Horns, Magic, Metaphors, and Me at the Gate

19th Century Austrian Postillon

By way of introducing myself here at BOOKS AROUND THE TABLE, I’m going to share this image of a postillon horn. Never heard of it? Me, either, until I went looking for something to serve as a metaphor for “beginnings” or “openings.” As a poet, I like metaphorical thinking and the sneaky way it makes its point via indirection, in the same way a magician performs sleight-of-hand, making people look at one hand while the other does the actual trick. Look, a dove!

Instinct usually tells me to go with a poem or an image, since one or the other of those will be sufficient. I generally leave explanation to the people who write fiction or non-fiction. But prose is the method of choice for blogs, so let me explain my thinking.

The horn pictured above resides in the Postal Museum in Prague. Postal carriers in the 19th century used it to “give different signals for having the town gate opened, warning the other drivers on the road to give way, calling for help in distress, announcing the post arrival and departure, changing horses, etc.” Note the horn hanging from the neck of the unabashedly jubilant postillon below. Looks like some of those letters aren’t going to make it to their destinations. I hope the news in the telegram was good news – maybe a prodigal son returning? A lost fortune regained? – and not news of cher Mama’s death. That image requires champagne after reading, no?

I don’t expect to toot my horn to warn the other drivers on this blog (Laura, Julie P. and Margaret) to “give way” – I rarely go above the speed limit, metaphorically speaking (Look, another dove!) Nor do I anticipate changing horses very often, though I’ve been known to do it, even mid-stream. But I do like the idea of a high clear note that asks for the gates of the city to open – after all, this blog is about sharing and building community among writers for children, and I hope to hear the hinges creaking, the doors opening and our voices mingling.

At the Gate- Porta Maggiore - Rome

From time to time I might blow the horn as “a signal of distress.” Writing is a strange business, and for many of us it is both exhilarating and exhausting.  There might be an occasional blast on the horn when I’m trying to figure out what keeps postal carriers – I mean writers – going when they’re bone tired. The Frenchman at the Cafe du Postillon pictured below doesn’t appear to be in a Pony Express mood. Maybe he’s a burned out writer. Some of you, I feel sure, have been there yourselves, leaning against that very door jamb.

Cafe du Postillon - Photograph by Aart Klein

Right now, I’m feeling energetic, and I’m here at the town gate with my trusty horn. Hope I’ve got some lovely bit of mail for you from time to time. I wish I could deliver it right to your door, and we’d have tea and talk about books around the table. But I’ll be satisfied with delivering the Books Around the Table part of that scene to your computer screen, 21st-century-style.

Postillon - Neckartailfingen, Germany

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5 responses to “Horns, Magic, Metaphors, and Me at the Gate

  1. I read about your blog on Elizabeth Bird’s blog. So glad to find you!!

  2. I’ll definitely be listening forward, Julie, hoping to hear from your horn at the gate!

  3. Welcome, Sarah and Gretchen! Hope our posts here keep you checking back for more.

  4. Julie, Margaret, Laura, and Julie, what a fine collection of minds in this lovely blog. Looking forward to visiting often.

  5. This is wonderful, Julie! Oh how I would like to receive a beautifully illustrated telegram like the one above.

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