It always amazes me how the story almost writes itself sometimes. It takes twists and turns I did not foresee, and rarely does it turn out to be the same story I intended to write at the beginning. I look forward to seeing how it will end as much as the children do! Once I get going, I kind of get lost in the story and leave a little bit of the real world behind me. The characters are carrying on conversations in my head. I wake up with them on my mind and I see little things that happen sometimes through the eyes of my characters. Scary, huh?
The book I’m currently working on is a Twinkie Winkler Mystery called “The Clue in the Curious Carousel.” It is set in a nifty little place called Clown Town, where circus, carnival, amusement park, clown school and circus museum are all rolled into one. I’ve been doing some research this week into circus history and memorabilia, clowns, carnival rides, sideshows, magic tricks, circus acts and so on. In particular, I’ve been reading up on the history and making of carousels, since much of the mystery in my story centers around an antique miniature carousel and the life-sized one that is its replica.
I won’t go into a lot of detail here about the history of carousels except to mention a few interesting facts: The word carousel comes from the Italian and Spanish words garosello and carosella which mean “little war.” It stems from the 1100’s when Crusaders brought an Arabian and Turkish war game back to Europe where it became over time an elaborate show of horsemanship called carrousel by the French. Six hundred years later a training device for this contest was invented that consisted of carved wooden horses hung by chains that radiated out from a center pole. The young knights-in-training would ride the horses and practice spearing a ring that hung from a nearby branch or pole. By the late 1700’s this early carousel had spread throughout Europe solely for amusement. It was moved by man, mule or horsepower, so it was small and lightweight.
With the invention of the steam engine, the large, elaborate carousels we are familiar with became possible. The Golden Age of the carousel in America was from the 1860’s to the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Carousels became extravagant creations of art with beautifully carved horses, chariots and a rich variety of other animals. Many of the carousels were lost during the Depression when they were destroyed or dismantled. Later as the economy and technology improved they were not replaced by the labor-intensive carved carousels of the past but with cast aluminum or fiberglass. Technology also made newer, more thrilling amusement rides possible and the carousel went from being the centerpiece of the park to merely a “children’s ride.”
Of course, all this research had me thinking about carousels and how they relate to life in general. (You know by now that that is how my mind works.) We all love to ride the carousel, or merry-go-round as we call them now. It’s pretty and cheerful. The music is bright and catchy. The ride itself is simple—‘round and ‘round and up and down at a nice easy speed. It’s the first ride we take our babies on. As we become older it is a sentimental favorite, not because it is thrilling, but because it is a familiar part of our past. As for how the carousel relates to life—well, that’s where the problem is.
‘Round and ‘round and up and down—you’re moving, but getting nowhere! You get off right where you began! Don’t you sometimes feel like there are periods in your life when that is how it goes? You keep moving, but sometimes you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Day in and day out, life goes on the same. Your life is just about the same this year as it was last year and the year before that. Our children are growing and changing, but where is the growth in our own lives (other than around the middle)? Time marches on and takes us with it, but progress and success sometimes seem elusive.
There was a song back in the Sixties when I was a teenager called “The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell. The chorus went:
The seasons, they go round and round,
Time. Our lives are a mere vapor, the Bible tells us. “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) The Lord tells us not to take the days of life that we have lightly. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When time seems to be flying and we are going nowhere, maybe it is time we get up off the couch and do something about it. Learn something new. Help someone else. Make our lives count in tangible ways in our families, churches and communities. Success may not mean a bigger paycheck, but it may be reflected in a life that we touch or in our own personal growth.
Spiritually, we are to be making the most of the time the Lord gives us on this carousel we call Earth. The Bible also tells us to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Colossians 4:5 tells us to “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” We do not know how long our ride will last. It is a matter of obedience to make the most of our life and time here to bring glory to God and do His will.
How do we redeem our time? One of the interesting things I discovered about carousels this week is that there are four basic poses of the ponies on a merry-go-round. There is the Stander. He has three or four feet on the ground. The Prancer has just his two back feet on the ground as he paws the air with his front feet. The Jumper is in midair with all four feet of the ground, and the Star-gazer is positioned so that his head is looking skyward. These four pony poses made me think of the positions we as believers ought to take as we go around on our carousel of time:
Like the Stander we must stand fast in the faith. I Corinthians 16:13 says, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” The NASV says it like this: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” We must be grounded in doctrine, wise and understanding of God’s Word.
The Prancer appears to me to be bold and eager. We ought to be just as bold and eager to share the Gospel, and zealous for the Lord. Ephesians 6:19 says,”…that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” Live boldly in Christ, unafraid to share the Gospel. Paul said in Philippians 1:14, “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
And then there is the Star-gazer. Like him, I want to be always watching and looking to Heaven, expectant and eager for the return of Jesus Christ to earth. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42) When we are truly expecting His return at any moment we will live like we do, and be more aware of the urgency of sharing the Good News with others.
The carousel of our lives and time may be going ‘round and ‘round but that is not an excuse for us to be going nowhere. Let us be conscious of the days that are slipping by and make them count for the Lord. Stand firm. Be bold. Run the race. Watch for His coming. Life is a merry-go-round. Enjoy the ride!