Monday, February 21, 2011

The Amelia Island Book Festival

From front to back this was a great festival in a town of old southern grace and gentility.  Ma'am and Sir is spoken here and people hold doors for other people.  The love of books as well as manners follows you everywhere you go. 

I'd wanted to visit this northern province of our state, and when we were invited to tell stories, we were delighted.  It never occurred to us however that little Amelia Island had been occupied by eight different nations and/or peoples.  French, Spanish, British are the easy ones to figure.  But then there were also Georgian patriots in 1812 who tried to establish "The Territory of East Florida." 

Five years later another group took over and raised their Green Cross Flag; these were American citizens whose occupation lasted only four months.  Then came the Mexican Rebel Flag, inspired mostly by a pirate named Luis Aury, who said he was holding the island "in trust for Spain."  This was followed by the seven-starred flag of the Confederacy which stayed flapping until the end of the Civil War.  After which came the final flag of the United States.  There should now be a Flag of Tourism, but we'll let that slide for the moment.

Places of historical interest, especially when they're nestled by the sea inspire poems.  But I didn't write about flags on my first night in Fernandina.  It was a full moon night and I wrote about moons.  

Full round cricket moon
fog moon, moss moon
peeper cheep, paper moon
Fernandina sea moon.
Haven't seen
so many moons
in many moons . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Three New Books

Speaking Volumes of Santa Fe just re-published three of my favorite books -- Tunkashila, Turtle Dream and Ghost Walk.   These are collections of stories about Native America that I wrote in the 1980s mostly.  Though it took me most of my life to collect them.  I say they are new because they are newly published in fresh formats.  You can buy them in ebook, paperback or audio.  (We are still working on the audio versions of Turtle Dream and Tunkashila...soon come!)

I wrote Tunkashila in 1992 and it was published by St. Martin's Press in 1993.  Turtle Dream was published by Mariposa in 1989 and Ghost Walk followed with the same publisher in 1991.  I won't bore you with how many printings there were of the three books, but I will say they did very well.  Tunkashila was a Quality Paperback Book of the Month.  Then, one day after being available for years, these favorites of mine went out of print.

Weren't readers interested in shapeshifters, monsters, demons?  Weren't they curious about how Mother Earth began on Turtle's back?  Didn't they care about werewolves of the Navajo and medicine men who healed with Gila Monster's gift of power?  And what about Zahgotah, the Apache who changed into a bear?  And Owl Boy who decided he couldn't be human any more and took to the woods?

I got many letters and emails from American Indians who praised these books because of their storytelling and their faithfulness to the original stories of The People.  I grew up with one of the stories, Turtle Dream about the woman who rides into the next world on great turtle's back, a story told to me when I was five by my mother.  I was honored when a Cherokee woman wrote to me and said she was naming her daughter Turtle Woman and she wanted me to know it was because of the title story of the book.  

Once two Lakota brothers wrote to me.  They were having an argument, they said, about the beginning of the world.  "We come from the earth, like the corn, just as you say in your book Tunkashila," one brother said.  But the other brother said, "You should not say that we came across the Bering Straight Land Bridge -- that is not true.  Still, I like the stories."

I wrote to each brother and said, "I present many variations on the beginning of the world.  All of them are true to the people who believe them.  But, as for me, and what I believe, I favor coming out of the earth like the new green corn."  

All three of these books are about change and changes; the earth is moving and the people are moving around.  As the Navajo story says, "There is a mountain called, The Mountain Around Which Moving Is Done."  We are moving all over the place today just like in the beginning.  And, like in the beginning, we seem not to know where we are going.  The first people, First Man and First Woman, Locust, Ant, Horned Toad, Wolf, Coyote, Nuthatch, Great Snake and all the others -- they could see themselves changing as the world changed from darkness to light, and as they moved ever upward.  They came from the womb of Mother Earth and rose not on wings of light but using fingers and claws and arrows to effect their emergence.

They made it to the fourth, and some say, the fifth world that we live in now.  Yes, it is all one world, with many parts, and many changes. You can look down and say, We came from there.  You can look up and say, We came from there too.  There are stories about many emergences; people who fell from the sky like shooting stars; people who turned into turtles crossing the great river of life.  People, just like you and me, who say, as in the old Navajo story about a man meeting a star person.  They eat corn together and the star person says, "This is my food too."