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.
“I never told anyone that I saw the Grassman steal our baby.”
So begins Book II of the Karakesh Chronicles.
If you read Book I, Tangled in Magic, you met Scrub, the waif Agatha rescues in the forest. In Part 1 of Guided by Magic, Sada tells of her quest to find Scrub, the changeling the Grassman put in the pram, and whom Sada grows to love. The only thing Scrub leaves behind is a magic necklace. But are the visions in the necklace to be believed?
In Part 2, Miela, Sada’s little sister, sets out on her own quest. Trouble follows her, threatening to destroy her dream.
Guided by Magic is particularly special to me because I had the opportunity to do the illustrations.
I used linocut to achieve the brooding quality of the story.
Guided by Magic, as well as Tangled in Magic, will be available from me at the Car and Craft Show in New Paltz, on September 29, at the Ulster County Fairgrounds. I will also be selling the books at the Unison Arts and Crafts Fair on December 2.
Guided by Magic will soon be on Amazon, too!
Please add a book review!
Here are the final photos of Claremont that I couldn’t upload onto my iPad.
The Margaret Fowler garden at Scripps College.
Bird sculpture at the Square I gallery/ two horses in a garden/sculpture in a village park
And a Green Man in someone’s garden! The Green Man/Leshy character shows up in my fifth Karakesh chronicle, so I’m partial to this image.
The trees of Claremont, above.
We’ve returned to New York, to the lush green and the humidity of the Hudson Valley. My conclusion: Claremont is a wonderful place, full of culture, friendly people, and beautiful scenery. BUT– the rest of LA between Claremont and LAX is mostly ugly.
So here are photos of Claremont that I couldn’t wrangle onto my iPad when in Claremont.
This garden is typical of the desert landscaping around Claremont houses.
I met this rangy coyote on my morning walk.
It was great to hang out with my sister and her friends. I loved the cool, breezy mornings and evenings, when the air stroked my skin.
Travel provides new perspectives, and a respite from the responsibilities of life at home. I’m sure we’ll be back in Claremont within the year, as we have a new family member on its way.
My sister has lived in Claremont for many years. She has an extensive network of interesting, talented friends who have been dropping by with news and goodies now that she is post-surgery.
I actually lived in Claremont in 1973, just after graduating college. My sister, Jan, found me an apartment and a job. Even back then she had many connections. I worked making hand-forged jewelry for a now-defunct store named Figg.
Recently I read that Claremont is known as the City of Trees. There are many venerable eucalyptus, pepper, palm, and sycamore trees, along with many others I can’t identify. And of course there are the six colleges whose quads and gardens make for great walking.
The houses around the village are highly individual and imaginatively landscaped. Here’s my sister’s front walk.
The inside of my sister’s house is more like a museum. We wander around looking at the art on the walls and the collections of old dolls and wooden chests of drawers full of beads and yarns that she uses in her artwork.
The figures in the foreground are a collection of carved wooden doctors she found in a shop somewhere. We had fun guessing which specialist each depicted.
Thinking About Plot
School will be starting soon, and I’m gearing up to do some author visits.
One of the class presentations I’m developing is about plot. It started me considering how I created the plots of the five books of the Karakesh Chronicles. Each book involves one or more characters on a quest. For me this theme is no surprise, as I view life as a quest. We may not all be seeking the same thing, but I believe we do have some common goals.
In the beginning of Awakening Magic (Book III), Prince Emric knows what he doesn’t want. He must defy his family and the social structure, and make a great sacrifice to achieve the life he desires. True to the quest plot, Emric encounters obstacles and setbacks as he moves toward his goal.
Book IV, as yet untitled, stars Demara, a girl whose father is a selkie. Her mother is a Traveler. Demara longs to be a pureblooded selkie, and to be able to live with her father in the ocean. She, too, encounters obstacles and opposition, and in the end, discovers what she really wants to be.
In the fifth book of the Karakesh Chronicles, the main character, Bimi Lightfoot, longs to find his birth parents. Bimi wants to know who he is, and where he came from. All he does know is that his mother is a faerie, and that she let Liri Flare, her cousin, give Bimi away. As he searches for his parents, Bimi experiences his own transformation.
I’m looking forward to exploring the quest plot with students. Writing with kids is fun and full of surprises.