Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Music in the Forest
After Memorial Day, we visited the Arkansas Ozarks, an area of the country that is quite literally in my own backyard, yet one that I've never had the opportunity to experience first hand until now.
We drove south through Missouri and enjoyed a lengthy lunch break in Eureka Springs, AR, before driving into the heart of the Ozark National Forest. Mount Nebo is a small state park just south of the national forest, with beautiful cabins that have a stunning view of the surrounding landscape.
The forest on the north side of the mountain, along the 'Bench Trail', is impressive with its aged oaks and what I suspect are loblolly pines, graceful conifers with scaley trunks. Bark so scaley that one is left wondering whether these trees might be the descendents of transformed dragons.
Speaking of dragons, we saw one -- very young -- fast asleep atop a gray boulder. I know very little about the geology of Mount Nebo, and so the rocks seemed filled with mystery. There are places where the mountainside has collapsed into rubble; barren piles of lichen-stained stone where no plant has been able to recolonize.
There might be bears in this forest, but we didn't see any sign of them. And while there are abundant springs, they were all dry or nearly so.
The Summer Tanager was everywhere, fuscia-red and fierce with its song. Tanagers are abundant in the tropics, so this is a bird I thought I knew well. But the first time I heard it sing in the Arkansas Ozarks, I thought I was listening to a thrush. Tanagers in the tropics are known for their colors, not for their songs. I had no idea any tanager could sing so beautifully.
The tanager's song reminded me of Adiana, one of my favorite characters in the Eolyn saga. Adiana is a very talented musician from the province of Selkynsen, the wealthiest province of the kingdom. Her parents were merchants, and both were executed during the purging of the Magas. (Adiana's mother was accused of witchcraft, and her father beheaded on charges of harboring a witch.) The family fortune was confiscated, and Adiana, only fifteen at the time, was left to fend for herself in the streets.
Adiana had a few rough years after that, until she met Mage Corey and became part of his Circle, a troupe of travelling performers and closet rebels.
In Eolyn, Adiana's role is minor, though she becomes an important friend for our beloved maga. In the companion novel High Maga, we spend more time with Adiana and see how her extraordinary music -- considered a kind of Primitive Magic in Moisehen -- becomes both her salvation and her doom. Throughout her own trials and tribulations, which are many and terrible, Adiana remains unswerving in her friendship toward Eolyn. I admire this quality of hers, as well as the strength and calm pragmatism with which she faces every challenge presented her.
That's really all I can say about Adiana without handing you the books. But if you should hear a Summer Tanager singing in the forests near your home in the coming months, you will know something of the beauty and heartache her music can inspire.