I’ve gone back to work on my Still Mountain novel series where stones are alive and the earth is awake and waiting. It feels good to turn my thoughts in the direction of having fun with words again. I love this little excerpt, and if you are an agent or publisher, call me :). I’d be happy to chat. The novel is about a special camp for children inclined toward storytelling.
From Still Mountain, a novel
The day was so fine and blue and sunny that Master Simon called class and sent them all out into the world. They gathered first around the giant cottonwood that sits beside the creek. They have heard so many lessons in this place that the grass lays flat from so many bottoms keeping it down. All of the members of Still Mountain Camp were seated, including the level three and four storytellers, and were listening to Master Simon speak. He explained that all stories emerge from deep below Still Mountain. “It is the birthplace of all stories because this place contains the heart of Mother Earth. When you hold the stillness, you can sometimes hear it,” he told them.
Elsinor was excited about what Master Simon as saying. She had actually heard the thump, thump coming from below the ground in her glade. Even just last week she heard it—right before she dreamed about Marcus in the darkus. Maybe it was just as Master Simon said; the dream has come because she heard the earth’s heartbeat. She leaned over and whispered to Sarah, “I have heard it.”
“The beating heart of the earth.”
Elsinor smiled. “I’ll show you later.”
When Master Simon finished his lecture, well not a lecture really, more of a discussion, the class was released to play outside until suppertime. Elsinor grinned at Sarah and said, “Should we go?”
“Oh yes, I need to hear it.”
Sarah told her that during the morning’s game, a great storm had blown her into The Great Desert of Lost Ideas. “It was so strange. As soon as I landed there, all thought left my mind. It was almost spooky.”
Elsinor was leading her down the wooded path that led to her glen. “I know. That game is spooky—how it can make a story leap ahead or stop completely depending on the little card we draw. Master Simon says that game is over 4,000 years old.” She laughed. “And I guess he would know—he is probably that old himself.”
Sarah laughed too. “Not possible. Human beings don’t live that long.”
Elsinor felt her own heartbeat speed up as they came down the final slope of the path and entered the glen. “Here we are,” she said.
“This is where you heard it?”
“Yes. Right here. I was lying on my back on the grass,” she laid down, “like this. Lay down, Sarah.”
“But there might be bugs.”
“Of course there are bugs. Don’t be such a priss, Sarah. Bugs make the world go round. Why, once there was an earthworm named Spencer who forgot how to wiggle.” Sarah was staring at her with such a crazy expression on her face that Elsinor giggled. “A story for you. Now, listen. It was like Spencer thought he was a stick and not a worm at all. When he lost his wiggle, all around him began to suffer. The soil, without his wiggle, got hard and dry because the rain couldn’t reach the roots of the grass and pretty flowers. They got so hot and thirsty they could no longer produce nectar for the bees. And then the bees got hot and thirsty.” Elsinor paused, tumbling into her own story for a moment. Sarah, still standing, poked her side with a toe, jarring Elsinor out of her.
Sarah said, “I want to finish it.”
“Your story. It will free me from the Great Desert of Lost Ideas. Let me finish.”
Elsinor smiled and said, “Only if you sit down.”
Sarah looked at the ground a moment and then sat down beside Elsinor and began to talk. “Just when all the world thought it could no longer endure a single moment more of heat and thirst, the tiniest of the firefly family, her name was Lucy, happened upon poor, wooden Spencer. ‘You need a little kiss of light,’ she said to the poor worm. ‘a bit of charge to get you on.’ And then she kissed him. When she did, Lucy’s whole body glowed green for just a split of a second. Spencer felt like he’d been hit by lightening, but the kiss of light zapped the wiggle back into his body and he began immediately to burrow and dig.”
Elsinor clapped her hands. “Well done. The rains returned, the roots drank deep, and all was well once more in the world.”
Sarah sighed. “I just love happily-ever-after stories.”
Elsinor had gotten so caught up in Spencer’s story that she nearly forgot where they were or why they had come. Everyday since she had first come to live in Still Mountain Village had been like this. Although the Storyboard game was part of their discipline and training to open stories wide, they didn’t need a game to generate new tales.
She turned back to the matter at hand. “See. Bugs are good. How can you not like a friendly little earthworm like Spencer?”
Sarah flopped back and stretched out on the dry grass and smiled up at the sky. “You win. So, how do I listen for the heartbeat?”
“I don’t know. Stillness first, as Master Simon says. And listen with your back and not your ears.”
Elsinor and Sarah held their hands out at their sides, palms up, knuckles down toward the earth. The stillness did seem to enlarge, broken only by the occasional birdsong or the sound of the wind gently moving through the tree tops.
Sarah whispered, “How will I know the difference between the sound of my own heart beating and the earth’s?”
Elsinor thought a moment. The words eased into her mind as if carried on the breeze. She said, “You can’t. They are the same.”
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