Every day, we wake and live our very own story. Much of the time, the hours fly by in what feels like uneventful segments. Our own stories can seem mundane, routine, and occasionally, depressing. We may look for ways to escape our inescapable reality. For me, my desire for escape came when the emotional demands of my job in mental health overwhelmed me. I began to lose sleep, worrying if one of the impoverished children I knew were cold, hungry, or embarrassed to go to school because they didn't have clean clothes to wear. Although I loved my job and was grateful for it, I recognized my real pain when I cried in the movie theater during the scene highlighting the poor child in Polar Express. In real life, the face of a child in need is palpable and crushing to an adult who feels helpless. As falling asleep at night became increasingly difficult, I began searching for a fantasy book -- one that would take me away from the worries of my personal journey and catapult me into one more peaceful.
It was a fortunate day when I stumbled upon Brian Jacques' Redwall series. The children's fantasy novels were unparalleled to previous reads. His world was rich, lines of good and evil were clearly drawn, and his characters believable--despite being talking animals. Over the course of several years, I read 17 of his 22 Redwall series novels. I longed to return each night to the comfort of the Abbey, where the animals held each other in high esteem and respect. Each kind of animal had a unique European dialect--which was written in a way that even an American (from the Deep South, no less) could recognize. In Brian Jacques' stories, the children were loved and well cared for, even the orphans he called "Dibbuns." I was occasionally shocked at his level of description since they were written for children. His stories consist of talking animals (and no humans); there is much peril and animal death. However, vivid writing was his goal, as according to his website, he wrote with blind children in mind.
One of my favorite things about Brian Jacques' stories was his description of food. He was vivid and specific about each dish served in the Abbey. For Christmas, my husband bought me The Redwall Cookbook. I have no idea how he created the recipes, but it has been fun to experience the Abbey's dishes in my own kitchen.
I knew that Brian Jacques' writing had an impact on my life, but I didn't recognize the significance until I learned of his passing today. I found myself tearful at my office desk, thinking of how there would be no more depictions of this vibrant world. I pictured an empty patio table somewhere in England on a summer day. There are no words with a great enough depth to express my level of gratitude to this amazing author. As I write this standing in my kitchen, smelling a spiced bread from his book, I realize that though he may have passed from this world, his stories and the Abbey will continue to enhance my good days and brighten my dark ones.