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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic


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Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
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Friday's rockhounding trip -- SCORE!!!!!

My artist friend Johanna and I set out VERY early Friday morning, as we knew we had a long drive ahead of us.  She had done a lot of online research beforehand, so she had additional information about the roads we would be taking, several distinct landmarks to identify the collecting spots, and so on.


To my shame, I had done very little research at all.  I knew where the general locations were, and I had my trusty Gem Trails of Arizona guidebook, and that was about it, other than confirming the roads via Google Earth.  I always do that.  Oh, and I brought the collecting bags and rock hammers.


Along the way, we were trying to decide between three different places for our final destination.  All were in the same part of Arizona and within fifteen to twenty minutes' driving time of each other.  Site #1 according to the book was the most promising, Site #2 was the most distant, and Site #3 was listed as the most difficult for driving.  Johanna has a great big pick-up truck, which is great for negotiating rough roads but not so great if there are a lot of deep washes to cross as shown on the map for Site #3.  After considerable discussion -- we had nothing else to do for a couple hours on the road -- we chose Site #2.  If it didn't pan out, we would go to Site #1 on the way back.  Site #3 was set aside for another trip, until we could determine for sure if her truck could handle it.


The directions I had to Site #2 were basic and probably sufficient, but Johanna had checked via a few other online sources to confirm certain details.  We realized after we got there that without her additional information, we might have missed an important turn-off.


Though most of the trip was on nicely paved highways, the last several miles were on a pretty rough road, but it was clearly the right road.  There wasn't much in the way of Really Neat Rocks yet, but we did see a few here and there as we bounced along going very, very slowly.


We were looking for a particular landmark that was supposed to indicate where the best hunting ground was.  Johanna had screenshot pictures of it, and I had references to it in my minimal research, but we reached the next landmark without having seen the first.  This second landmark happened to be at a previously unmentioned fork in the rough dirt road.  Did we take the left fork that appeared to go in the direction we wanted, or did we take the right fork hinted at by the landmark?


Knowing we could always come back, we chose the left fork.  It quickly took us into much rougher territory than any of our collective information suggested we would encounter.  We plunged into a couple of dry washes, and climbed out again.  As we went, we were constantly peering out the windows.  The quantity of attractive material continued to increase.  Even though there was a possibility we had taken the wrong turn at the fork, we were seeing better quality material -- right on the surface! -- than we had been told to expect.


Finally, we reached a point where we could see a massive and deep wash ahead, one Johanna didn't want to risk trying to drive her truck through.  From what we could see out the windows, there was plenty of potentially good material at this location.  She pulled off the road and parked.


One of the reasons we had decided on Friday for this trip was the weather.  Saturday was predicted to be 100% rain over a huge swath of Arizona, including both the Phoenix metro area and the place of our expedition.  Friday, on the other hand, was expected to be warm and sunny.


It was neither.


When we got out of the truck, we were hit with strong and steady wind.  It never let up all day long.  There was no sun, just thick grey clouds all day long.  There was  no warmth; I doubt it got much above 50 degrees all day.  My nose started running almost immediately -- I stuffed my pockets with tissues -- and my fingers were numb most of the day.


But that didn't matter in the face of such abundance of material.  The ground was carpeted with chunks and globs and nodules of chalcedony.  Not just littered, mind you.  Carpeted! 


I'm used to being selective about what I pick up because I want only the best and only what I can actually use to make jewelry.   It was virtually impossible to be "selective."  In any given square yard/meter of ground there might be three or four dozen beautiful chalcedony nodules.  Most were round or egg-shaped, but some were more irregular.  Some were more flat on one side than others.  The dominant color was white, but many were surface-stained a rusty red-brown.


In addition to the nodules were the more lumpy bumpy chunks.



I don't even know if I picked this one up or if it's just a random picture.  It was at least six inches long, maybe longer, and was one of just hundreds, thousands, millions all over the place.


I should have picked up more of these, now that I think about it, to see what they look like when cut.  But they're not as easily accommodated to the saw, so I didn't take many.  There were so many of the other, more symmetrical nodules that would make lovely slices . . . .


Each of us collected two bags full of "choice" selections.  We walked slowly, trying to decide which gems to pick up and which to leave.  It wasn't easy with so much to choose from!  But we were cold, too, and I was starting to have some discomfort with my contact lenses due to the incessant wind.  There wasn't a whole lot of dust in the air, but the wind alone was irritating my eyes. 


We loaded our rocks into the back of the pick-up, then backtracked to the "second" landmark and took the other fork in the road.  Somewhat to our surprise, we passed another group of rock hounds, or at least we assumed that's what they were doing with their buckets and rock hammers in hand.  They were in an area that, unlike where we had just been, boasted few of the large, beautiful nodules we had seen.  So we waved and drove on.


Not too long after that, we came to what should have been the "first" landmark.  This man-made structure bore no obvious resemblance to its description in all the references, but there was no doubt in our minds that this is what the guide books and online reviews mentioned.  Again, it was in an area where there were virtually no Really Neat Rocks.


How had we stumbled upon the fantastic area and other folks hadn't?  Why was this a landmark to what was described as the "better" collecting site when it couldn't hold a candle to what we found?


No idea.


So we drove on further.  We were approaching another fork in the road that, according to all our information, would lead back to the main highway from which we entered the desert.  Just before this fork we came upon another group of rock hounds.  Their compact passenger vehicle would never, we knew, negotiate the rough road and dry washes further in, so we assumed they were staying in the safer area.  Again, we waved and drove on, knowing that we had found treasure they could probably only dream of!


Almost immediately, however, we found ourselves facing a wide but shallow and sandy wash, one the passenger car had probably had a tiny bit of difficulty crossing.  Our surmise was that they had survived the wash and decided not to venture further and risk more dangerous crossings.  The fork back to the highway and civilization was in sight from the wash, but we decided to stop and explore a little bit.  Both of us had seen some interesting possibilities in the sand.


The truck climbed to the other side, and we parked just off the road.  Then we headed into the wash.


I should have taken more pictures, but it was cold and windy and our eyes were focused on the ground.


Here the material wasn't as plentiful, but it was still spectacular in quality.  More of the nice round-ish nodules.  A few pieces of pink chalcedony that I love to work with.  A couple of small fire agates.


One thing I did get a picture of was one of the nodules poking out of the vertical wall of the wash.  These things must be buried in the entire site!



I then loosened it and tucked it in my bag!


Another example I found was a small agate nodule still encased in the host matrix.  Whether the matrix is basalt or rhyolite or tuff, I'm not sure.  I'm still researching the geology of this location . . . and not finding much information.



Closer view



I found one other very unusual rock in that wash, and I've not been able to find any conclusive explanation for it at all.



It's basically the same dull grey basalt/rhyolite/tuff as the other blah rocks, except that it has tiny green/bluish-green nodules in it.



The largest is maybe a quarter-inch in length, but most are much smaller.  However, there are indentations in the rock that indicate larger green nodules have been separated from the matrix.  One of those holes is at the bottom of this picture:




Although turquoise does form in matrix, I'm under no illusion that this is "real" turquoise, like this piece from Bisbee, AZ.



The bits in my rock are more green than blue and they're more uniformly oblong in shape that the usual knobby, irregular nuggets of turquoise.


So I just don't know what they are . . . yet.


We are talking about planning another trip to the same location -- and hoping for better weather, too -- but logistics have to be worked out.


After today's torrential rain, I'm looking forward to getting on the rock saw tomorrow and starting to cut some of these beauties.




Rock hunting Friday, and holy shit


I will have a more detailed report later this afternoon, but I wanted to post this for amazement purposes.


The ground at this place is covered with potential gems.  Covered, I say, covered.



I took these photos about 10 feet (3 meters) from our vehicle.  The further we walked, the more of these rocks there were.  It was very difficult to be selective when just about everything was collectible.



This morning it is dull and grey and overcast and occasionally pouring buckets, so the light in the house is muted and I wanted to get these in natural light rather than flash that distorts colors.  The largest of this group is about 3.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide.  It weighs an even 8.0 ounces.  Half a pound!  It's not the largest that I picked up.


The fragment in the upper left is filled with distinct little crystals.  I'm hoping that at least some of the others are also hollow, as they will then make fine jewelry pieces when sliced and polished.  I broke a few open with the hammer while we were still out there, and some were solid, some were partly hollow.  I guess I'll just have to start slicing them and see what happens.


I had a lot of other work to do today and didn't get as much of my hand written text transcribed as planned.  But I expanded the roughly 200 words scribbled in a spiral notebook into almost 500.  So I feel pretty good about that.


Tomorrow -- Friday -- I'm going rock hunting again, and it's going to be an all-day trek, so I probably won't get any transcription done until Saturday.


I have eight more pages of hand-written text to transcribe, maybe 1200 words.  I expand as I transcribe, so that pushes it to maybe 1500.  We'll see.  I'm going to bed now, may write a bit more or wait until morning.


This just popped up in my Twitter feed, and so I thought I'd share.




72,303 is where I left off

I have been writing longhand in the evenings and mornings.  Not much, but some.


It's time to start transcribing.

On being invisible

Tuesday night, I went with a friend and fellow artist to a meeting of another art group.  She had been with me last February when my own group exploded and essentially told me I'm not good enough for them.  So she invited me to join another group that she said was much more friendly, much more welcoming.


I had my doubts, but in the interest of her friendship and in an effort to fight off my own discouragement and cynicism, I agreed to go.


I deliberately wore a bright, bright green tee-shirt.  Surely someone would spot this bright green color, recognize that the person wearing it was a stranger, and they'd come to introduce themselves and welcome the stranger to the group.


My friend introduced me to one person, Suzanne.  Another woman introduced herself as Wilma and introduced me to Mike; both of them were sitting at our table.  The woman seated next to me introduced herself as Dorothy, but never introduced me to her companion who sat on her other side.  I never did learn his name.


At the front table the members all signed in and registered for various raffles.  There was a separate sign-in sheet for guests.  I signed the guest list.


In the course of the meeting, the VP never once welcomed the visitors.  He did not read off our names, ask what type of art we did, nothing.  Guests were not acknowledged at all.


When the three-hour meeting was over, I felt as if I'd not been there.


Wednesday morning, after that unpleasant experience, I went grocery shopping.  I had to get some items from the deli department, where two customers were ahead of me, one being waited on at the time and the other waiting to be waited on.  The sole person in the department took care of the first customer, then while he was slicing ham and liverwurst for the second lady, another woman walked up.  As soon as the second lady was done, the third woman just started placing her order.  Ham, turkey, baby swiss, beef bologna.


I think it was while he was slicing the bologna that yet another woman arrived, obviously friends with the beef bologna lady.  Or maybe not?  Maybe she just started conversations with whomever she encountered.  It didn't matter.  As soon as beef bologna lady was done, this fourth woman started her order.  Pastrami, salami, and a few slices of sandwich pepperoni.


Finally, there was no one else, and the clerk asked me what I wanted.


"Am I invisible?" I asked.



Last week, just prior to our rock hunting trip on Saturday, I had a brief and unpleasant experience online that pushed me to back off Twitter for a while.  Ironically, the incident didn't happen on Twitter, and the unpleasant person was swiftly dealt with.  But after the rock hunting trip and the work of cleaning up the rocks the following day and then a bunch of other stuff, I continued to stay away from Twitter.  It wasn't anything specific, but I felt as if there was a whole lot of negativity I was letting myself get dragged into, and I needed a little bit of a break.


Last night I checked in on Twitter and discovered some people had been asking about me, was I okay, was I still around.  I was enormously touched, indeed moved to tears then and again as I write this.


You made me feel visible again.


Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


Happy Valentine's Day.

Desert Roses

The particular rock form that we call "desert roses" here is made of chalcedony, a common type of quartz (silicon dioxide).  There's another type from Oklahoma and elsewhere that's made of gypsum.  Those can be quite fragile, but our chalcedony ones are pretty tough.



This one that I found Saturday was picked up off the ground exactly as you see it.  Clean, no dirt, no digging, no nothing.  Just lying there waiting to be picked up.


So was this one.



It has a few specks of dirt, so it will have to be cleaned up a bit, but it was literally lying on the ground beside the van's front tire. It has some sparkly crystals on one side, but they are a little worn, indicating this tiny beauty has been tumbled around by the weather a bit.  It's all of 3/8 inch in diameter.


The largest single desert rose I've ever found is about two and half inches in diameter, the same pink as the first one above.  It does have broken edges where it broke off from other pieces of chalcedony, but  it's still pretty amazing.


Don't get your hopes up, but . . .

. . .I started writing again.


I had made considerable progress the last time I picked up this project, but then life intervened and I reached a spot where the story hit a brick wall.


Saturday's rock hunting expedition seemed to help clear out my brain.  Sunday night, a possible solution to the brick wall came into my brain and I started scribbling in my pillowside notebook.  (not bedside since it's actually on the bed!)


I wrote more last night, and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable this time.


We'll see.  We'll see.

So we went rock hunting Saturday . . .

. . . and I still ache just about everywhere.


Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we didn't get to the exact location I intended.  As a result, we didn't find as much of the pink chalcedony as I had hoped.  Whether there will be another opportunity this spring before BF's foot surgery the end of March, I don't know.


I did make some interesting finds, however.



This doesn't look like much, but it's actually about ten pounds of purple moss jasper.  I have found a few fist-sized pieces in the general area before, but this was a surprise at this precise location.  It was locked in the host rock -- likely solidified volcanic ash -- and we had to hammer it out, then carry it back to the vehicles.  Luckily, my photographer friend Johanna had a backpack and she did the heavy work!  ♥♥


I was able to chip off a piece of it this morning, and I'll be starting it in a small tumbler load later this week to see how it polishes.  There are some fractures running through the whole stone, so it's possible that it won't work for slicing -- and it's too big for my little saw anyway -- but it should make lovely tumbled pieces.


Another unexpected discovery was two small chunks of red moss/plume agate.  They were lying about two feet apart in a narrow wash.  I took pictures this afternoon, but the shots of the larger stone -- and it's only about the size of a ping pong ball -- came out blurry, but the smaller stone photographed well.



It's too small to make anything out of, but the red inclusion is nifty, and so is the other side of the stone, covered with little tiny but clearly formed crystals and "bots."  Bots aren't really a thing; it's a corruption of the mineralogical term botryoidal (from the Greek for "grape-like") which means a stone has formed in bumps like a bunch of grapes.  The "bots" on this stone are very, very tiny.



The crystals aren't much bigger!



The objective of our trip, however, wasn't purple jasper or moss agate.  It was pink chalcedony.  We found quite a bit, but not as much as on previous visits.  Still, there were some very nice pieces waiting for us.



The desert rose on the right is one of the most perfectly formed specimens I've ever found. There is almost always a spot on every piece of chalcedony where it has broken away from another piece.  This one has no separation point; it is exactly as it formed in a void in the volcanic ash.


The top



And the bottom



It has bots, too!


We ended up with a five-gallon bucket almost full of rocks, all of which have to be cleaned.  I spent about six hours on it yesterday, and that just made my neck and shoulders ache even more.


I would love to go again, but that may not be possible until fall.  We'll see.  We'll see.

Well, that was lucky

Well, it was an exciting start to the morning.

BF nearly burned the house down.  Literally.

He has a coconut oil cream that he puts on his hands in the morning.  Today it was chilly, so he did what he occasionally does:  He put the plastic jar in the microwave for half a minute to soften it.  He covered the open jar with a piece of paper towel -- because that's what he does -- and in about two seconds, the paper towel was burning.

He panics, yells at me to open the back door to let the dogs out, then finally shuts the microwave off and lets the paper towel burn.  When it was almost finished, he opened the microwave door  and contemplated how to take the jar of cream out.  I handed him a pair of tongs.

As soon as he removed the jar and set it on the counter, I told him, "Well, that's why.  You've still got some foil on the edge of the jar."  

When he had torn off the safety seal from the jar, he hadn't removed every last bit of the foil, and that's what caused the fire.

His response?  An appreciative "Wow, good for you.  I never would have thought about that, but you're absolutely right."

Apparently this was the first time he had ever microwaved this particular jar; the others had all been clean of the foil edge.

I think he'll be more careful now.



Tomorrow we are going rock hunting.

I am posting these for reference only. Draw your own conclusions

28 April 2013




December 2014




March 2017




November 2018



BookLikes is eating my comments again. . . . Um, no it's not.

I'm on the edge of despair.


Update:  BookLikes isn't eating my comments.  Someone is blocking me from making them.



To die upon The Summer Tree

The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay

Starting with a reiteration:


Full disclosure here, which may also be on the original 10-page update:


I purchased the Kindle edition of this book at full retail price.  I follow the author on Twitter, but he does not follow me. We have had a few brief exchanges, but not many. I was introduced to this writer via the now-defunct Rave Reviews magazine back in 1987 or so, when I was given the third volume of this trilogy, The Darkest Road, to review.  I fudged it, because I never did read the book.  I felt it was unfair to read the third and final volume without having read the first two.  And our schedule with Rave Reviews didn't provide enough time for me to find them.  So I fudged.  I have not revealed that information to the author on Twitter, nor do I have any intention of doing so.


And of course, I am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and assorted non-fiction.




I finished reading The Summer Tree last night in bed on the Kindle, so there was no question about writing a full review on its tiny keyboard.  Besides, I needed to think about how I was going to frame it.


To say I was disappointed is the least of it.  I was shockingly disappointed, and in more ways than one.


But the biggest disappointment, I finally decided, came from the constant feeling of being outside the story.


There's a reason why movie theaters are dark: The objective is to have you, the viewer, shut out all external influences and ultimately be in the movie.  The sound is loud so you can't talk to anyone else over it.  The screen is huge so the sights fill your entire vision.    The aisles are narrow so you are less inclined to bother your neighbors in the audience to get up for another tub of popcorn.


Good writers, and especially good writers of fantasy, know how to create this same sense with nothing more than words on a page.  They don't have surround-sound and Cinerama projection and Smell-o-vision.  They just have words on paper or electronic page.  (If they're lucky, they have a dramatic narrator to read the audio version, but that's only after the words have been written.)


Guy Gavriel Kay never once achieved that level of atmospheric immersion.  At least not for me.


The premise is simple:  Loren Silvercloak, the mage from the magical world of Fionavar, comes to Toronto and selects five university students to take with him to Fionavar for . . . well, I'm not sure what for.  Something about the celebration for the 50th anniversary of King Ailell's coronation or some such.


And they go.


But they'll be back within hours, Toronto time, Loren promises.


I think the guys, Kevin, Dave, and Paul, made some sort of farewell visit to their fathers.  Were mothers involved?  I don't remember.  None of the visits were particularly memorable.  None of the characters were particularly deep.


The girls, Kimberly and Jennifer, were on their own, I think.


At the time of their transportation to Fionavar, I had no clue what any of the five looked like.  I got the impression that Loren looked like Gandalf and he had a companion who was a Dwarf, but beyond that I had no impression of any of the characters at all.  Not what they looked like, not what their relationships were, none of their histories, NOTHING.


So they get to Fionavar and there are more and more and more and more people dragged onto the stage, and they are just as poorly portrayed as the five Torontans.  (Is that a word?)  Ailell the King, Diarmuid his son and heir, some guards and courtiers. 


I felt as if Kay were trying to write Lord of the Rings in a modern Earth setting but with magic and another world.  But he did it badly.


Tolkien started with Bilbo and Frodo, so the reader got to know them and know them well before other main characters were brought onto the scene.  We learned about the Shire, about the houses that were holes in the ground and the peacefulness.  There were petty squabbles and jealousies, there were good Hobbits and spiteful Hobbits.  We learned about them as individuals, and Bilbo and Frodo as being somehow set apart.


Then we meet Gandalf.  And later we meet Merry and Pippin.  We meet them and know them because we already know what Hobbits are and how they're different from ordinary humans.


But we also know that there is more to this whole birthday party thing than just cake and ice cream.  There is The Ring.


The ring makes clear several important facts about the world of Middle Earth.  First and foremost is that magic works here.  Second is that there are different languages.  The runes on the inside of the ring might be Elvish, but the words are Black Speech.


Tolkien brings in his different races of semi-humans -- elves, half-elves, dwarves, etc. -- at the Council of Elrond.  The objective of the quest is laid out and the reader knows that everything will ultimately focus on the Quest to Destroy The One Ring.


I've reached the end of The Summer Tree and I have no idea what the point of the story is.


The Five arrive in Fionavar for this celebration, or at least four of them do.  For three fourths of the book the fifth student is just lost in space, and no one seems too worried about it.  Even Loren, whose magic made them transition to his world, doesn't spare much thought for the missing.  Or maybe he does, and that's why he goes off searching for him?  I don't know for sure.  Again, nothing seemed focused.


Kevin, one of the five, gets drunk right away, and I think he cavorts with some Fionavarian wenches.  He becomes pals with Prince Diarmuid, who is drunk most of the time and is always after one wench or another.


The celebration festival happens right in the middle of a terrible drought that has fallen over the land of Brennin, where Ailell is High King.  There doesn't seem to be much concern over what caused the drought or what should be done about it.  It just is.


For one reason or another, Diarmuid and some of his crew, including Kevin and maybe Paul, another of the Torontans, head off to the kingdom of Cathal, which is on the other side of a river from Brennin.  There's no way to cross the river, and apparently there's little to no communication between the two kingdoms, but I'm not sure about that.  Diarmuid figures out a sneaky way to get across the river and into Cathal without alerting anyone, and then he seduces/rapes the king of Cathal's daughter.  I'm not sure why.  Because he can?  Because he wants to?  Because because?


More or less at the same time, Kimberly gets taken off by Ysanne, the Seer of Brennin, to her little cottage by the lake.  I'm not sure why this happens either, because so many things are going on with no explanation or context.  Ysanne conjures up some creature/spirit from the lake, and he makes Kim the new Seer and erases Ysanne. It's not like Ysanne dies.  She's gone entirely.  She doesn't even get any kind of afterlife or anything.  So Kim is now the Seer, the lake spirit imparted all knowledge to her, and she has a couple of magic talismans.  One is a ring, I think it's called the Baelrath (but not the Balrog), and then I think there's also a bracelet but maybe not.  Oh, and then there's a dagger, too, that she uses to kill Ysanne.  Maybe.  I'm not sure about that either.  Things happen very quickly in this book, so it's not as if anything has time to sink in.  There's more text devoted to the lake spirit imparting all this knowledge than there is to why.


Now, we know that Diarmuid is the king's younger son, that there was an older son but he got exiled and His Name Must Not Be Spoken.


There's something to do with the Summer Tree, which is in some forbidden forest or something.  The older prince offered to sacrifice himself on the Summer Tree in place of his father, but this was some kind of insult, so the older prince got banished.  I think it has something to do with ending the drought but I'm not sure.  That part wasn't made too clear.


There doesn't seem to be any drought in Cathal, where Diarmuid is boinking Sharra, the king's daughter.  I don't know why Cathal is spared -- it's called the Garden Country, I think -- but it is.


For some reason or other, Paul Schaefer, one of the Canadians, volunteers to die on the Summer Tree in place of Ailell, in place of The Unnamed Prince, in place of Diarmuid.  I'm not sure what he hopes to accomplish by doing this.  Will it end the drought?  Is that the whole point of it?  Is that why they were brought to Fionavar by Loren? 


So Paul gets "bound" to the Summer Tree, I think by Matt Soren, who is the Dwarf who gives Loren all his magic power.  Loren is off somewhere else, and without his Dwarf as source for his magic, Loren is sort of helpless.  Why would he do this?  I don't know.


It was about at this point that I started feeling really icky about the whole book.  I saw the Tree as a metaphor for the Christian cross, and Paul, with his saintly name, standing in as the heroic sacrifice.  Especially since he has to be "bound" to the Tree for three days.  I'm not sure what was supposed to happen at the end of those three days, but that's the way the story goes.


The whole religious aspect is very muddled.  There's a Goddess, Dana, and there's a God, Mornir.  I think that's right.  They're sort of in competition with each other, but sort of not.  And then there's a Weaver who's above all that.  And there are lesser gods, too?  I don't know.  It's all very confusing.


Because there's also Rakoth Maugrim, the evil Sauron-like thing.  He's also called Sathain, and he's been bound under a mountain for a thousand years (which really isn't very long at all) and there are five wardstones that will let everyone know if Rakoth is going to get out.  So, are these wardstones like Silmaril or Palantir stones?  Or like the Seals in Wheel of Time, which are like the Biblical seals?


So then all of a sudden, after all this has been going on for several days in Fionavar, the third of the male Canadians suddenly shows up.  But he's in a different place from the others, apparently because he tried to break free when Loren was transporting them.  He lands (literally) in a different place and is rescued (?) by some people who herd eltor.  There's a whole lot of discussion about the sacredness of the eltor and so on, but no clue as to what they actually are.


When Dave, the last student, shows up, he admits to expecting the eltor were something like American bison.  I never thought that, but it made sense, especially when one of the guys where he lands is described as


He never wore a shirt, or moccasins; only his eltor skin leggings, dyed black to be unseen at night.

Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry Book 1) (p. 245). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Moccasins?  Really?  In Fionavar?


I had thought maybe deer or cattle, or whatever, but in fact they're kind of like antelope.  Eland?  And then the Dalrei -- that's the name of the people who herd the eltor -- go on a bloody massacre of their sacred eland, er, eltor and Dave participates.  Or, at least I think he does.


The problem here was that I didn't know if Dave came through the transporter magic at the same time as the others but just was in a different part of Fionavar, or if there had been some kind of time warp.  Rakoth had already escaped from his mountain fortress of Starkadh before Dave showed up, but when Dave arrived, Rakoth hadn't escaped yet.  It wasn't until much later in the text that a time frame is hinted at, and it's implied that Dave came through at the same time.  So Rakoth Maugrim, aka Sathain, aka Sauron, gets to explode again.


And Paul completes his sacrifice and learns he wasn't responsible for the death (in Toronto) of the young woman he loved who was going to marry someone else.  And it starts to rain.  (One whole book of this book is titled "The Song of Rachel," even though Rachel isn't a character in the book; she's the one who died.)


In the meantime, something happens to Jennifer and she gets carried off by some bad guys and strapped to the back of an evil black swan who flies her to Starkadh where she's going to be raped and tortured by Rakoth and then killed.


While all this is going on, King Ailell dies.  So Diarmuid should be the new king, but it turns out that Ysanne the Seer had a loyal servant with a limp who then becomes Kim's servant because she's the new Seer.  But he doesn't really have a limp, and he's really the exiled older son of Ailell.  His name is Aileron.


That's when I laughed out loud.



a movable airfoil at the trailing edge of an airplane wing that is used for imparting a rolling motion especially in banking for turns



So the king is dead, Prince Drink-and-Diddle is supposed to get crowned, but Prince Propeller shows up and claims the thrown.  Er, throne.  At the coronation, there's a scuffle, threats are made to kill one or the other or both of the princes, someone throws a dagger that lands in Diarmuid's shoulder instead of his heart, but only because the dagger thrower's aim is thrown off because someone threw the actual crown at her.  Yes, her.  The dagger thrower is none other than Sharra, daughter of the king of Cathal.


I'm not sure why she wanted to kill Diarmuid, other than because he loved her and left her?  The sex stuff in this book isn't done very well.


So then at the tail end of the book, we learn that Rakoth escaped because Matt Soren -- remember, he's the Dwarf who gives all the power to Loren Silvercloak who started all this -- used to be the King of the Dwarves but he stepped down because some of the dwarves were doing bad magic things and he wasn't going to be part of that shit, but now the bad magic they did has led to allowing Rakoth to escape.  It has something to do with a Cauldron.


Oh, yeah, and even though I haven't read any of The Chronicles of Prydain, the very mention of a cauldron would have set my eyes to rolling.  You just can't have a serious background in high fantasy or children's literature of the later 20th century without having at least encountered Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron by title and/or reputation. (I own it and one other of the five books of the series; maybe now I'll be motivated to get the other three and read them.)  The books were published in the late 1960s, roughly the same time as LOTR was coming out in (authorized) paperback from Ballantine.  And well before Kay was writing The Fionavar Tapestry.


So, where does this book end?  Well, Kim the Seer has powers, so she's gathering everything she has and I think she just transported everyone back to Toronto, but I'm not sure. 


But there was also a spar of light. A dying spar, so nearly gone, but it was there, and Kim reached with everything she had, with all she was, to the lost island of that light and she found Jennifer.


“Oh, love,” she said, inside and aloud. “Oh, love, I’m here. Come!”


The Baelrath was unleashed, it was so bright they had to close their eyes against the blazing of that wildest magic as Kimberly pulled them out, and out, all the way out, with Jennifer held to the circle only by her mind, the spar, pride, last dying light, and love.


Then as the shimmering grew in the Great Hall, and the humming before the crossing time, as they started to go, and the cold of the space between worlds entered the five of them, Kim drew one breath again and cried the last desperate warning, not knowing, oh not, if she was heard:


“Aileron, don’t attack! He’s waiting in Starkadh!”


And then it was cold, cold, and completely dark, as she took them through alone.

Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry Book 1) (pp. 382-383). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

(Italics in the original.)


I haven't decided yet if I want to read on.  Curiosity about how they figure out what to do about Rakoth Maugrim Sauron Satan is a motive, because I think I have more curiosity about their story than they do.  But this book was a monstrous frustration.  I've read the whole thing and I still don't know what's really going on.  Do I want to read two more books of this malarkey?


I don't know.


With a good editor, maybe it would have been better.  I can't believe that any editor worth two nickels wouldn't recognize aileron as a real word in the 1980s.  I think I learned it from Mickey Mouse Club when Darlene Gillespie was training to be an airline stewardess (sic) and had to learn about planes.  That was in the 1950s, for crying out loud!


Using Celtic mythology as a base isn't necessarily bad, but Kay's is so clumsy.  The god with horns is Cernan, which seems an obvious play on Cernunnos, the Horned God of the Celts.  (Of course, it's also the last name of the last human to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan.)  There's also an animal called a cerne, which maybe is a deer? Or maybe its a priapic giant human?


Kay has a nasty habit of dropping things into the story without letting the reader know what they are.  As I wrote in another status update, he did this with the eltor/antelope that the Dalrei people herd.  What happens is that the reader -- unless she happens to be just mindlessly reading and not paying any attention at all -- feels as if she's missed something.  She backs up, looking for missed clues.  She's completely pulled out of the story, and when she discovers that she has not, in fact, missed anything, she feels cheated and less inclined to go back and pick up where she left off.


For instance, here's a passage from page 286:


With an effort, then, a very great effort, he stretched himself out, mind and soul, to the impossible creature that had come for him. It did not exist, this exquisite thing that stood gazing calmly back at him in the strangely hued night. It did not exist, but it would,

Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry Book 1) (p. 286). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


So what is this "impossible creature"? An angel?  A fairy?  A dragon?


We don't learn until page 315 the answer to that question!


Then she was there and he was there before her, waiting, a welcome in those eyes, and a final acceptance of what she was, all of her, both edges of the gift. She felt his mind in hers like a caress, and nudged him back as if with her horn.

Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry Book 1) (p. 315). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Ah, so she's a unicorn!  And then she's a unicorn with wings!


Why couldn't we know that on page 286?  What's the sense in teasing readers?


I think that's what pissed me off the most, even more than Prince Propeller.  Author Kay treats me like a Reader, not like someone he really wants to join him and his characters on this quest.  If I'm not welcome, why should I go?

Doing better today!

I've had two decent night's sleep in a row, and this morning I grabbed an extra two hours of "coasting" on the heating pad.  I'm not completely recovered, but at least to the point that I can maybe get some things done today other than gripe about my pain!



Reading progress update: I've read 329 out of 383 pages.

The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay

I'm at the  86% mark and still forcing myself to read. 


Too many questions draw me out of the story instead of into it. I still don't know if svarts alfar (svart alfars?) are like dark elves per the original meaning or are they something else? They, like the lios alfar, are never referred to as alfar/alfars. Is one lios a lio? Or are more than one lioses?


Then there's that magical thing born that Tabor saw, the thing that wasn't and couldn't be but would be. A person? I wondered.  Or a dragon? Or something new and magical?


What's the purpose in leaving the reader unclear? Why make the reader read a passage several times to see if she missed a clue? Why? Why make her go back to previous passages??!! 


Oh, it's a chestnut unicorn with a silver horn and it flies. And then it goes away.




It's only at about the 75% point that some of the mixed up timeline is sort of straightened out, but I still have no real understanding of just how much time has passed and which events have occurred at the same time but in different places.


Worst of all, I have no clue what the point of the whole story is.


in LOTR, we knew that it was about The Ring. We learned early on just what The Ring was and why it was important. There were references to elves, to dwarves, to magic. The hobbits lived in peaceful obscurity, but they knew about the rest of the world.


In this book, nothing is connected. Kimberly becomes the new Seer and Ysanne gets undone and erased, but why???


Why is Paul sacrificing himself? What will happen?  What does it mean in the grand scheme?


Dave didn't want to go, but he's all in now in just a few pages.  Wow! That was easy!


I don't care about any of them.  I don't know enough about them after 329 pages to care. One of the five earth humans is Jewish and I guess that's supposed to mean something but I don't even know which one it is.  And I don't care.