The Lady of Shalott and I | Story #2

by Elouise

The Lady of Shallott

Painting by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), Tate Gallery, London

In 1983 I began teaching theology at a seminary in the Philadelphia area. Though my office was small, it had a window and built-in bookshelves on almost every wall. The other wall slanted in at the top–taking up precious space and head-room.

I found a used lateral file that fit the lower part of the wall nicely. But the space above the files stumped me. I wanted a focal point. Something beautiful I would enjoy seeing every time I came into my office. I also wanted the space to be inviting to visitors. Not intimidating.

One evening D and I were downtown on South Street, taking in the weekend night life—which included, believe it or not, visiting a used book store. Yes, there were books galore. There were also bins full of art posters. I flipped through dozens of large posters, not knowing exactly what I was hoping to find.

And there she was! The Lady of Shalott! The original painting hangs in the Tate Gallery in London, though I didn’t yet know this. I fell in love with it, purchased it, had it framed, and then began having cold feet.

What possessed me? This is way too arty. Way too feminine. What will people think? I haven’t seen anything like this in my new colleagues’ offices. Is it religious enough? Yes, it has candles and a crucifix, but….

To my eyes it was haunting, rich in symbolism and calming. Yes, it was sad and raised troubling questions about what was happening and why. Nonetheless, I hung it securely on the slanted wall.

One day a student came by who knew Tenneyson’s poem. I confessed I’d never read it. So she sent me a copy.

I read it, and understood why the Lady of Shalott was calling out to me. She had the courage and audacity to to look at reality directly, not indirectly. She challenged me to stop measuring my world by consulting indirect mirror images instead of reality itself.

I needed to look directly at life, especially my personal and professional life, and describe what I discovered. I also needed to take whatever consequences came. For me, this was like death. The kind that happens before a seed sprouts and blossoms into reality, becoming more than a pretty painting on the wall or in the classroom.

* * *

 5-day Story Challenge–Day 2

Thanks to my blogging friend Kim for inviting me to join this challenge, and for her consistent encouragement since I began blogging.

If you haven’t already, take a look at Kim’s blog. Here’s her post on the day she invited me to join the challenge: I’ve never seen a pail like the one in her photo, and her poem plus story is heartwarming.


*Post a picture each day for 5 consecutive days (see note below). Attach a story to your picture.
*Can be fiction / non-fiction, or a
*Poem / short paragraph
*Each day nominate another blogger

Today I’m nominating Becky
I also extend an open invitation to all my followers
who have stories they’d love to tell.

*Note: Sporadic posting is OK if you’re not able to post each day. There’s no obligation to accept this challenge–though if I nominate you, it’s because I know you have stories to tell!


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 October 2015
Image from Wikipedia -This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.