Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Seven Chairs

I wrote this riddle while I was in ARC, as a response to one of the paintings taken from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  Reprinting here because I think it's just so cool, and it marks the real reemergence of my desire to do creative things, to write, instead of to wrangle a bunch of ungrateful kids into some semblance of order.

The original intro to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, written by Chris Van Allsburg:

I first saw the drawings in this book a year ago, in the home of a man named Peter Wenders. Though Mr. Wenders is retired now, he once worked for a children's book publisher, choosing the stories and pictures that would be turned into books.
Thirty years ago a man called at Peter Wenders's office, introducing himself as Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick explained that he had written fourteen stories and had drawn many pictures for each one. He'd brought with him just one drawing from each story, to see if Wenders liked his work.

Peter Wenders was fascinated by the drawings. He told Burdick he would like to read the stories that went with them as soon as possible. The artist agreed to bring the stories the next morning. He left the fourteen drawings with Wenders. But he did not return the next day. Or the day after that. Harris Burdick was never heard from again. Over the years, Wenders tried to find out who Burdick was and what had happened to him, but he discovered nothing. To this day Harris Burdick remains a complete mystery.

His disappearance is not the only mystery left behind. What were the stories that went with these drawings? There are some clues. Burdick had written a title and caption for each picture. When I told Peter Wenders how difficult it was to look at the drawings and their captions without imagining a story, he smiled and left the room. He returned with a dust-covered cardboard box. Inside were dozens of stories, all inspired by the Burdick drawings. They'd been written years ago by Wender's children and their friends.
I spent the rest of my visit reading these stories. They were remarkable, some bizarre, some funny, some downright scary. In the hope that other children will be inspired by them, the Burdick drawings are reproduced here for the first time.

A pretty story.  So, the pictures are intended to inspire "children" (I think that includes "inner children" as well) to write.  The only rule (that we were given in ARC; I don't know if this is a universal rule) for using the Burdick "text" is that you have to use the title of the painting as the title of whatever you write, and you have to use the painting's caption somewhere in what you write.

My writing came out as a riddle.  Can you solve it?

"The Seven Chairs"

Before the Breaking
Before the breaking, the seven were as one. 
Each was a piece of the circle, a note in the harmony of the whole.

The Lovers
The second and third were the first to go.
Never touching, they yearned; never daring, they suffered.
Finally, the secret burning consumed them, and the flame of their passing left discord in its wake.

The Pillar
The fourth was steadfast but conflicted, torn between code and camaraderie.
To avenge his brothers, he sought the third in exile, and in their third battle fell to his friend, no quest truly fulfilled.

The True Believer
The sixth ranged far and wide, ever and always pursuing the grace that eluded so many.
When his purity led him to it, he walked through the light and into legend.

The Lady
The fifth one ended up in France.
Despite the forbidding habits and the coldness of their sanctuaries, the women of faith participated in the last vestiges of reverence for the mother.
Perhaps they did not realize it, but she did.

The Golden One
The first fell in battle.
Not in glory, as he might have hoped, but in darkness, and his great dream fell with him.

The Seventh,
some say, wanders still, a single note echoing through the ages.
Here is the picture that inspired this.  Don't ask me how that jump happened; I was just listening for whatever came.  For once I didn't try to steer the creative process; I gave up control.

That's when the best stuff happens, really.