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From the eighteenth-century has emerged new friends, John and Abigail Adams, originally from a working farm at Braintree, Massachusetts. As husband and wife, their humanness enlivened my imagination: I was with them during their long relationship with its chilling hardships and lengthy separations.

Prior to this memorable experience, found in the pages of John Adams (2001), by the master writer, David McCullough, I only knew John and Abigail from history’s dust-covered pages about our country’s beginnings.

In McCullough’s perception, too few knew of Abigail’s emotional and spiritual and political support of John, of his intellectual brilliance and astute reading of character, his ease speaking in the political arena, his passion for truth, his sense of humor, his diplomatic work in Paris and the Hague that led to American independence—all these had been insufficiently addressed by Adams’s authors. So McCullough set to work. Years would pass.

Ruminating over John’s and Abigail’s letters, diaries, and journals, visiting all the places they had lived in America and Europe, and steeping his imagination with sensory impressions, McCullough allowed the story to take its present form in his unconscious, while ever critiquing what he wrote and checking his facts.

Readers of John Adams by David McCullough can’t help being touched by the immediacy of this piece of eighteenth-century history. As one of the Founding Fathers, McCullough honors Adams’s passion for American Independence, the form of government of the new country, and his role as one of the Founding Fathers.

In most fairy tales Queens are portrayed as all loving or conniving; they evoke strong feelings—admiration or aversion—within the depths of their listeners. However, in The Snow Queen (1844) written by the Danish Hans Christian Anderson, another Queen appears: beautiful, gifted with spells, riddles, mysteries, but ice-cold in her demeanor. She creates havoc in the lives of two children, Gerda and Kai, and gets away with it.

So what to make of this Queen who wields such power? Certainly Hans Christian Anderson would know, firsthand. His queen was the Swedish Songbird of classical opera, Jenny Lind, who twaddled his adoration for her in the 1840s. Friends, only, they would remain, but she still lives in his fairy tale, unapproachable and frigid in her palace.

Unlike other storytellers who fashioned dramas from issues clashing in their unconscious, Anderson drew his from the conscious world, but dressed them up within the classical components of fairy tales: good vs. evil, animals as messengers, disguises, witches, spells, darkness, superhuman tasks, effective synchronizations, death, resolution, and and many more.

However, in The Snow Queen these components hang loosely in this seven-part tale, insufficient to wrest psychic transformation in listeners. What redeems this tale, however, is Gerda’s tearful kiss; it melts Kia’s frozen heart and frees him from the Snow Queen’s evil spell. The children return to their village, much wiser.

Still, Anderson penned some good tales—change-of-heart stories still work.  

This morning’s emptiness rankled—Nothing to blog about and time was passing.

So I looked up emptiness in J. Rodale’s The Synonym Finder and discovered entries related to things, time, scarcity, mood, and speech. Mine was lodged between hollowness and exhaustion: the indefinable perimeter of my imagination and its splayed energy. I was certain that behind this emptiness teemed vibrant images yet to be developed. I just needed to dig deeper in memory.

During much of my life, emptiness experiences triggered hidden landmines, their shocks plunging me deeper into introversion. Around me, the world was not to be trusted. Yet, tripwires still snagged my shoes. In the wake of such attacks, I soothed my distress with shopping. With the change of seasons, I donated armfuls of clothing to Good Will. Yet, emptiness still stung.

My 1991 joining of AA modified some of this disorder. The Fourth Step with its rigorous and moral inventory launched my first honest self-evaluation; its completion revealed a larger sense of who I really was. Seasonal deliveries to Good Will dwindled, then stopped. Rather than my attire speaking to the world around me, I learned to cultivate a personal voice. Yet, occasional emptiness still happens, as this morning.

Yet, my present sense of emptiness has paradoxical value in Jesus’s First Beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God: It breathes the spirit of Twelve-Step Recovery. The less of my ego, the more for Spirit to flourish.

So, within my impoverishment/emptiness brim the untold riches of Kingdom living. At the top of the steps each morning, light colors the world with fresh grace. Everything looks different, even my transition.

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