This morning there’s a dusting of new snow on the mountain, winter’s tentative nudge. And on the railing of the porch outside my study window, a wren perched for a few minutes, then investigated the little bird house hanging from the eaves. No one nests in it but in the depths of winter I’ve seen as many as 6 wrens enter at dusk to gather together for warmth. I confess I still call them winter wrens. I knew them before it was decided that there are actually two distinct species in North America and that the ones I’ve loved all my life are more properly Troglodytes pacificus or Pacific wrens. It doesn’t matter. They’re wrens. They are always around in winter, singing in the salal, the woodshed, their song as lovely as anything I’ve ever heard. In my novella Winter Wren, the main character Grace hears them singing near the cabin she’s bought above Sandcut Beach, west of Sooke. She hears them and then she listens to Bach’s Flute Partita in A Minor, the Bourrée anglaise, and realizes that there are intricate convergences.
She was on the porch, wringing the mop over the edge when her favourite movement of the Bach Partita in A Minor, the last, the Bourée Anglaise, began. Leaning on the railing, she loved how the passage floated out in the wintry air, a counterpoint to waves and wind. She hummed a little of it from memory. She’d heard Jean-Pierre Rampal play this in Paris, the amazing backward rhythm of the bourrée balancing the rapid run of sixteenth notes, and ever after thought of it as music she would choose before all else.
It wasn’t until the movement was almost complete that she realized she was hearing another sound, another melody answering the bourrée, ascending as the flute descended. Startled, she looked around, fearful. Was it someone whistling on her property? No, it was a bird. It must be a bird because there wasn’t anyone or anything else in sight. And it came from within the salal on the trail down to the waterfall. Peering into the undergrowth, she came face to face with a tiny dark bird, very pert, bobbing and bending on the stem it had claimed. From its open beak came a long undulating series of notes as melodic as anthing Bach had put to paper.
It was this time of year that my friend Anik See stopped in to visit us on her way back to the Netherlands from a residency at the Berton House in Dawson City. We’d both recently completed novellas and we’d both received many rejections from publishers, who all said something like, Oh, this is lovely work but we can’t publish a novella. Anik and I looked at one another after about the 6th story of rejection and we laughed. You know what this means, one of us said, and in that moment, our little imprint fishgottaswimeditions.com was born. We decided to start with one of our novellas because then, if the whole enterprise didn’t work, there’d be fewer people to disappoint. We decided on Winter Wren (and I’m hoping Anik will consider including her Cabin Fever on our list too). We’ve published 4 novellas thus far: Winter Wren was followed by Frances Boyle’s Tower which in turn was followed by Barbara Lambert’s Wanda and our most recent title was Jennifer Falkner’s Susanna Hall, Her Book. You can visit our website (linked above) for more information.
Because I’ve been visited by the wren and because I just washed the bowl that was used for the cover of Winter Wren and I’m reminded all over again of these birds in the low brush, their song, I’m offering copies of my novella for $10 plus postage (currently $3.50 in Canada, $5.50 to the US, and I don’t know how much to other places right now but I’d simply charge the cost).