We are having one of the most epic springs ever! Seriously, spring is not usually my favorite season, usually because it gets to hot to quickly, or winter lasts way too long, but this year EPIC. We have had mostly 60ish degree's, a nice breeze, soft green budding tree's, and the smells of all the growing things. With all of this picture perfect weather, I had to read one of my favorite short story collections, The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. This is a collection of short stories that deal with the forest (in all its many forms), nature (also in its many forms) and humans (in their many forms) encounters with all of the above. Here are a few of my favorites. As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Among the Leaves So Green by Tanith Lee - I will admit that books by Tanith Lee always leave me feeling a little confused, she tends to go down rabbit holes that I don't always follow. That being said this short story about two sisters (one "good" and one "bad") and how their lives play out is pretty cool. I especially like that while the "good" sister gets her just reward of a happy life, the "bad" sister discovers her father, who just happens to be a type of forest god and her subsequent happiness in and around the tree's and kin. The forest in this story is living, breathing, and as much a character as the other beings.
Hunter's Moon by Patricia A. McKillip - This is one of those stories that combines imagery, character and magic in a way that is rarely done in a short story. The little brother/big sister relationship that is central to the story comes across as realistic, while the Hunters give us a glimpse into the beyond in a superbly magical way. I love the combination of the ordinary, the magic, and the weaving of old school myths into a cohesive story. The forest in this story is one of myth and wildness and I kind of want to visit it.
A World Painted by Birds by Katherine Vaz - This is what a short story is all about, well for me anyways. This story almost literally paints a picture, using the characters feelings, yearnings, needs and determination, nature itself turns on a cruel despot by creating sights, sounds, and feelings. The imagery and designs of this story are so stunning that I fall asleep with them still in my head. This is where I feel the short story format works so well because there is no way a story of this type of sheer artistry would work as effectively in a novel length book. The forest in this story is artistically visual and creative, showing the art in nature.
Grounded by Nina Kiriki Hoffman - This (by a narrow margin) is my favorite story in the collection. It is about a girl and her mother, a man and his kids and how they become a family. In this story we watch a teenage girl learn about the link between life and death, light and shadow and how one cannot live without the other. I think what I like best about this story is how the mother works in hospice and how her work is not a sad or bad thing, but rather a necessary and even rewarding part of life. The acknowledgement of this type of work and it's huge benefit is truly amazing. The forest in this story becomes a metaphor for life and death and how it all works together.
Joshua Tree by Emma Bull - This story features a desert and a teenage girl stuck in a dead end town. What appeals to me about this story is two fold, first the main character has a sense of yearning for the unknown and magic that she tries to suppress among her small town friends, but eventually learns to embrace it and become her own person...a feeling that I very very very much relate to on a personal level. The other thing that was neat was the desert atmosphere. I am NOT a huge fan of the desert, but after reading this story I totally want to go to a desert rave and meet a Joshua Tree. The forest in this story is one of cacti, sparseness and aridness, yet hiding it's own pockets of vibrant life.
The Pagodas of Ciboure by M. Shayne Bell - This story is sweet in a child like innocence way...does that make sense? This story brings to life all the magic of being a child, of discovering something that belongs to you completely and believing in it so hard. Add to this with a take on Maurice Ravel's childhood and you have yourself a charming and wonderfully refreshing story about child like courage and imagination. The forest in this story is one of a fairy tale in a child's imagination, peopled with fantastical, yet ordinary creatures and villains.
What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of a forest? What type of environment appeals to you the most? Is it totally unreasonable to want to go live in a tree house with a library attached