Irony was invented by the universe. It turns out that originally it was just another mutation – something intended to be one way turned out differently. Apparently, the universe had, and probably still has, a sense of humour.
Things plodded along for about 9 billion years until life forms started to appear on what is now called ‘The Earth’. Before that, stuff was flying around banging into other stuff, sometimes getting stuck to it, sometimes blowing it up. And then something called H2O was discovered and living forms appeared. That’s when irony came along.
You see, life forms evolve because their main goal is to survive and to reproduce. The problem with reproduction is that, in most cases, it requires a male and a female form. So now the reproduction has to come from two sources - it’s not cloning, and it’s far from perfect. Roughly fifty percent comes from each parent. But, and it’s a big but, sometimes the cells get confused and don’t always go where they were intended to go. Sometimes hidden stuff pops up. This is called mutation, and it is mutation that drives evolution forward. Simply put if a mutant is better that its parents at surviving and reproducing, it will produce a new form in its offspring. By the way, if it isn’t better, it will simply disappear over time. That could happen to the parents as well.
Now irony was happily doing its thing unobserved for another 448-449 million years until the creatures we call humans appeared on the scene. These brainiacs eventually started to think they understood what was going on – “The gods are doing it!” Before you could say Jesus, Buddha, Allah, and Mother Earth, a plethora of gods were created to explain everything including the best place to find smokable weeds.
From that time on, the whole ‘explaining the universe’ thing just got out of hand. People started to believe that things should go a certain way. They thought bad things happened to bad people and good to good, but that argument broke down as well. People started to notice that sometimes the opposite was true, so they decided this was a legitimate argument for the existence of an all knowing, loving god. One little mistake and you could end up in his or her bad books. It was very confusing.
Then during the time of the Greek civilization, the word ‘eironeia’ was created. It meant feigned ignorance and the feigner, or really the liar, was called an ‘eiron’. Thus, our lovely and meaningful ‘irony’ was born. It had always been there, but now it had a name.
Why did I put you through all this dear reader? Well, I thought you deserved to know the truth. But the real reason is because I believe that irony is the most important invention ever and the best part is that it wasn’t invented, it just happened. It is the nature of the universe to seem to be ironic. I say seem because, it is human culture that thinks things should be a certain way, and of course culture is the product of human minds, and it’s a faulty view. Life simply is, depending on decisions we make within the circumstances in which we find ourselves. There is not necessarily a right way.
I am an ironic person; my mind seems to be wrongly connected. When I look at something, I often see the opposite; when I hear words, the opposite meanings pop into my head. This ability/curse has been with me for as long as I can remember. As a result, some people may call me a ‘wry or droll wit’, while others have no idea what I am saying and think I am an idiot. I prefer ‘mysterious idiot’.
I do have a message here. I have learned that expecting only good is useless because bad things can be our best teachers. Have you ever learned anything from being happy? Yes. It’s called laziness. Challenges make us better. Hard times make us tougher. Coming back from an apparent disaster is like being reborn. Without irony, our lives would be a drag. Happiness is over-rated and it’s just as boring as sadness over the long haul.
Finally, if you understand irony, you will be able to laugh – a lot - because life is f-----g ironic!
I am a unique and independent being. As such, I pledge to live wisely; to survive and protect all living things, never to take more than I need, and never to hurt a fellow being through careless or hateful behaviour. I pledge to maintain the balance that Mother Earth requires for the survival of our planet and all its life forms. The Ennead Declaration of 1985. Later known as the Ennead Creed.
The above pledge arose from the Thanksgiving gathering that was held at Camp Nokomis in October of 1985 following the amazing ‘Summer of the Ennead’. The gathering included the nine grandchildren and all of their parents, as well as Grandma Hannah, Grandpa Will, Ethan, and Charm. During that weekend, the grandchildren revealed their special abilities to their parents. While the parents were shocked at first, they soon understood that their children were a special group or ennead, capable of bringing change to their world. And they went even further committing themselves long-term to the future success of Camp Nokomis and to their children. A new path forward for the campground was forged that weekend, and a key result of that process was then referred to as The Ennead Declaration, also known as the Ennead Creed, or statement of beliefs.
Today it is referred to as The Ennead Pledge which all who attend Camp Nokomis are asked to follow as they return to their various homes, schools, and workplaces. You too can be part of this growing community which found its origin in 1985 and was influenced by that special group of animal beings known as Those Who Care. Let me explain its meaning to you so that you can make your own decision. If you decide to be part of this movement, please leave a comment on my website, raclark.ca . You can do this by clicking on “More” and then “Contact”.
“I am a unique and independent being”. This sentence shows that you respect the fact that all beings are both unique and independent, which makes them all of equal importance. Your uniqueness and independence however demand something of you. They include responsibilities such as “to survive and protect all living things, never to take more than I need, and never to hurt a fellow being through careless or hateful behaviour”. Mother Earth cannot survive when egoism and selfishness rule. It is good to believe in yourself, but humility is a requirement for our planet’s survival.
Finally, it is incumbent on each of us to maintain balance. The earth is finite; if some take too much, others will have less. The idea that we can simply create more wealth is antiquated and has been proven to be false, only the rich and powerful benefit from this idea. Today we are facing the ultimate results of this kind of thinking in the form of a major climate crisis that could cause both mass extinctions and mass destruction worldwide. Balance is essential. In fact, we have known this for a very long time. Our prehistoric ancestors understood it. Native and Aboriginal people around the world still understand it. In China, the idea of balance has been part of a basic life philosophy for over 2500 years. It is the only way we can save the earth, and we must pay attention.
Don’t just write what you know. Write what you want to know.
What you reveal to yourself, you reveal to the reader.
Storytelling is about discovery.
Richard Wagamese, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations (Douglas & McIntyre, 2016)
Let me begin by saying that Richard Wagamese has been my go-to writer for the last seven or so years. In my mind, he belongs on the list of Canada’s greatest writers. His work has an authenticity that I admire. When I read his work, I trust what he says, and his words touch me deeply, always.
When I discovered the above quote, I knew it was perfect as an introduction to my story. I am grateful that I was allowed to use it.
How does this quote relate to my writing and The Summer of the Ennead?
First, I have never, to my knowledge, been an animal being, but I wanted to present the animal guides in my story as authentically as I could. Admittedly, the interpretation which I present is clearly mine, but it was born of my imagining as I tried to find words that human readers would understand. It has just occurred to me to mention a favourite book series (Freddy the Pig) from my juvenile (not delinquent) days. It was written by Walter R. Brooks and had such inspiring titles as Freddy Goes to Florida, Freddy and the Spaceship, and my special favourite Freddy the Detective. The animals on Mr. Bean’s farm were very clever. They even had a First Animal Bank. I am sure that all those Freddy Books I read planted the seeds for animals that could communicate in a language understandable by humans. That being said, the animal beings in The Summer of the Ennead are original and entirely born of my search for what I did not know.
Second, if you have read the book, you know that dialogue is very important, and the use of dialogue is how I explore as many possibilities as possible. I had a rough plot outline and a rough idea of structure, but at the outset I would not have been able to predict where and how the story would all play out. But, I did know my characters fairly well at least well enough to get going. When I write, all the characters live in my brain, and I try not to restrict them too much. I let them go and as we move ahead with the story and words appear in my head, I know who is speaking. I realize that ultimately, all the words are mine, but I also realize that each character is a part of me. The beings in my head, be they animal or human are guiding me to that area about which I need to learn in order to tell the story. Often during the writing process I felt that I was a recording secretary taking the minutes of a very complicated meeting.
Finally, the writing of a story is an exploration of the self via the mind. I have published three works of fiction now, and I realize that in each case, I have been imagining other worlds beyond the one in which I find myself. It seems to me that it is the use of imagination to which Richard Wagamese refers in the above quote. In order to write what you do not know you must go where you have not been and this is done with your imagination, with a little help from its old friend empathy.
Besides writing The Summer of the Ennead for my granddaughters, I wrote it for my ancestors, all of them. I have taken our family tree back to the late 1400’s in one instance. The tree has over 400 members thus far.
What I would like to do today is to pay my respects to those whose names I borrowed. The names of the grandchildren, their parents, and the two grandparents have all been borrowed from my past.
Alex Hawk– from ancestral grandfather Alexander Clark of Scotland, b.1755
Carrie Bear – from my great grandmother on my mother’s side, a dear lady who happened to have a name I love. Had I had a daughter, she would have been Carrie.
Cora Coyote is named after a distant cousin just because I liked the name.
Eliza Jane or EJ Panther – from a great- great aunt Eliza Arner, 1844-1911, who left my great grandfather the farms on which I grew up.
Leo Beaver – from Johann Leonard Kratz who lived from 1756 to 1829, was born in Germany, fought in the American Revolution for Britain, was captured in battle, spent time in a prisoner of war camp, escaped said camp, married a young woman from Virginia, was travelling to Kentucky when they were captured by renegades, was separated from said wife, waited for two years in Fort Detroit hoping his wife would also be sold there, reconnected with her, settled on a farm in Essex County, raised twelve children, and was one of the fathers of the town of Kingsville, where I went to high school.
Lucy Dear – from my great, great grandmother Lucinda Arner Clark, 1854-1939, sister of above-mentioned Eliza.
Maria Julianna or MJ Owl – from a great grandmother Maria 1758-1840 and a cousin Julianna 1755-1824.
Phee Bat – from my dear great grandfather Philip John Clark a.k.a. Phee because his little sister could not say Philip. He was a wonderful old codger.
Will Horse – from William Vincent, 1782-1867, who fought in the War of 1812 where was injured but survived. He returned to England and married and sired three children. They all came back to Canada in the 1850s and one of his grandsons became my great grandfather Tom Vincent who appears later in the story.
Charm – named after our dear companion Charm who lived with us from 2012 – 2019.
Grandma Hannah Raven – after my distant grandmother Hannah Aldred who married William Vincent upon his return from the War of 1812.
Grandpa William Turtle – after William Vincent.
As I have mention, I knew some of those ancestors. I had three sets of great grandparents living within a ten-mile radius as I grew up. I was blessed by all of them.
“I have thoughts to share with you newcomers. They are lessons we have known since time began. They are lessons that maintain the balance that Mother Earth requires. Bear with me while I share them with you.”
“As I have mentioned before, for the beings in our world, life is simple. We survive, we bring and protect new life, we maintain the Balance. We never stray from this pure reason for being. We do not want more. We do not amass riches. We do not value any being over another – all are equally important.”
“Why don’t humans understand that concept?” asked Will.
“They once did, long ago and even not so long ago on this very land where we are meeting, but certain groups of humans moved beyond caring about Mother Earth and began caring more for themselves than for the entirety of beings.”
“How could that happen?” asked MJ.
“Too much thinking perhaps. Humans started to think they understood how nature worked and then they thought they could control that to their benefit. This thing you call science is a double-edged sword. Science helps humans to understand how things work, but it also makes them believe they are somehow above it all, that they can control it. Thus humans have separated themselves from nature; they no longer understand balance; they have forgotten their origins. They think they are not part of the equation even though they very much are.”
“So they can cause something like global warming?” suggested Phee.
“Indeed, young Bat. That is so.”
“Is it mainly science that is to blame?” asked Alex.
“Sadly not. Humans have another invention that is equally deadly. It is called religion. Religion, unfortunately, reinforces the idea of humans being special and separate from nature. It teaches a false sense of there being some kind of external control over what is happening on Mother Earth. There is only one control and that is Balance. Without that, many forms of life will disappear.”
“Many forms have disappeared,” declared Lucy. “Almost eight hundred in the last five hundred years.”
“That is something we must remember.”
“How can we learn or re-learn this simplicity?” asked Leo.
“The teachings are ancient; we have always known them. They are who we are from birth. Animal beings have always known where they belonged, who they were, and how to be themselves.”
“But we were not born with that understanding,” said EJ. “How can we begin to understand?”
“When you are your other being, you will have that awareness in you. But I understand that each of you has two beings, so I will explain.”
“Thank you,” added EJ.
“First we must understand humility. Our Mother Earth is the pure definition of humility. She exists for the sole purpose of providing a haven for all life forms. She is our teacher who shows us how to live a good life. She shows us the principles of being - harmony, unity, loyalty, trust, interdependence, compassion, generosity, sacrifice, and empathy. These are what is required to maintain balance.
We must understand that we are all interdependent. The loss of one creature may seem a small matter, but it affects the balance throughout the chain of life.
Interdependence requires empathy. We must understand life from the other point of view because all are of equal importance.
Once we have empathy, we will know compassion, generosity, and sacrifice - all are necessary for balance. We cannot be selfish, or balance disappears. Once we understand humility the natural byproduct will be sharing.”
“Is anyone in charge to make sure it works?” asked Carrie.
“We do not need a hierarchy or leadership because, as I mentioned, the natural byproduct of humility is sharing.”
“Humans would have trouble with these ideas. They do not trust easily. They want guarantees,” said Will.
“Real trust does not require certainty; it is given. Trust begets certainly.”
“Do all animals have trust?” asked Cora.
“Trust is natural to us because we do who we are. We survive, bring and protect new life, and maintain balance. Nothing is required beyond these three. I have explained these things because humans do not seem to understand their place. They want it all, and sadly, they are capable of taking it all. And this will be their downfall.”
Today I will share one of the animal back stories excerpted from The Summer of the Ennead. It will give you a sense of the style I use when writing as well as some insight into one of the characters in the story.
Owl sat in the tree, quietly. She did not move save for her head. She observed because that’s what owls do. They observe, they study, they learn, and they know.
Owl was hungry though. The previous night’s hunt had not gone well. Below her, a tired looking fieldmouse limped along. She considered having an early lunch, but something stopped her.
“Who are you?” she asked the mouse.
“I am Sister Mouse of the Acorn clan, and I am looking for a friendly owl. Are you such a creature?”
“Not usually, but I could make an exception.”
“Could or would?”
“On filling my empty stomach.”
“Hmm. I think I can help with that if you will help me.”
“You do understand that I do not eat nuts?”
“Yes, I do, and my problem is very edible.”
“Go on then.”
“I am from nearby. My clan lives among some oak trees on the edge of the woods; very near is a colony of gophers, and they keep expanding. Now they are undermining our colony and our storage places are collapsing, and we cannot move because we are acorn eaters. We do not know what to do.”
“What do you think I can do?”
“I hope you can scare them away.”
“There are at least two problems with your plan. First, I usually hunt at night and gophers around here usually stay in at night. They avoid me.”
“And what is the second problem?”
“If I cannot catch, I cannot eat, so my hungry problem will remain unsolved.”
“Then what can I do,” moaned Sister Mouse.
“Do you know Panther?” asked Owl.
“She is very scary. I am afraid of her,” squeaked Sister Mouse.
“You need not fear her. She is my friend, and she has helped me in the past.”
“Could you ask her to help?”
“I am sure I could and am sure she would.”
And she did. For the next several days Owl and Panther teamed up to harass the gopher colony. If they came out at night, Owl would swoop down and catch any unlucky ones. During the day, Panther prowled among the holes and kept the gophers from gathering food.
Finally, after a few days of hunger, the head gopher raised a white flag from his hole in the ground. “It is time for a parley,” he moaned.
Owl called Sister Mouse and along with Panther, they went to talk with the gophers.
“Why are you harassing us?” snarled Boss Gopher. “This is much worse than usual, and we have done nothing wrong!”
“Ah, but you have,” responded Owl. “You have been undermining the Acorn Clan’s tunnels and making it impossible for them to stay safely among the oak trees. All you need do is to extend your tunnels out into the grassland and away from the trees. If you do that, all will be well again.”
“And you will promise to stop harassing us?” said Boss Gopher.
“We will. Do you agree Panther?” Panther agreed.
“And will that suit you Sister?”
“Then we have a deal,” said Boss.
And that was the end. Owl and Panther gained new friends among the Acorn Clan. Unfortunately, it also meant they could not eat the mice, but having new friends was worth the price of mice.
I thought I would share this excerpt from The Summer of the Ennead to help you understand more about how this book came to be.
This is a work of fiction and not an anthropological study. At times, I refer to practices common among Native people in our province. I do this out of respect because I believe that to save our environments here and around the world, we need to look back at the old ways when humans were not so separated from other life forms and from the earth on which we depend. Some of these ancient ways are still practised in parts of Canada, as they are on other continents and other countries.
I do not pretend to be an expert on Native cultures and philosophies, but I have done my research. In the past, I sat on the KW Powwow Committee and taught Native Studies at Open Door Secondary School in Waterloo. I spent time with Native colleagues and friends and have participated in a sweat lodge ceremony. I have tried not to make assumptions about my references, and when I have not been sure, I have avoided them altogether. If I have erred, I apologize. It was never my intention to mislead or to appropriate.
Essentially, the ideas that I put forth represent my thoughts about what is required if we are to save the Earth at this time. I should say life on Earth because the Earth will survive regardless of the destruction we wreak. The very real threat to existence is that which faces our many and varied life forms, and we need to think about this. The values that I present in this story are our only real hope, but I am not optimistic.
I offer special thanks to my first small group of readers: my sister, Diana Snider; my friends, David New, Jane Sherk, and Kaylind Thiessen; and my wife, Song Anny Wang. You have often inspired me and helped me complete this task. I also want to extend my thanks to my FriesenPress team, beginning with Emily Perkins, who encouraged me at the early stages before I began the formal job of publishing, and later with my publishing team of Kayla Lang, Katie, Teresita, and Sisilia Zheng. You have given me the confidence to critique my work and make it better and have contributed much to making the final product something of which I can be proud.
I offer thanks to my grandparents Fern and Allen, who blessed me over the years of my youth simply by listening to me and to my ancestors, whose names I used for all the human characters in this story.
I offer thanks to my teachers: Charlie Campbell, who believed in me and thus showed me how to believe in myself; Jacques Goutor, who taught me the importance of imagination when looking beyond the world that we know; David Pratt, who helped me realize and be confident in the extent of my ability; and to William S. Griffith, who helped me gain the discipline required for effective writing.
I offer thanks to the thinkers who have guided me on my search for truth: Jiddu Krishnamurti, who taught me that “truth is a pathless land”; Julien Musolino, who helped me free myself from the confines of my cultural upbringing; Richard Wagamese, whose many books have taught me about the sacredness of nature and natural life; David Suzuki who, over the years, has inspired me to look at Mother Earth and her problems from a different perspective, and whose words of wisdom I have used in this tale to set the themes for Parts I, II, and III; and finally, Bernie Siegel, who once said,
“Expect the best.”
Finally, a few words about someone special. Cliff Chamberlain was, at different times in my life, a colleague, a mentor, and a dear friend. He was a gentle man, a philosopher, and a lover of humour. It was from my memories of him that Grandpa Will came to life.
This story is the result of the life I have lived. It would not have happened had I not lived it the way I did with both its successes and failures, and I could not have imagined it at any other time in my life.
I divide the teachings from The Summer of the Ennead into two groups. The first group I will call Teamwork or working together; the second I will refer to as Life Truths, or things we can prove to be true scientifically.
Teamwork: There is not doubt in my mind that humans have lost their ability to work as a team for common causes. This loss is largely due to the overwhelming belief in individualism. We are taught from childhood that we are individuals of equal value and that we have rights because of this. This doctrine teaches one thing above all else – competition. We must compete for a place in a good school, for a decent job, or for a marriage partner. It never stops and can easily destroy relationships and friendships. What we need to do is to relearn how to think as a collective.
Instead, what we should be focussing on is teamwork and the common needs of all people. In my story, the grandchildren are taught how to make a true team, a team that does not require one leader. Instead, they learn that leadership is a shared responsibility which works best when whoever is best suited for a specific task steps forward to lead the group. If the team must work at night, Bat and Panther become leaders. If the team must work through subterfuge, then Coyote and Owl become leaders. As a new task arises, the one who is best suited for it become the leader for as long as is required. In the story, Lucy Dear has a great memory so she keeps the records, and MJ Owl, who is highly organized, usually chairs meetings. If we learn to lead when our skill set is required, we learn something new, and we give the other team members some respite from that stress.
Three other lessons are key to successful teamwork. One is respect. In a world where ego rules, this is a difficult idea to grasp, but it must be grasped. You are not losing control if someone else leads; you are doing what is best for the team. The next two lessons are closely related. They are kindness and empathy. Empathy means understanding how others feel and it is more easily achieved when one leads with kindness. As Grandma Hannah would say, “Expect the best”.
Life Truths: Repeatedly in the story, I refer to three truths. They are to survive, to bring and protect new life, and to maintain balance. These are, to me, essential to the survival of all living beings.
Survival is the first essential fact of life. If we do not survive, then we will not bring new life, and, in the end, we and perhaps our group will cease to exist. Second, in order to ensure the continuation of our clan, group, or species, we must bring new life. In order to do this, we must have achieved the goal of survival. It is all connected. Finally, even though we are clearly focussed on the first two truths, we must contribute to maintaining balance. We cannot destroy indiscriminately as humans often do. We cannot take more than we need, which has almost become a mantrum for modern humans. And finally, we cannot keep bringing new life when it is clear that our environment cannot support it. I am sure that anyone who reads these words can find examples of the mistakes listed above. Sadly, for many, they are not seen as mistakes but as signs of individual or group strength.
The above outlined teachings are central to story of The Summer of the Ennead. I trust that my readers will find them to be of use in their lives as they have been in mine.
We humans need to rediscover who we once were. There was a time when we understood that we could not destroy our environment because that would destroy us.
Individualism is partly to blame. We have come to worship individualism, but in so doing, we have lost track of the importance of the group. It is true that a long, long time ago humans probably worked on their own or in family groups to guarantee survival. Eventually, it became apparent that groups larger than families would be useful to assure survival; for example, hunting for larger animals would have required bigger groups. If you question this idea, consider how we began to develop language. Words became necessary and they had to be commonly understood. Oddly enough that is what we call language, and it is proof that when it first arrived, we understood group survival – both that of animal beings and that of human beings. We were group thinkers.
Unfortunately, we eventually invented agriculture and voila, there was an abundance of food. This also meant that a class of owners evolved, and they were greedy guys. Coincidentally, organized religion reared its ugly head about the same time and the guys who invented it were not into group sharing either. They liked power too. Working with the landowners, they used their power to coerce previously independent people into becoming virtual slave labourers (I say virtual because even if some were not de facto slaves, they had little opportunity to be something else). These slaves were important for two reasons. First, they provided really cheap labour, and second, they provided a use for surplus production. Ultimately, this transition contributed to divisions within cultures and societies which have been handed down to this very day. My wife works for a large and successful Canadian company. Apparently, it should be something to be proud of, but she knows that she is just another glorified slave.
Sure, we hear about the value of being an individual but that is a song and dance. The only possible individuals are those rich enough to control things and those who somehow have found a way to escape to a place cut off from the rest of the world.
So, what am I proposing? I think we humans need to find meaning outside the corporate, religious, and political thinking that dominates our western culture. We need to stop living this lie of individualism because it is destroying us and our planet. Am I optimistic? Absolutely not! Slaves are too valuable to be allowed to walk. On the other hand, it is possible to appear to buy in while finding your own path.
I have been a rebel all my life and a lot of the people I worked for and with never noticed. Maybe they thought I was being dumb or a pain in the common philosophy, but I knew who I was and I knew I was right. We need to change, and even a small number of us can get it started. We must rediscover the group thinking that we once had, where we understood our place in nature’s big picture, where we understood and accepted the importance of all of its parts and not just our little one.
Heavy on the Dialogue.
When I was planning this story, I knew there must be at least nine main characters because of the idea of an ennead or group of nine. However, I did not intend to write a sequel to The Lord of The Flies, so I also needed some adults, preferably of the kind and caring type. In my experience they are often grandparents, but most often grandparents are fortunate in that they can go back home after visiting or baby sitting; they do not have that day-to-day parental stress to deal with.
Unfortunately, the grandparents in this story were going to be baby sitting, not one or two but nine grandchildren of varying ages, and for two months, so they had to be special and they were. They knew that making the summer work would require a very different way of treating the children and they knew just what it was - with respect and trust. They needed the children to share the load willingly, not because they were forced to.
This is one of the reasons my story depends heavily on dialogue, for respect and trust require a lot of talking. I suppose I could have had less of that, but there was another reason to use dialogue, and that was because this is a story about ideas, and I find that ideas are best understood through conversation where one person may be the explainer and others may ask questions for clarification.
When I am studying or reading something complicated, I often wish I could just ask the question that is bothering me or holding me back, and most often I cannot.
In order to solve this problem, I used the concept of a circle. I first truly understood the power of the circle when I was studying for my doctorate in adult education at UBC in 1983. No class was ever taught with rows of learners. I think I had known the value of this for a long time because all through my first fourteen years of teaching I was constantly experimenting with classroom arrangements that were not dominated by looking at the backs of heads. When I returned to teaching in the mid-eighties, I was fortunate to be teaching at an adult high school and made sure that my classroom was in the form of a square where everyone could see everyone else, and it worked. I also came to appreciate the circle more as I got to know native people in my community and was able to attend their gatherings in the early nineties.
My final reason for using dialogue is that I like it. I like fast reads best, and those tend to be heavy on dialogue, probably why I am drawn to mysteries and detective fiction. I can still learn things but have more fun doing it. I also do not believe that heavy descriptions are necessary. Readers can us their imaginations. At one point, I say that Lucy rubbed her back against a tree. It would not matter if it were an oak or an elm. I simply wanted the reader to imagine that experience.
To wrap up this discussion on dialogue, I would like to point out that the characters live in my head and speak through me. I am merely a scribe keeping a record of the discussions and thoughts of the characters. I do not have to stop and think of who should say what; they simply take over. At least that is how it feels. It can also be said that I am all of the characters or that each represents a side of me or a side of me that I would like to exist.
Just so you do not think that my style is “out of control”, I do maintain the flow and control the plot although spontaneous changes in direction can and do happen.
I do plan my stories. For the Summer of the Ennead, I had written biographies for all of the main human characters as well as short stories about each of the animal beings. I had a rough idea about there being three parts to the story and what each would contain, but I had not given a lot of thought to the transitions from one part to the next.
Part I was a very simple chronology starting with Day One or the day of the arrival of the nine. I also decided not to limit my groupings to weeks but to nine-day cycles. I thought it fit nicely with the idea of an ennead. The idea of nine-day cycles worked very well as it happens, since that summer of 1985 had sixty-three days. This created a group of nine nines – seven nine-day cycles plus nine children plus nine animal guides.
When I got to Part II, I realized I had a serious problem. In Part II, I intended to introduce the stories of the children meeting their guides and learning how to transform. I was truly stuck because I could see no way to maintain the day-to-day pattern while introducing nine different stories twice.
This is where the sleeping brain saved my bacon – apologies to vegetarian friends and family. I awoke one morning at four AM, and I knew I had the solution. I would deal with two nine-day cycles wherein I would describe the interactions between the children and their guides and drop in some side stories about important goings-on in the camp. But I could not do this without explaining. Hence the use of a narrator or story guide became necessary. At first, I was concerned about breaking rules, but I am a rule breaker by nature, so I said what the heck and did it my way.
I wanted my story to be easy to read for anyone but with a kind of formality one often associates with the elderly and the scholarly. I wanted my elders, including the animal beings to sound like philosophers but philosophers who are able to communicate with ordinary folks. I wanted Aesop and not Walt Disney. Actually, I must be honest. If I had wanted this ahead of actually doing the writing, I was unaware of it consciously. This is where those beings in my brain took over. When I started writing the dialogues between the kids and their guides, the guides just started talking like philosophers and it seemed cool.
I hope that gives you some idea about the style of The Summer of the Ennead. As always, I am open to questions.
I am the author of The Summer of the Ennead and I want to use this blog to engage readers in a dialogue about what this book means to me and what I think it has to say to others.