A Winter's Tale

A long time ago there lived a Circus King. Each summer, he traveled about the country with his menagerie. And, each winter, he would take his circus to the shores of the Eastern ocean to snuggle in for a long rest in his winter kingdom. But, one terrible day, his winter home was destroyed in a fire. When the flames died down, there was nothing left but ashes and ghosts. The Circus King began looking for a new place to hide his menagerie away at the end of each summer.

One year, out west on the frontier, the Circus King came to a pretty little town at the foot of the great mountains. It was beautiful. The wind swirled merrily through a sea of grass stretching forever to the East, making the prairie dance perpetually. A cloudy fortress of majestic stone peaks stood to the West, guarding over the dancing plains and the happy little town.

The Circus King was immediately charmed. He staked a claim and excitedly declared that this little town would be his circus' new home the following winter. He fenced off a part of the prairie as his new winter Kingdom and he hung a cheerful red and gold sign on the gate. He left then, promising to return in the fall with his circus train.

The people of the little town were terribly excited. To have a circus all winter long! Imagine the possibilities! The wonder! The excitement! And Christmas parades with elephants! Tigers roaring! Dancing horses! As winter approached, the town waited with baited breath, watching the empty patch of prairie turn from green to gold to white. They hung banners with paper flowers to welcome the circus and its king. The wind cheerfully danced through the town, playing with the paper decorations and listening to the hum of the people's anticipation.

But though the snow and the cold came, the circus train did not.

The next year was the same, and the year after that. The people waited expectantly as each summer cooled into winter, always looking to the East for signs of the Circus King and his menagerie. They dreamed of lions and elephants and red striped tents.

After many years, the people began to realize that the circus was never coming. Their excitement and hope faded. The Circus King had forgotten the little town. The wind, frustrated and disappointed, knocked down the fence, and the little red and gold sign faded in the sun to just a gray and faceless bit of wood.

The people took down what was left of the fence and built houses and families over what should have been the circus grounds. They named their new neighborhood "Barnum" in memory of the Circus King. Eventually, even the people forgot what was promised. But, the wind, which does not age, could not forget.

There in Barnum, the promises and possibilities spun about on the wind for many years, becoming more grand and more bizarre, more unlikely, more colorful than any circus could have ever been. The wind whispers stories each lonely winter of an absent menagerie and of wonders that would never be.

Now, when the winter comes each year to Barnum, I have begun listening to the wind's winter whispers and painting the stories they carry. These paintings and illustrations are the stories of Barnum's Winter.