Flash Fiction: Flight

Flash Fiction: Flight

This story was written on 11/13/13 when I was having severe difficulties. I am rather proud of it so I am posting it for you to enjoy, dear readers. May you read it in a better state of health than it was written.

Slime mold art by E.A.Schneider

Slime mold art by E.A.Schneider

Flight

by E.A. Schneider

It wasn’t a proper treehouse. Nothing like a kit from a catalog. If anything, Beth thought it was a deer stand that somebody built for bow season then abandoned. The treehouse had the weatherbeaten look of something old, neglected, but too sturdy to quietly collapse into oblivion. Beth had found it on one of her rambles when her parents had just bought the land. Since they moved in Beth came out to the treehouse more and more. Beth had always wanted a proper secret and a treehouse of her own. Now she had both. Her parents approved of nature and encouraged self-reliance so Beth wasn’t missed on her nature hikes. Beth smiled to think of her secret treehouse. Her mother would fret over the height of the tree and her father would be anxious of the wood’s integrity. Valid fears, true, but at 12 Beth was thrilled to be rebellious and secretive in so modest a way as a 4×8 built treehouse on a sturdy white pine. Every day she went Beth noticed new things. One day it was the shape of an oak tree silhouetted against the vault of blue sky like a perfect silhouette people stick on their walls to seem natural.

Another day it was the electric orange of a delicate slime mold decorating the edge of the log Beth balanced on to climb the rungs up. The mold was like delicate little beads of paint brightening a rough canvas.

Every day Beth went she discovered the rich smell of forest pine. Part of her felt when she went home that it couldn’t possibly smell as good as she thought and every day she discovered with a smile that it could and it did. Beth perched up there in a blanket reading Choose Your Own Adventure novels, slurping cocoa from a thermos, turning the yellowed pages.

Other days she brought her mother’s old camera, the one with the chipped casing and the sticky shutter, to take pictures. There was a crow nest two trees over that Beth caught on camera. She watched the babies grow from ugly bald hatchlings to fluffy black balls with gaping mouths and bright eyes through the viewfinder and a zoom lens.

Unbeknownst to Beth, they were watching her back. The whole time she watched them through the camera they wondered about the featherless creature that had strange objects and sat in a pine tree two trees over from them. Where was her mother? Where were her father and siblings? Why did she never beg for food? Why was she alone? Beth was a source of mystery for those crow chicks. To a one they vowed to fly over to her nest as soon as they could, the way teenagers drive that one road in their town when they get the car just to see where it goes.

Beth read about crows. She liked them. They were clever and social and mysterious. Apparently they also liked peanuts. She dreamed of getting a picture, a really good picture, of a crow flying. She wanted to see those inky wings silhouetted against the sky. Slowly, after weeks of peanuts spread on the railings and floorboards of the treehouse sitting patiently beside them with her camera, two things happened. Three crows fledged, leaving the nest on wing beats of optimistic necessity, heading toward the funny creature’s nest and Beth hit the shutter in time to catch their wing beats on the blue canvas of the sky.

It felt like magic and really, as Beth and her parents looked at the prints, they rather thought it was.  –600 words.

2013 Reflections

Thoughtful bear by E.A. Schneider

Thoughtful bear by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear readers, it has been a while. The last months of 2013 were very challenging for me and kept me away from my pond. Now I’m back with an overdue post on my 2013 reading adventures. 2013 has either been my best or my worst year depending on perspective; mine is not fixed by any means but its average is above the horizon. The year meant many things to me; my life is forever altered from the events of those months but 2013 has become and will remain the year I truly became close to stories.

Clearly, I love reading and I love writing. I have been “the girl with the book” since I was little and I am rarely without my pens & journals. This year though I discovered what stories are for in a way that I think most people are blessed never to discover. Stories can be friends, can be diverting sources of entertainment and escape to wile away an evening. Stories can give a certain cred to the reader, a certain cocktail party or water cooler cachet amongst one’s circle. Stories are edifying, sources of wisdom and wit that can help you be the person you always wanted to be. Stories can be and are so very many precious wonderful things that hold our lives together and bring artistic meaning to a writer’s life. This year though I discovered that stories are for times of trial.  I don’t mean times when you’re blue. I don’t mean times when things could be going a bit better, when you just need a little pick-me-up, times that are a bit gloomy or grim.

When I say trial I mean times that blow apart everything you ever thought you were or could be. Those times when you stop thinking of time as time and start thinking of time as before and after. Those times when all other lights seem very far away and you honestly question who & what you are; those are times of trial and those are precisely the times stories become the beacon to guide you on your path. The path isn’t just the way out. This is something that stories, really good stories, get right. Frankly, sometimes, an ordeal just has to happen. The cup does not pass from you. You must carry the ring to the fire. No one can save you but yourself.

October indoor still life by E.A. Schneider

October indoor still life by E.A. Schneider

But whether you can carry that burden well, whether you can make peace with your reversal of fortune and live in that trying place, whether you can reassemble the pieces of yourself into a reality you can like: those are the questions that stories can help sustain you through asking, guiding you as you find the answers for yourself. Like any hero’s journey the path one takes during a trial is long and fraught with hazards but with stories, I at least, found I could make it easier than I thought it could be.

I needed the small to persevere and surmount. I needed to know that the weak had reserves of untold strength. I needed to know that the ordeal could be got through and that the sun would still rise. I needed heroes. And I found them. I always said certain books were good medicine. But if Agatha Christie and L.M. Montgomery are good over-the-counter medicine for a deep blue day, if Dickens can stimulate the slow day away, I found that Morris, Tolkien, LeGuin, Gaiman, McKinley, Miyabe and Bronte proved to be maximum strength rescue therapies for the soul.

My hero’s journey isn’t over. In fact, it has only just begun. Yet I have come to a place where I can say that I’m okay with that and I think I can go the distance, one step, and one story at a time.

Heavens by E.A. Schneider

Heavens by E.A. Schneider

Speaking of stories, I want to talk about the titles I read during this year of discovery. My original list can be found here and I have made efforts to update it as I went. For ease of reading I will list the titles and my capsule reviews below. I already discussed thirteen titles in an earlier post, which I’ve linked to here.

14) Dreams of the Raven by Carter

This is a fun, character driven piece of quality science fiction and a dang fine Star Trek adventure. I enjoyed Carter’s dialogue a lot. She really captured the voice of the original series. I like the fact that the calamity of possible interstellar war is really just the setting for an in-depth exploration of McCoy’s character, choices, and convictions. Well done, Carmen Carter, I think LeGuin and her Mrs. Brown would be pleased.

15) Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott

An amusing piece of satire filled with geometry jokes; I can understand why my high school geometry tutor recommended Flatland to me. That said, I found the misogynist perspective of A. Square tiresome and was relieved the book was short but overall it was entertaining and clever.

16) Cloud Atlas by Mitchell

This is an extraordinary book. I found the complex structure fascinating and the characters, drawn across time, utterly captivating. In a way the novel is a series of interconnected short stories. I found the future depicted by Mitchell to be very plausible and more terrifying as a result. This is one of those books that I know I will revisit later in life and find new depths within its pages, as well as in myself, after the effort. The language, the architecture, and the ideas are all so impressive. When I think of the book of the year 2013 for me I think it was a three-way tie with this book being one of the three; more on that later.

17) Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip

I became interested in this because it made an NPR list of science fiction worth reading. I would say Song for the Basilisk is more high fantasy than sci-fi but I found it interesting. As always, McKillip has beautiful language and world building though at times I wished for more narrative clarity.

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Water in the woods by E.A. Schneider

18) The Well At the World’s End by Morris

This is a book that will stick with me for years. Indeed this story was part of the after part of my journey and it helped sustain me during the worst parts of that road. I felt enchanted by Ralph and Ursula. I was especially gratified to find Ursula to be a woman who does things and has individual strength of character; one could easily imagine a novel chronicling her adventures alone. The novel has a slow start and an ambling pace but Morris does tie up every loose end with deftness reminiscent of Dickens.

19) The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Funny, sweet, and enchanting, I very much enjoyed The Last Unicorn. It ended well. Waves will also have new images for me in my imagination, you’ll need to read the book to know what I mean by that.

Stampeding wave by E.A. Schneider

Stampeding wave by E.A. Schneider

20) The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabi

This is a bittersweet and complex book. At first I resented its lack of tidy tropes because at the time I wanted HAPPY-EVER-AFTERS but sometimes, even if that is what one wants, it isn’t what one needs. Sometimes bittersweet realities tinged with grace are a lot more salubrious. This is one of those books that stays in your brain and makes you think about your life, habits, and assumptions in a new way.

21) The Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin

This collection of stories is fantastic. They are all sci-fi and some of them feature the Ekumen universe and the Hainish from Lefthand of Darkness. There are many splendid stories in this collection but my favorite by far was the title story “The Fisherman of the Inland Sea.” It really captured the bitter sweetness of being on the forefront of science as well as the hard work it takes to live in a loving family.

22) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaimen

Reading this book into the late hours by the light of my little book light was my luxurious birthday present to myself. It is an enchanting book, a fairy tale in the most classic sense that speaks to the difficulties of growing up, a process that only ends with the grave. This is the third member of my three-way tie for book of my 2013 experience. I will re-read it for years to come.

Between shore, sky, and sea by E.A. Schneider

Between shore, sky, and sea by E.A. Schneider

23) A Princess of Mars by Burroughs

This book was challenging for me to read, it almost didn’t survive my 50-page rule. It was so heavy with misogyny and racism that even repeating to myself “it was a different time” didn’t really help me that much. I admire the way Burroughs can keep the plot twists going, only logical in a successful serial, but I won’t be reading the sequels.

24) The Beginning Place by Ursula K. LeGuin

I’m afraid that this is a rather forgettable book. Despite LeGuin’s mastery of language and imagery I found the world, the characters, and the plot rather tiresome.

25) Ico: The Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe translated by Alexander O. Smith

Reading this was fun. I was impressed at how well Miyabe translated the energy and structure of a video game to the novel form. I liked the characters, the story, and Miyabe’s language (translated by Smith) is enchanting.

26)  Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins by Maddalena Bearzi and Craig Stanford

At first, I was skeptical about how much I would enjoy this book and it did have a slow start. I found the almost anthropomorphic language used at times to describe the animals disquieting. The way the authors also, at times, seemed to condemn captive animal research despite having benefitted enormously from it struck me as hypocritical. That said, there is a lot of interesting information in this book and I appreciated that the authors did not equivocate about the hard legislative work necessary to effectively conserve primates and cetaceans for future generations.

27) Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

This is an incredible piece of allegory and sci-fi adventure. I admire Lewis’ world building and imagery; he always seems to create worlds I can see myself inhabiting.

28) Perelandra  by C.S. Lewis

This book infuriated me. For as much as Lewis creates tantalizing, imaginative, and textured worlds the arrogant misogyny permeating this book disappointed me. The redeeming feature for me is Lewis’ admirable description of evil. The pettiness, the childishness, and the senselessness of the evil antagonist struck true.

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Into blue by E.A. Schneider

29) Letters from Nowhere by Tracy McCusker

A debut collection of poetry, Letters from Nowhere demonstrates a lot of passion and the promise of great talent. There were two poems that I particularly liked: “Ants and Beetles” and “The Redwood.”

30)  Manifesto for All by Tracy McCusker

This second collection by McCusker delivers on the possibilities promised in Letters from Nowhere. Manifesto for All  is more polished than her first collection, the limitations of the blackout format only serving to focus McCusker’s craft with words. I have read the Communist Manifesto in the past and this collection really brought me to a new level of appreciation to Marx’s original work as well as for McCusker’s poems. There were several that I particularly liked. I also appreciated that McCusker included the original blackouts she made on the text. I like the visual drama of the format. I highly recommend this collection.

31) The Moving Finger

An old favorite, I like this poison pen adventure with Miss Marple and her network of friends of friends. Like so many of the best Miss Marple stories I also really like the romances that add heart, color, and urgency to the mystery.

32) Sleeping Murder

Clearly I was on a Miss Marple kick during 2013 because I re-read three of my very favorite Miss Marple adventures. I like that Christie had the courage to point out that sometimes people do get away with murder, for a time, but I like that her Miss Marple is there to help facilitate the cause of justice in Sleeping Murder.

33) Murder at the Vicarage

This is such a marvelous introduction to a character, I marvel at Murder at the Vicarage every time I re-read it. I like the way Miss Marple is introduced, I like the layout of the mystery, and I like the careful attention to the details of St. Mary Mead.

Beach grass by E.A. Schneider

Beach grass by E.A. Schneider

34) The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

I love short story collections, especially ones that are connected throughout somehow. Seeing Hercule Poirot retrace his namesake’s achievements in a modern setting was a treat as always.

35) Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

This is one of the more challenging stories I’ve read by Christie. I’ve read it a couple times now and each time I find myself troubled by the knotty questions of innocence, guilt, punishment, motive, and angst that can be found in the patchwork family she chronicles as they face a terrible trial. There is no Marple or Poirot but it is as compelling a story as any of theirs and just as worth re-reading.

36) Shadows by Robin McKinley

I had been looking forward to reading this for months. Overall it satisfied my expectations. I liked the world McKinley created, I liked the characters, and I liked the journey she took the reader on. What I didn’t like was the abrupt, very rushed, feeling that the ending had. I hope that McKinley follows up on the adventures of Maggie and her family in a sequel.

Overall 2013 was a great year for me in terms of reading. When I think of 2013 the three books that define it for me are Cloud Atlas, The Well at the World’s End, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  As before, during, and after books go they are amazing. I hope to re-read them someday, hopefully during a less painful time. In 2013 I surpassed my Goodreads goal of 35 books by reading 36. For 2014 I plan to push my limits and read 40 books. Soon I hope to post my 2014-2015 reading list as well as some notes on what I’ve read so far in 2014. Thanks for stopping by the pond, dear readers. Here’s hoping that I will come here more often in 2014 myself.

Morning glory by E.A. Schneider

Morning glory by E.A. Schneider

Creations

It was a busy spring and summer here at the pond.  Things have been happening here that have kept me away from my computer. Still, I have managed to work in some crafting which I will finally share now that it’s autumn & my ability to post here has been curtailed.

First up is a scarf I made my father-in-law as an unbirthday gift during the winter that just wouldn’t leave. It is a novelty cotton on one side and a fleece on the other like these  from Christmas two years ago. I have to admit that this is a fabulous go-to present that is pretty, easy to make, and relatively inexpensive while being very customizable.

Fisherman scarf by E.A. Schneider

Fisherman scarf by E.A. Schneider

Next are a series of tea wallets I made using this tutorial: http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=403079.0#axzz2clJOep3z

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Railroad wallet for my mom by E.A. Schneider

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Railroad wallet for my mom by E.A. Schneider

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Mother's Day tea wallets by E.A. Schneider

Mother’s Day tea wallets by E.A. Schneider

Mother's Day tea wallets interior by E.A. Schneider

Mother’s Day tea wallets interior by E.A. Schneider

I also made one for my dad.

Dad's tea wallet

Dad’s tea wallet

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I made myself a Darwin coffee cozy using fabric from here. I love that I can drink coffee with Darwin whenever I want.

Darwin coffee cozy by E.A. Schneider

Darwin coffee cozy by E.A. Schneider

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For my mother-in-law  I made an armchair remote control caddy. I didn’t use a pattern, I just made it up. How do you like the action shot complete with nook and fountain pens? It matches the bedside organizer I made her in 2012. Thankfully she likes using both.

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Armchair remote caddy by E.A. Schneider

Armchair remote caddy by E.A. Schneider

My great crafting achievement for the season were these eye-patches.

Eyepatch model III as modeled by my toy fox.

Eyepatch model III as modeled by my toy fox.

My eyepatch model IV as worn by my awesome griffin puppet. This is my favorite eyepatch.

My eyepatch model IV as worn by my awesome griffin puppet. This is my favorite eyepatch.

Just the eye patches. I made both using quilting  cotton, black rayon, cotton binding, heavy duty stiffener, and thin black elastic. I sewed them by hand.

Just the eye patches. I made both using quilting cotton, black rayon, cotton binding, heavy duty stiffener, and thin black elastic. I sewed them by hand.

I got tired of having random people impertinently ask me “What did you do to your eye?!?!?” Therefore I did what I make a point of doing: take circumstances and turn them into an opportunity to craft something beautiful. When I wore these I heard “Oh! That is so pretty!” instead and I felt powerful again. That’s a good feeling when you need to wear an eye-patch. I’m not going to tell you why I needed these, so don’t ask. All you need to know is that, yes, I needed them; no, it’s not contagious and yes I’m better now.

I made the pattern up after a lot of trial and error, three prototypes in fact.  I have to say that when you make something just for you it is a lot more comfortable than something out of the box. Perhaps I will finally learn how to sew my own clothes. If I can drive on a freeway, sew, work in a lab, wade in a pond, volunteer, and take pictures with one eye I hypothesize that I can do pretty much whatever I set my mind to with patience and God’s grace.

I’ve been plugging away on three quilts, a quillow, and an appliance cover. Given my continuing health adventures I don’t know when I’ll get them done but where there’s a will there’s a way. I’ll share pictures of them as I get them finished and sent off to people.

Thanks for reading and joining me here at the pond, dear readers. Today I will leave you with a little bit of autumn from my back yard.

Turning colors by E.A. Schneider

Turning colors by E.A. Schneider

The Pond-dweller Returns

The Pond-dweller Returns

Hello, dear readers, it’s been awhile. Life once again interfered with my goal of posting here regularly for the last four months. Spring here in the upper midwest has been busy and now we seem to be settling into summer. I hope to do some posts sharing my reading, photography, and crafting adventures from these past months over the next few weeks.

Vernal pond at sunset by E.A. Schneider

Vernal pond at sunset by E.A. Schneider

Today we begin with the books and some of my most recent photos. If you’ve been checking back here in hopes of a new post or referring back to my reading list you might have noticed that the one thing I’ve managed to do here at the pond is update my 2013/2014 reading list here. As mentioned in past posts I believe that my superpower in life is the ability to keep reading books regardless of how hectic my life becomes. Hopefully I don’t encounter a kryptonite, at least any time soon.

  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
    A mediocre book. I disliked the pacing, finding it to be tedious. It didn’t help that I found the main characters to be insufferable prats but I think I would have overcome that feeling if the story didn’t move at the pace of a geriatric slug. I’ve liked short stories I’ve read by Pamela Dean and I have enjoyed other books in this fairy tale series, especially Briar Rose by Jane Yolen but this book and I just didn’t click.

    A king in the snow by E.A. Schneider

    A king in the snow by E.A. Schneider

  • Bleak Houseby Charles Dickens
    An incredible piece of literature, this book did not feel long to me at all. Dickens’ dexterous command of multiple plot threads to weave together a complete narrative is inspiring. If I ever get the opportunity to teach writing to anyone I will direct them to this book as a grade A example of quality atmospheric composition. You can feel the grit in the road of London, see the soot on the windows, smell the filth in the gutter, and hear the rattle of carriage wheels over cobblestones when you read Bleak House. Victorian era London may not have been a pleasant place to live but his description is so real, so minute, you feel as if you are there while you read his tale of Chancery woe. I will have to read this book several more times to completely get the whole of it, as it is I think much has been lost to history since I would have been completely lost without an annotated edition, but I admired his characters and their story. It is the kind of novel that makes me want to write simply because it is so beautifully crafted.

    Vanishing footprint by E.A. Schneider

    Vanishing footprint by E.A. Schneider

  • The Language of the Night  by Ursula K. LeGuin
    LeGuin’s career as a writer, most notably as a science fiction and fantasy writer, is an inspiration to me. I found her growth through this collection of essays, speeches, and interviews incredibly interesting to follow.
  • Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. LeGuin
    A beautiful book, LeGuin is an amazing poet. I didn’t even know she wrote poetry until I heard Garrison Keillor read two of her poems from this book on his program “The Writer’s Almanac.” It was such a wonderful surprise to learn that an author I esteem so highly had yet more artistry for me to enjoy so I bought her collection. Although I find some of the poems to be forgettable most are just incredibly beautiful. My “bookmarked” poems were numerous, 49 in total out of a 200-page collection, the kind of poems one can re-read and live with and learn from.

    Peacocks all in a row by E.A. Schneider

    Peacocks all in a row by E.A. Schneider

  • The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip
    A mediocre book but I found the prose and pacing much more fascinating than Tam Lin. I can’t help comparing the two since I read them at the same time. I am glad I didn’t put this book down even though I very nearly did. Maybe Cygnet benefited from low expectations but I  found it a gratifying read in the end if for no other reason than the imagination of her world. I nearly put it down because for the first few chapters McKillip didn’t use “an,” “the,” or “a,” and it was driving me crazy to read that stitlted unflowing prose. But she gradually put those precious words back into the protagonist’s sentences and I was able to immerse myself in her beautifully imagined world.

    Paws by E.A. Schneider

    Paws by E.A. Schneider

  • The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. DuBois
    This book impresses me. DuBois writes beautiful prose that is oftentimes poetic in its effect. So many references to the Classics, the Bible, and western literature were used so well I felt humbled by my ignorance of many of the particulars of these works. I am surprised this book is not in the curriculum of history and literature classes. I think students could learn so much about the complexity of our U.S. history from DuBois and it has the benefit of being both concise and easy to read. What was not easy to read is the fact that for as much as our country has changed for the better since DuBois’ time we still have so far to go when it comes to education, tolerance, justice and liberty. It breaks my heart to think about that but it would be worse if people stopped reading, remembering, and thinking about these challenges.

    Take a breath by E.A. Schneider

    Breather by E.A. Schneider

  • Cold Days by Jim Butcher
    This book was my Memorial Day vacation. Arrayed in my pajamas and equipped with a pot of tea in my English bone china tea pot and my English bone china tea cup I spent the day in the most decadent expression of freedom: reading this book. It was pure luxury. This book is so much fun. I have tremendous respect for Jim Butcher as a craftsman & storyteller. The research he must do on world folklore & mythology is incredible. His plotting consistently amazes me with the way he follows a familiar rhythm but I never can predict what exactly is going to happen next. I love that! It also impresses me that he can consistently take the events of a 12-48 hour period of time and turn it into a gripping 400-500 page novel that goes by so fast but contains so much detail; a real achievement of craft & organization. I am looking forward to the next Dresden adventure.

    Water dragon by E.A. Schneider

    Water dragon by E.A. Schneider

  • Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
    This book is good fun. I like McKinley’s style and imagination. It was the kind of world, the kind of sci-fi, that I found myself believing enough that I wanted to google the Makepeace Dragon Institute and plan my visit. It is also worth noting that I really liked this book a lot even though I thought the first-person narrator was an ass who was annoying as all heck at times. So often the degree to which I personally like a character biases me for or against a book. To be able to say I like a book so much even with its protagonist drawn as such an ass I think is a testament to McKinley’s skill as a storyteller & world-builder. I can hardly wait to read her next book.

    Camel Family Portrait by E.A. Schneider

    Camel Family Portrait by E.A. Schneider

  • Snow Country by Y. Kawabata
    A book of incredible imagery and beautiful language. I found the characters to be obnoxious and shallow but poignant in their humanity. I hate the sinking helpless feeling of knowing something is over my head that was a constant in my reading of Snow Country. If I were more familiar with Japanese culture or read it at least twice more I think I might start to have a real chance of truly comprehending this book. It did help that I’ve read The Tale of Genji; it’s hard to describe but I can sense the literary legacy of Genji while reading the experience of Shimamura and his association with the geishas Komako and Yoko. To see the struggles of human connection, communication, and spiritual questions of ephemeral beauty acted out in the everyday moments of a mountain hot spring made the gap of time between Haien era Japan and postwar Japan seem poignantly short. I look forward to re-reading Snow Country in the years to come.

    Spring trillium in old woods by E.A. Schneider

    Spring trillium in old woods by E.A. Schneider

  • Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales From Around the World  by Heidi Anne Heiner
    This is a fascinating collection. I never realized the diversity of Rapunzel/Maiden-in-the-Tower tales there are in the world. The women are ususally jailed for their protection or as punishment or as collateral damage in a political/magical conflict/spell/prophecy. Sometimes the heroine was a shallow, idiotic, helpless creature that we would easily recognize from Western fairytales in general. Happily though there were a surprising lot of enterprising heroines who orchestrated their own escape or at least actively participated in their own liberation. The heroes also surprised me with their diversity and individuality; one prince even cross-dressed for more than two years to infiltrate a maiden-tower & gain the princess’ hand in marriage. I would pay to see Disney adapt that version of Rapunzel. Heiner also included stories done by more modern authors that were in the tradition of these maiden-in-the-tower tales. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Gilmann would never have occurred to me to include but having re-read it as part of this whole collection it makes perfect sense, indeed it added a new dimension to an already fascinating short story. My mind is still re-assembling itself and I find myself wanting to make my own contribution to the tapestry of maiden-in-the-tower tales. I’ve since begun Heiner’s collection of Cinderella stories and continue to be impressed by her scholarship.

    Canopy by E.A. Schneider

    Canopy by E.A. Schneider

  • Burn by Daniel Swensen
    A blogger I respect wrote this. If you ever need a good kick in the pants as a writer or just some sound advice mixed with entertaining language you owe it to yourself to check out his blog Surly Muse. Being a fan I was excited to read his story, Burn. I have one big complaint. At 20 pages the story is just not long enough. Swensen’s writing is so good, he creates such a believable atmosphere and a compelling protagonist in Alexa Bernell that I felt like I was reading the origin story for a new comic book star. Bernell faces extraordinarily difficult circumstances with her ability and Swensen paces the story with great deftness. It is a compliment to his skill that it left me wanting more, thinking so when’s the next issue coming? It felt like the start of a good graphic novel.  Perhaps if enough of us read Burn and are left craving more we can persuade the good Mr. Swensen to deliver a continuation of Alexa Bernell’s story. Burn is available for purchase at Amazon  or if you’re a Nook user you can get it from Smashwords.

    Shadows and Stone by E.A. Schneider

    Shadows and Stone by E.A. Schneider

  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany
    I tumbled to the existence of Lord Dunsany by reading The Language of the Night and learning that  the young Ursula K. LeGuin was very inspired by his work. Having read this book I can see why. Dunsany’s language is beautiful. I almost want to use the term Rococo in style except he has such economy in his pacing & word count. For such a short book it contained an incredible story. Without going into spoilers I like the fact that the story didn’t end where I thought it would but rather Dunsany showed the reader the consequences of choices made by characters. I like it when stories do that, show the moment beyond the big fireworks in a narrative, and Dunsany does it with style. I will definitely be looking up more of his titles. Also, I have a newfound appreciation for my shadow that I don’t think I will shake any time soon.

Currently I am about halfway through reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, about a third of the way through Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, and a couple chapters into Dreams of the Raven by Carmen Carter just for some solid Star Trek fun. Additionally I have begun reading the collection Cinderella Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner in preparation for my novella based upon my flash fiction. All of these books are fantastic; hopefully I can post more about them soon. What about you, dear readers? Are you reading anything good this summer? Just leave a comment to let me know and thanks for stopping by the pond.

Pond Dweller by E.A. Schneider

Pond Dweller by E.A. Schneider

2013 Reading Adventures

I’ve got big plans for reading in 2013. My plans are so big that realistically they will probably spill over into 2014. At a minimum I hope to read at least 35 books this year. Last year I participated in the reading challenge on Goodreads and I wound up finishing 31 books out of my desired 50. I’m hoping that my more realistic ambition of 35 books will also prove to be more achievable. We’ll see. For years my husband has been my reading buddy, we choose books to read together and discuss. Previously I broke up my reading list between a short group list of our picks and a longer personal list. This year I’m not doing that. Instead I drafted my list after discussing it with my favorite reading buddy so my list is a mash-up of both our interests and it is long enough to last me at least two years. It will be fun to see how far I can get.

Koi together by E.A. Schneider

Koi together by E.A. Schneider

Without further ado, here is the new reading list in no particular order:

  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean<–Done! :-)
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens<–Done! :-)
  • The Language of the Night  by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! :-)
  • The Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! :-)

    Japanese maple and stone lantern by Ellen Schneider

    Japanese maple and stone lantern by Ellen Schneider

  • Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! :-)
  • The Dispossessed: an Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  • King Lear by Shakespeare
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip<–Done! :-)
  • The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip<–Done! :-)
  • Od Magic by Patricia McKillip

    Japanese Maple Leaves in Autumn by E. A. Schneider

    Japanese Maple Leaves in Autumn by E. A. Schneider

  • Ringworld by Terry Pratchett
  • The Black Arrow  by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • These High, Green Hills  by Jan Karon
  • The Awakening  by Kate Chopin
  • Burn by Daniel Swenson<–Done! :-)
  • The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
  • Once On A Time  by A. A. Milne
  • A Farewell to Arms  by Hemingway
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God  by Zora Neale Hurston
  • White Noise by Don DeLilo
  • The Prelude by Wordsworth
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs<–Done! :-)
  • The Wasteland and Other Poems  by T.S. Elliot
  • Manifesto for All  by Tracy McClusker<–Done! :-)
  • Letters From Nowhere by Tracy McClusker<–Done! :-)
  • The Stars My Destination  by Alfred Bester
  • The Devil Wives of Li Fong by E.H. Price
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
  • Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin

    Tree in Black and White by Ellen Schneider

    Tree in Black and White by Ellen Schneider

  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • Phantastes by George MacDonald
  • A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
  • The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe<–Done! :-)
  • Ico: Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe<–Done! :-)
  • The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. DuBois<–Done! :-)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
  • A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
  • The Well At the World’s End  by William Morris<–Done! :-)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut
  • Cold Days by Jim Butcher<–Done! :-)
  • The Codex Alera  by Jim Butcher
  • Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley<–Done! :-)
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

    Lantern in Autumn by Ellen Schneider

    Lantern in Autumn by Ellen Schneider

  • The Troll Garden and Selected Stories by Willa Cather
  • Kwaidan: stories and studies of strange things by Lafcadio Hearn
  • 100 selected poems by e.e. cummings
  • Snow Country by Y. Kawabata<–Done! :-)
  • Flatland: a romance of many dimensions  by Edwin Abbott Abbott<–Done! :-)
  • The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit
  • Arabian Nights
  • Book 1 of the Journey to the West
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster
  • The House on Mango Street by Cisneros
  • The Silmarillion  by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz  by Miller
  • Dune  by Frank Herbert
  • Moon Over the Back Fence  by Esther Carlson
  • The Dreaming Place by Charles DeLint
  • Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Datlow and Windling
  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Dunsany<–Done! :-)
  • Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales from Around the World  by Heidi Anne Heiner
  • Bluebeard Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner
  • Twelve Dancing Princesses Tales From Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner
  • Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales From Around the World  by Heidi Anne Heiner <–Done! :-)
  • Cinderella Tales From Around the World by Marian Rolfe Cox and Heidi Anne Heiner

Yes, there are 76 works on that list with some works comprising multiple volumes. Granted the above list is supposed to last me through 2013 and 2014 but like the dates of a calendar I have every confidence that these coming months will come and go faster than a chamealon’s tongue. With Providence I hope to make a mighty fine dent in that list and be the better for the effort by this time in 2015. As I go I will blog about my progress and my pondering regarding each title I read. I owe you all a wrap up on my 2012 reading and if you stay tuned I will be delivering that soon. In the meantime, do you have any reading ambitions for the coming months, dear reader? What books and why? Thanks for stopping by here at the pond and may your appetite for good books be voracious and your reading be plentiful.

Riffle in the Stream by Ellen Schneider

Riffle in the Stream by Ellen Schneider

Hullo, 2013, nice to meet you

Hello again, dear readers! I know it has been a while. The holidays hit me like a truck and I am afraid this blog has been dreadfully neglected as a result.

As January comes to a close soon I thought I had better jump in and say hello again to all of you and this new year. During this holiday season I had my hands full hosting Thanksgiving and then being a crafty Christmas Elf. While I couldn’t recapture the peace of last Christmas’ effortsI did manage by grace and tea and good company to make some homemade holiday magic for some of the people I care about. Without further ado here follows some of the crafty gifts I made for people this fall and Christmas 2012.

My gorgeous Tofurkey roast. Come on, you know you want to try some, all you carnivores out there who are not allergic to soy!

My gorgeous Tofurkey roasts (there are two there). Come on, you know you want to try some, all you carnivores out there who are not allergic to soy!

Front of Bedside Organizer

Front of Bedside Organizer

Back of Bedside Organizer I made

Back of Bedside Organizer I made

I made someone special a bedside organizer as an Un-Birthday present. I got the pattern from the book One Yard Wonders by Patricia Hoskins and Rebecca Yaker. This was the first project I made from that book and it was pretty easy to do. I look forward to making more as the opportunity comes along.

Once again, the centerpiece of my Christmas crafting was the Quillow. I made quillows for several special people.

Quillow fronts all done.

Quillow fronts all done.

Peanuts Quillow

Peanuts Quillow

Elk Quillow

Elk Quillow

Butterfly Quillow

Butterfly Quillow

Canadian geese quillow

Canadian geese quillow

Fisherman Quillow

Fisherman Quillow

I planned the design for these quillows over the course of weeks. I managed to finish them though within 48 hours right before Christmas using store-bought microfiber throws and lots of tea. I have to admit I did feel especially Elf-like working right up to the minute like that.

I also made some small non-quillow crafts. I am, I confess, still working on a hand full that will yet be sent out this winter. After all, nobody knows when Jesus was born and a box of presents is usually a welcome thing.

Front of Christmas hot pad

Front of Christmas hot pad

Back of Christmas hot pad. I think these penguins are so cute.

Back of Christmas hot pad. I think these penguins are so cute.

Hot mitts decorated with yo-yos.

Hot mitts decorated with yo-yos.

Close-up on yo-yos. These hot mitts match a tea cozy I made my mom a while back. Now she can handle hot tea pots in cozy style.

Close-up on yo-yos. These hot mitts match a tea cozy I made my mom a while back. Now she can handle hot tea pots in cozy style.

Bear fabric ornaments.

Bear fabric ornaments in progress.

I also made some quilted Christmas ornaments using the novelty bear fabric you see above. Using a pattern I found in a magazine I basically quilted the bear fabric, batting, and a simple green holly fabric together. Then using pinking shears I cut around each bear square. All I had to do was add a cute holiday ribbon and I got 22 easy quilted ornaments. Of course I neglected to take a picture of the finished ones but hopefully you get the idea.

Finally, there were Christmas cookies that I made with one of my favorite people.

Tower of Christmas cookies. Huzzah!

Tower of Christmas cookies. Huzzah!

All in all it was a fun Christmas. I feel very blessed to have so many special people in my life to care about.

Hopefully the holiday season was a joyful one for all of you, dear readers, and that 2013 is well begun.  I’m not a great one for making New Year’s resolutions per se but I am a list-making junkie with a big list of creative goals for 2013, one of which is posting here more often. I did pretty well at meeting my goal from last year of three posts a month until I got busy with work. This year I’m hoping to do at least one post a month and with any luck I’ll surpass that goal. Did any of you make any creative resolutions for this year? Did you have an especcially great Christmas craft project? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section and stay tuned for some upcoming book discussion.

So long, Summer & goodbye, October, it’s been fun

One serving of autumn by E.A. Schneider

It’s almost Halloween, the culturally accepted end of summer here in the states was Labor Day and we’ve all been enjoying pumpkin flavored everything for two months. Trees have long since turned to colors other than green as the chlorophyll retreated revealing the spectrum of substances that have been there all along. As is my custom I am sitting here reflecting upon my reading over the past several months, what it has meant to me, and what I will be reading in  winter over the long months before we see the chlorophyll in the trees again here in cheese-land. The summer was marked by some vexation in my literary ambitions. Frankly I was bested by a rather poorly written book. My momentum of reading energy was checked when confronted with the morass of imaginative potential and lack of skill that is Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. Prior to attempting Lindsay’s book I had been booming along on my reading list. Since I made the decision to officially set aside the book for the foreseeable future I have made more progress. Just to remind you what I originally set out to do I have copied my reading lists below from an earlier post.

The Group List of Summer 2012

  1. Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon  <–I’m reading this in lieu of Gravity’s Rainbow since I failed to read it (hanging head in shame). <–Done :)
  2. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  3. King Lear  by William Shakespeare
  4. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  5. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels<–Done :)
  6. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne <–Done :)

Ellen’s Summer 2012 Reading List!

  1. Ringworld by Terry Pratchett
  2. Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit<–Done :)
  3. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
  4. Changes by Jim Butcher<–Done :)
  5. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher<–Done :)
  6. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett<–Done :)
  8. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf<–Done :)
  9. These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon
  10. Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip
  11. Voyage to Arcturus by D. Lindsay
  12. The Borrowers  by Mary Norton<–Done :)
  13. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
  14. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery<–Done :)
  15. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
  16. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  17. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  18. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle<–Done :)
  19. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  20. Parker Pyne Investigates   by Agatha Christie
  21. Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko <–Done :)
  22. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

In addition to the above I also wound up re-reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and most of Emma by Jane Austen when I found myself unable to face another page of Voyage to Arcturus. Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin has become my lunchbox book, so far so good, it is an enjoyable read. Currently I am formulating my 2013 reading list. It will be an overly ambitious combination of books from the above list which I didn’t get to and books that I hope to read with my better half. Over the next couple weeks as I finish this list I plan to post capsule reviews of my thoughts regarding what I read over spring, summer, and early fall as well as some lovely photos of mine. Happy reading and happy October, dear readers, thanks for joining me here at the pond.

Japanese Maple in Autumn by Ellen Schneider