It has indeed been a mighty strange few weeks. Started out with what anyone has to go through as we muddle through modern life: the brakes on my truck failed and the part had to be ordered from "off island." Read: three-week wait. Then the air conditioning in Terry's car disappeared and it's 87 degrees here every day (Yeah, sure, that's tough, Doug). So we're down to one hot vehicle.
Then, there is a big storm way up in Japan. It's maybe fifteen hundred miles away, but, this means that after a while, a few days, the ocean swells from that system reach Guam. This sets up a large surge in the harbor where we live aboard our sailboat. This in turn translates to a boat that is being heaved and rocked and thrown about and resulted in a crushed self-steering vane when the stern of the boat was smashed against our boarding plateform.
Then, the wind changes and starts coming in from the North. A few days later, the air is filled with smog--smog! On an tiny island in the middle of the ocean? Turns out it's from China. The Chinese industrial economy is booming, there is little control of pollution, and when conditions are right, the stuff comes our way and fills the sky so that we can't see the mountains a few miles away. The air is nearly unbreathable.
Then: Irony sets in and the Chinese economy burps. I think they are now calling it that--a burp. So stock markets crash all around the world because now China is pretty important, economically, to the world.
So, what do we care? Here is a picture of Terry and I, in clear weather, up on the neighboring island of Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. It's a great island. Just wonderful. Isolated, empty beaches, gin-clear water, one dusty little town, and very friendly people. We had sailed up there--this was last spring--and were enjoying the seascapes.
The writing is going well. I'm 206 pages into the 3rd novel in this possible trilogy (Terry thinks I ought to just call it a series and let it go on and on--we'll see). I've got the plot and characters (Scraps, Sonoria, Dag-gar, the donkey called Admiral Penance, Astral the Ancient Boy) so twisted up with Time travel and magic that I've had to slow down and really think things through before moving on. I think I have a handle on it now, though. Hope to have this book done by June. As to the publication of the second book, The Mirrors of Castaway Time--who knows. I've heard nothing.
Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal (http://bit.ly/1mMT6ZC). The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1j3axVk) and Crossquarter.com. Visit the author's website: douglasarvidson.com
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Sunday, February 4, 2007
One of my great interests here on Guam is the traditional ways of sailing and navigating used by the ancient sailors and a handful of modern islanders to find their way among the far-flung islands. This is a photograph of me at the tiller of a traditional island canoe. As a sailor of fiberglass and aluminum sailboats, it's almost beyond my ability to imagine going to sea for days at a time in a vessel like this one. The Quest was built on the island of Puluwat in the Caroline Islands by a master canoe builder, and sailed the nearly 500 miles of open ocean to Guam.
And, as if the sailing of such a canoe in the open sea were not challenging enough, the way they navigate is utterly beyond belief for a western sailor who uses GPS. They carry no GPS, no sextant--not even a compass. They rely soley on the stars, the ocean swells, and sea life to steer across the vast expanses of sea. For food and drink, it is a mash of taro root, fishing, coconut milk, and rain water.
I'll never be a true traditional navigator. I'm too old to master that mystical art, but I do want to understand it as well as I can. I'm working on a book, an adventure novel, that will deal with this and the conflicting demands of maintaining traditional cultures while acknowledging those aspects of the modern world that cannot be avoided.