I confess I love those stupid social media questions where they say ‘you’ve been kidnapped – the person coming to rescue you is the character in the last book you read’ or the character from the last movie you watched. Those questions always get me thinking about all the wonderful characters I’ve come across in books.

Plus, I always answer with Amos Burton, a character from The Expanse books, and now the television series. He’s a fascinating character because he had this horrific childhood that’s alluded to in the books but never, thankfully, detailed, and that background left him with no sense of right or wrong. He recognizes that he’s broken so he finds someone that he thinks is a good person and follows them as his moral compass. ‘No trouble unless there’s trouble, then lots of trouble’.

All that got me thinking of characters from books that have stayed with me long after finishing the book, and what made them so memorable.

Homily Clock. The mother from The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. She lived a life of safety and security in the semi-darkness under the kitchen floorboards. She never saw ‘human beans’ and never saw the outdoors so when her family had to escape into the fields she was terrified of everything. She would cry and grumble and delay and try to avoid, and in the end she always did what needed to be done to keep her family safe. She showed more courage than any other character in those books.

Amelia Peabody. Because, well, if you know me, the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters has been a steadfast favorite for many years. I loved how her opinion of herself and her hero abilities were so different from the opinions of the others who loved her. And it was great how the author showed those different opinions even though the books were written in first person, from Amelia’s viewpoint. For example, she always carried a little pistol and would pull it to save the day, convinced in her mind that she was a marksman, only to terrify her family and send them fleeing.

Mole, from the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. He looked at life with such wondrous innocence and joy. Every tiny little thing was something to be fully experienced and I think as we get older we lose that sense of wonder and magic and the simple happiness of a picnic basket by the side of the river on a spring day with your friends.

Lynn Schooler. This is kind of cheating as technically he’s not a character. He’s a real person who wrote a memoir called Walking Home. But that book stays with me because of the unbelievable courage it took to decide one day to step out into the wilderness and go for a walk.

Faina. The child from The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. She stays with me because of how the story allowed me to remember the magic of fairy tales. And the book left me with the mystery of who she really was.

Winnie. The teenager from The Geography of Water by Mary Emerick. A beautifully written story and a young girl who walks away from her life in order to live, and then returns.

Obviously this could be a really long list. So I’ll keep it short with just the ones that come immediately to mind, and ask you to remind me of more characters that come into our stories and don’t leave us.

Returning Light

The days are getting longer, second by second, and I’m not ready. Not ready for sun and warmth and open windows. Not ready for melting and thawing and blooming.

I want to stay within the cocoon, enclosed and wrapped up and listening to the sound of rain. Dormant and inward, dreaming and still.

It’s safer to stay stuffed down and numb, to not remember or be aware. To see strength in pulling up the boot straps and doing what needs doing and not feeling. To rest, safe, in that den down in the roots of the old tree, forgetting that above you the tree is pulling up life and budding and leafing out.

What is the definition of healing? Recognizing that at some point you need to also lift up and step out? How do you know if you are fully healed or partially or somewhat or as good as it’s going to get or not at all?

I’m so much more emotional than I ever used to be. I cry at everything from songs to anger to nothing at all. One day a few weeks ago I was talking to my husband and crying and I told him I didn’t even know why I was crying. I didn’t feel angry or sad and yet I was crying. I even laughed at the absurdity of crying without knowing why. As always, he so easily sucks up my tears in his hugs.

For me, being emotional has always been a sign of weakness and not being in control. For a few years now I’ve felt broken by two events. One was the death of Sam Grafton in February of 2018. The second was having to come to terms with some deeply personal issues that were forced to the surface by COVID’s masks.

I saw those two things as breaking me so that suddenly I could no longer breathe through life, stooped under the huge, huge weight of grief, and felt I had lost all control. I’m trying now to follow the advice that says I’m not broken but opened and placed on a new path.

It’s hard to believe that when I still see emotions as a loss of control and when I still strongly need to feel in control and safe. And yet there I sat, crying for no reason. I get so impatient and almost angry. I think, quit whining. You used to be strong. Do what needs to be done. Push everything else back down.

So many of us are here, in these days that are starting to lengthen, feeling that warmth that pulls us up from the safety of our dens. That sets us out along the path we don’t want to walk, that makes us face things like bright summer light that bring tears to our eyes.

I’ve always loved the rain. I prefer the cold winter season over any other time of the year. I love the short dark days and the warm fire and the feeling of being enclosed and safe. Whether it’s the reality of this love for the wet and cold or the analogy of wanting to stay down in the roots of who I used to be, all I know is that I’m not prepared for the change.

Rattling Around

It’s been an interesting few months. The pendulum has swung from scorching weather, to evacuation from a wild fire, to heavy rain and debris flow risk, to lots of snow and long power outages. I suggested to my husband that we sell everything, get a recreational vehicle, and hit the road. He said ‘not yet’. I suggested to my sister that we move in with her. She laughed.

All in jest of course. But it has been overwhelming, especially for my husband who is spending a lot of time fixing things and rigging things up and taking things apart in order to put them back together.

And then there was Rat. We’ve had mice in the house. We’ve even had rats in a house we lived in previously. But this one deserves a capital letter.

My husband is a big softie. He’s been known to babysit a nest of mice in his toolbox to keep me from feeding them to the chickens. A few weeks ago he saw the lid of our recycle bin had blown up in the storm and was getting rain inside. When he shut the lid, he saw two rats. One had drowned and the other was struggling, so he put a long stick inside for it to climb out.

Rat: ‘My new best friend! My savior! I’m going to follow him home!’

It didn’t take long before we started hearing rattling around in the kitchen walls. It didn’t take long before our new dishwasher quit working because the power cord was chewed through and some mysterious part broken. It didn’t take long before Rat discovered my pantry.

It didn’t take long before I started setting traps.

We have a cat who is an amazing rodent-catcher. She stores them in the bathtub to play with later and even catches critters at the neighbor’s and brings them home. But she wasn’t catching Rat and she started sleeping at the opposite end of the house. I admit I had unkind thoughts about her not catching things in her own home.

The thing is, she’s a petite cat. If you haven’t read blog posts here before, this is a cat my husband found on the road in a rainstorm and brought home tucked inside his shirt. The little bedraggled scrap now rules the house. But she was ignoring Rat.

We found out why when, two rat traps, one five-gallon bucket, and a ski pole later, we saw just how huge Rat was. It got caught in two traps at the same time and that didn’t even slow it down. I’d say it was bigger than our cat, but because of my storyteller powers of exaggeration, in reality it might have been a tiny bit smaller. Maybe. Either way it was obvious why the cat had been sleeping at the other end of the house. The thing was huge.

You’d think having a rat in the house compared to everything else going on would be trivial. But having a giant Rat eating your dishwasher while waiting for debris flow landslides and watching the snow bury your car was kind of the last straw. That’s when I suggested we move in with my sister. For now though, paths are shoveled, Rat has moved on to wherever rat spirits go, the power is back, generator gas cans are full, the wood box is full, and the pantry is stocked.

So is all back to normal then? Is all good in our world? I started writing this blog post after my son came into the kitchen.

‘Mom, there’s another one.’