The Fledgling Princess
A Fairy Tale for Artists
Anyone Who Has Ever Lost Their Muse
An Original Fairy Tale and Photographs
Catherine Mitchell, copyright 2010
Once upon a time, there was a tiny Fledgling Princess named Artiste', who lived in an Enchanted Garden where smiling flowers wore skirts of crinkled silk and shimmering jewels of morning dew, butterflies flirted with the breeze, bees busily groomed pollen-laden blossoms, and everyone sang songs because they were happy in heart and it never occurred to them not to sing.
Mornings were a magical time in the Garden. Overnight frost embellished the tiniest leaves with dainty picot edging, while leaving remnants of ghostly feathers upon the rocks. As soft rays of sunlight trickled through the fog slowly warming the Garden to life, a myriad of songs began their crescendo into a glorious symphony.
Honeysuckle blossoms dripped from the arbor, hiding a secretive regiment of ants - their bodies plump with sweet nectar as they made their continuous journeys to and fro. It truly was an Enchanted Garden, gloriously alive with the mundane and ordinary, just as every breath and heartbeat articulates its own tiny miracle.
Fledgling Artiste' had bravely negotiated the many trials thrust upon her when leaving her soft, safe nest, but soon she would face even bigger tests in life, as is the curse befalling all true Princesses.
One of Artiste's responsibilities was to tend the Enchanted Garden. If truth be told, that was her only responsibility. To aid her in her toil, Artiste' was bestowed with Inspiration, whose name was Muse.
Muse was a precious companion, opening Artiste's eyes to the extraordinary beauty of the Garden, teaching her to appreciate its wonder down to the most minute detail.
Although Artiste' adored her Enchanted Garden home, she soon became a bit spoiled, and a bit bored, as is often the case with Fledgling Princesses.
One day, Artiste' awoke to find that Muse, her Inspiration and the life of the Garden, had vanished. At first Artiste' was angry, as she felt betrayed by Muse. But more importantly, like most Princesses, she did not enjoy being alone. Artiste's anger soon turned to despair. She had taken Muse for granted.
Nothing was the same without her beloved Muse. The once-vibrant hues and tantalizing textures of the Garden now seemed flat and lifeless. For days, Artiste' mourned Muse's departure. Then, one day, as all real Princesses must eventually learn to do, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She would enlist the help of her friends, she determined, and together they would search for Muse.
Artiste' thought it prudent to first pay a visit to Owl, as Owl had the reputation for being the wisest bird in the garden. "A missing Muse will not be easy to find," pontificated Owl. "Quite difficult. Yes, quite difficult indeed. I believe knowledge is the key to solving this problem. You are welcome to immerse yourself in my vast library... perhaps it is there you will find your Muse."
Artiste' thanked Owl for his wise words. She eagerly ruffled and rummaged through Owl's collection of tomes, but Muse was not in the Owl's books.
As Artiste' continued on her journey, she happened across Crow. She was very pleased, as crow was always apprised of current goings-on in the Garden. Surely if anyone knew where to find Muse, it would be Crow. "Oh, I know just what you need," said Crow. "You need someone to talk to! I will be glad to tell my friends about your plight, and then they can tell their friends. Soon, everyone will know about the disappearance of Muse. The more we talk about your problem, the better chance we have of solving it. I do believe that endless conversation is the best way to find Muse."
The thought of endless conversation made Artiste' feel very weary. She thanked crow for being so willing to help, but knew that talking would not help her find Muse.
Squirrel, who had been listening to the conversation with Crow from a nearby tree, immediately chimed in, "Oh, I believe that worrying is definitely the way to solve this dilemma. Whenever I face a challenge, I sit and wring my hands - doing so always helps me think. Worrying is a form of thinking, you know."
Pigeon, also listening from the same tree, vacantly cooed, "Life is too short to be talking and worrying all of the time, Artiste'. Just empty your mind, let go of your thoughts, and then... if you wonder what you should do next, just follow what everyone else does. This life strategy sure works for me... by the way, who did you say you were looking for?"
Artiste' realized her friends were trying their best to be helpful, but in spite of their efforts, her troubles left her feeling quite forlorn.
On she trudged to Jay's home, hoping he would have a solution. "Perhaps we should bury your problems," said Jay. "I've buried my problems in the Garden for years, and doing so has served me well. Out of sight, out of mind, I always say. However, I admit I do run across some of those old problems from time to time."
Artiste' sighed to herself. The last thing she wanted was to revisit the same problem again years down the road. This was certainly not the path to finding Muse.
As Artiste' wandered on, Woodpecker suddenly swooped down across her path. "I think being yourself is highly overrated. Believing you are someone else is much more interesting! Why, look at me... I'm not a Woodpecker, I'm a Medieval Griffon - defender of castles and princesses in distress." And with that bizarre display, he was gone again just as mysteriously as he had arrived.
Stifling a giggle, Artiste' wearily shook her head. As cryptic as it was, she understood Woodpecker's point. But, she knew that silly charades would not gain her an audience with Muse. She would never find Muse by pretending to be someone else.
Flicker, not to be outdone by Woodpecker, thought of a more palatable ruse, "Perhaps a more covert operation is called for. Disguising your voice could aid you in sneaking up on Muse. I have various intonations in my repertoire, each with its own objective. By varying my voice, it is quite easy to camouflage my whereabouts."
Although Artiste' appreciated the suggestion, she knew she would not get any closer to finding Muse by imitating someone else's voice or using someone else's words.
As the day was rapidly coming to its end, Artiste' began to grow more and more concerned. She hoped Townsend would have a novel idea; he was quite brave and inventive. Just then, she heard his excited twitter, "I'm here to save the day!" he exclaimed. "Perhaps someone has stolen Muse and will be frightened into submission if confronted by the legendary Masked Avenger!"
Although she admired Townsend's enthusiasm, Artiste' knew she would never be able to fit into his costume. Furthermore, she knew she would never find Muse by wearing a mask or disguise.
Artiste' had one more prospect in hopes of finding Muse. Nuthatch was an expert problem-solver, having raised so many children. When Artiste' explained her dilemma, Nuthatch pondered for a moment between feeding her babies and then thoughtfully replied,
"Perhaps all you need is a different perspective. In our family, we spend at least half of each day upside down. That way, no matter which way is up, we are seeing things the correct way at least half of the time!"
Artiste' felt a slight headache coming on at the mere mention of spending half of her life upside down, but the idea of a fresh perspective began to whittle away at her heart.
By now, Artiste' was exhausted. The day was at its end. How would she ever find Muse? Her friends, although well-meaning, had not been able to help her unlock this mystery.
What would come of her beloved Garden now? Without Muse, the Garden will surely die, she thought, and perhaps she would wither away as well. Artiste' was overwhelmed with emotion, as Princesses are often prone to do.
Fearing all was lost, she wept until she felt as though she would have no tears left and hung her head in despair. "Can one go on living without the capacity to see or express beauty?" she cried.
As if to answer, something softly fluttered against her cheek. Through her tired, tearful eyes, Artiste' beheld the most beautiful sight - the angelic wings of her very own Fairy Godmother!
"Artiste', you have done well," said Fairy Godmother, her melodic voice soothing Artiste' like a cool stream on a hot summer day.
"But how can that be?" agonized Artiste', "For Muse is gone. I am unable to tend the garden and shall never be inspired again!"
Fairy Godmother, who was not only very kind but also very wise, replied, "Although you lost your Muse, you stood your ground through many well-meaning suggestions, which if implemented, would have certainly caused you additional turmoil. Everyone must chose their own path, and you have learned the importance of staying true to yourself and following your own heart."
"You have proven that you are ready to take responsibility for your life and are ready to guard the gifts that have been bestowed upon you."
"As of this day, you are no longer a Fledgling Princess - your full royal name shall now be known as The Princess Artiste', Keeper of the Enchanted Garden."
"Now, close your eyes and open your heart," instructed Fairy Godmother, as she sprinkled Princess Artiste' with enchanted fairy dust.
Squirrel, who was observing in awe from a nearby fence, closed her eyes too, out of solidarity.
For what seemed like an eternity, Artiste' kept her eyes shut tight. As she did, swirls of fairy dust raged around her. Then all at once, the whirlwind subsided.
Slowly, Artiste' opened her eyes... scarcely daring to breathe. "The Garden - it's beautiful again!" she gasped. At once she was overwhelmed by the intensity of colors and textures that enveloped her. Melodies entwined around her like vines, culminating in a glorious symphony.
It was all so clear to her now. Her Muse, true enchantment, had been there all along - right in her very own heart. She had only to open her eyes and look beyond herself to see the incredible beauty that was present before her.
From that day on, Princess Artiste' blissfully tended the Enchanted Garden, with friends at her side and Muse in her heart. And they all lived very happily ever after.
Like all classic fairy tales, this one has a moral, too:
Be true to yourself and follow your heart, and you will find your Muse.