When the Circus Comes to Town

I have this strange tendency to run away and join the circus.  I do it once a year or more.  Well, it’s not the circus exactly but still I pack up camp stove and sleeping bag, fold in skirts and corsets, tuck away jokes and stories until my truck is fairly bursting with the various pieces of my portable life.  Together my old 4Runner and I trundle off, near or far, to join my other family working the Renaissance Festivals.  I’ve been doing it for more than a decade now and, though I love my quiet little life on our valley ranch, there always comes a time when my feet itch to travel, when I long to lie in my tent and listen to the wind sighing in the tarp overhead, when I want nothing more than to dress up in costume, to put on my Scottish brogue, and to live among the gypsies for a while.  Like a character from an old story, I’m lured away from my humble cottage-home by the possibility of adventure, by a life lived backstage and front, by the call of magic.

It’s this tendency that might have been the reason that The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern captured my interest and held me spellbound from cover to cover.  While we ‘Rennies’ are simply everyday people working hard to treat our patrons to a world of pretend magic, the Cirque de Rev in this lovely story takes things to a whole new level.  With its many black-and-white striped tents, its cast of talented performers, its wonder of a clock, and its bonfire that burns with an eternal, bright-white flame, the magic is real.  Not even the circus family fully understands the nature of the mysterious traveling show in which they live, a nature that takes its own toll on the participants as a duel is played out behind the scenes between two powerful magic workers.

Nothing so dramatic happens in my Rennie life, of course.  We are all just people doing a peculiar thing for a living.  But if the author of this captivating tale has never spent time in a festival’s backrooms and shadows, her imagination has somehow captured the sense of what it is to be a part of this very strange way of life.

You don’t need to be a Rennie to enjoy The Night Circus though because, even more than the description of a favorite and familiar world for me, it was the story-building and the extraordinarily descriptive writing that captured me and wouldn’t let me go until well after the very last word.  Most authors work their whole lives to write with such craftsmanship and Morgenstern’s craft displays itself from beginning to end without missing a beat in between, weaving an intensely complex story of relationship and suspense that kept me guessing at every turn.

I can’t recommend this story highly enough.  It danced its enchantment into this Rennie’s eyes, spoke its inspiration into this writer’s fingers, and whispered its magic into this reader’s heart.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
published Anchor Books 2012 / isbn#  978-0307744432

The Little Faery


She crouches in the dirt,
Among the legs of her grown-ups,
A singular child,
Clearly treasured
But momentarily unnoticed

By her mom
And her dad
And her auntie
By her uncle
Whose knees are being tickled
By the tips of her wire and mesh wings.

The hem of her frilly pink princess dress
Trails behind her in the dust
Hiked up in front to expose
The yellow pedal pushers
That she wears underneath,
Clearly a mother’s precaution
A familiarity and a surrender
To her little faery’s tomboy tendencies.

Around the girl,
In the shade of the big pine tree
The men talk lightly,
The uncle nearly spilling his beer,
As the father tells him a joke.
Mother and auntie
Are deep in a conversation,
Well-coiffed heads bent close,
Eyes on the crowd but not seeing.

All the while,
With water bottle in hand
And yellow knees up nearly to her ears,
The faery focuses
On the universe that exists
In the gravel beneath her sandaled feet

I am captivated,
Across the gulf of hot afternoon air
And passing fair-goers.

In the briefest of breaks
Between customers,
I alone am blessed with the intimacy
Of her moment

She is watching something,
Something tiny
That I cannot see
Something that needs a drink

So she tips her plastic vessel
And carefully pours a tiny dribble
For the seed?
An ant?
A beetle?
An imagined microscopic town?

She, a mini-giant bestowing
A rain shower,
A boon
On this parched day.

Her head turns
And in her crouch
She duck-walks
A foot or two
To another spot,
Carefully dribbling again.

She pauses
And watches,
And duck-walks again.
She dribbles again
And smiles,

Her gift apparently received in gratitude

Then the crowd surges,
New customers come to my counter
My attention is drawn away
And when I next look,
The little faery is gone.

©2016 Annette Meserve