"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Born of Fire

We arrived yesterday evening at Andrews Forest Headquarters, tired but invigorated by the scenic drive from Portland to the Cascade Mountain Range.  I didn't expect to have all that much to write yet, as we only had time for a brief tour of the station and its surroundings before darkness fell and the cold set in.  But the forest has a way of speaking to you in your dreams, and by the time the sun illuminated the misty woods with a gray morning light, my head was turning with ideas and images.

During the coming days, I'm going to try to capture the mood of this forest in words; no small task as I will be with it only a short while, and already I can see that Andrews is varied and complex.  Tim Fox, former writer-in-residence and long-time member of the Andrews Forest community, showed us around the 'reflection plots' yesterday.  These are designated areas that writers must visit during their time here and investigate from a literary or creative perspective.  The program began in 2003 and will run until 2203, for a total of two hundred years of collaborative investigations of the forest by writers from different genres.  This effort runs in parallel with ongoing scientific research at the site, which is one of the most well-studied forests in the world.

The tracts of forest that we visited yesterday were dominated by Douglas fir and hemlock; each tree stretching in a single stunning pillar to the sky, trunks solid and wide at the base, the bark dark and deeply furrowed, a living image of the ancient. In the plot of primary forest that we visited, Tim told us the trees are four to five centuries old. 

This is the forest of East Selen.

Or at least, that's what I was thinking yesterday, as we drove up the Blue River Reservoir and then walked the trails around the station.  Those of you familiar with Eolyn lore will know that East Selen was the home of Akmael's mother Briana.  One of the most powerful Magas of her time, Briana witnessed the massacre of her Clan by the Mage King Kedehen after the War of the Magas.  She was then captured by the Mage King -- or surrendered willingly, depending on whose story you decide to believe -- and became Queen of Moisehen. 

The forests of Briana's childhood are different from the South Woods in which Eolyn grew up.  Eolyn's home is a mix of deciduous hardwoods dominated by oak, with a few conifers scattered throughout.  East Selen, situated further to the north, is a forest of ancient conifers dominated by fir. 

In my October 9, 2010, post entitled Tree Magick, I talk a little bit about the tree lore of the Magas and Mages of Moisehén.  Firs play a prominent role in this tradition of magic, forming a bridge between the Underwold and the world of the living, and holding the power of flight in their branches. 

Last night I was reading about the Douglas Fir in Ancient Forests of the Pacific Northwest by Elliot A. Norse (a reference that is probably a little out of date by now, but it's what I have on hand, so we'll just go with it), and I learned something new.  The Douglas Fir is a somewhat exceptional fir, not only for its height, but because it does not begin its life in the shadows of an understory covered by thick canopy.  In Norse's words, the Douglas Fir is 'conceived by fire'.  Seeds germinate and grow following periodic fires (periodic, in this sense, being once every few centuries), and the saplings thrive best in open areas with lots of sun.

This was a wonderful detail to come across because it fits so perfectly within the legends and lore of Moisehén.  So I decided, between last night and this morning, that the fir used by Magas and Mages to invoke powers of flight will also be 'born of fire', more specifically 'born of the breath of Dragon', the legendary creature who gave High Magic to Aithne and Caradoc. 

This is one of the stories I hope to develop this week:  The myth of why firs hold the power of flight, and the role of Dragon in creating this magic.

The character of Briana has also been speaking to me, and before the week is out I am certain I'll be sketching out some story or scene from her life, probably in the time before the War of the Magas.

Not bad for less than twenty-four hours.  I think I'll go get some breakfast, and then take another hike.

Photos by Rafael Aguilar-Chaves.