Thursday, December 18, 2014

One By One

A Yuletide Story

One by one, the children come and play.

I live alone within this house. The garden surrounds my house and each morning is quiet beneath the snow.

I am not some terrifying witch. I do not scold and chase them away from the frozen pool, nor roust them out from their palaces made of snow. I put on my woolen coat, my gloves, my hat and join them. I am too old to chase and tag, my bones prefer to sit upon the old stone bench and watch them.

I know them all. Elizabeth, Martin, Karl, and June. There is also rough-house Eric, and shy Astrid.

But Flora is perhaps the girl I like the best, for I had wished upon a time to have a grandaughter such as she. For she is proud and taller than the rest. But she does not boss them all around, nor hold Martin down, nor make shy Astrid run away. She leads them all in games until the Sun has set.

One Yule morning I awoke and no children came to play.

Perhaps they grew too old, or had grandmothers to entertain.

For many turns of the Sun they have not come. I grow weary of these days, for all seem to be the same now. The cold is unforgiving now that I am alone.

One morning I hear Eric all by himself. 

He builds a man of snow. In time, June is there with him.
June waves as though she has never been away. The Sun shines brighter now upon the snow, and the trees whisper in the clitter-clatter of their ice-branches, danced by the wind. Inside I give them something hot to drink. 
Their parents must be kind to let them come inside, to hold the warm tin cups. Pursed lips explain the world and blow upon the cider. I always have cheese and bread for toasting and a tureen full of soup the color made of French horns sounding over the sea at the close of day.
One by one, the children come and play.
"And you are here at last Flora, as bright as the flowers that bear your name. Where have you been?" 
"I have always been here. You have always been here. We have always been here. Is it time for soup, and is the rye bread fresh for cheese and butter?"
I know them all. Elizabeth, Martin, Karl, and June. There is also rough-house Eric, and shy Astrid.

But Flora is still the girl I like the best. I no longer need to wish upon a time for her to be my grandaughter. She is proud and taller than the rest. I wonder what she did in life, and why this place is where she at last returned to lead them all in games until the Sun has set.

I am not some lonely woman. I watch them skate upon frozen pool, and praise their palaces made of snow. I put on my woolen coat, my gloves, my hat and join them. Although I am always too old to chase and tag, my bones are content to sit upon the old stone bench and know only this Yule day.

I am not alone within this house. The garden surrounds my house and each morning laughs upon the snow.

One by one, the children come and play.

Good Yule, and may small events of beauty overcome you,
~Ada

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nightingale's News - The City of Destiny

The Nightingale's Stone at The Nearsighted Narwhal
It is fitting that Tacoma, the City of Destiny, is the first place you can go find The Nightingale's Stone in not one but two great indie bookstores.

The Nearsighted Narwhal has already stocked some of my work on their shelves, and you can still find some copies of Les SarZine there! They also feature indie and small press fiction, non-fiction and hoards of great artwork. My illustrator, who was along for the ride, was captivated by a bin of Echo Chernik prints, as is his custom. But no matter, it gave me time to meet owner Christina Armstrong, with whom I share a hair-style and a love of good books.

Find them at 2610A, 6th Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98406

I could have stayed in King's Books all day. They carry new books, but also a wide range of used books as well on all manner of topics. As usual, the problem is not where to start, but when to stop! David picked up some manga and I got a replacement 1st Edition of Robertson Davies' What's Bred in the Bone. (It's a book I tend to loan out a lot, but I don't seem to mind it when it doesn't come back. I like to think it's doing good work out there).

Stop by the store in the Stadium District at 218 St Helens Ave Tacoma, WA 98402

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Touch of Snow


Dear Mercutio.

And finally, again, I am on the frontier of the Winter. Snow has come from distant lands and settled here like the scant hair on a bald-man's head. My lips are cold and my hair is free for the wind. My black hair, now graying, points in the same direction that the branches and twigs do: to the West. But now the cold is more alive to me. I can feel the snapping tap of frost’s thumbs and you know the frost is fond of putting his hands up women's skirts and down men’s necks.

You know that from the time when I was eighteen years-old until I was twenty-seven, I lived on the slopes of the Visingberg and worked for a mining company there as their notary and scribe. Of what happened in my twenty-seventh year, I write at great length in The Nightingale's Stone. Before that I had lived in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hagen, but you have asked me about those intervening years.

How interesting is it to try and remember them. Even when I spoke with Anton, I had no clear recollection of those years, other than they passed:
"I lived this life, alone. There is not much to say of it. I remembered seasons and kept a count of the Moon’s cycles, ticked off the days. Behind a loose stone in my hearth was a cache of money that I received from odd jobs and a pittance the mining company gave me. I had been scrimping my money carefully, for I would one day leave Visingotha. Early on, I had been certain of that, but the days, months, and years had diluted my resolve. Once I had accumulated enough for passage off the mountain, I then reasoned that I would need a nest egg to start over. As I wondered how long I would remain in the mountains, my plans and their requisite expenses grew. I had gone nowhere. 
No man crossed my threshold for romance—or even just my thighs—and I did not seek them out. I told myself that I had come to the mountain to escape those distractions."
I mourn those days, but no longer for a lost youth. There was a time when I delved deeply into the dark places of my memory to castigate myself. In the language of the mines I was searching for a lode of meaning, yet I never made much of the prospects. Yet it was not in the mines that I learned to let go of youthful regrets, but rather from a man who worked in the precious metals we find there. He was a goldsmith and he asked me this:
"How can you really regret some choice or path you did not understand? Is it because you know now? That does not mean you can cast that understanding on the past. It has enough weight to bear already. Do not waste your time gilding an old pot of tin, make a new one out of the gold you have earned."
Those processions of days: they all seemed so much the same, but I know they were not. And at this time of year, when a touch of snow is upon the trees I remember the quiet cold. How I hated it then. I have always been skinny, as you know, Mercutio and so the cold is merciless to me. But is it not a fascinating gift of age and distance that what may have challenged us becomes something that we cherish?

I remember one old oak tree, down in the valley and how the snow would lie upon it casting the chiaroscuro of white and blue upon its dark form. When I was twenty-one and looking at that tree, I was too sure of the world and what it meant to see the snow and the cold, patient bark. I could not feel the sleeping strength of the tree, nor understand the how the air was filled with ice crystals so small that I neither noticed their unique forms nor marveled at how they erased the horizon.

But now my memory is snow upon the old wood, even as I see the small event of beauty reform itself upon a different tree. And I am given the gift of remembrance: that this is a sacred time of year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Snow Monkey and the Apples

Snow Monkey, An Eclectic Journal
Not all of my time is spent slaving away on the novel, or marketing it, which is the more on-going, tiresome task.

So it's with great pleasure that I can say Snow Monkey has published "Apples", a poem in two parts.

Apples are a versatile fruit, whether you cook with them or make poems about them. They come in one fairly consistent shape, but in different sizes. Some are best for fermentation, some for eating out of hand on a crisp fall day. Some are best for making into pie, where they can mix with sugar and cinammon. Do you prefer ice cream or cheddar cheese?

So I am very grateful that Snow Monkey has let me share a few thoughts about them with you. While you're there, be sure and contemplate the "Second Thoughts" about going in through the out door: a poem by Carrol Smallwood. Brian Beatty's "Wild Geese in the West" bears all manner of introspection in 12 bars of Autumnal Blues. I most especially like the line: "How little I know is what I think about." I often visit that porch.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Autumn-Scattered

My mind sketches across the Autumn. When the air is clear of driving rain, or searching wind that tries to tear my life off, I can walk for hours and stand for miles in this season.  

Is this not what I always do? Making patterns and forms of everything? These leaves for example: a sketch of my scattered thoughts, each leaf a thought. The veins and the color demand metaphorical connection, which is, of course, just deeper metaphor. The leaves pile up at my feet, but when I kick them, I do not feel young again.


I said I do not feel young. I did not say I felt wrong, or bad. Many people think that dried leaves of yellow, red, and even brown are only the playthings of children and the bane of gardeners and gutters. When I was a child, I did not see all that many leaves.

The neighborhood I grew up in did not have many trees. There were some I remember in the plazas that my uncle took me to experience when the weather was cold. Perhaps their rarity made them something that I could not conceive of jumping in. Like money, I took the orange and crimson leaves home, and secreted them away from others. I did not know the crucial difference: that leaves were free and money was not.

But now that I am older, I relish the sound of the leaves as much as I enjoy the colors they paint the world with. Even the plain brown leaves, with their laceworks of rot, endow a grey world with earthy insistence. The only sound that may be more pleasing is listening to your lover's feet walking through the leaves next to you. What better gift than a garland of flame maple? How much longer will it last than some quotidian rose?  

I have an old copy of the Harsager Book. For Hageners such as myself, the Harsager Book is equivalent to your Bible, although not nearly as commanding. Being a people of many Gods, we do not bear the burden of having One and Only One Way of perceiving just morality or divinity within our world. The Harsager is made of many old sayings of Our Father and Our Lady. Some of you may be familiar with the Eddas of the Icelanders. It shares some of those texts, but has others. 

How much of it do I believe now? I cannot really say. I put it to a better purpose:

I have used it to capture leaves that I have found in my travels. They speak with the chromaticism of the Gods, far better than words. 

And when I stop and think I am an accident in this world: 
I  thank the scattered leaves, some drying, some moldering, some cursed and some adored, as they descend in their deaths upon the world.
I thank these sepia moments, the maple sunsets and the ochre prayers. I hear the whisper in the leaves: that grace may be an accident, and not design.

Nightingale's News - Print Edition

Get it today!
The paperback print version of The Nightingale's Stone is now available through Amazon!

This is my preferred way of presenting the book, since it took a great deal of work in getting the typesetting and overall design right, along with a nice cover. As an added bonus, you get two illustrations that do not appear in the eBook!

David has informed me that Yuletide gift shopping is well underway, and I would be remiss to mention that The Nightingale's Stone makes an excellent gift.

It's the sort of book that appeals to a wide variety of readers. It can appeal to readers of women's fiction who like a bit of magic in their narratives, and it will appeal to readers of fantasy who crave something a little different. For that self-professed post-modernist (who may or may not be on your list), the book has multiple inter-textual narratives that nevertheless don't get in the way of a good story.

All in all, a good read for a cold winter night, especially since it takes place during a summer.

We here at hagengard.com (most likely myself) will be keeping you up-to-date on new venues through which to find it.

~Ada Ludenow

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nightingale's News: Published

Hello everyone, David here. (Ada's out getting a celebratory donut at Mighty-O)

The quick and good news is that The Nightingale's Stone is now published. You can download the eBook from either Kindle Direct/Amazon or though Kobo for an ePub version. Look for more ePub outlets soon.

We're still working out the bugs in the print-on-demand version, so hopefully that will be available by the end of November and we'll update you on the status of where to buy locally.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the book. I'd like to especially thank poet and gastronomical polymath Shannon Borg for a very nice blurb.

"Poetic and philosophical, The Nightingale’s Stone draws us into an unreal but true place and time, where questions of being, both metaphorical and physiological, are riddled by miners, monsters, and scribes. Mecklenburg’s territory—the Free and Hanseatic City of Hagen; the northern unyielding mountain mining town, Visingotha; and beyond—draws its borders across rivers of ancient fable, pushing the boundaries of contemporary magical realism, with characters that continue to speak after their tales are told and their fearsome countenances drawn."

And thank you to readers for making this all worth while. Since I don't get a chance to say much here, let me say: readers do really make the difference. A very big emotional motivation for me to do this sort of work is to give something back. I still remember the first time I read William Faulkner, or Louise Erdrich, or lost myself in Middle Earth, and I felt: "I want to do that!" What is that? The deeply frank and surprising conversations we can all have through books, and for books to live we have to write them and there has to be people to read them.

Thank you.

-David Mecklenburg