Book Review: A Newfound Land

A Newfound Land (Book IV in The Graham Saga)
by Anna Belfrage

Winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion

The fourth novel in Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga series opens with promise: the sun on the eastern rim and Alex awake before anyone else, moving forward towards her morning refreshing, seeing the “stands of grasses to her right sparkle with dew, and just by the door her precious rose was setting buds.” By this time the Grahams had been here, in their Maryland homestead, since four years, long enough for Alex to derive a sense of comfort from the permanence of the building. Alex likes roots.

newfound landThat yearning would be understandable, given her circumstances: Thrown through a severed veil separating time from her native 2002 back into the Scotland of 1658, Alex has had to endure a great deal of building in order to create and maintain the life she has acquired. Now married to Matthew Graham, whose familial history entails bitter feuding, questionable circumstances of birth and death, and the attempted destruction of his life and marital family, she has also suffered with him the religious persecution that finally drove them out of Scotland and to the early Colonies.

By this time Alex has been in her adopted era since fourteen years, and the narrative shifts between her current here and now and the world she left behind, particularly with her father, Magnus, who later connects with Alex. In one scene between the pair Belfrage addresses the issue of how Alex manages to reconcile her previous lack of belief with her current faith in God, even if that faith isn’t exactly in line with Matthew’s. The exchange is painful but realistic in its provision of explanation, not despite but because of its passion as well as shortcomings.

“Your faith?” Magnus broke out in loud laughter. “Come off it, Alex,” he said once he had calmed down. “You’re not sitting here telling me that you’ve developed a belief in God, are you? What happened to my super-rational daughter?”

She gave him a cold look, stood up and moved away from him, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Alex, you can’t believe all that stuff.”

“I can’t? How would you know? You have no idea what my life has been like these last fourteen years or what events have shaped me, do you?” She looked out into the yard where Ruth and Sarah were playing a game of tag, and then turned to face her father. “In this life, God is a constant. Sometimes He’s all we have. So when I say our faith, that’s exactly what I mean: our faith. I may not be quite as much of a Bible reader as Matthew, and there are aspects of his belief I don’t agree with, but I’ve learnt the hard way to put my trust in God and hope He’ll keep me and mine safe. And so far He has.”

The Grahams need this protection because this installment introduces them to the Burleys, a set of brothers so corrupted and foul that nothing seems too extreme for them. They also encounter an unwelcome ghost from their past, lies intended to trap them, Indians with whom they fortunately get on, even if it is an uneasy alliance, and a host of ordinary events that pepper the lives of people over the years and ones part of a foundling community.

One of the larger challenges Belfrage herself encounters in portraying the relationship between Alex and Matthew is the bringing together of their two worlds. Like Magnus, readers may question not only how she adapts but also why she accepts some of the circumstances she does. Alex speaks well for herself on many occasions, not only to us but also her husband, who, while adamant in his determination to retain the patriarchal status as provided by the coverture system, also listens to and thoughtfully contemplates where his wife is from and what she says. The pair don’t always agree, but his serious deliberation exists, and the author maintains a balance not just for balance’s sake: she makes a considered approach to what is believable not only to us, but also to Matthew.

What works for Matthew might strike some modern readers as anachronistic, given the reputation 17th century men have for keeping women in their place. But Belfrage doesn’t deviate or follow a disingenuous path; Matthew is a strong enough personality that he would never allow this. He does come to “absorb” some of Alex’s perceptions or at least appreciate them, and though he makes himself heard, he also listens, forcing us to question our assumptions about his people’s humanity and sense of compassion.

Following an especially bitter and ongoing row over a minister tasked to educate their children in religious studies, the methods of which Alex objects, Matthew forces his wife to apologise for her rude behavior. Her refusal and subsequent avoidance of him—she is deeply hurt and angry at being humiliated via the minister’s relentless misogyny and Matthew’s failure to check it—in turn causing him despair at the “walls of impenetrable ice she was putting up around herself.”

When the pair at last arrive at a place where they can exchange words, he speaks his own hurt:

“Do you recollect, once, very many years ago, when you told me I was all you had?”

Of course she did; a dark night in Scotland when she’d pleaded with him to put her and her children first—before his religious convictions.

“It’s the same for me. You’re all I have, Alex. All I want and all I need, and when you choose to close me out as you’ve been doing these last few weeks, you leave me standing very alone in a cold and unwelcoming world.” He rested his forehead against hers. “I don’t like it out there on my own.”

As stated, however, Matthew is very much his own man, despite the control Belfrage holds over him.

“Another one?” Magnus sounded disgusted. “But David’s just seven months old!”

“As I said, it isn’t always easy to avoid.”

But, of course, in this specific case there’d been no question of attempting to avoid it. Matthew had set out to make her pregnant and she had silently acquiesced without really knowing why. That was a lie. She knew exactly why: because the loving had been spectacular, a reconfirmation that it was she and Matthew against he world—and because he’d demanded her submission.

Addressed in this installment as well are relations between the colonists and local Indian tribes, and Belfrage does an impressive job of bringing Alex’s 21st century sensibility into the mix without falling prey to what so many authors do: the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle anti-Americanism that has more to do with sneering than valuable critical commentary. With this formidable skill she enables readers to continue stepping through time closer to what it really looks like as opposed to a whitewashed version of events.

Indeed these are times when alliances could mean the difference between life and death, and with the Burleys on the rampage, warring Indian factions spilling over borders—unrecognised by them, of course—and the ghostly past inhabiting, indeed invading, his present, a friend is never unwelcome. The Grahams are provided with a uneasy glimpse, however, of what such partnerships might cost, as well as the fearful understanding that paying it may be their only option.

A Newfound Land, while part of a series, is readable as a stand-alone novel. While the past is a large part of the events occurring in this installment, Belfrage takes care of that by skillfully and effortlessly weaving necessary details throughout the story via dialogue and other means, which readers don’t at first realise are for their benefit because the author does not rely on formulaic fillers.

Having said that, prepare yourself for the need to go back to the beginning—not owing to any lacking of the current book, but rather because Belfrage’s storytelling, melodic, detailed, filled with the passion and hunger for life and historical understanding, will make you wish to experience all that as you peel away the layers of events that brought Alex and Matthew together in the first place.

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Read my review for A Rip in the Veil (Book I in The Graham Saga)

Read my review for Like Chaff in the Wind (Book II in The Graham Saga)

Read my review for The Prodigal Son (Book III in The Graham Saga) (with author interview)

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Anna Belfrage can be found on Amazon, Twitter and Facebook. You can also learn more about Belfrage, her characters and her world at her website and blog, which also contain details about her upcoming series.

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This post previously appeared in 2015 on the blog’s alternative location.

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Book Review: The Dragon’s Harp

Era of Dragons: The Lost Tales of Gwenhwyfar
Book One: The Dragon’s Harp
By Rachael Pruitt

Growing up, Arthurian legends were practically part of who I was, having been told them at my mother’s knees; later she began to expose me to written accounts, which I greedily consumed. I’ve lost track of how many or even which versions of the various tales I have read, but one thing is certain: there wasn’t much heard from the perspective of one very central character: Guinevere. So it was with great interest I learned of Rachael Pruitt’s novel of Gwenhwyfar—the Welsh spelling of this queen’s given name—where she came from and what made her the person she became.

Dragons Harp Cover SmallIt is fitting that Pruitt opens the novel not only from Gwenhwyfar’s point of view, but also beginning in the twilight of her life, when she has much to look back upon: this is no naïve girl telling her story as it begins and moves forward, but rather a mature woman utilizing hindsight and the wisdom gained over many years to simultaneously examine her own (and others’) behavior. Now, however, her husband murdered and children gone, Gwenhwyfar shares a moment on the sands with a gull, an encounter reminiscent of the many cultures, such as hers, in which the spiritual wisdom of animals is revered and incorporated into tradition and cultural habit.

Born into fifth century Wales, the young Gwenhwyfar, presented to us by her older self, is at this time eight “sunturns”; she reveres her parents but still recognizes the divisions existing between them as her mother has embraced the new religion. Occasionally Ceridwen acts upon outrages from her new perspective, her own mother somewhat of a go-between in the moments when she oversteps her bounds.

Gwenhwyfar has known war her entire life, and though she still retains some of the innocence of youth, her perspective clearly incorporates the reality set around her:

I tiptoed, even though there was no one to hear me, only the oppressive stillness of damp watching stone, its grey gloom penetrated by a faint haze of light from arrow slits rock-cut at each outward turning of the stairs. The worn steps felt like carved bowls beneath my summer-bare feet.

Nevertheless, Gwenhwyfar is, as she reminds herself, a Battle Chief’s daughter, “not to be bested by shadows.” So it is she wills herself to investigate mysteries that present themselves to her, including by listening in on conversations, one scene drawing me back to Stewart’s Merlin crawling through the unused furnace to eavesdrop on conversations in the palace rooms above him. Gwenhwyfar has inherited her father’s tough stance, even if she does on occasion duck behind her mother’s skirts.

[Remains of the keep at Dinas Emrys image to be replaced]

As the young girl comes of age at Dinas Emyrs, she certainly faces her share of trials, told to us in language filled to the wondrous brim with poetry and magic. Pruitt’s sentences are so fluid readers not only move from one scene to another many pages away without realizing how far they’d travelled, but also do so as part of the story itself, indeed, as part of their surroundings. “I dug into my soul,” Gwenhwyfar confides, “resisting his pull, as if I were digging my toes into sand so as not to get swept out with the tide.”

This, indeed, is how both author and protagonist set it out: the latter by commencing her story at a fireside to a young girl, the former with a “storytelling hearth” aura, the flickers of which can periodically be felt as the pages turn. While the mark of a great “wayback” story tends to be that readers are so immersed in it they forget it is being told from an older or other vantage point—while that is a strength, Pruitt manages to defy the dichotomous nature of that method and still keep us mesmerized within the flow of the tale: Gwen’s metaphorical digging in of her toes is reminiscent of the beach she surveys before she begins her story, and the gull who gifts her a shell, a raven who leaves a feather.

Readers are drawn into the events, warlike and magical—and the two are not always exclusive of one another. Indeed “magic and bloodshed went hand in hand,” as Gwen discovers at a turning point in which her whole world changes in a way that even death had not done. Merlin, her uncle in this telling, reminds her that greatness is typically found in the midst of ordinariness. The merging of elements with dual nature is a theme carried through the story within personalities, relationships, worship, beauty, even to the outcome of how it affects those involved: to their benefit or detriment. The “soft breath of dawn” might awaken to a cruel day; the presence of one with evil in her heart might walk through a night in which “the stars themselves grew tired.” Even the novel’s cover might speak to naked brutality or beauty, most likely both.

There is violence portrayed in The Dragon’s Harp; truth be told, it could not be any other way. Gwenhwyfar’s sixth-century Wales was a violent place where vacuums never existed for very long, a condition which surely also must have influenced the girl to grow into the woman, queen and wife she later became. It was exceedingly breathtaking a tale, a glimpse of sorts, into a world and time of her life many previous storytellers have skipped or ignored in terms of its influence on later history, as if Gwenhwyfar didn’t exist until she became a queen.

Fans of Merlin will also find a treasure within, as the mage appears, as mentioned earlier, as Gwenhwyfar’s uncle and, later, tutor. A seminal moment, one those familiar with the legends will recognize, involves Merlin as pertains to his meeting with Vortigern, who tradition says demanded the blood of a youth without a father to be sprinkled upon the foundations of his constantly collapsing fortress. The boy Merlin is dragged off to be sacrificed, but instead tells the engineers of a pool beneath the foundation, within which two dragons, one red and the other white, nightly battle it out, thus causing the destruction.

twodragonsPruitt’s telling is rather different and the duel between red dragon and, in this case white serpent, is not instigated by a superstitious and desperate king, though a young person in peril is present. The author stays true to the legend, however, and her imagery is punctuated by thunderous music from the skies as magic and community work together to ensure the defeat of red over white, leading to Merlin foretelling the freeing of this sacred land from their enemies and the coming of Arthur.

There are trying times ahead in the novel for Gwenhwyfar and Pruitt’s insight into the girl’s character as well as her times indicates a studied approach to an era in which magic reigned, as well as love and respect for those who lived within it. The detail of characters and perspective is impressive, and it is difficult to overstate Pruitt’s mastery with words, the more so given it is of a world that has all but disappeared to those of the modern world. Rachael Pruitt brings it back for us, a gift from our past sweeping us through time to reach the telling. Along the way readers will find this book exceedingly difficult to put down, and late nights are surely in the stars.

Fortunately for us, Pruitt has plans for four more installments in the Era of Dragons: The Lost Tales of Gwenhwyfar series, the title of which perhaps will lead us to clues as to how the tales finally, thankfully, come back us after so long.

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This post previously appeared in 2014 at the blog’s alternative location.

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“Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament”

“Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament”

[Willa Cather image to be replaced]

Willa Cather took me by surprise.

As a voracious reader in high school I was fortunate to have an English teacher–unlike Paul, whose story is discussed below–who shared with me the fruits of her twenty-plus year collection of literature and its study: medieval, classic, contemporary, literary fiction, essays on Baroque art and passion plays, luxurious reference books with rich, bold paintings and images to help me envision the worlds I studied in my free time. I immersed myself in private study and thought life was grand.

Hence my surprise when the world I inhabited was taken by storm following the reading of a short story introduced in class–“Paul’s Case” or, as I have also seen it titled, “Paul’s Case: A Study in Temperament.” Paul is a dissatisfied high school student living in early-twentieth-century Pittsburgh, a boy with great passion but little direction, who sneers at his teachers and loathes his neighborhood. His father wishes for him to aspire to the life of a family man and a respectable job, but Paul longs for music, art, the culture he was born to live. He ushers at the symphony, longing to live the life of luxury experienced by the German singer but “trapped” in a week-long suspension and meant to answer for it as the story opens. Leaving school for the working world, Paul soon after makes off to New York City–a glamorous town and the height of culture–financed by stolen money and lives for several days the life he feels he is meant to live.

Cather weaves words through Paul’s experiences with such finesse that at some moments I was taken aback with the sudden realization I had somewhere transitioned to another scene or moment; and mused at how the author used this ability to reflect the manner in which persons sometimes exist from one moment to the next until the understanding dawns that an entire lifetime has gone by. She also writes with a nostalgia overflowing with deft observations of human inclinations–especially impressive for an adult female as she portrays a teenage boy discontented with his life and the failures he already sees in his father’s aspirations for him.

“Paul Case” is perhaps the first I’d read up until then in which his story–or “case,” as the teachers reference his attitude–simultaneously depicts the examination of an individual temperament. Indeed, the entire work is a literary case study wrapped in layers of guise, motifs and escape, perpetrated by protagonist and author alike, each playing their respective parts in the world’s immense design. Through our shared love of art (albeit in different forms) and dedication to its continuity in our lives (though a different means of expression), I saw how we were a bit alike, that having been a very solitary year for me. But we were also so very different and the manner in which Paul’s art influences him and winds its way through the story awed me into a number of further readings following another realization that I had acquired a new favorite author. I was later moved to put to paper my own analysis of Paul, so fascinated and disturbed as I was by this boy who in life might be quite unlikeable, but under Cather’s direction bestowed with a quality rendering him unforgettable.

Willa Cather is also the author of My Antonia and Death Comes to the Archbishop. She grew up in Nebraska, an environment that was to have a great influence upon her outlook and writing. Initially working as a journalist, she later won the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours. “Paul’s Case” was published in 1905 as part of The Troll Garden.

[Carnation image to be replaced]

“Paul’s Case”

Paul had his secret temple. . .his bit of blue-and-white Mediterranean shore bathed in perpetual sunshine.

It perhaps would be easy to sympathize with a boy such as Paul, who is moved by “starry apple orchards” and who feels a zest come into his life at first sight of the instruments that set free his inner spirit. However, those intoxicants with which Paul is able to forget his dreadful English teacher are the same that enable him to dismiss the inconsistencies, the contradictions of both his resentments and desires.

Upon first encountering Paul, we recognize the duality of his nature: rebellious, yet sensitive to the criticisms of others. He is somehow able, at least to a certain degree, to hold the teachers under his sway; his behavior unsettles them. One instructor feels that he senses a boy who is haunted, not strong. Perhaps the teacher—significantly, the drawing-master—sees him as somewhat of an adolescent Keats, burdened with an image of “feminine” sensitivity and weakness. Another likens him to a helpless cat, tormented by a group as vindictive as their own gathering.

The flip side is, of course, that of a Paul who seemingly bounces back without exerting much effort. He runs, after all, with a light-heartedness he hopes will enrage his teachers. So self-sure is he that it takes being sat upon to calm him of his glee. The boy seems to possess a glee that might take him to the fine places he desires to be in if he applies himself. He by no means is lacking in some artistic gift, for he only needs a spark, a thrill “that ma[kes] his imagination master of his own senses, and he could make plots and pictures enough of his own.” Perhaps he misapplies himself; he denies the drive toward acting and music, yet nothing is made of writing, to which his natural abilities seem to point.

Unfortunately, Paul fails to progress beyond this stage of rebelliousness, as he is far too undisciplined and lacks the drive with which to challenge himself. Although his teachers believe him to be perverted by racy books, Paul’s sensitivity is not a result of absorbing fanciful stories, for he rarely reads at all. He is dissatisfied with his life, but his preferred alternative is to exist in a world of “glistening surfaces and basking ease.” He has the desire to partake of such a fine existence, but has “no mind for the cash-boy stage.” He would like the status of “Saint” Andrew but, as we see, desires not the martyrdom of the twelve-hour toilers.

Paul therefore escapes into the romantic world of the symphony—at least as he views this world to be. For him it is not a world that includes indolent husbands and the necessity for skillfully stretching a Mark or a dollar. Nor is it a world where limited season subscriptions or an ordinary sore throat might send one spiraling downward. Indeed, this universe is one of endless champagne bottles and mysterious dishes (brought to him, naturally) in warm, lighted buildings. This is Paul’s temple, the wishing-carpet in which will lead him to all these grandly decorated concert halls peopled only by individuals of superior taste—no English teachers—and succulent dishes to soothe his palate.

For all of its grandness, however, Paul fails to reside on his “Mediterranean shore bathed in perpetual sunshine” for the black motif running through the story, invading his world. A secreted temple with subterranean halls shades his sunbath, and we see him attempting to elude this reality throughout. It is perhaps his pretentiousness, which fools even himself, if at least, for a time: a red carnation in his buttonhole, violet water tucked away in his drawer, his self-consciousness and contrived gestures. Later these will be replaced by a parching dryness, dying flowers and the succumbing to the lurking blackness.

For the time being, however, Paul lives his days (in consolation?) with hysteria and lies. His wild eyes are suggestive, but not indicative, of drug addiction, and he utilizes his facial expressions for shock value. His gestures are also used in this manner, as we see when he bows to the assembled teachers in farewell. Given his self-consciousness we may also wonder whether his latest face-pulling and evil gestures at artwork are designed for this purpose as well.

Running throughout “Paul’s Case” also is a flower motif. Following the surface assumption that the youngster, in his fancies, equates flowers perhaps with his romantic bent, we are given to realise that these delicate beings are very much Paul himself. As his bow is a repetition of the carnation cheekily perched upon his coat, the various flowers are symbolic of Paul in separate stages, and not only of his frailty.

Like the flowers in the shop window bravely defying fierce winter, Paul looks out from his eighth-floor window into a raging snowstorm. As he resides in the hotel by way of stolen funds, by artificial means, so too do the flowers in the park. Violets, roses, carnations, lilies-of-the-valley, all behind the glass, “blossom thus unnaturally in the snow.” Later, dressed for supper, the floral images are reflected: actual flowers, many-colored wine glasses, the rosy tinge of his champagne.

Although Paul attempts to balance himself equally in the opposing elements of his world, the sunbath of the Mediterranean blinds him, as did the lovely German soloist, to any possible defects. On the other hand, perhaps he spends too much time in the dankness of his secret temple, his subterranean paradise, the darkness of which is not conducive to the growth of a delicate flower. Even memories of the sunny sands were, after a time, of no use. These become overtaken by memories he wishes to be rid of, memories that repulse him and “f[all] upon him like a weight of black water.” Like the black thing in the corner, which threatens him at every turn, the memories come rushing at him as a tidal wave, crushing him with their blackness and superior strength.

“The thing was winding itself up. . . .” The whole world is the street he hates so, containing the cooking smells, and horrible yellow wallpaper; there seems no escaping it, and to only this “reality” has Paul now resigned himself. As he makes his way to his final destination, the scenery reflects Paul’s own inner landscape: dead grass and dried weeds are scattered about, and even the once-lively, gleefully scandalous red carnation in the boy’s coat clings to the button with what little life it has left.

Once more, the beautiful array of flowers in the park is as Paul. From the safety of their respective protective devices do Paul and the arrangement of flowers mock the world that threatened each of them. Now he subjects the carnations a black fate; by covering them with snow, he smothers them with the darkness he himself has feared for so long. As they have parallel existences in life, so too will flowers in death, again reclaiming their space in the earth, once more becoming part of “the immense design of things.”

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This post previously appeared in 2014 at the blog’s alternative location.

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TJ’s Household Haiku Challenge: Cobweb

OK, it’s that time again, a roundup from a fun group who challenge themselves, with prompts from the household, to write haiku based on those objects/items, etc.

[Cute spider image to be replaced]

I had a whole lot of fun with this one: cobweb. Strictly speaking, I’m supposed to write only about the webby little things you see at times in your house, behind doors and in out-of-reach corners and so on. But spiders are indeed often found in those cobwebs, are they not? For those who prefer more tightly-knit parameters, a haiku appears at the end that I think you can relate to. But in the meantime, do accompany me for a spot of reminiscing and a few things about spiders and cobwebs.

Long ago I thought I really liked spiders, that they were so cute and fun. That was when I envisioned them in a cartoonish sort of way. Of course I knew some spiders were quite dangerous–my fondness was more an abstract thing. And I had even once written a short poem about a spider I’d watched as she crawled up my bedroom wall. She appeared to be dragging something, and that put ideas into my mind.

Later after I saw many closeup images of what spiders really looked like, with their veiny legs and buggy eyes, and ikky-looking moist bodies–they kind of remind me of a fellow sixth grader lifting the brush from the can of industrial glue in art class and crying out, “Mucus membranes!”–well, after that I was no longer so enamored. But it was fun while it lasted…I suppose. Shudder.

Below is the aforementioned poem, re-worked into haiku form. The original  will appear in my book Winter Islands, which I hope to have ready for Christmas.

Unlike her cousin

Who simply marries her prey

This one hunts him down

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Desperate, he backs

Against the wall, revealing

Aptly frightened frown

***

And then she cooks him

Frying in the pan until

Deep and saucy brown

***

I see her hiking

up my wall, a long-legged

fat cousin in tow

***

I wouldn’t take off

my shoe and beat the wall like

others that I know

***

I realize she’s got

to do all that she does, so

she can live and grow

[Fancy spider image to be replaced]

But there were other spiders in my life as well. For example, one who wore quite a bit of kohl around her eyes and jingled a lot because she habitually donned ankle bracelets. These are very fashionable to have and wear, you see, and handy to be given upon marriage (they’re worth a lot). If you are a spider who eats her partner after mating, well, then you’ll make a lot of noise, I suppose.

***

a3ankaboota labsa khulkhaal

(she-spider with an ankle bracelet)

As she moves swiftly

the market parts when it hears

her tinkling ankles

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Why not be stylish?

So many ways to sound fine

with jingle jangle

[Elegant spider image–Charlotte– to be replaced]

Another was a hitchhiker. Once I drove all the way to the East Coast, and early in the trip, somewhere about Tok, I realized I had company, who not only was clinging onto my passenger side rearview for dear life, she’d also built herself a little home…for comfort I suppose. I couldn’t bring myself to wipe her off, and that tenacious girl clung on all the way to Sault Ste. Marie–the Canadian one. She also sort of reminded me of a spider story I’d been told my whole life, one many of you may also know, about perseverance.

She weaves and falls but

never gives up. The lesson:

try and try again

Some spiders appear in my life via the distance (thankfully) of a magazine article. In one I read years ago, it talked about poisonous spiders in Australia that have been known to lurk in toilets or their underlying pipes. One unfortunate consequence of this is that on occasion, people who need to use the facilities in the middle of the night, received stinging surprises on their bottoms because they’d not been able to see the bathroom crashers in the dark. I think there was something in there about how, after word got around, people were wise to turn the lights on.

To be honest, I could be remembering incorrect details, or the most sensational ones, so if you are planning a trip to Oz, don’t let it turn you off. Several people I know who grew up in Australia have said they never in their entire lives came across any of the fabled dangerous animals of the continent.

Down under spiders:

Do they really sneak up pipes?

Bite you from behind?

[A Wolf spider, Lycosa bicolor from Coober Pedy, South Australia image to be replaced]

And then of course there are the more ordinary critters, those we encounter with a sputter and a bunch of spitting following meeting up in a close up manner.

Outside the greenhouse

post rain, and walk right into

her silky smoothness

[Pinterest running into a spider web image to be replaced]

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