This is a story of myth and mystery, a universal tale that traces our journey back to the world before birth. It tells of who we are and who we may yet be. It is a story of poignant parting from the love that embraced us in the very beginning, of the courage of the solo traveler and of the irresistible force that draws us home to life.
A child named Madison is carried down the River of Stars in her boat, Moonsnail. She is on her way to be born, a hero's journey. Madison's descent from the vast night to the passionate embrace of the day has the ring of ancient myth and the charm of new found truth. It is a story that we recognize as well as discover. Paintings illuminate the story; words in turn illumine the paintings in this deeply original book. Together the visual and written creation pays homage to the human spirit, its majesty and its innocence. Madison is an emblem for us all, wide-eyed and wise, timid and brave.
She is told by her old friend, My Moon, that it is her time to be born. She knows the music of the stars now, she has her own Wish Star to wish for her and she may begin her descent on the Great River. My Moon says to her, "All alone is how you go." and "When you're not ready you are." Her parting from all her friends in the Night Nursery is hard, but "she was fond of adventures, even though she hadn't had any."
Madison and Moonsnail have many important encounters in the course of their odyssey. From the Hummingbird King, she is granted the first wish of purest freedom, to fly! Before she is held by the elements, the water and the earth, she flies in air without limit. The Hummingbird promises that this flight will always live in her. She will always be the Youngest of All, First Born, new and full of joy.
The Ancient Octopus moves the stars, in careful arrangement and wildest disorder. Madison learns from him the Octopus Dance, which links the times of order and chaos, the wonderful creation they make together. He tells her that she will always be the Eldest too, one who knows the dance of the stars.
The Jaws of Time is a monster with teeth. But after her first fear, Madison finds the way through and the Jaws promises her that no matter what, her time will always be enough.
With their primal wisdom, the animal spirits are the guides of Madison's journey and of her future. Their lessons and gifts are paradoxical as well as generous. Each gift can be contemplated to reveal a deeper content and yet there is nothing ponderous in this story. It wears the mantle of teacher, inspiration, mystery, so lightly that we are charmed by its implicit philosophy.
Through each chapter's encounter, animals are restored to their noble roles within creation. Through them, as well as the lovely baby Madison, the story is filled with the reverence for life.
The feminine too, the maternal creation, is given a role of power and dignity. My Moon is the mother that watches over all and knows the timing of creation. Moonsnail, the patient boat, is both the vessel that carries Madison and the light portal through which she passes into life. The ancient mandorla shape, the almond halo of countless religious images, is gently linked with its origin, the feminine portal through which we are all born.
Memory and forgetting are themes- the call to remember, the warning not to forget, echo throughout the story. In the last chapter, the Questing Trout whispers to a dreaming Madison, "Oh, little night wanderer, look deep and remember." It is a call that rings true for young and old, making Madison's Descent a timeless book.
MADISON'S DESCENT and THE WAY TO DAVIS
Page, I'm thrilled to have the two books you sent--they are spectacular and gorgeous. I could tell from the few small reproductions of your paintings (the ones I've seen) that you have a mythic mind and spirit, and both are given free rein in these elegant, absorbing, transporting, magical books. The prose and the paintings manage to be intensely physical and meditatively mystical at the same time--no small feat. The journeys enacted are strange, tender, funny, mysterious, primitive (consciously), and brimming with folk wisdom. They do what all good myth-making should do: create another world which is coherent and intact itself, and yet which brims with instructive and illuminating links back to the world we know. You are well-served in the production of the books, I would say. I hope they are finding and will find the audience they envision. Thanks for the gift of them. I'm delighted and grateful.
Robert Hahn, poet
Let’s jump the track here. Boldly going into literary reviewer, Frank West Territory, we have to tell you of a brilliant piece of business which combines a magical book and great music. Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin is one of Ireland’s great composers and musical gifts to the world. He is also the Founding Director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick. He founded the school in 1994, and it has since blossomed. We should write an entire column about it and will. Fab. Well, he has written a suite of tunes around a wonderful book by a woman named, Page Allen. It is called, Madison’s Descent. This is tough. It is a book for children. Wait. It is a book for all of us. It is a lovely way to explain to a child the answer to the age old toddler’s question, “Where do I come from?” Wait. It is a beautiful book explaining where we all come from and where we are going. It is new agey. Wait. I know. When I first saw it, (and before I read it) two thoughts occurred simultaneously. This art is lovely. (Author, Page Allen did it.) This is New Age crap. Bzzz. Wrong. WRONG. It is wonderful in every way. Were my daughter of the age, I would read this to her every night. It is a magical view of Madison’s travel through the heavens, stars and universe before arriving here. Well, that is my favorite part of the book. It reads beautifully, but it should be read aloud to get the mystery and wonder of it. Assuming you are a parent, or know one of a child of the right age, this is a gem. Google it. Amazon it. Find it. Get it.
The neat part is that Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin agrees and has written lovely music, themed on Madison’s Descent. It HAS been recorded, but is not yet commercially available. It should be. Page sent us a copy of the album. Gorgeous. You ARE going to be able to hear at least a few of the tunes this summer and fall in Ireland at The Carrick on Shannon Festival in July, and the NCH in Dublin on Sep 4. You heard it here first. The album is going to be special. Very. The book IS available now. This book is descended through the stars for your family. It is lovely. You know it is. When was the last time you saw us write about a book? Allen meets Ó Súilleabháin. Magic.
Bill Margeson, LiveIreland radio
In the collections of
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
The Huntington Library, Pasadena, CA
National Library of Ireland, Dublin
The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland
Regis University Library, Denver
Hampshire College Library, Amherst
The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY