I huddle inside my chrysalis
Afraid to let go of the idea
Of being a caterpillar.
I must give myself wholly
To nameless, formless wonder.
Trusting the seed within.
When the chrysalis finally breaks open,
What will emerge?
A glory-winged creature
Or the dried-up husk
Of a caterpillar?
I’m back at my home base in Austin, Texas, after a week on the road and a journey of a couple thousand miles. I traveled on, undaunted by small inconveniences like having some dude in Lebanon (yes, the country of Lebanon) try to use my credit card on the third day of my travels, resulting in the card being cancelled and me being left with only my bank card and cash on hand. Undaunted, as well, by another dude, the one driving the white Lexus, who failed to stop soon enough and plowed into the back of my car exiting off I-30 in Fort Worth.
Never mind those things. It was an amazing trip. There were vast expanses of geologic time strewn out before me, forcing me to imagine ancient seas, volcanic eruptions, eons of uplift and erosion. There were people whose experience and narrative of American history is vastly different from my own, people with gentle manners and firm rules: no photography, no recording. They told me what I needed to know. They expected me to remember it, and I’m sure I will.
My bedtime reading last night delved back into Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, the passage where the preacher protagonist reflects on a wartime sermon he never preached. “The parents of these young soldiers would come to me and ask me how the Lord could allow such a thing. I felt like asking them what the Lord would have to do to tell us He didn’t allow something. But instead I would comfort them by saying we would never know what their young men had been spared.”
My own journey through life continues and I remain undaunted by small miseries. Who knows what suffering could have been my lot if I weren’t so fortunate? Happy travels!
I came to Arizona in search of deeper insight into one of the characters you will meet in Vol. III of the Recall Chronicles. Her name is Dextra and she is a Hopi woman. Since my arrival here on Second Mesa yesterday afternoon, I have held wide-ranging conversations with a half dozen real Hopi women, asking them questions and listening to them muse about what life might be like for a woman in the Hopi world in the 22nd Century. Through them, I’ve come to know Dextra much more fully. I’ll have to rewrite several scenes and conversations, but that’s okay; that was what I hoped would come from this journey.
I don’t want to tell you too much about Dextra. Just know that she’s waiting to meet you in a book called Flight of the Owl. I will, however, share with you a few tidbits of information that came my way today.
- Some Hopi believe that owls are protectors, while others see them as messengers, possibly of bad news.
- There is a wild plant on the mesas that bears tiny, tiny green leaves that taste like mint. Only stronger.
- Dogs are protected beings among the Hopi (which explains why this is the only area on my journey where I’ve seen dogs!). I was told that sometimes Navaho people will drop off litters of puppies at Hopi shops, knowing the dogs will be well cared for.
Have you read Vol. I – Way of the Serpent?
As I prepare to set off on a journey to Arizona to contextualize the Hopi character of Dextra Honanie (Recall Chronicles, Vol. III – Flight of the Owl), I must take heed of J.K. Rowling’s current tribulations in Pottermore.
Rowling is in process of attempting to construct a bridge between the world of Harry Potter and “magic in North America”. Adrienne Keene, in her blog “Native Appropriations”, takes Rowling to task for several transgressions, beginning with the reification of something called “Native Americans”. Keene rightfully points out that this is a broad and diverse cultural category, encompassing as it does Inuit, Apache, Hopi, Iroquois, Navaho, Cherokee, and many other equally distinctive societies.
Rowling also gets into some awkward attempts to intertwine the fictional world of wizardry with some real events in American history. I fully understand the temptation of providing a Potteresque slant on the Salem witch trials, but I’m mystified by Rowling’s statement that the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) was founded in 1693, a full 83 years before the founding of the United States of America itself. Magic, I guess.
One of the most charming features of Rowling’s marvelous world of wizardry has always been its existence as a world apart from specific time and place, a world exemplified – to my mind at least – by Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Trying to link up with history and a named continent full of real people with complex, still vibrant cultures kind of messes with the magic.
My own fictional world in The Recall Chronicles is clearly linked to real places and potentially real times. And that is why I want very much to get my Hopi character right, or at least plausible enough to be acceptable to Hopi readers. I’m looking forward to my adventures in Arizona!
(More musings on fiction, fantasy, and the real world are in the works.)
Way of the Serpent is speculative fiction.
I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it is when a novel grows into a trilogy and then has to be a whole series because you just can’t figure you’ll ever be finished writing books about this intriguing world you’ve created! This is what has happened with Way of the Serpent and The Recall Chronicles.
In preparation for the re-issue of Way of the Serpent as Volume I of The Recall Chronicles, I’ve come up with an entirely new book cover. Do you want to see it? CLICK HERE!
More news coming soon!
Have you read Way of the Serpent? Here’s a preview.
Although I continue to hold a position as Professor Emerita of Anthropology at my former institution, I stopped being actively engaged in anthropology almost a decade ago. Or did I? The further I get beyond that watershed date called “retirement”, the more easily I see the profound influences of social science on my life as it continues to unfold.
Today I decided I needed to look back on a textbook I used for a class I taught on Neanderthals, in which we studied novels about Neanderthals alongside the scientific treatises. The book I pulled off the shelf is called Fiction & Social Research: By Ice or Fire, edited by Anna Banks and Stephen P. Banks.
The introduction the Bankses wrote for that book struck a deep chord with me and may account at least in part for my eventual turn toward fiction writing. They credit Eudora Welty, Nadine Gordimer and Milan Kundera for inspiring them “to think about the nature of truth and the place of fact in storytelling, and the relation of truth and facticity to the imagination.”
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Anna and Stephen is that “facts don’t always tell the truth, or a truth worth worrying about, and the truth in a good story – its resonance with our felt experience… – sometimes must use imaginary facts.” From them I learned the concept of “verisimilitude”, the notion that a story can have an unmistakable ring of truth even when the “facts” are entirely made up.
So here’s a big “Thank you!” to a couple of social scientists of great imagination and courage who planted in this social scientist the seeds of a late-blooming desire to write stories – completely made-up stories – that have the ring of truth.