Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy St. Paddy's Week

I am obsessed with things Celtic; therefore, I like St. Patrick's Day.

This kind of thinking is typical of American descendants of Irish people. In Ireland, St. P's is a religious holiday. In America, it's a celebration of rockin' Irish roots and cheesy green decorations.

My personal obsession with the Celts began around fifth grade with Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series

and Lloyd Alexander's Book of Three, etc.

Richard Llewellyn's How Green was my Valley helped the obsession right along. Those were Welsh Celts, and I wanted to be Welsh. I loved the sounds of those Celtic words (I studied Susan's pronunciation guide in the back of The Grey King), the landscape, the names, the folklore, the musical/poetical traditions...blah, blah, blah. I wasn't excited about the coal mining. I fell in love with the name Bronwen.

I wanted to be a bard:

Me, in my fifth-grade dreams.

Alas, no Welsh ancestry in these veins. But I did have Irish, Scottish, and Manx fore-bearers galore, so that that was all right. I had me Gaelic genes.

So, I was pondering the date and figured I owe the Celts a lot, but just because Wednesday is March 17th, let's focus on what I owe the Irish. My hair-color, for instance. My religion, since they left their green, green country to come to a brown, dry American desert for it. And lots of other things - at least six, anyway:

1) Potato soup and soda bread. I always know what to make for dinner on March 17th.

2) Pookas (see that old Jimmy Stewart movie "Harvey" for a lovely Hollywood pooka). Pookas and the sort of mind that would invent such fairy critters inspired aspects of my current WIP. 

3) Genes that keep my family's hair from turning grey (special thanks to my several-greats Irish grandma Agnes Cross, whose hair stayed blonde into late old age). So far so good on my black-Irish hair staying black. We'll see how that pans out when I'm ninety.

4) Love of the color green. Green has always been my favorite color.

5) The Celtic knot.

and 6) a lot of great poetry. Ireland has its bards, too, you know.

Here's Irish poet William Butler Yeats's The Lake Isle of Innisfree, which was influenced by American Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond, and is an excellent example of Americans and Irish getting along right fine:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I will have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Happy St. Paddy's!

Playing High and Dry with Sourdough

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