When I was little I used to go to the fair or a carnival and feel so bad for the merry-go-round horses.
It was so sad! They had a pole through their bodies and never got to go anywhere except around and around foever.
Some nights after visiting the fair I would dream that I was a merry-go-round girl; that there was a pole bolted into the carousel platform keeping me from being free and that I was doomed to forever travel in the same circle, doing the same thing over and over again for eternity.
But most of the time I dreamed that I could set the carousel horses loose.
I used to imagine that when the carnival would close for the night i would be able to say the magic words that would allow those brightly colored carousel horses to shake the paint flakes out of their manes, throw off the bolts and poles that kept them tethered and finally be able to run free into the night.
Some nights I even dreamed about it; whisperimg words into painted ears, then watching as their flat painted eyes would blink in the moonlight and become real eyes; eyes full of life and energy and then watching the transformation of garish painted wooden horse bodies into real, breathing creatures galloping through the night.
I used to love that dream.
As I got older the dream of the carousel horses faded away until it was just a memory. Until one night, not that long ago, it came to me again. Only this time it had a nightmarish quality.
At first it wasnt so bad. I was a child again, awed by the fantastic beauty of the painted carousel horses. As before I whispered the magic words, but this time the horses didn’t break free.
This time the painted wooden horses remained stationary and lifeless. I went from one to another, crying and begging “Wake up! Please wake up!” And I could feel that they had life inside them, but that there was something keeping them from becoming the gloriously free horses that I knew they were inside.
And then the horses began to change. They were turning real like before, but this time they remained pinned to the platform; bolts piercing their hooves. This time they were writhing as they revolved on the ever turning carousel platform, warm bodies skewered by the poles that held them stationary, and there was nothing I could do to free them.
In fact, my magic words had made things worse. They had woken the horses up, but I could not set them free.
They had to set themselves free.
The magic words could wake them up, make them realize that they were indeed living horses and not wooden carnival attractions, but they had to choose to free themselves from the tethers that kept them pinioned to this ever revolving fun house.
I woke up crying.
You see, we are not so very different than those carnival horses. We are born with the potential, with the ability to become those glorious creatures, our imaginations and creativity running free and creating a reality beyond our wildest dreams.
Instead we become tethered, pinnioned, bolted to the ever turning floor of societal religious and familial expectations. Stand still. Sit straight. Smile. Speak when you are spoken to. Time to go to school. Time to get a job, get married, get a house, have children and start the cycle all over again, nailing the baby carousel horses feet firmly to the platform for their own good.
How rare is it that we see a carousel horse break free of its restraints? How often have you seen those painted wooden horses shake the paint flakes out of their manes and run free into the night?
There are no magic words that can set them free. Perhaps there are words that can make them realize who they are deep inside, under the wooden saddles and the layers of paint and varnish. But those glorious carousel horses have to be the ones to shake off the paint flakes, shrug out of their restraints and head off into the moonlit night of freedom and possibility.