A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle, and Childhood Inspirations

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My aspiration of becoming a novelist began at the tender age of eleven, when I wrote my very first book. It consisted of several pages of paper folded together, illustrated with appropriately childish drawings of a talking unicorn and her quest to find the end of the rainbow. Ever since then, I’ve been imagining what the reality of being a published author might be like, something that will finally be coming true in April of 2019. Of all the fantasies that have run through my mind on many a sleepless night (casting the movie version, rubbing shoulders with my favourite authors at some imaginary party), the idea of giving an interview falls more into the bad dream category. I’m a writer. I don’t do well being put on the spot. I like to take my time with things. In that vein, I’ve been writing and honing a blurb (mostly in my head) about what I might say, if I am ever asked who my early inspirations and influences were. Below is an extremely rough draft of what my response might be, were I forced to cram hours (if not days) of ramblings into a few short paragraphs.SusanCooper-Dark-is-Rising-bookcover

The stories that I loved the most as a child (and later, young adult), the ones that drew me in the most completely, were those wherein the real world and the otherworldly overlapped, where you could step from one to the other – the idea that magic (like the TARDIS), might be hiding around any corner, that one might stumble across it at any moment.

Susan Cooper, Madenleine L’Engle and Peter S. Beagle all rank pretty highly as far as early influences go, along with Charles de Lint, Guy Gavriel Kay, Steven R. Boyett (author of Ariel), Barbara Hambly’s Dark series, and of course all the Narnia (C.S. Lewis) & Tolkien books. And later on, Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman (starting with the Sandman graphic novels), and Douglas Adams (who infused everything with his trademark blend of humour and not-so-subtle digs at the absurdity of the human condition).

ariel_steven-r-boyett-bookcoverA Wrinkle in Time in particular opened uncountable doors to new ideas for me. It got me thinking about alternate dimensions, quantum physics, and non-linear time long before Doctor Who entered my life. It fused fantasy and sci-fi ideas so that they became indistinguishable from each other.

One thing all of these authors have in common is that they show us, through story and metaphor, how everything is intertwined, how each life is important, how anyone can potentially do great things, if they’re given the right opportunity. CSLewis-TheLionWitchWardrobe(1stEd)_bookcoverThey teach us how to think sideways, to imagine how things might be changed for the better – ideas I believe to be incredibly important for readers of all ages to embrace.

That’s the power of speculative fiction: rather than mere fluff and escapism, it is the very stuff that fuels our dreams – dreams which then lead us to invent, explore, improve, and create, and help us to embrace, and endeavor to understand, people from cultures far different from our own.

Below are three excellent articles that delve into what makes A Wrinkle in Time such a unique story, equally beloved, controversial, influential and enduring:

12 Fantastic Facts About A Wrinkle in Time

How A Wrinkle in Time Changed Sci-Fi Forever

Physics, Miracles, and Witchcraft: 50 Years of “A Wrinkle in Time”

Teaser for the upcoming 2018 film:

 

Blue hills rise from the fog

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Line Expression by Mark A. Harrison

The Return

Blue hills rise from the fog
in the pre-dawn light
Our skin pricked cold
breath hanging
like words best forgotten
This is the true homecoming
We know the bedrock here
like our own bones
felt but not seen
except in times of disaster
We left regret behind
in the last village
clinging to the cliff’s edge
like a gnarled, salt-stung tree
Remember how you said
you didn’t like to travel
but if getting there is hard
it makes arrival that much sweeter
Here the sheep and cows and chickens
are anything but domestic
wild, shaggy, ruffled
with eyes like coal embers
storm-blasted, hawk-harried,
they’re no easy kill
We leave the car
by the side of the road
and walk into the lifting fog
leaving footprints in wet grass
We climb
until we can barely stand
Looking down we imagine
the curve of the earth
We can feel moss growing
between our toes
feel the pulse of waves
through the soles of our feet
Now you understand
what home feels like
and wonder where you’ve been
all this time.

– TH

Unexpected Trees

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Record of Spring by Mark A. Harrison

unexpected trees

when holding on becomes too hard
we must learn the art of release

I awoke this morning
to unexpected trees
they had sprouted outside
my window overnight
their branches festooned
with cherry blossoms
far too early in the year
for that kind of thing
I walked to the window
and found the burgeoning stream
had flooded the world
the sloping hills, the fallow fields
had turned to rolling waves
and cool still ponds
and everywhere, rising
from the impossible water
were trees tall as mountains
a preposterous abundance
of pink blossoms
every petal containing
the essence of buoyancy.

A sprig of thyme for luck
tucked in my breast pocket
I set out in a in a boat made
of paper, straw and chewing gum
to rescue the metaphor
of a flood that drowns the world
and a road that only runs one way.

When lost in the maze, one need only
climb the walls to see the way out;
leaving the boat behind,
I reach for the first branch,
and begin to climb.

-T.H.

Unbound

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Flying Blue by Mark A. Harrison

Didn’t have the greatest start to the day; remembering this scene cheered me up a little.

Unbound

bubbles of mirth rising up
cascading over the edge
of her smile
her laughter unbound
against the clear blue sky
a snap in the wind
of a flag unfurled
she runs through the grass
arms held wide
making airplane noises
she doesn’t realize
as she runs towards
the startled huddle of geese
that they are frightened
there is only joy
at the scatter of a dozen white wings
the sound they make in the air
her own hands clapping in delight

– T.H.

Bittersweet & Light

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House vine in silhouette by T. Haney

Two for today, to make up for not posting a poem last week. As suggested above, it ends on a lighter note than it starts.

1.

lemon honey, and other
bittersweet things

We welcome arrivals
with trumpets, strewn flowers,
a red carpet kicking up dust
as it unfurls down the long steps
cake so sweet it makes your teeth ache

but we seldom celebrate leavings
except clandestinely
deep in the shadowed places
of our hearts, the sharp, hard
corners, where we secretly relish
the wounds of our enemies
their petty losses, their private
moments of agony;

it is a fragile triumph, a filigree
of burnt sugar and clouded glass,
shattering at the merest touch
so we hold it close
to our chest, tenderly
licking our lips at the bittersweet taste
until the moment sours, dissolving
to dust and ashes in our mouths

we turn with a blossoming smile
towards the next new arrival,
the next accomplishment of strangers
while quietly wishing for the next
delicious ache, the next precious emptiness
left behind by what we once craved.

– T.H.

II.

Our chain-link fence
has become a glorious jungle
a knot-work of vines
tying the greens together
so it’s impossible to say
where the grapes and silver lace begin
where the euonymous and Virginia creeper end
crickets hide in tall grasses
a beautiful cacophony
fills the night air
people strolling by
do a double-take
as a bolt of chickadees
explodes in an ecstasy of scattered sound
neighbourhood cats prowl
imagining a wild forest
fish swim hidden
amidst rush and lily
I sit under the ancient lilacs
in the periwinkle shade
my toes in the fallen leaves
and imagine the whole world
is just as fine as this.

– T.H. (written back when we still had koi in the backyard pond)

 

Where Else?

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Triumphant Bloom by Mark A. Harrison

Was reminded of this one today while following the winding trails of the bike paths along the river down to Little Lake.

Where else?

I.

This is where I’ve always been
my soul lives here among dirt and weeds
cedar hedges as big as houses
burble of frogs in the distant wet darkness
sparkle of white burbling chirp among branches
leaves twisting and falling and budding again
my soul scrapes mud off its boots in the evening
is rises in morning with the earth’s turning
and remembers winter only dimly
snow like cotton candy fairytale ice cream
icicles tinkling as wind blows through
trees and fences, half frozen lakes steaming
like cups of tea with the sun’s dawning
my soul tumbles over small smooth stones
a little brook dreaming a mighty river
it rubs its nose and cleans dirty fingernails
breaths through imperfect hazardous skin
every day drinking air fresh as mountain springs
cold clarity of emptiness, wholeness in absence
my ears ring in the stillness
in air thick with silence
my soul’s back twists and bends and aches
my soul’s feet are bare against hot dry grass
soft mounds like fox fur, sleeping in sunlight
their blades cut your fingers, leave burs stuck poking
like porcupine quills
Yet my soul forgets splinters, manure & blisters
rust twisted metal and barbed wire fences
it knows only earth, bark, knot, feather, fur
music of grey geese heard but not seen
a confusion of seasons
Where else, but here?
Where I’ve always been.

– T.H.

All these little armageddons

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Planet, again – By Mark A. Harrison

This one seemed apt, given the way the world stage is set these days

All these little armageddons
that happen every day
just a taste of the apocalypse
in your own special way
When the world comes crashing down
and your friends have all left town
and the oracles have nothing left to say

Do you trip the light fantastic
before the final end?
Do you go out with a bang
or with a whimper?
Do you take them all down with you
or make the demons your best friends?

Oh, you’ll find out just how far that you can fall
and you might think that it’s not far at all
but it’s always so much farther than you think

So why not take a little drink
a little sip of strife and chaos
why not blow the status quo to smithereens?

Because deep down you still remember
a certain Sunday in September
and the way a certain hand once felt in yours

You’ll see her face on every stranger’s face
and even when you find a place
you think that you can finally be alone
you know you’re never truly on your own

Until the day there’s nothing left but skin and bone
and the shadow of a heart, like an echo, or a mark
left smoking in the wake
of a nuclear storm.

– T.H. (’08)

Flying with crows

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Oil & Light by Mark A. Harrison

flying with crows

I sometimes imagine
I’m flying with crows
over autumn fields
and deep river valleys
telephone wires catching
the last of the evening sun
shining white mercurial fire
against the slate dark sky
hills lying like a giant’s body
elbows crooked, cradling a head of stone
how long does it take
for forests to grow up and cover
this still sleeping form?

I don’t believe in miracles
or divine intervention
the universe is what it is
but if I could find the market
where they sell time
I’d find the merchant with the cold, dead eyes
the one who never smiles
and while his back was turned, I’d steal
as much as I could carry;

I hold onto each year like it’s a ledge that’s crumbling
I want to reach out and strangle time
want to steal more than I’m allowed
I have so much more I want to do
but someone cut the brake lines
and here I am, reaching out for anything
to grab onto, to stop this insane headlong rush
I’d write myself a thousand lifetimes, if I could.

– T.H.

(a shortened, edited version of a poem I wrote when I was eight years younger than I am now)