Through the Glass, Darkly


October 08, 1991|By KATHERYN G. McGILL

Alice sprawled lazily amongst the pickerelweed and cordgrass.The leaves of obligate wetland vegetation reached out kiss her fingers. A warm sun bathed the wetland area, and a fickle breeze rippled the stands of spike rushes and cattails.

She slipped off her wet loafers and pushed her toes playfully into the cool, water-logged soil. Damselflies coupled and laid eggs on the reed grass. The call of red-winged blackbirds put a halo of music around the quiet solitude. An otter led its kits among the clumps of marsh hibiscus. Canvasbacks drifted silently on the open water stretches, feeding on wild celery. A red-shouldered hawk cut graceful spirals overhead, riding thermals from upland fields. A day to be lazy on, and Alice's mind drifted off with the billowy clouds meandering above.

Suddenly, she sat up. The dark, fertile wetland waters dripped from her simple cotton blouse. A faint sound drifted across the gently waving salt grass and marsh elder from a wooded area next to the flowing waters. A sound carried on the breeze:


Backpack in hand, Alice picked her way carefully through the fragile wetland plants and stepped quietly in among the bottomland hardwoods. A white rabbit sat a low rock, meticulously cleaning the wetland mud from its paws. No ordinary rabbit, she thought. This rabbit was dressed in an Ivy League suit, and Alice caught a glimpse of a Yale tie. The rabbit was very earnest, and she could now hear distinctly what he was saying.

''No net loss of wetlands. No net loss of wetlands,'' he muttered over and over again as he cleaned his paws. Alice started to laugh. She suddenly caught herself with a sudden flush of recognition, like the revelation of a simple, religious truth. The idea pierced her brain and entered her heart as she crouched behind a large tupelo gum tree.

''Yes, that's what we have to do. It's so simple. I'd follow this rabbit anywhere!'' Alice exclaimed under her breath. ''Oh Mr. Rabbit, can we really save the . . .''

As she started from behind the gum tree, the rabbit gave a frightened glance and bolted down a large hole hidden in a clump of button bush. Alice scampered to the hole and peered into the darkness.

''I'll follow you anywhere,'' cried Alice, alarmed by the rabbit's sudden disappearance. And when she said that, the bushes in front of her began to enlarge. The gum trees and willow oaks grew. The rocks swelled. She felt exhilarated, like a pilgrim set free from harsh reality, in a world expanding.

In face, she was shrinking. Before she could say ''Iowa,'' her tiny feet lost their grip on the edge of the rabbit hole and down she went, following the White Rabbit into the unknowns that lay below.

Alice Has a Strange Experience

Alice opened her eyes. Standing over her were two small, but very rotund, boys, dressed identically, one with a toy truck and the other with a toy power plant in his hands. The White Rabbit was nowhere to be seen. Alice looked at the two boys.

''Who are you?'' she asked.

''Dee, Dum, Dum, Dee,'' they chortled in unison. Dropping their toys, they danced round in a circle, clapping hands and laughing.

''Stop it!'' Alice shouted, getting to her feet. ''Who are you and where am I?''

Startled by Alice's outburst, the boys suddenly got very serious. The boy with the toy power plant stepped forward and bowed graciously.

''I'm Tweedledum and this is Tweedledee and you are right here,'' he answered quite logically. ''My toys are the most important toys,'' he said with pomp, holding up his power plant which changed into an oil rig. ''People should like my toys better than all other toys in the world!`

Tweedledee shoved forward, carrying his toy truck which changed into an airplane.

''That's not true! Look at this!'' shouted Tweedledee, as he zoomed his airplane around in circles. ''My toys are better than his!''

The two boys glared at each other. As Alice wondered how they ever sorted out such conflicts, the boys grabbed her by the hands and started skipping up a trail that led through a woods.

Before she could ask where they were going, Tweedledum started chanting, ''To market, to market, to market.''

''Where is this market?'' asked Alice, try- ing to stay in skip-step which was difficult because each boy was out of step with the other.

''Just through woods and down the hill,'' said Tweedledum, who was, by now, well out in front.

''A very short distance!'' gasped Tweedledee, who was, by now, bringing up the rear.

''How long will it take?'' asked Alice, noticing that the two boys were running out of breath, and their skipping had faltered.

''Oh, a long time,'' wheezed Tweedledum as he collapsed under a tree, hugging his toy oil rig.

Tweedledee skulked off on the other side of the path and sat down behind a tree. ''You stopped skipping before I did!'' he shouted. ''You're just trying to show me up! Alice stood in the center of the path not knowing what to do.

''I won. I won,'' yelled Tweedledum jumping up, no longer out of breath.

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