“I don’t believe anymore in a straight path. … Life is not fun like that.”
— Asheville artist Breah Parker
OK, so Lorelie is a cartoon character — but she’s a profound one. The creation of Asheville artist Breah Parker, Lorelie dances her way through the technicolor pages of Parker’s book, Dare to Dream: Verbal Remedies to Light You Up and Set You Free (Sourcebooks, 2001), encouraging readers to step out of their boxes and live their wildest fantasies.
Parker’s own story is an inspiration in itself — and Lorelie has been a beacon in that tale as well.
“I wondered for a long time where this character came from,” the artist reveals. “I do think she’s kind of a guide for me … that stepped out in front of me and said the things that were in the book to help me believe it.” One such bit of wisdom, says Parker, is, “‘Trust that everything happens for a reason.’ I don’t know that, when I wrote that, I completely believed it. And I don’t know that I really believed, when I wrote ‘Everything and all is possible,’ that that was really true for me. I think I said that for other people — but it’s become my reality. … I believe that you can do anything you want to do. Anything that’s in your heart’s desire, I believe that’s you — your highest person in you — speaking.”
Although the artist didn’t “officially” begin drawing Lorelie until the mid-’90s, “I think I’ve been drawing her all my life,” she observes. “When I was doing the greeting-card line, every single one of the characters that’s on those cards looks like Lorelie’s cousin.”
After years of deferring her lifelong dream, Parker found the courage to take her art public in the early ’90s, developing a line of cards that was carried by both Recycled Paper Greetings and Renaissance Greeting Cards.
It was a huge step for someone who’d never quite believed she could be a bona fide artist (Parker had worked for years in the gift-and-stationery industry, creating art in her spare time — but “always for myself, for my kids, for their schools”). Something inside her, however, wasn’t satisfied: There was still “this little dream of creating my own cartoon character that was a licensed thing.
“I used to say that I’ve got this cartoon character, and people would say, ‘Well, what are you going to do with her?'” the artist remembers. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m going to write a book.’ And I had no idea [how]. I had never written before; I just drew. I wrote letters, I wrote stories for my kids, but I never wrote for a living.”
Finally, in 1999, Parker was in New York City exhibiting some of her drawings and poems at a gift-and-stationery show — still hoping for a licensing agreement. An editor walked into her booth and asked, “‘Do you have a book?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And she said, ‘We’d like to read it.’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s still in my head.'”
Unfazed, the editor contracted with Parker to write the book. “It was crazy,” the artist exclaims. “And I believe it was because I kept saying, ‘I’m going to write a book,’ and the magic of it happened. … I wrote it that fall and illustrated it the next fall, and it was published in April 2001 by Sourcebooks.”
If this were a fairy tale, the rest of the story would be pretty predictable. But Lorelie’s wisdom cuts deeper than that.
While all this was going on, Parker’s 26-year marriage was ending. “I raised three children, and I was [doing] whatever television tells you you’re supposed to have as your life,” she recalls. “You know, I had to have the fancy cars and the fancy house and the trips to Europe, and my kids had all the right clothes. … And we had a great time … but it was also kind of a box that I was living in. It was my ‘should’ box. It was the life that was mapped out for me by other people — which is what I think happens to most of us. When I jumped out of that life, it was scary.”
Soon after, Parker came to Asheville “and started unearthing who I am,” she says. “For the last five years — along with most everyone else I have known in Asheville — I have been knocking down and then rebuilding my life, over and over again, [in] big ways and small ways.”
And along the way, Parker learned some surprising things about the true nature of her dreams.
First off, things haven’t gone exactly as planned. The combined impact of 9/11 and a sluggish economy prompted Parker’s publisher to remainder all the unsold copies of her book. She wound up buying all 7,000 of them herself and has been trying to sell them ever since. Then, about a year or so ago, the artist found herself almost totally broke.
At that point, says Parker: “I had to let go. I said, ‘OK, whatever and whoever is out there helping me’ (because I don’t care what it is. Call it God, call it anything: the universe. Call it your higher self, call it luck, fate, whatever anyone deems to call it) — ‘just let it go and give it over to that … and then just pay attention.’ And that’s what I did. That was my job: to pay attention.”
When she started down this path, confesses Parker, “I had no idea what Lorelie meant; I don’t think I’d even heard the name before. I did find out that there’s a German mythical character called Lorelie that lures sailors onto the rocks — and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s terrible’ … but really it’s not.
“Picture a sailor in a ship,” she continues, “sailing … in the direction where he’s ‘supposed’ to be going — and Lorelie encourages the sailor to go off course, and he ends up crashing on the rocks. But after the crash, there’s a new life. You’ve got to rebuild it. You’ve got to start over again, and you’re in the middle of the ocean, so you’re going to have to start swimming and start using the gifts that you’ve got.”
Basically, the artist maintains, losing everything you’ve believed to be true can be a good thing. “We can get blinded — and we can just keep on going, blinded.”
In any case, as soon as Parker let go of her own plans in favor of just being open to whatever opportunities the universe sent her way, some interesting projects started showing up.
During a short return stint to the corporate world (which she’d vowed never to set foot in again), Parker had a chance to produce a video — a first for her — and was even able to incorporate some animation into the project. “I translated all the things I had done in art directing into this [new medium],” she explains.
That led to working with local filmmaker Paul Schattel on Sinkhole, which was screened at the Asheville Film Festival last November.
“Being involved in a film was so fun to me,” says Parker. “If I hadn’t let go, I would never have done that. I know there’s a lot of things that have passed me by because I was holding so tightly to a dream.”
Next came an offer from the Region A Partnership for Children to produce 11 cartoon characters, a book, a parents’/teacher’s guide, a kids’ activity book, a CD cover and posters.
“From there, it’s crazy,” adds the artist. “I’ve now become a mentor … working specifically with girls who are going from being a girl to a woman — that crossover period when we just don’t know where we’re going, and there’s lots of voices telling us where we should be going and not a lot of voices … asking us where we’d like to go.
“I don’t believe anymore in a straight path,” the artist proclaims. “You know, ‘This is the road that you’re on, and you take it and you go.’ Life is not fun like that. Life is a blast when you let go of all the expectations, let go of all the things that people have told you — or you’ve told yourself — about what life is supposed to be. Let go of all that and it’s amazing what happens, the magic that comes into your life.”
Parker’s dream of creating a licensed cartoon character, she now believes, “was sort of a material thing I knew about. … When we’re pointed to a goal [and] we have a dream, it may not be that dream that we end up with — because we’re developing that dream from our past. We don’t yet know some of the things that we’re going to know as we follow that dream. As we’re magnetized going towards that dream, all of a sudden we might get twisted and turned and we end up in another direction. I have a great poster on my wall that says, ‘Sometimes, on the way to a dream, we get lost — and find a better one.'”
For most folks, observes Parker, “It’s just human nature, I think, to build their future on their past — and so they get more of their past. When you let go, you get to build it on something you don’t know about — and it’s always better.”
The message, she continues, is: “Dare to dream — but make sure that you let go of the dream and understand you don’t have all the answers for it. It’s just your guide; it’s just your light. It’s just the thing that says, ‘Yo! This is what you’d like to look at.’ And then your interpretation is based on your past, so you picture it a certain way. You say, ‘OK, this is what I want, then’ — and then you’re busy working towards it, working towards it, working towards it, and you’re beating yourself up until you finally get tired and then you forget about it. And then, months down the road, it shows up in your life like magic.”
If you feel you could use a shot of this wisdom yourself, visit Parker’s lively, colorful web site, which includes excerpts from the book; free, inspirational e-cards to send to friends; more about Parker’s adventures; and “Ask Lorelie,” a new weekly column aimed at young girls and others in search of advice and encouragement.
Even with her book, says Parker, “I’m not sure what I set out to do with [it] is what’s happening. I’m reaching a different group of people than I thought I was. I thought I was going to be reaching women my age … and I am. … But I think I am speaking to a greater number of people, because … this whole life is about exploring our passion and going for it.”
Dare to Dream is available at Anna B’s in Black Mountain, Essential Arts in Asheville, and on Parker’s Web site (www.verbalremedies.com).