From Lily Briscoe

There is a beautiful episode in Through the Looking Glass, a little parable about the power of words to change love into fear. Alice finds herself in the wood, "where things have no names," and meets a fawn, who shows no fright, for he cannot remember what he is. "So they walked together through the wood, Alice with her arms clasped lovingly round the soft neck of the Fawn, till they came out into another open field, and here the Fawn gave a sudden bound into the air, and shook itself free from Alice's arm. 'I'm a Fawn!' it cried out in a voice of delight. 'And, dear me! You're a human child!' A sudden look of alarm came into its beautiful brown eyes, and in another moment it had darted away at full speed." People of my mother's generation were armed in their minds at the sound of certain words, and the triggers cocked to go off. How could she possibly have endured the naming of her daughter with a word she could not say herself? Like Alice and the fawn, we could only be friends in a wood "where things have no names."

From Lily Briscoe: A Self-Portrait (Talon Books, Vancouver, 1981)

copyright Mary Meigs

US, Canada


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