A Green and Ancient Light

So far, so good: my agent reports that he’s read the first 50 pages of The Star Shard and likes it. Says he has some notes about fairly minor stuff, but overall, he says he hopes this will persuade the interested publishers to “open their checkbook.” So — thanks be to God! — that sounds very good indeed. The first 50 pages are critical, since they have to hook the reader. I’ll keep you posted with any breaking news.

One more news item: my friend and fellow writer Nick Ozment has an exciting success to announce. One of the many, many “hats” he wears is the hat of a humorous fantasist. He’s written a number of stories featuring the exploits of Smoke, an unconventional dragon who has a phobia toward knights — not the rational fear that they might skewer him with their bright swords — but an honest-to-goodness phobia, like Indy’s fear of snakes, like Anya’s fear of bunnies. Nick’s Smoke stories have been accepted for on-line publication as a series, culminating in an inclusive print edition — yes, a BOOK! (Confetti, confetti! Congrats, Nick!) He’d like to invite anyone interested to stop in at:


You can read all about it there, and you’ll make Nick happy if you leave comments to help generate a buzz for the book.

Since this here is my blog, I can boast that I suggested “Knight Terrors” as part of the title when Nick was clawing around for titles and asking people to suggest them . . . but Nick claims he had thought of that title first, so I don’t get any prizes, accolades, remuneration, or children named after me. Bummer. But anyway — go, Nick!

And now for the main topic of this posting. (Oh! — Should I say Grrooinnk?) 

The light green and ancient.

The light green and ancient.

Back in the summer of 1990, when I was a young lad newly-arrived in Japan, I had an idea for a book that I called A Green and Ancient Light. For me, summer, sunlight, trees, and the imagination are all bound up together. The green glow beneath the canopy of leaves on a hot summer day is the very essence of freedom and story. It was often in treetops and at the feet of trees that I loved to read books as a kid. I had a favorite “reading grove” in the corner of our front yard. So that’s the meaning of the title: the emerald radiance under the leaves of summer is something timeless — something enchanted. There’s no better lamp under which to read a good tale, or to dream of tales yet untold. I remember writing a lot of my first,

the site of the writing of the Dragonfly-meets-Sylva scene.

Foreground: the site of the writing of the Dragonfly-meets-Sylva scene.

unpublished novel The Threshold of Twilight outdoors, on a drawing board placed across my lap, on yellow legal paper with a very soft-leaded mechanical pencil that smudged like crazy if you so much as looked at it. I also remember writing the scene in which Dragonfly first meets Sylva outdoors in the tree-light, on a card table, using my Smith Corona word processor. See this picture? This is just about where in the yard I wrote that scene, ending with Mr. Snicker snipping the cobweb. Oooh, Historical Glimpse! Heh, heh.

The light is “ancient” because — I’ll wager — dreamers have been sitting in and under trees since time immemorial. (Writer Paul Darcy Boles said of writers, “We are all storytellers sitting around the cave of the world.” Storytelling is a primal, fundamental human activity. When we tell or hear a good yarn, we are participating in something as old as our race — and far older, since the Word was in the beginning, before all else.)

The concept of the book was to take a whole list of things, places, and activities from my childhood and to arrange and describe them in dictionary form. But it wasn’t just a straight reporting of things I did: it was those things and places filtered through memory and the imagination — through the veridian murk under the summer leaves. Well, here, I’ll quote you the frontispiece of the little handmade book I eventually came up with:

“As if pursuing a mysterious, dancing flame among twilight trees, the reader of A Green and Ancient Light undertakes an unusual, often haunting journey into a strange world where the faces, feelings, and facts of remembered childhood merge with its dreams and fears in a landscape that never was, that will always be . . . revealing to us the weird and fantastic beings and settings of boyhood summers when ghosts walk and days are forever.”

Yes, I know it’s overwritten — but this was 1990, remember — I was practically an infant! — well, practically. . . .

So, from time to time on this blog, I will likely subject you to entries from A Green and Ancient Light. For now, I’ll wrap up with this poem, also from the book:

The evening forest glimmers, deep on deep

With fireflies its welkin, and its moon

Ignis fatuus. Crickets weave the rune

Of summoned secrets, time past time, and sleep

Hangs heavy in the nebulae of leaves.

Somnambulary hedgehogs are aware

Of something quite invisible in the air

Between the burrows and the mistlight sheaves

Of dream, that draws them out — (Some miracle is

In morning, too) — which calls the wanderer

Far from the road, amid dissolving night —

(Is whispered in crystal webs of dew) — his

Breath is hushed in secret shining here,

Where God has hung a green and ancient light.

If you’re frowning over the grammar, STOP it! I was a kid, all right? That’s a good stopping place for now. Until next time!


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8 Responses to “A Green and Ancient Light”

  1. Daylily Says:

    Here in New England, we are promised, within the next 24 hours, 3-7 inches of snow and sleet, plus some freezing rain. Therefore, the timing of your latest post couldn’t be better! It is a pleasure to think about “green and ancient light,” and to remember the green joys of last summer. As a child, I had a favorite climbing tree, with a place where I could sit amid the branches. Thanks for the free trip back into a summer of childhood, where the “days are forever”!

  2. Chris Says:

    I am ridiculously jealous (I know that is “cold comfort” to someone trapped in a New England winter storm), but when my wife and I lived in the Boston area we enjoyed the cold grey days and the occasional _weekend_ day socked in with snow. (Didn’t so much enjoy the “shovel the drive when filled with 3′ of wet Nor’easter snow, but we were one storm away from getting a snowblower!)

    Now I live in Sunny SoCal and you can’t imagine how a midwesterner-cum-former New Englander misses “weather” and, dare I say, CLOUDS!

    Mild summery weather is great…for a while. But about 330 days a year year after year means those rare occasions when we have CLOUDS and (gasp-rain-) make me yearn for variety.

    I wonder if really good authorship is possible when nature is so abiding. (But of course we do have rampant fires and earthquakes, so we at least get something to deal with, oh and tarantulas and sharks…and black widows….)

    So please enjoy a good New England storm for my wife and I! Go to Cape Ann north of Boston and hang out in Rockport while the snow whips up over a grey turbulent ocean!

  3. mileposter Says:

    From Fred’s book The Threshold of Twilight:

    “Green,” smiled the minstrel, “is the color of leaves.”

    “Green,” returned Keets Rushwarden, “is the color of illness.”

    “Griffins!” said Tam Lin.

    “Onions!” said Keets.

  4. Daylily Says:

    Okay, I’m enjoying it for you! I like to shovel snow, to a point. The cardinals and chickadees were flocking around the feeder today, except when the alien purple presence (me in my down jacket) came out to restock the sunflower seeds. The branches of bushes and trees were covered with crystalline ice, which will be glorious tomorrow, if it doesn’t all melt off with the present rain. AND we don’t have to shovel all of our looooong country driveway, since I finally got wise and hired someone to plow most of it!

  5. Catherine Says:

    How absolutely beautiful! Thank you so much for posting this. I just now remembered the greenbelt I used to ride the bus through every Tuesday and Thursday evening, twice if I was lucky . . . how it used to spark my imagination! Nowadays, though, when I try to write about it, I find myself to be wordless. You have — somehow — described it very well!

  6. fsdthreshold Says:

    That greenbelt sounds great! It also sounds like there’s a story idea in there: the main character (a girl riding a bus?) passes through a greenbelt every Tuesday and Thursday evening, twice if she’s lucky . . . and there’s more to it than meets the eye. Time moves in strange ways there. Hours and hours go by for her, while in the outside world, it takes no more than a couple minutes for the bus to pass the cover of the trees. Maybe the bus stops altogether for the girl, and seems to be wrapped in vines and grown through with treetrunks and rusted away. She has many adventures there. . . .

    I have always been fascinated by how trees have an inner world up among the limbs. It’s a world you can only really see into if you’re up there. It’s forever separated from the ground-surface world by about twenty or thirty feet of space.

    So many fantasy stories feature a doorway into another world. Trees — individually and in groves — seem like ideal doorways. Just thinking about it, I’m wanting to read all of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings again, right here, right now!

  7. fsdthreshold Says:

    And, Mileposter — thanks for the quote! When I wrote that part, I’m sure I was thinking of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which (among other things) explores the symbolism of the color green.

    I’ve also had some fun in creative writing classes over the years asking students to complete sentences that begin like these:

    “The green wind. . . .”
    “The blue wind. . . .”
    “The red wind. . . .”
    “The white wind. . . .”
    “The yellow wind. . . .”
    “The black wind. . . .”
    “The gold wind. . . .”

    You get the idea! It’s interesting to see how they finish the sentences, and how sometimes colors evoke very different feelings and images in different cultures.

  8. Nicholas Says:

    Thank you, Fred, for the nice plug!

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