(9/11/00 6:37:26 am)
|Desert places - note for Terri|
Terri I recently had a fairly traumatic experience on a forgotten trail in the Grand Canyon and came quite close to buying it with dehydration. The end result is that instead of death a story was born and now I'm searching for ways to bring the fairy world alive in a desolute world. So I'm wondering if the creatures inhabiting your world in the Wood Wife were plucked from your imagaination or if they have roots in other literature, art or stories. It seems as though I can almost see these fairies peeking out from behind rocks and desert scrub, but I can't quite see their faces -- a common dilemna that us mortals seem to more often than not be afflicted with.
If anyone else out there has any suggestions stemming from desert lore and literature, I'm open to any suggestions.
(9/12/00 11:19:16 am)
Here are my two suggestions: Edward Abbey--the stuff he writes as a naturalist on the desert is beautiful and borders on the fantastic! And Texas Journal of Folklore--which is kind of a fun old journal that has single volumes on different subjects. You ought to be able to find a collection of it at any university library.
(9/12/00 11:22:47 am)
|Note to Midori|
Thanks Midori. I believe I'm owing you a couple pounds of chocolates.
p.s. The princess is shaping up nicely.
(9/12/00 1:46:08 pm)
|Haven't read them, but...|
I was reading through the FAQs on Charles de Lint's site the other day, and your post just reminded me of one of his answers regarding religion.
He lists a few books you may want to check out:
The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching Nature, by Cathy Johnson
High Tide in Tucson, by Barbara Kingsolver
Any of Barry Lopezís essay collections, but particularly these three: Desert Notes, River Notes and Winter Count
The Practice of the Wild, by Gary Snyder
Has anyone read these?
(9/13/00 11:09:28 pm)
I'm on my way to London to catch a plane, so I don't have time to answer your question in nearly the depth I'd like. Perhaps I'll have a chance to go on-line again while I'm travelling over the next couple of weeks...
But briefly: The desert spirits in The Wood Wife were inspired by all kinds of folklore, Native American, European, Latin American. The particular forms they take came out of my own head, but are fairly archetypal. The book began as a novella, commissioned for a series that was to be based on faery drawings by Brian Froud but set in American landscapes. I chose to use the desert as my landscape, and chose drawings by Brian that seemed like they could be transplanted from his English woods to the desert. (You can see some of them in the Gallery of the Endicott site.) Then the series got cancelled, and I turned the novella into a novel. At that point, the spirits in the book, though still retaining elements of Brian's vision, began to resemble my own desert spirit paintings more than his paintings. (You can see some of these on www.coyotemadonna.com)
And also were influenced by the art of Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington.
Yet I admit to being an animist by nature, and the way I feel about the desert tends to take mythic form in my paintings and stories like the Wood Wife. Your experience (which sounds dramatic -- will you tell us more?) has elements similar to a "vision quest" -- being out in the landscape, pushed to a physical limit. This can lead one to step from daily reality into the "Wilderness World" (as Yaqui friends would say) of the spirits. Which can definitely inspire some rich creativity.
Yikes, I'm late....I've got to run, but I'll be back on-line when I can!!
(9/15/00 12:32:01 pm)
|Re: desert spirits|
It seemed very much like you describe. Of course I was hallucinating from dehydration but it was quite a surreal experience. I was writing a cover story for Arizona Highways with a photographer that I've worked with before. He actually did the preliminary research on this little known hike into Marble Canyon, so I deferred to him. What a mistake. I've run out of water before and wanted to take quite a bit but he insisted that there was water three miles in and that we didn't need more than 2 liters a piece. It was the photographer, his friend and myself. No one knew where we were. Hell we didn't know where we were. It took an entire day of driving cross country before we found what we believed to be the trailhead. The trail had been forged by a geological survey team in the 50s trying to discover the possibilities of damming the Colorado River at Redwall Canyon. We set off in good spirits even though it was hotter than Hades itself. Hiking in 100+ degree heat was probably our first mistake. Well several hours later -- three or four -- and completely without water we began to wonder if we had taken the wrong trail. A filtration system doesn't do any good without water to filter. We'd been without water for more than an hour by this time and we found an alcove where we dropped our packs and tried to cool off in the shade. Our footsteps were the only ones on the trail an the trail itself was difficult to find, seemingly disappearing and weaving into dead ends more than once. Kerrick, the photographer decided to go ahead -- after all it couldn't be more than a mile to the water he reasoned. He would bring water back to us and then we would continue on. Well after more than hour had gone by, his friend got agitated and decided to go after him, certain Kerrick had fallen and injured himself. I watched him round the bend where our tributary canyon meet up with a larger fissure. By this time I was certain we were in the wrong place. There was no water. Hours went by and I watched the sun rush to the horizon. So alone I was. Earlier I laid out a sarong and had stripped before laying down on the sandstone to catch any stray breeze, but there were none to catch. I laid there and watched my skin change. Before long only a few stay beads of sweat would appear, which I'd catch with a fingertip and use to try to moisten my mouth. I've never felt so lost as then. My veins stood in relief against my skin almost like a grotesque road map. And ocassionally I'd drift off to sleep, awakening to the feeling of eyes watching me. It was so still but it felt haunted at the same time. By the time dusk approached, I'd dressed in clean clothes --the others were stiff with salt. I tried the sarong around me legs to foil any snakes I might meet, my hat and flashlight were all I had. I didn't even have a knife -- of course the cacti were even dry than I was. I was just getting ready to try and drag myself out of the canyon for help when the boys returned. I learned that Jay had found Kerrick collapsed in the trail and together they had forged ahead to find where the rim meet with the river below. I think it may have been even more unbearable for them to be dehydrated yet able to see the water so far below. I didn't know there was water. I was certain they were injured and we were very, very lost. But at least they had each other. I was alone with whatever it was that was watching me.
Quite a trip to be sure.