Earth Language

“To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples who still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion.” — From Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram, quoted by Terri Windling in her recent series of posts.

The plots and imagery of my short stories and novels frequently evoke the powers of Earth and invite meditations on and respect for the natural world. This is especially true in my 2011 heroine’s journey adventure novel Sarabande.

The phrase heroine’s journey indicates that this is a woman’s adventure story and that the trials and tribulations will strongly test the main character. The story is written with a feminine point of view, that of Sarabande, the young title character. Since Earth and the forces of nature are often viewed as feminine, the title character’s adventure is supported by “Earth language.”

Sarabande is attracted to rivers, the earth’s life blood and she is healed by an Indian’s Earth-centric approach. And, for a short period of time, she truly experiences becoming animal when she merges with Coyote, a magical creature in the mountains where she finds the ghost who has been haunting her.

I’m attracted to David Abram’s books because they place humans back into nature rather than as creatures at odds with nature. In Sarabande, the title character’s interactions with nature are important to her physical survival and to her inner growth. As readers will soon discover, her life is in danger quite often: knowing “Earth Language” will be essential.

David Abram suggests that rather than describing nature, we should listen to and talk to nature. He relates the story of a man who has trained himself so well to understand “the dialects of trees” that he can be taken blindfolded to any location in the Pacific Northwest. Once there, he will tell you who the nearby trees are. Perhaps our best contemporary fantasies can lead readers back to an appreciation for such skills.

In Sarabande, I hope readers will not only enjoy the adventure, but will take away a bit of Earth language.

Today’s Writing Links

  • Why We Have Both “Color” and “Colour” by Mignon Fogarty for Grammar Girl – “Have you ever wondered why the British spell “color” with a “u” and Americans don’t? Or why the British spell “theater” with an “re” at the end and Americans spell it with an “er” at the end? We all know that these spelling differences exist, but not everyone knows why they exist.”
  • The Stephen King Guide to Marketing by Jason Kong for Jane Friedman’s blog – “…you need both good writing and good marketing. Many writers see this as two steps. Write first, then worry about marketing once the words are published. The belief is that the writing and marketing processes are distinct.”
  • Quote: I am obsessive about titles. Even for my second and third book in the series, I couldn’t move forward until I had the right title for it. With Crewel, I didn’t want it to be so sewing-based that it would be off-putting. I stumbled upon “crewel,” and I thought, obviously this is the title. I take liberties with it. There’s someone out there who does crewel who’s going to say, “There isn’t one crewel work in the book.” – Gennifer Albin, author of “Crewel” – from Shelf Awareness


6 thoughts on “Earth Language

  1. In my role as Earth Mage, I, too, have worked hard to become a part of nature rather than separate from Her and to learn to speak to the animals and the trees. It takes work, and it takes patience. But the rewards are breathtaking, magical. Like your books, Malcolm.

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