Water and Fishes

For something a bit different, let’s go to an aquarium. Talk about big, expensive buildings to create and maintain! Especially with all that water. That said, there’s definitely something about the experience of being within the water while safely dry & able to watch fishes swimming by.

While in Baltimore for the World Fantasy Convention, I stopped by the Maryland Aquarium. Some of the items which particularly caught my eyes weren’t actually the aquatic life but light-water installations.

Or the immense skeleton hanging in mid-air.

But there certainly were ample fishes and other aquatic creatures as well.

In all, an enjoyable time — and educational as well, although I admit that wasn’t my prime objective. Next week, back to historic sites, but for now enjoy the water.

Links of Interest

Here are some links and items which caught my eye over the past weeks. Not so many as some times, but I had a few distractions along the way.

Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy” – this is about writing & publishing, but the points apply in many other aspects of life as well

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – not a post, but a book just out – I had a bout with burnout earlier this century, and it’s not fun!

No, Really, Why Do You Write?” – I write because characters get in my head and they won’t tell me their stories unless I write them. Writing gives me a chance to explore characters, ideas, places, and more. Because I want to give forward in some measure, even as countless authors have given forward to me by contributing their stories to the world. Because I believe stories matter and can make a difference.

When You’re Just Not Ready For Rejection” – Rejection isn’t fun (sarcastic understatement). My two cents is don’t let rejection cancel out acceptance of whatever sort. I had a really good news (no re writing fiction) one day and a short story rejected five days later. I refused to allow the rejection to diminish my pleasure in the good news, but I did have to remind myself of that.

“Taming the Critical Voice” — I get fear better than I’d like. It both is and isn’t comforting to read about other people struggling with fear — but it’s encouraging the read about people working through and beyond it. Plus, I like the idea about giving the critical voice something to do. Now to figure out a good assignment for mine!

Gila Cliff Dwellings

A little while back, I posted about a visit to Bandelier and the cliff dwellings there. I’ve also visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings. This is a much smaller site, at least as shared by the park service, and rather more off the beaten path. Bandelier is pretty close to I-25, the main north-south corridor from New Mexico up through Colorado and on. In contrast, to get to the Gila one first must travel well over an hour. I spent several years living in Silver City, New Mexico — about 1 hour’s drive from I-25 and from I-10 (the main East-West route). It took a long time driving along very swervy roads (often at under 25mph) to get to the Gila site.

View of cliff with dwellings visible inside large caves
Gila Cliff Dwellings, as viewed from the path

According to the Park Service, many civilizations used the caves as temporary housing over the centuries. Around about 800 years ago, the people of the culture called Mogollon decided to live in the caves for a while and built dwellings. They traded with other peoples before deciding to move on after about twenty years.

building of stone within a cave, with a few small openings
One of the dwellings

Then again, that’s what they say now. The more time passes, however, the more the story evolves and changes–and often grows closer to the traditions of local peoples (in this case, in particular the Apache). I would be interested to go back in another decade or two to see how understandings have deepened. In the meantime, I’m grateful that we are preserving the site–and only wish we could preserve (and in particular not destroy) others of importance (sometimes in ignorance but others by deliberate action).

Boulders along the cliffside with greenery and the path up to the dwellings in the distance
View from one of the caves

If you’re wondering whether the site was worth the drive–the answer is most definitely yes!

Ireland’s Immortals

My latest history book purchase: Mark Williams, Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth. Picked up because I wrote a short story which for <reasons> took place in Dublin.

No Irish fairies / elves / gods / Tuath Dé / Tuatha dé Dannan played a part in the story per se . . . and yet it all came about because of them.

And this is a new world, one in which I expect to write many more stories. An excellent reason to do some more research. What met my eyes when I started it? This book. I haven’t read it cover to cover (yet), but what I have read touches on fantastically weird days, times, and possibilities.

Many authors before me have drawn on Irish myths for inspiration. I hope to go in my own direction as I write (at least at first) of a world much like ours but dealing with the results of Irish gods (and their equivalents in other regions, I must add–for they’re far from alone) meddling in human affairs which they consider only fair since humans have meddled in theirs . . .

Notre Dame de Paris

I have no personal photos of Notre Dame. I never made it to Paris (other than 6 hours in de Gaulle airport way back when, while traveling from Washington DC to Florence, Italy). I wish I had. Someday I still may visit. In which case, of course, I will visit Notre Dame and see what it is then.

Whatever it becomes, it will not be what it was. And I am very sorry for its loss.

So I’m dedicating today’s post as space to remember, even for those such as me who never visited.

That said, Notre Dame already has a large amount of money pledged to its repair. And the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem caught fire yesterday as well, although thankfully it was contained. Many other churches and religious buildings damaged by fire can use assistance–for those so inclined, consider ones closer to wherever you live.

The vital importance of laundry

While visiting a historic fort in the middle of Texas (or somewhere in the middle, it’s a big state!), I of course perused the site’s book selection. (As an aside, these are almost always worth checking into because they’ll feature books that can be difficult to find on purpose and thus almost have to be stumbled over by accident.) And what did I find?

Soap Suds Row: The Bold Lives of Army Laundresses, 1802-1876. Jennifer J. Lawrence. Glendo, WY: High Plains Press, 2016.

Usually main and/or point-of-view characters come into mind (through various ways, some are really sneaky about this) and then I go off and do research to ensure I’ve got details about times and places and cultures done as right as I am able (on the understanding that I will get things wrong, hard though I try to avoid it).

In this case, I already had a crew of main and/or pov characters for the Twisting short story sequences. No more were needed. Except . . . the instant the cover caught my eye, I realized that there had to be another main and/or pov character — a military laundress. I haven’t reached the point where she’ll appear on the scene (she’s in San Antonio right now, and the key characters gathering for the expedition are in New Orelans, preparing to leave and head west) — but I already know which story she’ll show up in first and the pov of that character would have a hard time without her!

That’s the thing about research. Sometimes it follows stories, sometimes it leads, and sometimes it goes wherever the heck it wants.

Cliff Dwellings: Bandelier

Mesa Verde is, insofar as I’m aware, the most famous of the cliff dwellings (I’ve not visited it)–but there are lots of them throughout the southwest. This was a major civilization, after all. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the preserved cliff dwelling sites — in particular the Gila and Bandelier. Today’s post is about Bandelier.

The first photos offers a view from above the valley — and of the creek which runs through it (one of my works-in-progress is connected to a fictional tributary of the creek).

From what I understand (and I am not an expert in this!) Bandelier was occupied particularly during the western calendar centuries of 13-15 BCE. Most of the peoples dwelling there had begun to move down to live near the river generally known as the Rio Grande or Rio Bravo — before Europeans arrived in the area. They’re now known collectively to non-indigenous Americans as the Pueblo, although they are a number of separate, related nations.

These three images show some of the remains of a village built between the cliff and the creek. The last photo is of the village from not-very high up on the cliff. Its my understanding there are many of these villages scattered throughout the park–most unexcavated and likely to remain so (particularly since excavation is inherently destructive).

This last set of images is of the main cliff dwellings and/or evidence of them (one shows part of the cliff from the village). They don’t properly present the scale, but this is a very impressive site which reflects the complexity and ingenuity of the people who built it and lived there. I’m not particularly fond of heights, so I wouldn’t have done well (and admit to not having climbed up any of the ladders)


Other Hats

I’m off wearing different hats this weekend. Therefore, in lieu of a post about books or a list of links, here are a few photos of sites which I’ll discuss later this year. If you’re so-moved, feel free to guess at the where of them (note: this is not a requirement!). Or just sit back, and visit here again to see when the sites show up.

Hill surrounded by ridges (part of a caldera)
Bushes in the foreground and rocky hills containing caves in the background
a vista of sea with San Diego in the distance

Fort Craig

Maybe 2/3 of the way up I-25 from the southern end of New Mexico, there’s a turn off. Take it and drive 10+ miles of dusty road, and one reaches the remains of Fort Craig. It’s a national historic site, operated by the Bureau of Land Management. The kind of place where retirees can park a trailer and live free/cheap in return for keeping it open

View of mountains

The fort itself is mostly a matter of crumbling walls, though some still stand higher. It was part of a chain along the Royal Road (El Camino Real) leading to Santa Fe. The United States Army spent time there during campaigns against the Apache in particular (Apache no doubt have very different names for it!) Some Buffalo Soldiers were stationed there. I picked up a book in the shop containing papers delivered at a Fort Craig conference. (I confess, I haven’t read them in depth yet — my historical fantasy/magical realism writings are currently taking a more southerly route from El Paso to San Diego.

Ruined walls with path leading around them

I took a lot of pictures — but there’s only so many ruined walls one can post. So here’s a log playing the role of a cannon, placed atop a crumbling perimeter barrier

Log in the shape of a cannon lying on remains of fort wall
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