing, and how to cope with good and evil, and the slippery gray stepping stones in between.