Hello! As you know, I’m working on a blog re-do, and I’ve got some fun things in the works. More soon!
I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, and this fall I’ve been learning to row. I had been a runner, but injuries started to sideline me, and one afternoon in early October I thought, why not try rowing? I vaguely remember a week’s rowing as a teenager, in a summer program on Seattle’s Green Lake, and I still remember the synchonicity of rowing as a team, and of the beauty of being right on the water, and I thought: let’s give that a try!
Fast-forward to now, three months later, and I’ve been through a huge learning curve with the sport. First: you can’t learn everything at once. Like any endeavor that involves physical coordination and muscle memory, it’s overwhelming at first. Like anytime you’re a beginner, you feel like you’ll never get this. It’s frustrating and it goes through your mind to give up.
But you know, when you’re on the water and it’s quiet, and you look out at the horizon and see white-blue wispy clouds that are doing nothing but hanging there for you to admire, and you feel the bump of the water cradling the hull of the boat, just inches from your seat, you think about all the people who made their way on this lake before you who may have pulled their crafts across the water with oars or paddles and who saw the same clouds, the same water, who felt the same early-morning breeze on their faces.
And then you remember you’re in the boat with seven or four or three other rowers, all striving to work together to make the boat go forward in a coordinated, rhythmic, organic way. And you pull on the oars the best you can, you hear the swoosh of the oar blades in the water beside you, and you move forward.
Learning to row. The movements come easier a little at a time. The feel of the water, and the breezes, and seeing the clouds on the horizon makes it all seem real. And connected to everything else.
Learning to row. When things get intense in the boat, I try to look out and remember: one day it will all come together, the form, the rhythm, and the pacing, it just takes time and practice, it just takes patience and determination. You just have to keep going.
And this is like writing, no? You take each scene, each story or poem, each essay, and you do your best at that one thing. As you go along you get better at it. Slowly, and with some frustration and faltering moments. One day it will all come together. In the meantime, the only thing you can do is learn. Learn and keep trying.
While I’m working on my “blog re-do,” I’m serializing a fantasy story about a princess whose elf-staff has gone on strike. Here is part 5 below.
Strike Breaker, Part 5
Within a few minutes the shouting outside where the picketers had been chanting was abruptly silenced. When Amadea cracked open the scullery door to see what had happened, she was stunned to see nothing but a new flock of woolly sheep placidly grazing on the small hillock near the back gate. She surmised the sheep were the elf strikers. They looked exceedingly oblivious to their fate. She sighed with relief at the wonderful peace she felt without the threat of Mitchell hanging over her.
The goblins appeared in the scullery, looking like slightly smaller versions of Ezriel, the master, gaunt, thin creatures, with grayish skin and pointed ears. Amadea sent Periwinkle to find suitable livery for them. They stood in a clump in one corner of the scullery, drooping, heads down, and muttering to themselves. They didn’t look dangerous, at least not at the moment.
When Periwinkle returned with a stack of the bright royal blue and gold braided livery of the palace, Amadea asked, “Do they always behave like that?”
Periwinkle clucked her tongue. “Tricky devils.”
Amadea took the livery and approached the goblins. There was a dusty sort of smell about them, like the smell of old books shut up in a library too long. She tried not to breathe too deeply.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Where is your master?”
They pulled away as she came close. Their muttering increased. They shuffled back and forth, back and forth, not answering her question.
This would never do. At least with the elves on strike, she and Periwinkle had been handling the necessary arrangements with what seemed like a minimum of fuss. Now, she had false sheep grazing where the strikers had been – and who knew when they might suddenly be changed back into the loudly protesting elves – and this band of ne’er-do-well goblins occupying a corner of her kitchen.
She had to get hold of the goblin master. She pulled out his card, which she had been careful to put in a pocket when she changed. She inspected it closely. But there was no indication of how he could be reached.
“We’ll just have to work around them,” Amadea said to Periwinkle.
Mistress Periwinkle shook her head. “I’ll keep an eye on the silver, that’s for sure,” she commented.
Just then a filmy brightly colored mist began filtering through the heavy wooden door. As it wafted into the kitchen it brought the scent of tangerine and lime. Amadea felt as if she’d been transported to a fruit orchard.
“Wood fairies!” Amadea exclaimed. The unmistakable citrus odor signaled their arrival, she remembered. If she could just keep the goblins corralled, and somehow manage the serving without too much fuss, she could still pull off the banquet. She strode up to the orange-and-green colored mist and said, in her most lively voice, “Welcome, oh Fairies of the Wood!”
The mist resolved into the forms of tiny figures. At the forefront was a tiny woman about the size of Amadea’s finger, dressed in flowing green robes, whose tiny green wings fluttered as fast as a hummingbird’s. She wore a little golden crown on her head, indicating she was the queen. The rest of the figures were a variety of ladies and gentlemen, all with tiny wings, accompanied by a trailing caravan of food dishes.
The tiny queen spoke. “I am Silvana, your Highness, come to provide the food for your Banquet of Lords. And this is –”
Suddenly Silvana’s tiny face took on a look of horror.
She sniffed the air, then looked in the direction of goblins still huddled in the corner of the kitchen. “What is that?” Silvana hissed.
“Goblins!” she shrieked. The rest of the fairies stared with equal horror on their faces.
At the sound of the fairies’ hisses, the goblins abruptly stopped their shuffling and scuttled in the direction of the fairies floating in mid-air.
“Really, they’re harmless,” Amadea tried to tell the fairies, but she was drowned out by the bellows, grunts and groans of the now-boisterous goblins, scrabbling for the fairies, who departed swiftly through the locked wooden door, disappearing along with the trail of food dishes. Amadea watched, transfixed, as the horde of goblins pounded and scratched on the door after the vanished fairies.
She sank down on a kitchen stool. The food was gone. The goblins were out of control. And, outside, she heard the unequivocal sound of elves on the picket line again, apparently now transformed back to their usual selves.
It was no use. She’d be married off to that disagreeable Prince Edgar before the next full moon.
She looked at Periwinkle, who was frowning at the goblins. “What should we do now?” Amadea called, over the loud scraping of the goblins and the distant shouts of the elven protesters. Mistress Periwinkle shrugged and rolled her eyes.
A gray vapor began to rise from under the door. Great, thought Amadea, what now? As the smoke began to clear she saw something at the foot of the door.
A very fat green frog.
It was the size of a large turtle, emerald-green with dark brown speckles on its back. It opened its mouth and said, “Croak.”
(To be continued!)