Although I’ve found that having imaginary conversations with my younger selves can give me a better perspective on the past, it does have some limitations. Because modern life is so busy and the human mind, by its nature, wanders randomly from one thought to another, sorting through bothersome memories whenever they pop up is not practicable. Even if it could be done, it wouldn’t be healthy to spend so much time brooding on them. My younger selves might not need long, detailed conversations, anyway—just a little bit of reassurance might be all right.

What was the best way to go about it? A quick “It’s okay now” didn’t seem to be enough, even if it was literally true that the problem or worry no longer existed in present-day time. Something more substantial was needed to make that a solid fact in the shifting, unsettled realm of the psyche. I needed a visual image to go along with the words—a quiet, protected place where my younger selves could feel safe.

Then it occurred to me that I already had imagined such a place when I sent my inner Cinderella away to start a new life in the abandoned village of Channelwood, from the old computer game Myst. I followed that up with another blog post in which she was joined there by Sara Crewe, another character from a classic children’s story. That imaginary village had plenty of space for a troubled younger self—or a few of them—to take a nice, restful vacation. Long walks on the beach, or along the wooden pathways through the bayou, would go a long way to restore their spirits.
 

Wooden pathway beside water, trees, and bushes. 

When I arrived at the island, traveling on an old-fashioned sailing ship, I brought gifts for Ella and Sara, in the nature of practical household goods. The only item that had any decorative value was a calendar from a London shop, open to the current month—September 1897, which had a picture of horses pulling a farm wagon piled high with the fruits of the harvest. My other gifts were cloth and sewing supplies, sacks of grain, jars of spices, and crates filled with clucking chickens.

That last gift, although certainly not as pleasant-smelling as the spices, was the most well received. Sara clasped her hands together and exclaimed rapturously, “Eggs! How wonderful! And grain too! Now we can bake bread and biscuits!”

“Rice pudding!” declared a less effusive but just as happy Ella, glancing from a sack of rice to a jar of cinnamon. “Just the thing—we’ve been picking grapes and drying most of them to make raisins.”

We started trundling the supplies up from the beach in wooden handcarts. After we reached the shade of the tall trees in the bayou, I let go of my cart’s handles and turned to face the girls.

“I’d like to ask a favor,” I began, doing my best to keep the request simple. “This is a very peaceful little village, with many empty houses. If I send a girl or woman here for a visit, so that she can rest for a while and become healthier, will you take good care of her?”

Sara chewed on her lower lip, considering the question. “Like a sanatorium, you mean? Where they send people with tuberculosis?”

“Well, sort of like that, but it’s for people who have been worrying too much and need a few days to sit quietly in the sun and dream of happier things.”

Water trickled slowly down toward the sea, and a slight breeze stirred the treetops. There was no other sound but a few squawking chickens that seemed anxious to get out of their crates.

“Oh, I understand how that is,” Sara replied, giving me a cheerful smile. “I always feel much better when I can pretend something happy instead of worrying.”

I smiled back at her. “Yes, exactly. But first, I want to set an intention for this village to feel like a safe and protected place. This wooden pathway makes a circle around the houses. I’m going to walk around it, starting here in the east, and look to each of the directions as I say words of blessing.”

Ella, with a very doubtful expression, took firm hold of the little cross that she wore on a simple necklace. “But isn’t that,” and she lowered her voice, though there was nobody else around to hear, “pagan?”

“Not necessarily. There are many rituals that used to be pagan but then became part of ordinary society. Christmas lights, for example. Long ago, pagans had ceremonies of lighting candles at the winter solstice, and then Christians started doing the same.”

Although Ella still didn’t look entirely convinced, Sara gave an understanding nod. “Like maypole dancing. Some people won’t do it because they say it used to be pagan.”

“Just so,” I agreed. “Now, when I look toward the beach, I am facing the east, where the sun rises over the sea. East is the direction of the dawn, of healthy buds and flowers opening in the spring, of the earth filled with green growing plants. May this village be blessed with all these things and feel safe and protected always.”

Then I walked a quarter-circle clockwise until I was under a particularly thick part of the tree canopy where only the indirect light of early afternoon came filtering through. I turned to face outward again.

“South is the direction of the sun, of the heat of midday, the fire that forever brings energy and life to the world. May this village be blessed always and feel safe and protected under the sun.”

I continued around to the west, invoking its late afternoon breezes and its winds of welcome change. In the north, I spoke of nightfall, of a cool rain, of winter and dormancy and a healing silence. Then I returned to my starting point beside the eastern shore and completed the circle by stating my intention that everyone within the village feel safe and protected forever.

“And there is no need to fear being attacked because no enemies can enter here.” I paused for a moment because I wasn’t sure where to send my past selves’ enemies. Maybe they bounced off a protective bubble of white light? No, that wouldn’t fit the Myst computer game. Even an imaginary scenario like this needed a consistent plot.

“They will go into a book,” I finally said, thinking about what had happened in that game. “And there they’ll stay forever—nothing but an old story, with no power to do any harm in the present. So let it be.”

The girls listened politely, Sara with what appeared to be genuine interest, and Ella looking skeptical. When I had finished speaking, we all rolled our carts up to higher ground. After putting the grain and spices away in a shed, the girls started planning how they were going to build their chicken coop.

“A few words before I leave,” I said, breaking into a discussion that quickly had gotten so animated that I wasn’t sure the girls still remembered I was there.

Putting down the sticks they were holding, the girls looked up from the diagram that they had been sketching in the dust beside the shed.

“I don’t expect to bother you too much with visitors,” I told them, “but every now and again, if a worried-looking girl or woman shows up in the village, please give her a kind welcome and a nice hot bowl of chicken soup—or maybe some rice pudding. Let her rest for a while, enjoy the peaceful landscape, and rediscover her joy in life.”

“Rice pudding,” Ella said, in a tone of complete certainty. “It would be just right to drive away melancholy feelings, especially on cool evenings when the wind blows hard against these little houses, carrying the cry of the seabirds.”

“Sometimes it can feel lonely here, especially on nights like that,” Sara confided. “But I’ve made pretty wall hangings from reeds, to brighten up the rooms and keep out the chilly drafts. It never gets as cold here as it does in London.”

“We’ll be glad to have visitors,” Ella finished, “whenever they come!”

The girls turned back to their rough sketch of a chicken coop while the hens went on clucking impatiently in the crates. I said goodbye and walked back down to the beach where my imaginary ship waited for the return journey. When I boarded the ship, I moved easily and felt light and energetic, as if I’d left behind a few worries of my own that I had been carrying around without knowing it.

2 Comments

  1. Great job!
    Have you ever thought of writing a book? I love your stories! Honestly! I was just curious if that thought ever entered your mind.

    • What a lovely comment, thank you so much! I don’t expect to turn the Younger Self posts into a book, as they are more in the nature of doing therapy on myself. Maybe something else though! 🙂

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