Led-Gend

Led-Gend
Illustration from Legends of Charlemagne by Thomas Bullfinch, Illustration by N. C. Wyeth, 1950
"What fantastic mural might W. C. Wyeth have produced to depict MY story?"

Mary Colter, famed designer for the Fred Harvey hotel chain, always began her work by creating a rich fantasy about the building she intended to design. These fantasies had nothing to do with historical accuracy, but with design coherence. When faced, as designers inevitably are, with trade-offs, she'd refer to her fantasy to determine which alternative most closely cohered with her underlying story. Her La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, though partially dismantled into railroad offices in the sixties, still exudes a fantastic attention to small detail. A guest feels a sense of every element being precisely in its place, right for its purpose. From the wide hacienda porch around back to the great room tucked between the first and second floors, even down to the inconveniencing absence of an elevator, the place seems to be precisely what it purports to be, the legacy of a childless Spanish land-grant holder who bequeathed his inherited one hundred fifty year old home. It was none of that, of course, except Colter's Fantasy Led-Gend seems to have made it so.

I had concluded that a guiding vision needed some grounding in reality, but I might have wrongly concluded.
If coherence serves as the highest purpose of every legend, it need not include reality to achieve that end. Completeness and detail might well be more critical to the successful service of any vision, and in the case of legend, the more inspiring, the better. The Muse tells me that I am the progeny of Charlemagne, one of the more legendary leaders in all of history, though much of his popular history seems transparently bullshit. It still inspires and informs and remains true to itself if not always to the actual facts. I've never personally worn shining armor, but I still revel in this bit of family heritage. I don't tout this legacy, but I could and I'm thinking that I might. Kings produced legions of progeny, most of which became minor royalty, if royalty at all. Kings often employed their divine rights not in the interest of furthering piety, but in bedding anyone with two legs, and in some more extreme cases, four. This practice produced legions of offspring. I'm uncertain which twig of that family tree produced me, though I remain the progeny of a popular legend.

Now, I tell stories, stumped when asked whether I write fiction or non-fiction, for when dealing in Led-Gend, this distinction crumbles. I write Historical, Autobiographical, Philosophical Fiction, or so I'm informed, and there might well be ample room within that august classification for inspiring pure fantasy, too. The defining element must certainly remain coherence. What story properly inspires? Which reliably orients? It might be that one eventually becomes the story they espouse, if only through long winnowing from choosing Led-Gend over mundane fact. Who do I aspire to become, and what?

The oldest cookbook on my shelves was published by a Northern California Zen Retreat Center. The unnamed author(s) encourage their reader to take their recipes light-heartedly and accept whatever results as the way that batch was supposed to be. Famously, they include my favorite recipe of all time, Something Missing Muffins. They list ingredients and quantities for a standard muffin, then invite the aspiring baker to leave something out or replace something with something else, not even the sky defines the limit. They promise an interesting result. I refer to that recipe every time I make muffins because it reliably produces just what I want in a muffin, something I've never produced before. I hardly follow the recipe at all now, referring to it for ratios and proportions more than for ingredients, some coherence always results. I'm feeling that something significant might be missing from my current story. I could accept or remedy that absence. My choice.

I feel now that I've declared that I'm
ComingIn, I enter lacking an adequate Led-Gend. What might guide my steps after entering? I suppose that I could envision a rational series of steps to guide me, but Colter's utter fantasies intrigue me. If I had a fantastic Led-Gend, what would it be for this latter-day progeny of perhaps the most legendary person of all time? Could I call that Led-Gend mine and maintain a straight-enough face to appear coherent, with everything seeming precisely in its proper place? I'm considering while concocting potential stories. Should I go all Horatio Alger on myself or pull something more like a King Arthur? What fantastic mural might W. C. Wyeth have produced to depict MY story? Historical, Autobiographical, Philosophical Fiction, indeed!

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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