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Fairies in Pastel

Gold balconies. Plush red seats. A spectacular painted curtain in burgundy and gold, with a real rope pull.

We’ll look at the Marc Chagall ceiling later. Who are the gold figures on either side of the stage? Are they muses? Gods and goddesses? Richard thinks one could be Dionysus, with a mask of drama raised above his face.

The curtain rises. The orchestra music swells. Four blue fairies come springing out onto the stage. I’m flooded with tears. They are so light, so quick, and the music mirrors their leaps. One princess in white dances among them. Eight women in various pastel colors circle her. A fairy in pale yellow-green arrives.



Tears for the artistry of the French. Tears for our friend who is ill. Tears for the nine months of a neighbor who won’t be reasonably quiet “because she doesn’t feel like it,” and who’s hurting our sleep. Tears for someone I love who told me to stop writing this journal, and focus on fiction. Tears for all the women who for centuries have been silencedtold by their husbands or families not to work, to serve them instead.

Isn’t it strange how beauty can release sadness?

The yellow and blue fairies dash about the stage. A man in brown-green, a forest man, comes out among the trees made of ropes, and plays hide and seek with a blue fairy with a few sparkles on his skin.

Two by two, Cossacks in Russian fur hats and fitted coats and boots, march forth, followed by Cossack maidens. Okay, now we’re seeing Christian Lacroix’s costuming genius. Their skirts are orange and red and gold, with soft red boots.



He has interwoven brocade patterns that look perfectly Russian, and also like the dresses he designed as a couturier.

Out comes a carriage, a stylized version of Cinderella’s pumpkin, and a tragic female emerges, looking like a nineteenth century European version of an “Oriental” woman. Hot pink top with gold thread. Turquoise skirt with silver thread. A gold diadem atop her head crowned with a fuchsia pom-pom.

Twelve maidens dance all around her in long kerchiefs, Cossack costumes and soft red boots that you can dance in. That seems like a feat in itself, to make shoes that look like boots, but allow dancers’ feet to be en pointe

A proud Cossack comes out on stage (you know he’s proud because he keeps holding out his arms straight, palms open in a gesture of Watch it, I’m in charge here). He dances with the Cossack princess, romantic, flirting, then with closed fists.

Then he does one of those Russian dances where you spin around and around. (I don’t, but apparently Russians do.)



Then, the princess points to a flower hanging from what looks like an orchid tree, suspended in the middle of the forest stage. The proud prince tries to climb up to get it, but his arms aren’t strong enough. He’s wasted all his energy on clenching his fists and pushing people away.

But the forest man can. He climbs up the rope and plucks a flower and hands it to the Cossack princess.

The prince is pissed, and fights with the forest guy, kills him, and puts the princess in the carriage and huffs off. 

A white fairy princess dances out from behind a tree, picks up the fallen orchid and brings it to Forest Man. He slowly revives. She cradles the flower, he reaches for it, she dances away. They dance together; he lifts her into the air. He is a tree. She is a swan.   

More fairies in white appear and circle the forest man. They dash away. Twelve more fairies emerge and all dance around the forest man and the white fairy princess.

The blue fairies and the yellow one join the dance, and then the yellow one passes the orchid to the white fairy princess, and threatening music begins.

Act One is over.

There is too much to see at the Opéra Garnier. It’s like walking around Versailles. You have to get a book to decipher all of its history and splendor, and luckily Richard finds one in the gift shop before we leave.

Act Two is full of intrigue, seductions and counter-seductions, so that you really don’t know who will win the Cossack woman’s heart at the end, the forest man, the proud prince, or Genghis Khan who only has about nine women already in his harem. But you can guess.



Later I learn that the proud prince was actually the Cossack woman’s brother, and that he was delivering her to the Khan. What I still didn’t understand was why one of the characters had to die. But I’m not going to ruin it for those of you who still haven’t seen La Source. This 1866 ballet was enchanting, but I did notice that all these women ever thought about was love. Didn’t they sometimes long for something to do?



And afterwards, we had drinks with two great friends who had invited us to spend his birthday at the ballet. We talked about boating around the rivers of Ireland. We talked about their plan to live part of the time in Paris. We talked about our beloved friend who is ill. We talked about my new challenge (inspired by TWO fairies), which is writing 1,000 stories in three years. A story a day, with one month off per year. I’m only on Day Three. But here’s my question: if those fairies in pastel could grant you a wish for your own work, your own artistry of whatever sort, what would it be? 

I’m asking a serious question here. I want to hear your answers. What else can possibly balance all the suffering in the world if not work? 

Oh yes, and love.



The pastel dancers in this article are from the streets of Paris, courtesy of the street artist Miss Tic.



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Reader Comments (19)

Pretty dang good synopsis, dear K. It IS a sad ballet story. Eternity (or its flower) only goes to one, not two. Not three. sacrifice of the one who loves, so the source can have the one he/she/it loves and blesses. Complicated thinking, to say the least. surrounded by gold and mirrors on the other side of the footlights, and tree trunks that looked to me more like nooses or umbilical cords to taunt the dancers. . Personally, I decided i want the male winged sprite in lime green, who danced like a testosteroned angel (minus Nureyev's neurosis or Nijinsky's either for that matter..). I would like that one, spread like butter on toast. yum. And the young hunter was way to light weight or maybe just too imature to deserve the maiden, any of the maidens. imho. he needs to grow some hormones. and some greater passion. As for a wish for the work..always the same for me, yang/yin, love & passion. o yes, a new publisher. But more: the inspiration of the source. And may he/she/it not have to die for me to get more words on bark or vellum or bright white pages. Ainsi-soit-il. As the french prayers have it; so be it. xxm

Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 16:44 | Unregistered CommenterMargo

Lovely, inspiring. And Richard, those images...! You both turn Paris into a fairyland.

If I could have one wish, it'd be for an easier time splitting focus. After months and months (and months) of working on a script -- actually, scripts, and actually, other people's scripts -- it's so damned hard to go back to Lucrezia and Cesare, to find them again.

Thank God for Ferdinand Gregorovius and Rafael Sabatini, both now in the public domain, biographers who wrote so brilliantly and passionately, attempting -- as I am -- to restore some dignity to complex people who've been so maligned. (Borgia on cable being the latest ludicrous example.)

Thank God for you and Richard: setting goals, following the muse wherever it may lead, pushing back the external and internal critics, and bloody well doing it bloody well!

Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 17:19 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

No, please no, don't even consider the advice to stop Paris Play. It is what counters the suffering in the world for me and, I'm sure, for many other readers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 18:33 | Unregistered CommenterTristine

Beautiful. Only you would note the silver thread in the turquoise skirt. I love the way the street art compliments your prose. As for goals and dreams for my work? I guess daily writing would be my goal, and I'm a long way from that. I would like to have the fortitude to ride out the slumps, when my writing is just skilled, nothing novel or innovative or particularly interesting, even to me. And give myself a chance to see where it goes. I know we are blessed with surprises, when we keep showing up. Your journal, my dear Kaaren, is a testament to that. And you've really found a solution to writing in a vacuum. Brilliant. I'm inspired by your respect for your talent. Use it and it grows. To let it lie waste, as I sometimes do, is really a form of ingratitude. Thanks for inciting some soul searching. Today, I will write!

Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 21:04 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Sherry

Margo, Anna, Tristine and Diane,

Four wonderful comments which we'll respond to tomorrow when we're lucid!


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 0:03 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Yes, we are in sync. I posted on fb earlier about how fairies are the healthy alternative to princesses (at least as far as Disney's marketing machine goes, and the message each sends to a child). I loved hearing about the grace, allure and magic of the fairies in the ballet, and even found myself enchanted with the idea of fairies having jobs and talents..like Goddesses. My wish would be to balance my writing time and family time in a way that does not leave either feeling neglected, but loved to the fullest. I can relate to beauty releasing sadness; I believe that is art healing you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 5:25 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Genest

Hi Margo,

I wanted in this post to write a stream-of-consciousness impression of watching a wordless drama, without being familiar with the story. So it isn't much of a synopsis, but an attempt to follow a mystery of sorts. There were elements that made little sense before we read the program notes, such as the "proud prince's" flirtatiousness with the Cossack princess, then handing her over to the Khan. His dance with her seemed so seductive that we were surprised to learn that he was her brother.

Naila the fairy (or water sprite or Undine) is mythological, and so is her death. Apparently this opera was written at a time in the 19th century when the romantic movement was flaming out, when human love seemed to be triumphing over the mythological, and the industrial age was being ushered in. Are you implying that romantic love must end in one, and only one, person dying? Can't quite get what you mean. I don't think love has to be tragic. But we do all die. So...?

The male fairy in lime green got a huge ovation. His dancing was fine, but so was that of the forest man, the proud prince and the Khan, as well as Naila, and Nourreda, the Cossack princess. I'm afraid you'd end up in Mrs. Oscar Wilde's position if you teamed up with the yellow-green dancer. (I don't mean the specifics of her life or her character, but rather the kind of marriage she turned out to have.) :-)

The forest man, Djemil, was played on different nights by different dancers. The night we saw it the dancer had robust masculine energy. Maybe you saw another dancer playing Djemil, or maybe he just isn't your physical type?

May all your dreams come true! And thank you.


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 12:46 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Anna,

Paris IS a fairyland, if fairyland is where magic dwells. But thank you!

My wish for you is that you no longer have to split your focus. I hope you make a bucket of money on this new series and then take enough time off to finish your novel. It's so exquisitely written, and such a powerful story, it will surely be a success.

It's been fascinating to read Pound's The Cantos again, and encounter some of your characters, like Sforza, AFTER reading the full portraits you've written, and to be able to picture these historical characters as if I'd personally known them.

As far as goal-setting goes, many types of fairies/muses inspire us. Some put up challenges. Some spark ideas. We embrace them all!

I predict you and Eric will be living in Rome before long.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 12:59 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Tristine, Story Queen,

Do you know how much this means coming from you? We both thank you.

And what is your wish for your own work?

Love and hugs,

Kaaren and Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 13:01 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Diane,

It was easy to notice the silver thread in the turquoise skirt because Richard brought the opera glasses! I didn't have a clue how he would be able to weave photos in, since all picture-taking is forbidden at the ballet, but he did it.

Daily writing: making it a ritual, a devotion: that's the ticket. When I started this up again last week, it felt like a key turning in a lock, a door opening, a deep breath of yes.

Writing in a vacuum? Oh no. You can be alone with your imagination and that is far from a vacuum. Combine that with Richard's presence and imagination, friends, and this city and ... the challenge is to resist the million temptations around us. That's why we need rituals.

I really love this sentence of yours: "To let it lie waste, as I sometimes do, is really a form of ingratitude." Yes! Keep me informed about your progress. I want to hear what happens to Kath and Liv in Tibet.

Much love and gratitude,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 13:23 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Jennifer,

How to protect your daughter from Disney-vision: now THERE'S a challenge. This ballet had both fairies and princesses galore, but I think you've just put your finger on something essential: since the goddesses basically disappeared from our western consciousness, their role in DOING has slipped from the collective imagination, and we've only had these anemic models of femininity. I grew up with a strong mother, and knew from childhood on how powerful women can be.

That is a beautiful wish: that the balance between your writing time and family time does not leave either feeling neglected. I wish the same for you.

I think you're right: art does heal. It heals and inspires. That is why we need it, and love it.

Much love and thank you,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 13:37 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Yes, ballet, a divine emptiness.

A ballet about female work?

Would it be held in an executive office with the lady in a business suit?

Or would the lady in question be a check out woman at a supermarket?

Or is it to be a lady running a ranch?

I would be fascinated to see such a ballet.

In white ballet the women are all trophy wives-to-be.

What about a ballet about a woman with three young children and no husband?



Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 13:51 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Moody

Dear Bruce,

We're both fascinated by your comment. And more interested in hearing Paris Play readers' responses than our own.

Thank you!


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 13:56 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

"Are you implying that romantic love must end in one, and only one, person dying? Can't quite get what you mean. I don't think love has to be tragic. But we do all die. So...?"

(no...but since i don't really like program notes, I like to wend my way down the tunnels of interpretation on my own. )To me, the princess' death seemed the total and sad sacrifice. she gets the flower of eternity to be given at the end to the other woman...who goes off into the sunset, and she, the fairy queen dies. does the myth die with her? dunno. But she, the fairy queen, seemed to embody the source. and that is the title. so did the source die to perpetuate human love? hm. plenty to ponder. as i said, i found the thinking of the story rather complex. but i was deeply moved by it all as well. (still liked lime green. would he have gone off with lord alfred douglas? oh no! too bad. too too bad.)

go figure!

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 18:03 | Unregistered CommenterMargo

Hi Margo,

I share your preference. I like to watch a ballet or opera without reading the program notes beforehand. But afterwards I do.

To tell the truth, I thought there was some confusion in the story itself, either in the historical time, or in the imagination of the librettist. The "source" never dies, if by source is meant the realm of the eternal. And it's silly to think one can only be connected to that realm or find (human) love, but not both. I think of William Blake and his unwavering awareness of the realm of the invisibles, and what a blazing love story he had with his wife, Catherine, as well. The story of this ballet seems to me to be evidence more of a wavering vision of the sacred on the part of the mind imagining it. So yes, the myth is dying here. But it's always reborn in hearts/minds that are open to this realm.

But La Source WAS beautiful.

And I don't see that lime green guy as your type at all. But we do know why he got so much applause!


Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 23:24 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Kaaren ~

Oh, I was so moved by your description of being brought to tears by the fabulous beauty before you (which released such a tangle of authentic sadness you were carrying inside). Proof that fairies truly are bringers of magic.

And what a thrill to imagine you and Richard in Le Palais Garnier. I just spent the better part of an hour going on the "virtual visit" on the Paris Opera web site. Such opulence! Mon dieu! Breathtaking even via the internet. I can only imagine how dizzying it must have been to move around inside that space.

I especially loved Le Bassin de la Pythie ~ that statue of Apollo's oracle at Delphi. Wild! (Coincidentally, I've been reading The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles by Michael Wood... fascinating.)

Thanks so much for sharing this... and thanks to Richard for bringing Paris' extraordinary street art into our homes.

[Oh, and to finally answer your question: My wish to the fairies would be to stay in close relationship with the intuitive/shadow/muse and not overpower it with my conscious mind. Sometimes it seems like a wary, wild creature in hiding in the woods and if I try too hard to lure it, or flush it out, or approach it, it bounds away. :( ]

Much love to you & Richard!
~ dawna

Monday, November 14, 2011 at 5:00 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

Dear Dawna,

What a beautiful message! Thank you so much from both of us.

You just inspired us. It didn't occur to me to look for their website (our friends ordered the tickets). I will go online and look for Le Bassin de la Pythie, as well as in our Opera Garnier book.

What a fine metaphor about the muse, so resonant with the ballet itself. I wish the same for you. It's a delicate balancing act, isn't it? If you leave out one or the other side of the mind, the writing doesn't work. But always it must begin with the muse. Conscious editing comes later. The one thing that seems to invite the muse most dependably, is a daily meeting, honoring him/her by consistently showing up. Ahhh.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 1:02 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

The Fairie Tales and colors exude from this post which fill my inner eyes with joy here in the bleak setting of the Criminal Courthouse, Downtown L.A. as I wait under the florescent lights to hear if I am to be a "juror." I am even "womaning" a P.C. computer (a first) as a way into other worlds as my phone is close to dead and I didn't bring a charger. I am so delighted to be able to jump into Paris Play and escape a bit.

I love this journey to the Opera. Paris, Opera - exquisite. I'm drooling over the Lacroix costumes and all the glorious settings to attract eye-soul in every direction. I wouldn't be able to resist viewing the Chagall ceiling. Deliciousness all.

And Story added to such visions. These are companion arts. Music, Art, Drama. Yes, Death (or tragedy) is a component, a grip of the tale which riles emotions. What's opera without emotions? Is Love all there is for the women? Yes, but a certain kind of Love (usually unrequited), one where appreciation and the Beauty of her soul is seen. Rare... too often the object of her affections lands on the wrong "hero."

Tears; Yes, I say weep for Beauty. Weep deeply and let it flow. ( Weeping is different than crying.) I don't believe people weep enough, don't tap into the undercurrents of Beautiful Sadness and Humanity. Be thankful if you are moved so...


Friday, November 18, 2011 at 20:22 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Dear Joanne,

What a cornucopia of a message! We love the notion of bringing La Source to the Criminal Courthouse in downtown L.A. Jury duty: it's not the most pleasurable of all the things we do, is it. Are they calling on you to serve as a juror?

The Opera building itself, the dance, the costumes--all were exquisite. And the Chagall ceiling really deserves a post of its own.

It is a sad ballet. The undine who falls in love with the hero, then enables him to win the object of his passion, dies at the end. Maybe it's no coincidence that this ballet was written around the time the industrial age swept away much of western culture's connection to nature and myth.

That is an excellent distinction: between crying and weeping. I never cry. But occasionally I weep. Yes, there's a difference.

Much love to you, Joanne, and stay out of that Criminal Courthouse!

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 0:46 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

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