Authors and artists gathered at the annual Authors and Artists Fair in Eugene yesterday to share their creative work in the spirit of the holidays, and I was delighted to be among them to welcome a fine crowd of shoppers.
My writer friend Lynn Ash stopped by and snapped a photo of me. Then I wandered over and took a picture of her at her table.
I was also delighted to see writer friends Valerie Brooks and Melissa Hart, who were there with their books. Valerie was the first person I remember meeting on my initial visit to the Mid-Valley Willamette Writers in Eugene, and she was always so welcoming. I met Melissa when she was a speaker at one of the meetings and appreciated how encouraging she was for my work. During the afternoon shift yesterday she joined the ring of tables where I was located, setting up right next to me. So good to see these friends again.
I was especially happy to meet Melissa’s daughter, who I’d met previously only on the written page in Melissa’s wonderful book, Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family. I recall being so captivated by that book I didn’t want to put it down. I don’t mean that I couldn’t put it down during the reading, although that was true enough. But when I finished the last page I just wanted to hold onto it. I thumbed back through for a while, then just held it a little longer, basking in the pleasure of the heartwarming story. It was so good to be able to chat with Melissa’s daughter, Maia, who’s almost twelve now.
During the day we were entertained with some music and dance in that holiday spirit. The dancers circled the room with this choreographed number and brought many a smile and a little tapping in place for the rest of us.
All in all a lovely event. Many strangers shared their stories with me as we talked about my books of Oregon Trail days, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, and some familiar folks came by who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Always a pleasure.
Stonehenge impacts. It just does. Despite detractors who want to say this is better, that’s better, you can’t get inside, whatever, there is no other stone circle in the world quite like it. The dressed sarsens with their phenomenal bulk. The horizontal lintels that look as if giants had placed them. The bold position on Britain’s wide Salisbury plain. Power resonates.
I felt that power as we walked toward the great stones, just as my characters feel it in my stories. Stone circles play a significant role in my series when we visit Ireland, and my Éireann characters of the Irish clans have a fascination with this grand megalith so different from their own village circles. Some of the characters have the opportunity to visit. Others envision it.
The site was carved out about 5,000 years ago when people dug a circular ditch. About 500 years later others erected the first stones. Those were the smaller bluestones, a type of stone not found in this area, but which scholars believe were brought all the way from Wales, a herculean task. The quarry has been located and stone cuts matched, pretty strong evidence. But why? No one knows. The giant sarsens came later, and over time the arrangement of the stones saw several changes.
My writer friend Lynn Ash had joined me on my trip the day before our visit to Stonehenge, and we took the obligatory photos.
I first saw Stonehenge in 1993 when I was researching another long-abandoned book. That was before the new Visitor Center. You don’t have to pay to see Stonehenge. It’s right out there on the Salisbury plain, visible from the road and from trails that cross the fields. A fence holds you back a ways. But if you want to get as close as Lynn and I are in these photos and experience the Visitor Center (and it is an experience), you pay. Not a small fee. We each paid about $23 for a set time slot to enter, although you can take as long as you want, once inside the compound.
Compared with the wonderful Almendres Cromlech in Portugal (see “Going There #8”), a site that’s free and wide open to whatever the public and weather may do to it, Stonehenge has become a local industry. Yet somehow that doesn’t diminish the experience–when you give yourself to the wonder.
The Visitor Center is remarkably well done. Most intriguing is the 360-degree theater in the round where you stand in the center of the stones while seasons and centuries pass. That makes up a little for the fact that a rope around the real stones keeps you out of the center (except for special occasions, like the summer solstice, when people are allowed in, which you no doubt have to reserve far in advance).
The theater’s effect offers a dramatic experience. Many other fine exhibits explain the site and display archeological finds. Outdoors, typical houses of the early period have been erected, and you can step inside to see where people slept.
I’m not sure about that pillow. I’m of the flatter pillow school.
A sample stone below shows how the giant sarsens might have been moved to the site in those long-ago days. I had to tap the stone. It’s plastic but illustrates nonetheless.
Lynn and I opted to walk to and from the circle. The Visitor Center is a little over a mile away, leaving the circle to stand free and open in its grand position. The day was gorgeous, and the easy stroll allowed us a long view of the stones and the effect of the approach–as my characters would have experienced it. We took the road going to the circle and went back to the center on a trail through the field. A lovely walk.
We had contemplated going to Avebury afterward, another wonderful site where the village is set among giant stones and you can touch them. I had been there before and enjoyed not only the stones, but a lovely high tea in the tearoom of an elegant manor, and I had lured Lynn into this trip promising her “scones among the stones.”
Well, we didn’t have a car, and bus connections would have given us more bus time than tea time. Taxis were expensive there, and we were exhausted. Lynn had taken the grueling trip across the pond just the day before our Stonehenge excursion and hadn’t slept on the flight or very much the night before her departure. I had only flown from Lisbon, but our meeting at London’s Heathrow airport hadn’t exactly been a snap.
Lynn had seemed worried about navigating that huge airport, but I had reassured her that my flight would land about an hour before hers and I could be waiting for her when she came off the plane. We had our iPhones in case it took a moment for us to find each other. The best laid plans and all that. My flight was late, very late. Hers was early. When I rushed into the airport, trying to connect with her, I got no answer. I got delayed in a huge line at border control. While moving slowly through that line I tried email, texts, phone. No response.
Friendly airport personnel helped us–more angels. As soon I got free of border control and found my bag I headed for her terminal–just as she headed for mine. We were striding across moving walkways when we looked up and saw each other. What a relief! We had bus tickets to Amesbury, the small town near Stonehenge, and the bus station was right between the terminals. We made it in plenty of time. But the distress took a toll.
Now we’d spent so long at Stonehenge we gave up on Avebury, but as we sat resting in our room at the delightful Fairlawn Hotel in Amesbury we decided to take an evening stroll to Woodhenge, a satellite site within easy walking distance. We were surely up to a pleasant walk out through the edge of the lovely town. We didn’t account for traffic that buzzed along beside us like freeway traffic on a narrow road, so close to the sidewalk I felt as if a wobble would put me right in a car’s path. But we survived to see this unusual site. A quiet, peaceful place.
Lynn snapped my picture sitting on the concrete stumps where wooden poles once rose.
On the way back we took a side path to walk a short way along the famous River Avon. That offered another respite of quiet and peace with a generous touch of beauty.
As I put this post together, selecting photos from the many I took, I noticed something in the photo at the top of the post that I hadn’t noticed before–the picture labeled “Stonehenge.” An odd shadow. I give a closer look here. Do you see it? Probably a strange slant of the light against the stones.
But it put me in mind of the shadows that linger across this old world. Sometimes the shadows seem to come alive where the past remains so visible, as in these ancient works in stone. Or the crumbling citadels of Greece and Portugal, where archeologists work to ferret out the hidden secrets.
Bringing the past to life is what I try to do in my stories–whether from our own country’s pioneer past in A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds, or in these ancient times of my new series. I would keep searching, keep reaching, trying to see into the shadows to bring out the light of a people who did walk in these places, portrayed as truly as I can through the fictional characters in their imagined lives.
When three authors get together to present their books at the Book Nest Venue in the Indulge! Antiques shop, it’s triple the activity of the former one-author format. And we just had to ham it up a little for the camera.
That’s me on the left of course, then Valerie Ihsan in the middle and Lynn Ash on the right.
We enjoyed the new digs at the Springfield Gateway Mall where Indulge recently moved. Amanda Bird, proprietor of the Book Nest bookstore, keeps a presence there, though not the separate niche she had in the previous location.
Imagine a long narrow table set with candles and knickknacks and books down the center on a bright autumn-orange runner. Sorry, I get distracted easily and forget to take more pictures. Around this attractive table the three of us shared brief descriptions of our books with the guests who joined us. And over a delightful lunch we all took questions and had wonderful conversation.
Valerie talked about her new novel The Scent of Apple Tea, Lynn presented her travel memoirs The Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda, and I discussed my Oregon Trail stories, The Shifting Winds and A Place of Her Own, as well as upcoming work.
The food was delicious, and Indulge is filled with tempting antiques in charming displays. Thanks to Amanda for the invite to a lovely event.
I’m packing up books again to head back to the Book Nest in Springfield, Oregon, where proprietor Amanda Bird puts together lovely luncheons for authors and guests. We’ll meet this Thursday, October 20, at 12 noon at the new location in the Gateway Mall (see below). This time I’ll be joined by my author friends Lynn Ash and Valerie Ihsan in a new multi-author format.
Lynn will bring copies of her travel memoirs, The Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda. Valerie will bring her Scent of Apple Tea and Smell the Blue Sky. In addition to my new Shifting Winds I’ll have copies of A Place of Her Own.
I had the pleasure of being invited to share A Place of Her Own at a Book Nest Author Lunch a couple of years ago shortly after that book came out and am delighted to be invited again.
The Book Nest, housed in the Indulge! Antiques collection of shops, has recently moved into new quarters in the Springfield Gateway Mall at 3000 Gateway Street, Suite 406. That will be new to me also. But I’m sure the lunches will be as exquisite as ever, coming from the Blue Pig Cafe in the same complex.
Each of the authors will a give a short introduction of themselves and their work, five minutes or so. Then we’ll go to questions and conversation. The event is open to the public with a no-host luncheon. You can find the lunch menu and pricing here. More on Indulge! here.
To find the place just go into the mall through Sears. From Sears it’s on your right. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by. It’s a great venue.
So I got on my dusty steed yesterday morning and made for Florence on the Oregon coast for the Florence Festival of Books.
I won’t talk about the accumulation of events that got in the way of an early start, or describe my grumbling over that slow car on the winding coast highway that loomed as the last impediment to my much-desired progress. Could I make it in time to set up before the 10 o’clock opening?
Happily I made it with minutes to spare, although a determined attendee bought both my books before I had entirely arranged my display. She didn’t quibble. Nor did I.
Here we are, my friend Lynn Ash and I, showing our books. We shared a table.
She presented her two memoirs describing her experiences as a solo camper, The Route from Cultus Lake and Vagabonda. I presented my two Oregon Trail stories, A Place of Her Own and The Shifting Winds.
The organizers do a nice job with this event. About 50 individual authors participated, as well as several writers groups and publishers. From 10 o’clock in the morning until 4 in the afternoon we pitched our stories and heard many intriguing tales from people who came by our table, and we signed books for our buyers.
After it was all done, our table cleared, and things packed up, we were ready to kick back.
And I got my clam chowder while watching seals and waterbirds play in the bright-blue Siuslaw estuary as the sun lowered and gilded the Florence bridge. A calming moment before I took my dusty steed on the long, beautiful drive home.