The snake baby I found in the bag of potting soil was not a venomous species. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.
According to Raymundo, our local reptile and amphibian expert, this was a young ribbon snake masquerading as a viper. He said that the shape of the eye indicates who is dangerous. A round pupil (as above) belongs to harmless types, while an eye with an elliptical pupil means trouble. Also, venomous snakes’ heads are distinctly triangular, with a narrow neck. Also, a snake with heat-sensing pits along its head is poisonous, if you want to get close enough to check.
So I guess it was a good thing that I set the little snake free by the stream. Maybe she’ll grow up to control the mice population that enjoy the warmth of our walls in the winter!
You would think that after 26+ years teaching in schools, I would feel confident and ready to share my books and writing ideas with children. Instead, I felt anxious and self-conscious.
I needn’t have worried. The fifth grade classes that I visited were welcoming and interested. If nothing else, we could have used more time to talk about making books, developing characters, and the method I used to make the illustrations in Guided by Magic.
The most rewarding moment occurred when I was reading a part of Tangled in Magic. Since we were focusing on character development, I wanted the students to hear the first time the character of Scrub appeared in the series. In this selection, protagonist Agatha finds Scrub staked out to die in the forest.
I looked up from the page I was reading and saw twenty-some awestruck faces, silent, listening intently. What an affirmation of my writing! An author couldn’t ask for a better response.
While the students were working on creating their own characters using a worksheet I developed for the purpose, they took turns examining the books and art materials I’d brought. They perused the magazines containing my writing, and my handmade books, but the most fascinating objects by far were the linocuts and tools I used to make the illustrations for Book II, Guided by Magic.
In the end, I enjoyed myself immensely, and I’m looking forward to more author visits.
Thank you Amy Wendel, and the fifth grades of Walden Elementary School!
This morning, I was cleaning up around our storage shed. There was an open bag of potting soil that had been sitting around, adding to the mess. I picked it up and dumped it out by the azalea in front of the deck.
Whoops! Something fell out along with the soil, and writhed in the dirt. At first I thought it was a big earthworm. A closer look revealed a small snake. Figuring it was a garter snake, I picked it up.
Yikes! This was no garter snake. The baby serpent hissed at me with a wide pink mouth. Copperhead? Rattler? (no rattle) but definitely a venomous snake with its triangular head. If you can identify this baby, please drop me a line!
After showing it to the workers at the house next door, I took the snake to a warm rock by the stream at the bottom of our property, and let it go.
The big questions: Where is the mama? Where is the nest? Are there more surprise snakes lurking nearby?
The Cars and Crafts show on September 28 at the Ulster County Fairground turned out to be a day of gorgeous warm weather. This festival competed with several other events, in particular, the Elting Library Fair. Attendance was moderate, and yet I sold two books. The best part of the day was talking to my neighbor, a jeweler.
In the quiet moments, I worked on a new story that is a middle grade mystery.
You see I’m sporting my favorite Hudson Valley Writing Project t-shirt.
Kudus to Nicole Jurain, the main organizer. That is a big job, and she made the Cars and Crafts show happen.
Another event we attended was the Wiltwyck Quilter’s Guild’s Quilt show. It was held at the Rondout Elementary School. The artistry of the quilts on exhibit was astounding.
First prize winner–Susan Stessin-Cohn–all hand appliqué. Congratulations, Susan!
I love to quilt, but I am not as precise as this.
Leaving the house I’ve lived in for 25 years is sad and difficult. I’m finding, though, that letting things go can be a relief and an unburdening.
First to leave was my Ashford spinning wheel.
I bought this wheel when my kids were still young, and I assembled it myself. We had seven sheep at the time. Even though they were meat sheep whose wool staple was short, I spun the wool anyway. I loved the rhythm of the treadle, the whir of the wheel and the smell and feel of lanolin on my hands. Spinning is a meditative activity, allowing the hands to work while the mind wanders.
These days, my hands are making quilts, and have been doing that for some years, so it was goodbye to the spinning wheel.
Next to leave was the dulcimer.
This beautiful instrument was a gift, but I never came close to learning to play it well. To be an accomplished musician, one has to be slightly obsessed with learning the instrument. As a girl and teenager, I was obsessed with the guitar, at least enough to sing with my students. As a working mother, I didn’t have the focus or time.
I sent off these lovely creations of wood to their new owners with blessings for their pleasure.
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Heart of a Samurai (Newbery Honor Book, 2011) is based on the true story of a young Japanese boy, Manjiro Nakahama, who was shipwrecked with some other fishermen off the coast of Japan in 1841. They were rescued from a volcanic island by a whaling ship. Manjiro, named John Mung by the American captain, adventures all over the world. Sailor, farmer, artist, and a determined learner, Manjiro eventually makes his way back to Japan.
For me, the most amazing and thrilling aspect of the story was the inclusion of Manjiro’s own drawings, and the photographs of him and others. This is a really good book.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Newbery Medal 2017)
Since I am a writer of fantasy, I enjoyed being swept into Luna’s world of the Protectorate, and the complex strands of the story. The Protectorate is a dark and sad place, where each year one infant is sacrificed to the witch in the forest. Xan, a witch, saves one of these babies, and names her Luna. Xan tries to protect Luna from the girl’s magical powers, but this leads to trouble.
Sometimes the language lifted me, it was so fresh and delightful. I most enjoyed the evil witch who eats sorrows. What a clever creation! Even though it didn’t grab my heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon was an enjoyable read.