Thursday, 9 June 2011

"Magic" in the woods

Africa, which is where I make my home, is so very different from the Northeastern United States where I grew up and spent most of my life. I was really blessed to live in a very pretty, safe, middle-class town with a sandy beach where I spent summer days making sandcastles and playing Marco Polo. In college I discovered the magic and beauty of the woods, something that has been a part of me ever since. When I think of a happy, peaceful, lovely place, I invariably picture the sun flickering through maple leaves and water trickling over smooth pebbles, a wood thrush piping high above.

When we moved to Nigeria it took me a long time to find the beauty there.

Surprisingly, I found it at the worst possible time-- in dry season, when all vegetation but the hardiest trees are brown and dead, and the land was mostly burned over by bush fires (yes, not "brush" but "bush"). The air was choked with Harmattan dust that blows from the Sahara and forms a pall over West Africa (and sometimes blows as far as Europe and America's eastern seaboard). I realized that the dryer and more lifeless the country became, the greener the mango trees appeared. Their lush branches actually became fuller; they bloomed with insignificant reddish panicles, and then produced thousands of tiny fruits that await the rains to swell and ripen into the sensuous, aromatic fruit.

And the sky in Nigeria-- during rainy season it towers with fantastic cloud castles and mountainous pillars, illuminated at night by an almost constant, silent show of distant lightning bolts.

But most of all, the people; souls blooming like gems from the sere grasses and mud huts; West Africa is awash with the happiest people living under the hardest circumstances.

Still, I missed the woods of the northeast.

That played into my motivation in writing Blackbirch Woods. As long as I was writing and editing and changing the story, I could envision that flickering sunlight, and feel the cool of the woods, and hear the murmur of a brook. They are as much a part of my soul as my children's faces and hearts.

Not to say that Africa doesn't have a "magic" of its own; and that will feature strongly in my next story (if I ever get that one written! People have asked me often, when did I find time to write a book, and my honest answer is that I have absolutely no idea), which is in its bare beginnings...

I named this blog partly from my desire to share that "magic"-- not the showy kind associated with movies and Disney and the fashion world, something quieter and stiller. A place where one can hear oneself think, feel oneself feel. A place with no demands, no agenda. I hope to add more of that to the world before I'm done here. "Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:18 (NKJV)

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