It’s almost time for bed. I’ve been working at my desk on the first edits for my novella about rivers and women writers and maps (it’s in the process of trying to find a new title for itself because the publisher suggested the one I’d been using wasn’t quite right and her comment rang true), due out next spring from Palimpsest Press. The night is very quiet. So far. Last week the barred owls were hooting up a storm, two of them at least, and every few nights I hear coyotes or loons. Sometimes I wake, thinking I’ve heard a coyote just to the south of the house and realize it’s a loon down on Sakinaw Lake. Or vice versa. A long trembling sound in the dark. There are loons in this book, in the form of a name: Three Loon Lake, the name Ethel Wilson gives to Lac Le Jeune in her Swamp Angel. And there are plenty of coyotes because Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook has a part in the narrative too. I love it when I’m reading a passage and am interrupted by the sounds of the night. Maybe they even influence the rhythms of my writing, long unbroken sentences, then silence. Maybe. I think of what happens when I write about water, how my sentences surge and then slow down, how they whirl and gather, how they pull and retreat. Could it be any other way? If you truly listen, what you write will be full of the world.
Lately there’s been a brown rabbit hanging around (avoiding somehow the coyotes). It was nibbling the tops of dandelions up by the copper beech planted in memory of my parents. Last evening, when I was in the vegetable garden, I heard a loud clanging on one part of the fence but couldn’t see anything. This morning I saw the rabbit crouched by the one spot where a little animal might be able to scoot under the fence, carefully chosen because its mesh is supposed to be too small for anything really to be able to get through. Anything but birds. The robins pass through. So do towhees. So was the rabbit in the garden and did it make the noise going out in a hurry because it saw me? I thought something had been eating the lettuce and it turns out I was right. This morning we put some boards up along the bottom where the gap is and tomorrow we’ll do something a little more permanent. Years ago, decades ago, there were rabbits here, offspring of someone’s domestic bunnies, either escapees or else ones released because of abundance. But then the coyotes arrived and we haven’t seen rabbits for years. I love watching the jackrabbits in Brendan and Cristen’s Edmonton neighbourhood; some mornings you look out and see them crouching on the boulevard. An area with plenty of places for a species to hide and thrive is called a predator shadow and apparently Edmonton is just that. Maybe this particular rabbit has been thinking of my garden as a predator shadow because a coyote could never get through the fence. Thinking of my garden as an easy lunch. But not for long. The beans are in flower and so are the squash. Let the rabbit eat dandelions.
Oh! Just now, a loon. It’s one of the most beautiful sounds I know, lonely and tremulous. Every now and then when we go for our morning swim, we’ll see loons on Ruby Lake. Sometimes a single bird but once, memorably, a mother and her two young. She was teaching them to call and I swam back and forth along the shore listening to her hoot and then the young ones trying to imitate. It was too early for boats so the loon three-part song was the only sound, apart from my splashes as I back-stroked along the shore.
So now I’ll go to bed full of the sound of loons, hoping that the right title will come to me, that I’ll wake early with a phrase sounding itself in my head, wanting to be written down on the scraps of paper I keep by my bed for just those moments. I’m listening, listening.
Wish me luck?
5 thoughts on “listening”
Good luck! Titles are hard. F. Scott was going to call his novel “Trinculo in West Egg” and was persuaded to change it to “The Great Gatsby.” So he had trouble with titles too.
Maybe I can use that title then?? No, wait….
Thank you for another beautiful blog post. I’ve long followed your writing and always anticipate your next work and/or post.
I am interested to know more about your forthcoming novella about rivers and women writers and maps. In particular, I wonder if it will be available early in 2020. The works sounds like it will be a perfect fit for my west coast literature course in Spring 2020. I submit my book orders in September for the spring semester, and I would place this work in the later part of the semester, late March 2020, if the print run will be completed by then.
I know this is a long shot, but I figured I would try regardless. And if the book won’t be ready in time for my course, then I look forward to reading it when it is published.
While I am at it, it appears that Red Laredo Boots is out of print. Is this true? Before reading this post, I have been thinking of putting Sisters of Grass on the reading list; however, your forthcoming novel is an even better fit because I want to draw attention to BC rivers.
Much appreciation for reading this far. And a belated Happy Summer Solstice to you and yours.
(P.s. — Deborah Torkko, I teach in the English Department at Vancouver Island University)
Thank you for your lovely comment, Deborah. The short answer to your question about this novella is that I’m not sure of the publishing timetable but tomorrow I’ll write to Aimée Parent Dunn, the publisher at Palimpsest, to ask about the schedule. And if you give me your contact information, I’ll write to let you know. I would be so happy to think of this novella on a course list. Sometimes I worry that so much of our literature is in danger of being forgotten. I’ve felt that about Canadian modernist titles, the ones by women in particular, and in a way that’s why I wrote this novella. I mean, I didn’t have an agenda (I never do!) but in my mind was the sense that Sheila Watson and Ethel Wilson charted a particular way of looking at landscape and addressing it and it anticipated so much of what we take for granted now. It’s a way of seeing as precise and specific as it is mythic.
Thank you again for reading, and for taking the time to comment.
Deborah, I’ve sent an email to your work email. (The only one I could find!) So if you’re reading this, there’s information on books there. Thanks!