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A Leo Week
Time has a way of contradicting itself, like it’s operating on slow and fast-forward at the same time. This summer, my days feel unhurried and yet they evaporate one after another. The weeks blur together. I can’t remember the exact day I took the above photo, but I think it was at the beginning of last week when, for the first time in far too long, we had a bit of rain. It wasn’t enough, of course, but then we had a rainbow. A really good one, huge and complete. I could see the whole vivid arc. I could almost see where it made contact with the ground, where the elusive pot of gold might be.
At the other end (I couldn’t get it all in one shot), it disappeared behind my neighbour’s trees. And then I saw its shadow self. From one end to the other, this rainbow felt like an umbrella encompassing our valley of communities, our continuum of stories. Rainbows evoke many meanings, thoughts, and visions, but no matter what we see when we look at one, we’re all watching the play between sunlight and drops of water.
Since last week’s rainbow, we’ve had no more rain, just a lot more hot. We’ve also had sudden bursts of gale-force winds, followed immediately by a dearth of air movement. Instead of a rainbow, our evening sky last night looked like what you see above. Yesterday, for the first time in many weeks, we had noticeable smoke in the air. What looks like a dreamy haze is not. It’s smoke. None of the many many forest fires in our province are near us, but that doesn’t matter. Their consequences are everywhere.
Another feature of this week was the full moon - a big round crater-filled sphere made orange by the smoky haze in the air. I watched it rise over the hill, so taken by its presence that I forgot to take a picture. Sometimes it’s good to set the camera aside and just be. The moon’s orange glow made me think of a lion. In the month of Leo, the lion rises.
I am a Leo. This was my birthday week. Family and friends checked in with me on the day, which I loved. Geo took me out for dinner, which I also loved. At this point in my life, I view each birthday as a reason for some quiet reflection. This year, this is what I did during my birthday week: I wrote a new poem; I got a haircut; I played a couple of rounds of golf (one not so great, the other pretty good); I went for several long walks, one along the beach in Kelowna. The public art installation shown below is “On the Beach” by Geert Maas. Whenever I pass this sculpture, it makes me smile, especially in the winter when it has a skiff of snow on it. On this summer day, those bronze figures were too hot to touch.
Also this week, I received the publication date for my new book. I’m delighted to say that She Who Burns will be available the first week of September. It’s already on the Friesen Press website - click here to have a look.
I think I’ve already told you that I’ve been working on this book for ten years. It’s been a long process with many detours and pauses along the way. There were times when I thought about shoving the pesky manuscript into a drawer and forgetting all about it. And sometimes I did, leaving it untouched for many months. During the span of my writing life, I have learned that moments of discouragement in the writing process are inevitable, but they seemed particularly intense this time. Nevertheless, the characters always starting talking to me again, pulling me back to them so I could puzzle out their story.
That’s why it’s been particularly gratifying over the past few months to receive advance feedback about She Who Burns, all very positive commentary that includes words like “riveting” and “compelling.” Now I can’t wait for people to read it. I am thrilled that She Who Burns is ready to find its audience.
Here’s the cover again. I’ll be sharing it often because I love it so much. It features a cougar because wildcats wander in and out of the story. The curving molten shapes that surround the title are inspired by fire and the shape of the decorative side of a Tarot card. Back in 2012, I started writing a contemporary story set in Alberta a few years in the future. It grew into this book, now set completely in the past.
The story starts with Wanda, then my main character, traumatized by a sexual assault and fascinated by fire. I remember one morning when I was musing about the next chapter in Wanda’s story. It was early. I wasn’t dressed yet. I wasn’t sitting at my computer. I wasn’t ready for serious work. Instead, I was in the kitchen sitting on a stool, guiding my pen across the unlined pages of a notepad, just letting words come out. I sipped my tea as I moved my hand over the paper, writing on autopilot. A few sentences in, I noticed that my character was suddenly wearing clothes from a different era and she was riding in a milk wagon pulled by a horse. I realized that she wasn’t Wanda. This was someone new. In that moment, my contemporary story became an intergenerational saga that spans from 1916 to 2016.
During those one hundred years, numerous fires, both literal and metaphorical, affect my character’s lives: fires deliberately set, fires set for comfort, fires for beauty and release. It’s not lost on me that in the seven years that have passed since the framework of my story came together, the word fire has taken on more dire, destructive, and fearsome connotations, especially in this summer of 2023. Back in 2016, when I was in the throes of writing this book, out-of-control fires happened occasionally, somewhere else.
Even though this book is complete, I don’t think I’m done with these characters. Wanda, her daughter, her mother, and her grandmothers will live in me for the rest of my life. A sequel to this book is already taking shape. Writing about them has helped me to avoid despair and panic, helped me to think somewhat rationally about how to live in this more dangerous world.
Meanwhile, as She Who Burns approaches its publication day, stay tuned. It’s an exciting daunting time. Writing this novel has already been an adventure. I’ll be writing more about that journey in this space. I have much to tell you about learning how to listen to my characters, about learning how to read the Tarot so I could write this book, about embedding the Tarot in the story, about using my cards to help me keep writing when I got stuck. I look forward to sharing it with you all.
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