The Enchanted Hour

It’s been called the Hour of Magic . . . the Enchanted Hour . . . that time when the sun only just peeps over the edge of the world, going or coming . . . when shadows take prominence, shapes become fantastic, the sky is painted with extraordinary hues, and the light is soft and strange. Even the words we have for it are beautiful: dusk . . . twilight . . . gloaming.

The transition time between day and night has always been seen as mystical. Ancient fairy-lore suggests it is a prime time for encounters with the Good Folk. How often it is recalled in story, song, and poetry! And I’ll just bet we all have some vivid memories of twilights — long ago or not-so-long ago. Among this crowd in this season, I think this topic could be one of our best times yet!

Since I’m wearing the blog conductor’s hat, I’ll start us off. First, I’ll go back to summers in junior high and high school. My dad’s favorite place in the world was the pond at the back of our ten-acre plot in rural Illinois. In the corner of the long, thin property, behind the field, and accessed by a quarter-mile of grassy lane, the pond was bordered on two sides by wild timber teeming with wildlife. Many’s the time we’d startle a deer drinking at the water’s edge. At our approach, it would spring away into the trees, a flash of tawny grace. The chorus of coyotes is typical night music there. I’ve met bright red foxes near the pond; opossums, raccoons, skunks, more snakes than I care to count . . . and you’ve heard, I think, of the adventure Mr. Brown Snowflake and I had down there on a moonless night, being stalked by a bobcat.

The hike down to the pond was the perfect length: long enough that you felt you were leaving the everyday world behind, but short enough that you could get there pretty quickly. Of course, we always had special pond vehicles: a barely-running car or a pickup truck with no doors (for easy jumping in and out of) — vehicles that were just for our land, not road-licensed; and, like most farm kids, I learned to drive them when I was about ten years old. [The problem with no doors on a farm truck is that wildlife thinks the truck belongs to it: more than once, we found discarded white snakeskins, disturbingly long -- and diving into the truck without looking could mean diving through a giant spider web, spider present. In the country, you learn to keep your eyes open.]

But anyway, I was talking about my dad. He loved to go down to the pond and work: mowing with his weedcutter, sickling by hand, or reinforcing the dam, all of which we did together, and I’m sure there must be a place in Heaven for doing it again. As it got too dark to see the weeds, Dad would retire to a bucket seat out of some old car that he had placed on a high point a few feet from the water. He’d sit there wearing his ever-present bill hat, smoking a cigarette. (Can I say “cigarette” in a public forum?) From a long way off through the dusk, I could see the red spark of the cigarette’s end, a little beacon showing me where Dad was. If we’d stopped work early enough, while there was still light, I’d sit on a rock, or the concrete retaining wall — or best of all, on some piece of rusting farm machinery half-overgrown by weeds — and I’d read fantasy as the light faded. I specifically remember reading parts of Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique and parts of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane down at the pond.

Mom, for her part, loved to pull weeds in the garden until it got too dark to see. Or to pull weeds in any of the dozens of flower beds she had all over the yard. She was a firm believer in pulling weeds, not cutting them. “You’ve got to get the roots out,” she said. I always tried to convince her that, if floating seeds and spores had planted the weeds there once, they would do it again — it was the wonderful way of the green world — and that cutting or mowing was faster (and much more fun!). But she’d have none of it. I think we were both partly right.

So I’d help her pull weeds as the sun went down, and we’d have itchy hands that smelled of plant juices, our skin needing the occasional spine or bur removed with tweezers in the bathroom’s yellow light. And Mom and I would do the same: when she’d pulled enough weeds, she’d sit on the porch with her cigarette glowing, and I’d sit on a lawn chair or a cart and read H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Lord Dunsany. . . .

Childhood games were the best, weren’t they? Playing and playing with the neighborhood kids as the purple shadows deepened, as the sky shifted from gold to red to lavender to purple, and night came on with slow wings. If you were playing hide-and-seek, the twilight helped you hide. The dark made your dramatic charge back to home base all the more dramatic. And always, just before you finally surrendered and went inside to baths and beds, you would stop just for a moment and gaze in awe toward the west, where the last glow was crimson behind the silhouette trees, and the soybean mill stood like a black castle.

I remember the summer of 2006, after both my parents had passed away, and I was living in our old house, slowly cleaning it out, discovering all the old relics of our pasts — long lost toys, photos, Dad’s early writing, the treasures of my parents’ combined libraries. . . . By then, the pond was overgrown — ringed round with new trees, high with weeds — but still there, a haven for the deer and the foxes and the birds, which would make Dad happy. Weeds had taken over much of the yard, sharing the space with Mom’s flowers, some of which are still coming up unassisted to this day. (In her last years, when Mom was too arthritic to do much weed-pulling and Dad was too frail to mow, Mom declared that she was deliberately letting the yard grow into a “restored historic Illinois prairie,” which was a good thing, recommended by ecologists. Always looking at things from the best possible angle, my mom!)

During that summer, I nearly always made it a point to be outdoors when the sun neared the western horizon. I’d walk around the yard, studying the trees and the weeds, always accompanied by the dogs, who understand a person’s moods at least as well as any human being. Sometimes they’d wag and jump up and ask for petting; sometimes they’d sit quietly beside me on the sun-warmed road, peering west across the fields, watching the light go behind the bean mill.

And the fireflies! At our place, they come out by the thousands — yellow-green, Earth-bound stars! Winking and winking, far and near, high and low, from the trees to the fields to the forest. They are the heralds of things ancient and timeless, things whispered and read and re-told, the emissaries of Faery.

Give us what you’ve got: stories, memories of the dusk – all the tales that are meet and right to share! (Dawn is okay, too!)

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56 Responses to “The Enchanted Hour”

  1. Waldyne Says:

    Dear Fred,
    Reading your memories of your past in your last couple emails takes me home to my youth also. We lived in a place that was much like your own, away form people and traffic and the race of a fast moving world.
    When you write you take me right into your memory places. I thank God for the gift He has given you in writing so that I the reader can share your feelings. Much love from Canada,
    Waldyne

  2. I loved the pond Says:

    Ahh, the Durbin estate at dusk! I remember the Bobcat Incident well, and many others, including the time we were out on the boat when someone (Scott, I think) placed a full can of pop into the fire, resulting in a rocket that sailed, like a smoke-trailed missile from a coastal battery, out into the water, where it spashed with a hiss just feet from the portside stern!

    A recollection for everyone else: Fred’s dad used to own this old blue pickup sans doors. One night we were going to drive down to the pond and had a flashlight with us. Fred, using his always-heightened sense of prescience, said “hang on!” and flashed the beam through the cab of the truck before we got in. Good thing, for filling THE ENTIRE passenger side opening where the door used to be was an ENORMOUS web, with a spider whose body was the size of a ping-pong ball right in the middle — right where my head would have ducked into the cab! Fred saved me!

    I can easily recall seeing MADDOG pulling weeds, but each time I bring up the memory it is always from her garden on the lane side of the barn, on the side nearest the house (SW side, right Fred?).

    It is too bad everyone here never had the chance to know Joe and Mary Ann, especially when we were still in school, including high school. They were special people, now residing in the most special of places.

    What was so cool about the lane to the pond was just as Fred described it — the length was just right. As years passed the lane became rutted to the point that driving it was nearly impossible, and it began to be overgrown along its sides and overhead, which only made it even more perfect.

    You have all heard of Fred’s dog Hooper. I have always believed I was Friend of Fred Hooper liked most — I think Fred may agree that I certainly doted on him the most. Anyway, Hooper loved tagging along to the pond and I cannot pull up memories of pond visits with seeing our best buddy frolicking around, vainly trying to catch frogs before getting bored and eventually bidding us ado and returning to his kingdom around the yard.

    The sun setting behind Allied Mills … you have to have at least one picture of that, don’t you my friend? The scene is so incredible it deserves to be shared with those who have not seen it …

    So, my fellow blog visitors, when you wonder where Fred “gets it” from, let me tell you: Some of ‘it’ is from two incredible parents; some of ‘it’ is from an incredible environment to grow up in and some of ‘it’ is his own hard work. And all of that is from Christ.

  3. jhagman Says:

    I remember a mischievous dusk when I was 14, working on my family’s 65 acre horse farm but still being dirt poor, my younger brother and myself were not cool enough to be invited to a party being held under some eucalytus trees- so we decided to invite ourselves (with a water truck). The deluge was terrific! I drove, my brother operated the pumps, I can still see that boom box being blasted off the stacked hay, and picnic tables being cleaned off under all that water pressure- we were caught later, the beating was worth it! Summer 1976.

  4. jhagman Says:

    Oh Fred I think you can say “cigarettes” in your forum whenever you like! Your Parents sound like people who earned their pleasures with hard work,,,, even though those pleasures are as the writer Barbara Holland calls them:Endangered.

  5. Catherine Says:

    Oh, dear, oh, dear. I love the twilight hour (the latter one — in summer you can’t pull me out of bed before dawn, no matter how hard you try) and if I’m not outside during that time I have to be by the large picture windows: they look out with full force on the neighbors’ trees, behind which glimmers Puget Sound, the port’s cranes and the ferries making their (apparently silent) crossings In the background are the Olympic Mountains, far across the water. I’ve faded several layers of color out of anything along the eastern wall of the living room, pulling up the blinds too soon to get the last of the sun. Other times I play the sun down with my fiddle — I’ve become notorious for playing it in the front yard. But there’s no specific STORY to go with it.

    I guess the best I can give you is one twilight when I was far away from the view above described. I was at my favorite festival, in May, at one of its many stages which was rather cut off from the world. On one side rose a sports stadium; the rest was bounded by trees or by buildings. All you could see, really, was the sky, and watch how its colors changed. Anyway, I was listening to a band play Celtic music, and dancing to it — waving my arms like a maniac and jumping around, which never fails to delight the younger members of the audience, let me tell you — and feeling very much in tune to the whole world around me, and I noticed that the sky slowly grew gray; and then, almost borne in by the waves of music, hundreds of seagulls flew past, all in flocks, all in a smooth arc across the pale sky. They were flying in, I know, to scarf bits of food from unsuspecting festival patrons; but for that moment they were simply beautiful, drawn to the music as I was, flying in formation as though the song was truly as universal as we like to pretend.

    Thank you; that’s it.

  6. Morwenna Says:

    Isn’t “gloaming” a wonderful word?

    I’m rereading Jane Eyre, and so far, Jane and Mr. Rochester have had three chance meetings while Jane is walking outdoors at dusk. Jane is petite, and Rochester often compares her to a fairy.

    Here, Rochester tries to convince Jane to linger in the garden at Thornfield: “‘Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house; and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at meeting with moonrise.’”

  7. Morwenna Says:

    P.S. My Jane Eyre italics were brought to you courtesy of a helpful e-mail that Fred passed along from Shieldmaiden. Thank you both!

  8. John R. Fultz Says:

    Good stuff, Fred. My old band, Wild Love Rebellion, had a song dedicated to the magic and mystery of twilight. It was called “Twilight Shadows.” It was inspired by many a twilight evening hanging with good friends drinking, smoking, dreaming while the gentle day turned to gleaming night. (We also had a song called “Night.”)

    The “Twilight Shadows” lyrics:

    Velvet night take me in your arms
    Hide me away from worldly harms
    I serve the point between light and darkness
    Serving each other in a twilight dress

    When children sleep
    Avoid the light
    Monster shapes
    Rule the night
    Ruling phantoms
    Shining bright
    Still some shapes
    Make us bite…each other

    Shadows fall…shadows fall…
    Shadows fall…on my Twilight

    In a bad land on a righteous wing
    My mindscape raped for viewing
    Poor acid-salted beggars spending
    Chumps of change, we stole, we stole
    Our home, our home,
    Dug from a pit of trash
    Spent like spent-up cash
    In the home of the plenty

    All-all-all our bowls are filled
    All-all-our bad ideas are killed
    Wearing clear-viewing multicolored glasses
    On our faces
    Who the hell’s going to win from all these races?

    Shadows fall…shadows fall…
    Shadows fall…on my Twilight

    Blinded to the poor
    In your home of the plenty
    Won’t you hear me
    Won’t you love me?

    (Lyrics by Bobby Smith)

    I would have posted the track but I can’t figure out how to do it yet…. :)

  9. John R. Fultz Says:

    Oh, by the way, Fred:

    I’ve got a new Daily Blog (Virtual Sanctuary) and I’ve linked your blog to mine.

    Cheers!
    John R. Fultz

    http://johnrfultz.wordpress.com/

  10. Marquee Movies Says:

    I just talked to Dawn, and she’s happy to know that you think she’s OK, too.

  11. Daylily Says:

    Let us not fail to mention that place of twilight enchantment first discovered by FSD: Summerdark.

    I have returned from my Quest beneath Summerdark. Hear now, those who will, the tale of my journey. Buried for eons in the subterranean caverns far below the ancient city of Summerdark lay a treasure of gold. I caught a hint of the treasure when first I heard of Summerdark. Perhaps a quest would be for naught. But perhaps, oh, perhaps . . . so I began the Quest. And after long hours and days of searching, and tunneling, and trudging through the dark, I glimpsed the Golden Candelabra. Alas, it was guarded by fearsome twin dragons, which glared at me with their fiery eyes and menaced me with their noisome breath of brimstone! But summoning all my courage, I called them by name and then lulled them to sleep with sweet songs. Tiptoeing past them, I reached the gleaming treasure and carried it away, toiling upwards past endless stalactites and stalagmites, always alert to dodge the bats that would impede my way, into the light of our world. And to my sorrow, this treasure is not fully visible in our world, even to me. But I am undaunted! There remains a further Quest, the one that will allow all that so desire to see the treasure. I will soon accept the challenge of the second Quest.

  12. Marquee Movies Says:

    You know, when I posted that little Dawn joke, I hadn’t yet read Fred’s posting. I happened to glance at it, and scrolled down to read how many responses yet, and saw the ending line. Then I just quickly threw on my dumb joke, then moved on, vowing to return when I had a bit more time. Now that I’ve finally read the actual posting, I wish I hadn’t put that joke. The posting is a little too sweet and nostalgic for such a dumb throwaway gag, but – there it is, as the King in Amadeus says.
    Moviemakers call that time of day (dusk or dawn) the Golden Hour, for two reasons – that beautiful color of light, which makes everything on the screen glow – and two, because it’s SO EXPENSIVE! Shooting with such a limited amount of time often means that getting just a few shots can mean keeping and paying for an entire crew to stay in one spot for several days, just so they can shoot during those perfect 40 minutes or so. And if it rains…..more gold to pay!
    One of my favorite Golden Hour scenes is in The Natural, when Roy Hobbs slays his first dragon; i.e., he strikes out the Whammer on three pitched balls. (Hey, it’s right next to a old county fair – double bonus blog points for me!) What I love telling people before the scene starts is that the scene literally gets more beautiful as it gets more exciting. And that final pitch, with Robert Redford bending over in front of the setting sun, and then in slow motion, releasing that ball, and you can actually watch it SINK into the bottom of the frame, all while the grass, the fairgrounds, his hair, the ball, are all lit up with the most perfect special effect of all, the golden light of a setting sun. (Randy Newman’s great music contributes so much, too!)
    There’s also that cool moment in Ladyhawke, when the doomed couple (she’s a hawk by day, he a wolf by night), get to see each other oh so briefly at the moment the sun is just about to dip completely below the horizon.
    And a line, from the most unboring movie ever made, True Romance, a line I still use all the time (I said it today at the end of movie class), “As the sun sets slowly in the West, we bid you a fond farewell!”
    I love summer sunsets. What a lovely, lovely gift from God! (And so much of it!)

  13. I loved the pond Says:

    Another example of a great dawn shot in the movies is in the The Two Towers, a brief scene of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli chasing the Uruk-hair through Rohan. Anyone who loves the movies as I do will remember the shot of the rising sun behind them. In the bonus DVDs Andrew Lesnie recalls all the trouble involved in getting what amount to 15 seconds on film…but it was worth it.

    Ken Burns (PBS ‘Civil War’, ‘Baseball’ ‘Jazz’ etc) said his crew, while filming CW, would try to be up at every dawn and find the perfect sunset each day simply for the light available.

    Chris will be able to tell us about wavelength, color striations and all the scientific explanations. I chalk it up to God, and say that, He, in His wisdom, created the scientific parameters that create such beauty in the first place.

  14. Nicholas Says:

    Ah, yes. The gloaming. Twilight.

    You know what a devotee I am of that sacred, mystical, magical time–my “occasional” publication is, after all, called _Ozment’s House of Twilight_.

    Not sure I ever told you about a frame story I have that I hope to use someday for a collection of short stories. It’s called “The Gloaming Lamp.” In it, a man finds a strange lamp and a book with apparently empty pages. At a certain time each evening, the lamp works–and by its light words suddenly appear on the book’s pages. He reads stories therein, but only until the lamp goes off again. Then the pages return to blank. He cannot copy the words directly from the book; he can only recall the stories from memory, putting them as best he can into his own words.

  15. I loved the pond Says:

    DEAREST LADIES OF THE BLOG: As you will see if you check the recent posts, a Ms. Lisa is a tad nervous about joining our happy multiverse. Please welcome her here and let her know this is a safe spot for the fair gender!

    As for all of you hovering around the edges and a bit trigger-shy about posting us: jump in! Some of us have known our host for some time (Chris and I for nearly 40 years), some are college friends, others are associates, etc. and some have never met Fred, but I know I can speak for him when I say everyone is welcome! Don’t think that just because you have no personal connection to anyone here that your thoughts, observations or ideas are not worth posting, because they are!

    • Daylily Says:

      I have not had the pleasure of personally meeting Fred. But I feel that I have gotten to know him somewhat through the medium of this blog. And I have felt welcome on the blog from the first time that I showed up. So let me repeat part of the message I left for Lisa after her comment on “Spring-Boards”: “Welcome, Lisa! Pull up a chair and join the conversation! I’m sure that the other girls will drop in as they have time. And anyone else who is hovering around the doorway, please do come in. There is plenty of room for all.” I love dropping into the electronic salon and seeing who’s there! And new friends are always welcome.

  16. John C. Says:

    Originally, I had no plans to view the new “Alice in wonderland”, but I became curious after seeing a recommendation for it here. So I decided decided (wisely) to give it a shot. It is a good thing I did because the film is incredibly well done. Great plot, characters, dialogue, etc.

    Superb.

  17. Shieldmaiden Says:

    I will join in the welcome to Lisa! And, I want to assure you that there are indeed girls here and that we all have very much a life. This is the best blog in the world and the dedication to it is just that. It is a special place where we can all meet together. Oddly enough I haven’t actually met anyone from the blog aside from Jedibabe who has been my best friend forever. So welcome, and don’t worry about feeling shy… I was the biggest chicken ever and I am so glad I jumped in.

    In case anyone is lost (like I was) here is the link to April “Spring Boards” that this thread started on:

    http://fredericsdurbin.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/spring-boards/

  18. Marquee Movies Says:

    Mr. Snowflake, I sure like the tone of your very friendly invitation. I’m reminded of two things – one, that lovely line from Field of Dreams, when Ray Kinsella says, “Yes….they’re all welcome here.” And two, that Shel Silverstein invitation: “If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic bean-buyer. If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!”

  19. Marquee Movies Says:

    I hope you’ll forgive yet another short blurb of a posting, but Adventureland was on cable tonight, and I should have mentioned it when talking about fairs in the last blog. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a film that came out just last year, and it’s a very sweet and funny and wonderfully realistic film about a teen’s working at an amusement park one summer after graduating high school. It’s set in 1984 or ’85, so those of you who consider themselves 80′s people will really be impressed with how they captured the tone and humor of that time, as well as the timelessness of youth. There’s a short fireworks scene that is about as beautiful and sweet and heartbreaking as anything you’ll see. Nothing happens in it – it’s just a moment captured, that represents all those moments we once, once had.

  20. The Grouch Says:

    Hi Folks,

    I’ve been lurking here a bit and was wondering how many people we have and how you all got here?

    I stumbled across this blog when I couldn’t remember Fred’s e-mail address and wanted to contact him to see if he was free for lunch. My family and I are on vacation in the next town over from Niigata and I wasn’t even sure if Fred was still here.

    He is.
    Lunch was fun and delicious.

    • Daylily Says:

      I was informed about the blog by a friend of Fred’s and have been here ever since. It’s a good place to come for some recreational reading and conversation on a variety of interesting topics! I recall that some of us came here by way of “The Star Shard” in Cricket Magazine.

  21. Elizabeth Says:

    Gloaming is the very best word for it. It seems to best describe the way the dark moves in and absorbs the evening.

    Today I swung in the hammock under the trees in the back yard, in the gloaming. Jack, my golden, lay on the ground nearby. He studied the first lightening bug of the evening, trying to decide if it was worth his energy to catch it.

    Humans seem fascinated with transition points — places where you shift from light into dark, from “above” to “below,” or vice versa. Caves, mountains, even woods were sacred places in ancient cultures. Take it farther, and certain times of the year (equinoxes) are important. The natural world seems weakest at those transition points, places where the supernatural is at its strongest.

    Despite the pop culture image of Faeries in a New York bar, with spiked blue hair and a silver nose ring, I doubt that’s their “scene.” Besides which, it so much more romantic to think of the Faerie walking in the dusk; as gray as a shadow; humming “come away o human child.”

  22. Marquee Movies Says:

    Elizabeth, what an interesting point you’ve made! Yes, dusk and dawn are like standing just inside the mouth of a cave – you’re both in the cave, and yet still touched by sunlight – those times of day are almost like doorways, because they are both this and that, neither one nor the other, so the natural world weakens, and the supernatural becomes possible. Excellent point! (I’ve been enjoying all of these, but Grouch is the only one who made me jealous!)

  23. I loved the pond Says:

    Well Grouch, it is hard to tell how many different individuals have posted. Some always use the same name, some, like myself, simply keep my icon alive by starting each new post-response with ‘I’. BUT NONE OF US has had the opportunity to dine with Fred in Niigata, so everyone is hating on you (ha ha!).

    Elizabeth: what a wonderful observation! I agree completely! For me the entrance into the Twilight world is standing in a field, some 100 yards or so from the edge of a woods, under a full moon on a cold winter’s night with a foot of snow underfoot. Somewhere in the long lunar shadows of the stark trees, just as you pass the first white oaks, is the gate I use …

    SF: Thanks for bringing up two fave topics, namely Field of Dreams and Shel Silverstein!

    Shieldmaiden: thanks for the email. You always make my day!

    AND TO ALL OF US: Hooray for our good fortune in finding each other and cheers to Fred from being the conduit that has brought us all together!

  24. Shieldmaiden Says:

    Besides the enchanted hour, and how we found the blog there has also been a bit of talk about the blog itself the last couple days. I had to look them up but I found some of my favorite comments about our blog, hosted by Fred. Last June, almost to the day, Fred posted “Something Like a Dragon”. He left a comment (following Marquee Movies very great comment) that is one of my favorite moments on the blog. It kind of sums it all up:

    “If you build it, they will come”–a blog where all are welcome; a Table Round; a library with room for an infinite number of characters to care about, who teach us to care for one another. . . . The Lord is good. And thank you all for coming to the party. Let’s stay out in the garden all night and never go indoors!

    OK, one more (Fred again)
    “You all who read the blog — thank you so much for being here. Just reading it is fine — you’re very welcome to do that. But when you take the time to comment, everyone benefits. What we have here is a fully-interactive salon for those who love stories, for those who love friends, and for those who love life. And like a college dormitory or a World Fantasy Convention, it goes on 24/7. We live in different time zones, different hemispheres, so you never know when something will pop up, when someone will have pulled a chair up to the fire and be ready for some merry company.”

    Grouch: I found the blog after I ran across Fred’s beautiful story “The Star Shard” …which is not to be confused with The Star Shard. I’ve been reading Cricket Magazine with my kids for years, and was completely blown away by the adventures aboard the Thunder Rake with Cymbril and Loric. I found Fred’s blog after commenting on Author Corner on the Cricket site. I told the story of how I got here in my first comment on the blog back in January 09. Here’s the link to that post if you want the details: http://fredericsdurbin.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/encouragement/

    I have truly loved being a part of this blog. Thanks to everyone for sharing so many wonderful stories. And Mr. Movies: I loved this, “those times of day are almost like doorways.” I completely agree, tho I hadn’t thought of it in that way before. Beautiful! Makes me want to go back and read “Dark Doorways” again. And to Mr. Brown Snowflake: You are welcome for the email and have certainly made my day many, many times! Thanks for all your comments here. Post on!

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      I wanted to clarify something. When I said, “Our blog” hosted by Fred, I never meant to exclude you from the our, Fred. Note to self; never post a comment written after midnight. Just don’t do it [smiles]. You are the our in our blog, but also have double duty as the host and conductor. We may stay for the merry company of one another (which includes yours) but we come for YOU. It is no coincidence that it was your house everyone gathered at as a child, your dorm room in college, and your blog now. You have amazing gifts and share them freely, and we are all blessed because of them. Thank you.

  25. I loved the pond Says:

    Well, here we are on one of my most despised days of the year, the First day of Suffering (known as Summer to the rest of you) …

    P.S. — Dearest Jedibabe, I hope the Force is guiding you at this busy time. Good luck!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Dear Mr. I-Loved-the-Pond,
      I second those well-wishes to Jedibabe! May the writing go well all the way to the end, and may the defense of the thesis be a resounding success!

      As for summer: I would very gladly show up at your doorstep with a gigantic moving van, load up all the heat, humidity, sunshine, steam, green leaves, velvet nights, and blue skies that are plaguing you, and I would take them all away and install them at my place. In exchange, we could unload the blizzards, ice, grayness, sleet, sub-zero temperatures, and bone-chilliness you prefer, and you could enjoy a winterfest in June. A win-win situation! :-)

      Oh, and on the topic of “lunches with me”–actually, Mr. Grouch isn’t the only one to have swung through here. About twenty years ago, the governor of the halflings stopped through Niigata on his way home from . . . somewhere. . . . He took the Trans-Siberian Railroad, went to some incredible cave in China, and eventually found his way to Niigata before returning to the States.

      • I loved the pond Says:

        I had not forgotten the good gov. had stopped by, I simply meant “in the last score of years.” :-)

        As for the summer, you must understand it is a “professional” distaste I have for it. Allow me to explain: Iowa is the only state that has two governing bodies for high school sports, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union for the ladies and the Iowa High School Atlhetic Association for the boys. In their infinite idiocy, they have made Iowa the only state to continue baseball and softball until the end of July! The state softball tourney is the week of July 19-24, the state baseball tourney July 26-31. Yes, this means graduated seniors are still on their prep team until mid or late July …

        And this means games that I must cover EVERY weeknight, to say nothing of all-day tournaments on Saturdays. Well, standing around in the heat and humidity sucks, because press boxes are not air conditioned and are generally saunas, and to get good pictures you have to be in the sun. Then, of course, there are rainouts, which …

        I could write 5k words on the matter, but you are all already bored enough. So there you have it … it is not only personal with Mr. Brown Snowflake, it is professional. In short, it sucks.

    • The Grouch Says:

      Hi I-Loved-the-Pond,

      I agree heat and humidity suck. Feel free to join me up at the top of the world where it is pitch black at 2:00 PM in December and down to a -30C at 12:30 in the afternoon. (I live in Sweden.)

      On a slightly different note, do I understand correctly that you are paid to take pictures for a living? THAT is very COOL.

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Thank you guys for the well wishes. I can certainly use them right now, prayers are welcome too. It is nice to know there is a group of people pulling for me during such an insane time. I’ve been writing like crazy and had a whole moment of celebratory pause after turning my thesis draft into the committee Sunday. then I heard from my chair who was not as impressed as I hoped she’d be. I’m going to talk to her tomorrow. It certainly ain’t over yet. I’m not crying yet- I can do this. How do you who write, continue to write? I feel so done writing and I’m not done… Ug.

      May the force be with you all as well. I did get to attend Star Wars in Concert on Saturday, that helped give me hope! You’ll be hearing more from me again once this insanity is over.

      • I loved the pond Says:

        Jedibabe! OMG! Star Wars in concert! I have six free tickets for the July 5 show in Des Moines and am going with five friends. We are SO GEEKED!

        You have my email: If you have 120 seconds to spare, please drop a line and tease me about what I am going to experience!

        And, yes, of course — prayers will be said for you and your upcoming success!

        WISDOM 9:13-18 will help you, I think.

      • Shieldmaiden Says:

        I Loved the Pond: I saw Star Wars in Concert a while ago and I think I am going again. I drove to Wilkes Barre PA to see it, and now it is actually coming to the Giant in Hershey! Only five minutes from where I live. There are no words. It is so completely great! The whole time I kept thinking, “worth EVERY penny” and it is. It won’t matter how high your expectations are… you will be blown away!!! I had the time of my life that night. I hope you post a comment letting us know how you liked it. And you are going for FREE!

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Jedibabe — I’m sorry to hear the battle is still ongoing just when you thought it was over (it’s like trying to kill a Terminator robot!), but it sounds like you’re REALLY close to being done with the thesis! I will be praying!

        And I have to confess I have no clue what Star Wars in Concert is. Well, I mean, unless it’s obvious from the name. . . .

      • Daylily Says:

        Jedibabe: I have your name on a sticky note on the front of my computer base, to remind me to pray for you when I turn on the computer.

  26. I loved the pond Says:

    Yes, for free, with comp tickets (in exchange for advertising space). We will be about halfway back in an arena that seats 15,000. Our seats are third row, looking left toward the stage. I am like a little kid I am so excited.

    BLOGGER ALERT: If you have not yet seen it, get yourself and your kids (if you have any) to Toy Story 3! Wow! PIXAR does it again!

    And Shieldmaiden: Happy is the lady who lives so close to Chocolate Heaven! I just put on four pounds dreaming about it :-)=

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I am also thrilled to see that we just (on Monday) set another all-time high for visits to this blog in one day. In the blog’s earliest days, I think most visitors were coming to read my posts; now I think it’s clear you’re all mostly coming for each other, which makes me very happy. It’s a wonderful community, and that trend takes a lot of pressure off me! Of course the posts will still be coming — it’s time for one right away, in fact! — but I’m glad they’re no longer the only (or even the primary) draw!

  27. I loved the pond Says:

    Silly Fred, it is precisely for your posts and what they give birth to that we all come here! The topics wander the longer it is between your posts and our little community feels the need to keep the current humming through the wireless …

    • Daylily Says:

      “Our community of strangers,” as they say in “Bulletin Board” of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a feature which I have read for twenty years, starting when I lived in the Twin Cities. It’s a precursor of the blog; it’s constructed of the stories and observations of the readers. But the editor decides whose submissions to print. In this community, whoever has something to say gets to say it. I like that.

    • Elizabeth Says:

      I must agree! Fred, you and your posts are the hub of the wheel. Without it, the spokes fall away.

  28. Marquee Movies Says:

    You know, Mr. Snowflake, I read your comment, and I thought, Who is SF? (Just like the current ad campaign, Who is Salt?) And then I realized that the last few times I had posted, I had inadvertently given away my true name, my genuine moniker. I am concerned that having given my secret name, I have now opened myself up to some bad luck, much like the chief on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Oh well –
    The wife and I were blessed enough to see Star Wars in Concert as well, hosted by the wonderful Anthony Daniels. I have a friend whose daughter sings for a choir, and she was part of the choir that sang for Star Wars in Concert that day in Chicago when we were there, and my friend told me that George Lucas was there that day, and had introduced himself to the local musicians who were performing!
    For those of you who wish to experience a much smaller but still fun version of Star Wars in Concert at home, simply order the soundtrack to Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. That CD comes with a bonus DVD, and every single one of the videos that are shown in the concert are on that DVD. (They’re like Star Wars music videos, and my students go wild for them!)
    My next dream is to see John Williams in concert – there’s a chance we may get to this fall. Then we can see (God-willing) a number of different movie clips while the great composer leads the orchestra – Superman, E.T., Harry Potter, Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and on and on – a chance to hear music that will live for thousands of years composed by the one man who wrote it all! My all-time favorite movie theme is the Main Title to Superman.
    I hope all are doing well this summer, and remembering to take advantage of these beautiful days!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Marquee Movies: I just went through and restored your anonymity — I think I ferreted out all the security leaks. I’m sorry I hadn’t noticed that, either! I wondered when I saw that Mr. Snowflake knew your initials, too, but then I thought, “Well, maybe they also communicate directly with each other by e-mail,” as many on this blog do. But anyway, it’s fixed now, and unless the Men-in-Black were taking notes, you shouldn’t have any mysterious airships hovering over your house or anything.

      Seriously, I’ve never understood why everyone uses an alias on this blog. It doesn’t reveal your e-mail addresses, and it’s not as if you’re all saying things that would embarrass you in your professional lives. :-) But the aliases are fun, too, so why change now?

      –Mr. Public Figure Whose Full Name Is Plastered All Over This Blog

      P.S. — I just can’t resist this one — it’s sort of the successor to your “Dawn” one-liner, which I thought was really funny! So, here’s mine: You say you’d like to see John Williams in concert for a chance to hear all that immortal movie music “composed by the one man who wrote it all”? Interesting! :-)

    • 87kjR_vx32_version 2.0B Says:

      Isn’t that also one of the keys in “The EarthSea Trilogy”? When you know someone’s _real_ name you have more power over them? (It’s been so long since I read those but they are still on my bookshelf).

      Well, I have no fear of people finding out who I am for I have nothing to hide. I am an upstanding citizen of my community and a pillar of all virtue. I am to be looked up to and respected mightily. Yea and feared! Respected, loved and feared!

      Wherever I go. All the time.

      The fount of all knowledge and a near superhuman grasp of all social graces.

      (THIS SPACE AVAILABLE FOR HIGHLY VALUABLE ADS)

    • Chris Says:

      “Superman, E.T., Harry Potter, Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark”

      I am pretty sure Williams’ greatest work was on

      “Super Potterjaws: ET Raider of the Lost Star”

  29. Chris Says:

    HOLD IT! Hold it right there. “Star Wars in Concert”? Sounds pretty cool.

    Unfortunately when I first read the posts here mentioning it I immediately thought of a high school friend who along with some others in his circle, composed and put together “Star Wars: The Musical”. (I assure you it was done quite tongue-in-cheek by Grant et al.)

    Now whenever I hear “Hopelessly Devoted To You” by Oliva Newton-John I always think of Star Wars. Funny. Sad.

  30. Shieldmaiden Says:

    For those who don’t know about Star Wars in Concert I just have to post a commercial. It is basically a retelling of the “Star Wars” story through amazing edited videos of the six films, and follows a young Anakin Skywalker to his inevitable end. It’s John Williams’ famous score for the Saga on stage, a giant (and I mean HUGE) high-definition LED screen showing clips from all six movies with Anthony Daniels as narrator, a full symphony orchestra and choir. As the lights dim and the palpable excitement rises, the orchestra starts cold with no introduction or warm up… they just start in perfect unison. Beyond cool is the THX theme followed by the 20th Century Fox Fanfare, and then the most iconic movie score ever! And you guessed it — those famous words start to roll (along with a tear on more than one cheek). Yes, I totally welled up and yes I am that big a geek.

    I went with a fellow Star Wars geek friend and we brought my son and his best friend. When we found our seats Darth Vader was sitting right below us and posed for pictures with the boys. Our seats were perfect center on the first row of seats above the ground. Because we were in the very middle, our row curved out slightly, and it felt like we were suspended in the air. Until the lights went out it was actually intense to sit on the edge of nothing. The boys leaned back as far as they could in their chairs, and my son smiled as he suddenly announced that he was sitting in the Millenium Falcon! With the rail in front of us it really looked like we were. When the concert started we found we had the best seats in the world, we were level with the screen and for the next two hours were completely blown away!

    If you can see it, do. If you can’t, look for “The making of SW in Concert” on PBS. It has great behind the scenes, and shows the road from concept to stage. Worth seeing for sure.

  31. I loved the pond Says:

    STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP EVERYTHING!!! All of you all KILLING me! As if July 5 is not taking long enough to get here, now I keep hearing about the awesome time I am going to have! The anticipation is killing me …

    Marquee, your identity is safe with me. I had some of my men make sure it was really you and they came back with an embarassing story of watching you spend five minutes deciding on whether to buy the Golden Grahams or Cinnamon Toast Crunch ha ha! I wondered when I saw the SF is some icon shenanigans were afoot …

    And Fred, it appears as if the Ladies of the Blog [hereafter referred to, lovingly, as the BG's, err, Blog Gals :-) ] have you figured out. The BG’s may like the company here, but they, and us Neanderthals, were and still are drawn here by you. It is your universe, we are just populating it.

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      LOL (no really I died laughing) but… YOU ASKED! and I quote: “If you have 120 seconds to spare, please drop a line and tease me about what I am going to experience!” Consider yourself teased. Neener-neener! Seriously, I hope you have an absolutely incredible time, and you have to post a comment to let us all know how it went.

  32. Jason Van Hollander Says:

    Your recollections resonate deeply. I’m reminded of the line from Virgil: “Sunt lacrimae rerum; et mentem mortalia tanguent.” “There are tears in things, and all things doomed to die touch the heart.” What touches the heart are the things that fade, the dearness of vanished moments, the graciousness of bygone eras. Without loss we would not experience the beauty of life.

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Your quote is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing it.

      I have a beloved copy of Fred’s book with your illustrations. I have always wanted to tell you how much I love them. The Jacket art is incredible and perfectly captures the story that lies within it. That almost never happens. I was amazed when I first opened the book and saw all the illustrations for the chapters. They are so fantastic! My favorite one is the shadow-duel, although I have several that are close in the running. I read the paperback first and had to put the book on my “small shelf” so I bought it again in Hardcover, as paperbacks are simply unworthy of the small shelf! I knew even from the tiny image on my computer that the cover would be great, but it was so much better than I imagined it could be. I poured over the pictures, and still do when I reread it. I’m glad I had this opportunity to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed them.

    • Chris Says:

      Must put in my two cents here. Mr. Van Hollander, your artwork for Fred’s book as well as some of the other stuff I’ve seen of yours is fantastic! Some incredible work!

  33. I loved the pond Says:

    And I jump on board, too, in regards Mr. Van Hollander’s illustrations. They are why I treasure my signed (hooray!) Arkham House copy of Dragonfly. I know Fred has some “writer issues” with the text, but JVH’s work shines! If this were the jacket on the Ace paperback, the book would have taken off! (If only Arkham House has left the title “The High Dark Shelf” …)

  34. SwordLily Says:

    [Note from Fred: In this message, I am attempting to fix the comment SwordLily has tried to make several times; there have been technical difficulties with bringing it to you in its entirety -- here's another shot at it! What follows are all SwordLily's words.]

    My comment glitched big time, twice, so the whole thing will only be there when Fred can fix it. You can kind of piece the two together, but they’re both missing chunks from different places ^^;

    [Original message]

    Umm, wow, here is a lady of the blog that hasn’t commented in quite some time^^;. Have no fear, my loyalties have not wavered, fellow travelers; life just has a habit of getting in the way of, well, everything. But the twilight hour seems to be a nice moment to pull up a seat once more.

    The dawn and the dusk bring to me few specific memories, but if I close my eyes, like a tickle at the end of my nose, I almost remember a thousand and one evenings and a few fewer mornings (I’m not a morning person><;). All of these "almost memories" have one thing in common: I am awed by the miracle of the colors, the lights, and the shadows of the sun at the horizon. Through this train of thought I am struck by how common a miracle is. The sun will always rise and set; no matter what sorrow or what joy is in a day, God will always end it in a sunset, which is just a promise of a sunrise to come, yes?

    My camera being one of my most treasured possessions, the sunset has an even more special place in my day. I remember one summer evening when the sun was setting brilliantly over sprinkling water and my brothers and sister were in their bathing suits, running, laughing, shrieking. The light was so perfect that evening and I got so many good pictures I could have cried. Even without people around I love to try to capture the sunset on my camera. The elusive light is usually too much for my little digital, but sometimes I find the right moment and then I am left with a picture I feel is more of a gift than an accomplishment.

    I have fewer memories of the sunrise. Two years ago I really wanted to see the sunrise on New Year's. And so after everyone hugged and went to bed on New Year's Eve, I fell asleep, too, but thankfully woke up a few hours later and watched the sun rise on the new year. I have a small secret dream that every New Year's I could get the whole family packed into the car to go somewhere high up to have a picnic while watching the New Year's sun rise. I just think that the sun rising is more official as a beginning than a twelve and two zeros on a clock face.

    Dawn and dusk are also special to my imagination. Many of the stories I have made up have started with a sunrise. Most of my main characters are early risers, unlike their author^^;. That hour between day and night, be it dawn or dusk, is the one time of the day when the veil between this world and Faerie is the thinnest. In those tricky shadows in the early morning and late evening one can just imagine the fairies and spirits giggling and playing their enchanted games.

    If anyone here has a love of Faerie and its lore, I have started reading a series that brings the world of Irish fairies so vividly to life you will be fairy-struck. They are The Chronicles of Faerie, by O.R. Melling. The author grew up loving her Irish roots and has spent her life trying to keep alive the Irish language and its rich history and lore. Her expertise on Irish myths and legends comes out in her books. And besides being a good language lesson (she gives pronunciation and meaning for all the Irish words and songs she uses in the back of the books), they are expertly woven, and who else to prove this but the author herself?:

    “Darkness settled over the Burren. Above was scattered a handful of stars. A cool wind blew from the shadow of the mountains. . . . Their arrival was like a blast of wind, a great soft blow. They poured into the hollow like molten silver. Almost indescribable in human terms. Almost invisible to mortal eyes. Their silhouettes hinted of slender and graceful shapes, but they were so amorphous as to appear also like streams or columns of falling light.”

  35. tandemcat Says:

    Very true about the time of day, and we experienced it a few times on this year’s ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. The best (and worst, too, as it turned out) was when we arrived, about 8:30 p.m., at Pennyfield Lock, Maryland, to spend the night in the 1830 lockmaster’s house at Lock 22, on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. You see, we had a reservation to stay there, in that 1830 stone house–no electricity or indoor plumbing, but it had a 2010 lock on it, and the code we were given didn’t work. Didn’t work. Didn’t work. After a couple of calls to the “emergency” number, which netted me an answering machine, I got a divine inspiration and entered a different number. The door opened. Thanks be to God!

    Then we moved our stuff inside, and after some preparations, went back out for our last visit to the large and small porta-potties, where we had been afraid we would have to spend the night.

    By that time it was dark, but still very magical. My two kid stokers, who had never experienced total darkness outside before, being from the city, were terrified, but they appreciated it, too. We went to sleep with the sound of water from the canal filtering through the small upstairs windows in the stone house.

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