The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods
At the Canastota Public Library
By Author and Guest Blogger, Rachael Z. Ikins
From the chapter entitled "The Messenger" from the upcoming book to be released, " The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods" (Icarus Aloft: SLM Bookworks, Selkirk, NY) by Rachael Ikins:
".....Next to their cottage stood a weather-beaten barn. It sheltered Merthwyn’s workshop, a dozen hens led by a majestic striped rooster who went by the name of Papi and a black pot bellied pig named Pucky. His nose disc sported a pink dot and his hooves, four white socks....."
The oil painting illustration is by RoseMarie S. Langley. She happens to be 88, previously unpublished though she majored in art at Syracuse University in the 1940s. She is my mother. With her, I combed the woods and fields of my childhood at our summer camp in Skaneateles. The camp encompassed 60 acres of pristine forest, field and lake shore and I was always in search of faeries, witches and other magical creatures when visiting there. The barn in Mother's college painting stood next to our driveway. Once we drove past that barn, station wagon crammed full of pets, kids, food, suitcases and dreams for a summer of 8 weeks in the wild, we knew we'd almost arrived.
Many of the protagonists in The Complete Tales are elder members of a society. The above quote is from the chapter, also published by Aurora Wolf Literary Journal in 2010 and a winner of a third place award in that year's Rebecca Eddy Memorial Writing Contest, held by the Canastota Public Library. I selected the quote as it introduces us to one of the book's most entertaining individuals, Gabriella. Gabriella is a retired messenger dragon troubled with myopia or nearsightedness. She lives a depressed and lonely life on the far side of Fire Mountains in her cold, messy cave. Gabriella constantly removes her goggles, which were made to help her see better, and sets them down on piles of stuff. Later, she realizes that she is bleary eyed and desperately searches for the very goggles she cannot see to find.
Against all odds, as can happen to any of us on any given day, Gabriella awakens one morning to a surprise: the desperate ultrasonic and magical broadcast "SAVE THE BABIES! SAVE THEM NOW!" She imagines some young dragon rocketing off a cliff to rescue whoever these babies might be. Still the message blares on. Her head aches with the noise. She wonders will nobody respond? Is there no dragon out there to answer it? And then, she realizes something she had long ago forgotten. The dragon who hears the message is the one who is to answer the call.
Stiff and clumsy, wings floppy from disuse, Gabriella musters herself to fly. She stuffs her mail pouch, which is on the front of her belly like a kangaroo's, with sweet Timothy grass to keep the babies warm, once she has them safely inside it. Goggles jump into her paws for once, and heart pounding as she teeters on the lip of her cave in the sunset, ready to vault into the clouds and stars, she marvels at the beauty detailed beneath her. She harbors a tiny bit of doubt and anxiety that she will get lost and confused among once familiar constellations and skyways, because it has truly been a very long time.
But then, on faith, she unfurls her great gorgeous wings and thinks to herself, "I may fail, but at least I will go out trying if I do."
On April 30, Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. come to Canastota Public Library to hear Rachael read from The Complete Tales, to meet both author and publisher. To share tasty treats, fine literature and maybe to find out what happens next, to learn how the barn enters Gabriella's story...