My mind was called across the years
Of rages and of strife
Of all the human misery
And all the waste of life
"Beneath a Phrygian Sky," Loreena McKennitt
In the chill of March (albeit the March of the fickle, balmy piedmont of South Carolina), with a grey sky overhead, it is sometimes hard to feel the scorching spring sun of the Middle Sea, to see the cloudlessness of a merciless sky, to hear the endless pulse of that sea which is the heart of the whole world. And so I look to the arts (that sea was the cradle of them, was it not?) to inspire me. It is not much to offer you, but here are some of the things which are making the world of Gingerune a home to me.
a few books
There is the big curious creature of The Flowers of Adonis, by Rosemary Sutcliff, written in the first person but from the view of many people so that, from many angles and through many years, the reader may get a picture of the person of Alkibiades, the great general of Athens. Like all Sutcliff novels, this one throws you head over heels into the world and you must pick yourself up very quickly or be lost. It is, of course, a very war-like book, though not all the characters are students of war; but the laughter of it which is like the laughter of a knife that is going to kill you is a splendid inspiration for me.
I have begun Ben-Hur, after many, many years. I don't remember when I last read it, I only know that I loved it. But the intervening years had made me forget just how spectacular a book it really is. The narration is superb, the scenes crystal-clear, and everything is alive. Knowing more now than I did then, I trust this second reading of Ben-Hur will prove even more fruitful, even more enjoyable. There is far more enjoyment to be got out of it than just the chariot race, let me assure you.
There is also A Crown of Wild Olive, a smaller story by Rosemary Sutcliff (the poor thing is dwarfed by the hugeness of Alkibiades), and I am reading it not for the similarity between her story and mine (none of these really bear any resemblance to Gingerune) but for the sheer familiar comfort of the thing, and the world in which I need to walk and look and see so that, when I have written, you can too.
a few songs
Loreena McKennitt's album "An Ancient Muse" has been most helpful in this way. She knows how to find the musical spirit of a place and string it with complimentary words like a jeweler stringing jewellery. There is Beneath a Phrygian Sky (which is north and very east of where I am) and The Gates of Istanbul (which is more north than east, but a little east too, of where I am). There is Penelope's Song, which is just about perfect and tastes of wine and a sorrow which knows no bitterness; I like Kecharitomene for the music of it, and Caravanserai likewise - they are not quite spot-on, but they land me in the general area so I listen to them anyway. And then there are odd songs out, like The Burning Bush from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, and Now We Are Free from "Gladiator" (which is one of my favourite songs anyway); as regards lyrics (not the tune) Andrew Peterson's song Carry the Fire is applicable. I have not decided if both the lyrics and the tune of Leaves From the Vine are applicable, but the song seems to go with Gingerune all the same. (In a way they, too, remind me of the flowers of Adonis...)
leaves from the vine // falling so slow
like fragile, tiny shells // drifting on the foam
little soldier boy // come marching home
brave soldier boy // comes marching home
"leaves from the vine"