Small Stones – January 24 – Catching up from vacation

Hogwarts at a distance

Hogwarts at a distance

Universal Islands of Adventure. We lucked out choosing to go to Orlando at this time of year. Small crowds, short waits, comfortable temperatures (low 70s). I can’t imagine how miserable it would be at the height of summer crowds and summer heat. Oy.

Ride of the Day: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I am a Harry Potter fan, so naturally this would be a favorite, but I was surprised how good it was. The designers went to a lot of effort to amuse those in line as they snake through Hogwarts. We actually went so fast that we were wishing for some lines so that we could look at the displays and listen to the talking paintings and other things along the route. The ride itself was excellent. These simulations really make you feel like you are flying. I’d love to see the inner workings and figure out how they do it. How much does the seat actually move? We had to do this ride twice!

Runner up: The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man – Another 3D ride. You feel like you really are falling from the top of the skyscrapers down to street level. We did this one twice too!

Other fun…

  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster – This was a really twisty turny roller coaster. My husband wouldn’t try it—and I have to admit, it took my stomach a while to recover.
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls – This has to be one of the original rides at Universal. Do they even show Dudley Do-Right on TV anymore? The cheese factor is high, but if you like to get wet, this is a fun one. Or you can stand on the bridge and watch everyone else get wet…
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure – The cheese factor is high on this ride too. So-so animatronics, but a nice splash. Took a couple hours to dry off in the mild weather—would be great in the hot summer.
  • Flight of the Hippogriff – A family friendly rollercoaster in Harry Potter land, this was actually pretty good, but the 45-second ride did not merit the 45-minute wait.

I was disappointed the Dragon Challenge was closed for maintenance. Two rollercoasters flying past each other at high speeds. Looked fun–and scary!

All in all, it was worth a day at each Universal park in the off season, but I’m not sure I would ever visit during busy season.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot–when you visit Hogsmeade, be sure to try the Butterbeer!


For the mindfulness challenge at Writing Our Way Home. (Another large stone…)



Lessons in Contrast

Harry Potter has returned to Hogwarts in search of what he thinks is Voldemort’s final horcrux; meanwhile, Voldemort’s forces prepare to attack the school. Professor McGonagall assures Harry they will do everything possible to give him time to search. On the steps of the school, she intones “Piertotum Locomotor!” thus calling the statues and suits of armor to their duty of protecting the school. The stone warriors leap from their high perches and thunk to the ground, crouched ready to pounce. The professor turns to Mrs. Weasley and giggles, “I’ve always wanted to try that spell!”

Last night I went to an outdoor screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. The movie reminded me again (I’ve seen it several times…) of the importance of balancing darkness with light, heaviness with humor. The last Harry Potter movie carries a great deal of darkness, visually and thematically, but the creators excelled at inserting contrast into all that darkness.

On the eve of battle, we see a combination of imminent danger, fearful power, and childlike pleasure. The humor allows the audience a momentary break from anxiety. The levity stops the movie from taking itself too seriously.

Likewise the film contrasts the visual darkness (gray to the point of difficulty in making out details at times) with the brilliant scene where Harry meets Dumbledore at what appears to be a very clean version of King’s Cross Station. The white light, almost blinding initially, certainly would not have the same impact without so much darkness surrounding it.

I’ve noticed this need for contrast in other media as well. For example, it’s tough—really tough—to get vulnerable when you are giving a speech, to share something sad or disturbing from your own life. And as hard as it is for the speaker to say, it’s sometimes even harder for the audience to hear. Even if they empathize with you, your sharing of an uncomfortable experience makes them uncomfortable. But balanced with an eensy-weensy bit of lightness or humor or joy, the discomfort becomes bearable. (Easier said than done.)

I have a friend who is a leadership coach. I admire him and I’ve learned a lot from him. But I’ve almost given up on reading his newsletters because everything is so. heavy. I want to say “Dude! Lighten up! Can’t you see the humor in this situation? Everything is not suffering and sacrifice.” As someone who dealt with a parent’s Alzheimer’s for many years, I recognize that laughter can bring as much enlightenment as tears.

In my writing, I find each poem has a certain flavor—dark, light, humorous, cynical—but collectively I think I have a balance of different feels and emotions. I think I avoid monotony (tough to judge one’s own work though).

How does the idea of contrast affect your creative work? Is it a conscious consideration? Does it just come naturally?