Blog by Irving Warner,
Author of “Life and Travels of Saint Cuthwin” (2020, Pleasure Boat Studio)
Post Number 1: April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday
This post will serve as a general introduction to the entire blog which includes an introduction to me, for good or bad. I will adopt my own voice here, for in fiction I must take other voices all the time.
For instance, for six years of my creative writing I did so in the voice of a craftsman and his wife in eleventh century England. Both characters (Cuthwin and Cwenburh) were quite different than I—in character and obviously place & time.
Anyway, suffice it to say I shall be my own voice herein, and my voice and word-choice is sometimes quite American. Often, I elect to use the beloved American idiom, including common and uncommon profanities and obscenities.
Face it, for an American to call someone an absolute bounder is far less impactful than calling them a fucking asshole.
OK. Enough about that.
On Easter, I went birding for the first time in a long, long time. It has been so long, I have lost my “eyes”, and it will be troublesome for me to get them back. A birder’s ‘eyes’ are keen for movement; challenges for birders are the ‘little ones’, that is the small perching birds. I am not an expert at bird identification, rather only so/so, and for some reason do not have a good ear for bird song. Sure, I can distinguish the American robin from (like) a cursed house sparrow, but the finer stuff, such as in the warbler and flycatcher families—unfortunately no, visual ID only for me.
My strong suit in birds—and most vertebrates in general are their behavioral traits and life histories.
My point here in bringing up birding is that doing it refreshes my spirit and/or soul; I hadn’t done it for a long time, and since Easter is a time marking the return of growth and fertility...there it is. Seeing some of my old friends at the neighborhood feeders was just that—these are old, old friends who have been with me for more than 60 of my 79 years.
My favorite for today was the return of the goldfinches—of course, the males ‘take the show’ with their brilliant yellows and stark black contrasts. Some other stuff around this neighborhood (Oh, I live in Port Angeles, Washington) were pine siskins, chestnut sided chickadees, house finches and a strong return of the swallows, mostly violet green swallows.
Anyway, birds are a major cog of my writing spirit. Much of my writing has birds in it, or even as a leitmotif, such as in my short story “The Grey Owl”, the first story in my “Lost Road Trilogy.
For example, “The Life and Travels of Saint Cuthwin” when the kindly and wise monk Osfer looks out upon the fens around Peterborough and shares thoughts with young Cuthwin:
Osfer stopped, opened a small basket, and took out bread and he sat at a ditch intersecting with its system of gates, and gazed out over this wonder.
"I tell you; God has blessed us. Eat. Drink. There is good issue in simple bread and beer.”
It was late summer, and swallows were thick, their young having taken wing—they and their parents darted over the fens, taking their fill of the cursed biting flies. They would swirl, and it seemed to me that Osfer watched each, smiling a bit as he pushed bread into his near toothless mouth.
And there are many more places in “Cuthwin” where birds enter the story. I think of them always, along with my stories. Now during these dismal times during Easter of 2020, the birds are returning to my neighborhood. I welcome them with joy.
So concludes my first entry in my blog ‘Lion at the Edge”, for that is what I am at 79 years of age. My family are my stories; at 79 years of age, I’ve about had my run. When I was a young writer, sixty plus years ago, I was sure that writing would be a great success for me. A keen literary reputation and (at least) a decent living was surely at hand. I mean, stories ran out of me like water from a spring! How could I possibly go wrong?
Well, it did.
Soon forty turned into 60, then to 70 but throughout all of it I fought with every ‘oomph’ of energy. There were many bad times, including literary rejections, personal disasters that left me (part time) in a wheelchair, then full time after some peckerhead hit me with a truck while in my chair.
Then there came a day when I could no longer deny that a keen literary reputation and a decent living [exclusively from writing] was down the chute. I was one of the many word-sloggers who were sorting through the dumpsters of fate struggling for scraps. But though I’m an old lion, and down—waiting for the hyenas to close in—I’ll fight to my end.