By Grainne Rhuad
Summer vacation. Is there such a thing anymore? I remember the anticipation of school releasing and the wide adventures that were had in my back yard and immediate vicinity. This summer was a shout back to that simpler time for me, in that the ever rising cost of luxury and even middlish vacation options were priced out for me this year. I know I’m not alone in this. Most Americans don’t take enough time off and anecdotally, I saw way more locals out and about here in the Redwoods. Typically our town fills up road trippers from all over the country in the summer time, but the past few years have seen a drop in the great American Road Trip.
In anycase this summer, I dedicated to hanging out, lazing through an afternoon inside and out. Of all the beach trips and books, music festivals and trail walks, here’s a few that stood out.
What I Read
The Snow Witch: At the beginning of the summer, or was it late spring? I can’t remember now…In any case, I was invited, along with other members of a Horror group to read a book by an Author I had never heard of, Matt Wingett. The name of it immediately intrigued me. The Snow Witch. It evoked faerie witch girls, maybe long necked swan ladies. Here, I was sure was a story I could sit down and read this summer. I needed a paperback I could carry to the beach with me, so I said yes.
It didn’t end up being a beach kind of book, at least not to me…For me, it was more of a foresty book. Something to be read deeply in one sitting, or nearly one anyway. It was the perfect pairing for a blanket, a sweater to throw over when it got chilly and I was almost done, but not quite. I fell into the book and did not wish to come away until it was done.
At the heart of The Snow Witch is a story of healing, acceptance and forgiveness. But to get there, author Matt Wingett uses the fantastic to teach. Set in a small seaside town, reminiscent of Portsmouth, a Storm grounds a young woman who may have otherwise blown through town, busking her way as she seemingly has in so many other places.
Her extended stay will have consequences for the residents of the town, but it will also have consequences for her. Some good, some less than good, but all providing opportunities for growth, as well as long awaited answers.
This story, while grounded in a modern backdrop, weaves folklore and magic in such a natural way, as to make you believe and even want magic like this in your everyday life.
We meet a wily shapeshifter who may or may not be Lucifer and learn the lineage of Lilith as well as the consequences of Adam and Eve; even God has a part to play in this story.
It is at once fanciful and comforting. I found myself feeling reminded of things I had sitting, just at the back of my mind. A little bit ignored, but not forgotten.
Weaving its way throughout is music and art. The reader comes to understand that art is the occupying action that keeps us together, reminds us of important things and maybe ultimately saves us, although usually not in ways that we expect.
If you want to read The Snow Witch, it’s available for pre-order HERE
What I Listened To
Ben Sword: Ben Sword has been stalking me this summer. I’m not sure how he got my email. The first few emails I threw in the trash said something about Amanda Palmer, so maybe he lifted her Patreon list or something.
Every morning, or afternoon really because who is up in the morning? Psychopaths, that’s who. I would be greeted by another Ben Sword email. They began very nice and normal. “Hi friend, I have some music, I’ve done this thing, maybe you want to have a listen.” Normal, and I threw them away.
Then one-day Ben’s emails changed. I don’t know what exacerbated it but they started being nastier. I got emails that began with. “Since you clearly don’t care.” Or, “This is the last email I am ever going to send you.” (It wasn’t, far from it.) But that was when Ben got interesting to me. See, the truth is I really didn’t care and I would have never listened to his music at all if he hadn’t of put the effort into jamming my email with his music.
So, listen I did. The first song I clicked on to listen to was “How Gay Is It to Love Your Wife.” This is an awful song. Just terrible. I think the 7th graders in detention sang a song last year about allergies to maths that was better than this song. The premise is that “Gay” just means happy, (I know because the email explained the song) and that Ben Sword was taking back the song. Suffice to say, apparently loving your wife is an amazingly happy thing which also sounds dreadful in this song. This song also arrived with the solicitation to become Ben’s BFF for only $397/month. Being his BFF would entitle one to a video chat and a live song…Yay?
Another song was “I can make you Happy.” In this little ditty, evocative of trumpeters being chased by goats, Ben Sword elevates his songwriting and delivery to the level of mediocre street performer. Passable to the point that if I had a handful of change I would throw it in his guitar case. Don’t get excited, I set an incredible low bar here. I am the tooth faerie, (tune faerie) of street performing. I will give anyone making melody in public money. It’s a compulsion. Also, once more Ben begged me to be his BFF for a fee.
The next day, Ben introduces the next song like this, “Did you know there is a secret group of men who take lessons in seduction so they can marry a rich woman. Then they kill her and steal all her wealth. To be honest I made that all up…but sounds like a good story so I wrote this song about it.” What I’m starting to notice about Ben is he writes songs just like my Uncle Padriac, who like Ben is a ginger. My favourite song Uncle Padraic wrote was about Government Cheese and how to build a house out of it. Just writing that makes me want to sing it. There’s even a Crumb Comics’ style strip somewhere about the Government Cheese house. Anyway, Padraic and Ben, they just sing every thought in their head and not necessarily melodiously. Ben’s guitar skills however are better than Padraic’s. In fact, his voice is lovely, it’s just his wordsmithing needs work. I’m coming to accept at this point that Ben is not giving up on asking for a BFF with money.
Next up, was “A Year in the Life of Freddy the Fox.” I have no complaints about this song. It is a sweet song to a stuffed fox that his son’s class used for behavior modification. It’s accompanied with pictures of his son and Freddy the Fox and honestly, Ben Sword, you should do children’s music. This is lovely. Which makes it weird that Ben Sword spammed me the next day wanting me to pay $50,000 to listen to him play songs on his boat in London…
I stared to get worried by the next song which was titled “Get Naked” and went into the joys of being buck naked and dangly and innie bits in the style of The Wiggles. It was pretty off putting all things considered, so I stopped opening email from him.
During this summer at some point I downloaded his album. I haven’t listened to the whole thing. You can get it for free too he’s giving it away @http://www.bensword.com/.
I haven’t heard from Ben since the beginning of September. I’m strangely missing his slightly threating, weird and somewhat sweet messages. I hope he’s okay.
Where I Went
This summer I am trying this new thing called “fiscal responsibility.” It sucks guys. I don’t recommend it. At least not if you want memories, things to talk about at social gatherings, you know, the stuff that makes you interesting.
Anyway, the deal was, anything we didn’t have to stay the night at, I could do. So being as I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Humboldt County, CA, I spent a lot of time up in the trees. First stop was Trees of Mystery which has been a roadside attraction since the golden era of car travel. Since 1946, the attraction has been both entertaining and educating people on the majesty of the Mighty Redwood tree. There are trails with carefully grown natural sculptures and redwood carvings which showcase fascinating works of art along with kitschy, storybook sculptures. There’s a Sky tram that takes you high above the tallest trees in the world and the whole experience culminates in a museum that showcases the largest collection of Native American basketry in the West.
If I hadn’t been on a strict no-overnight rule I would have pulled some cash out to stay at the fully renovated 1950’s styled motel across the street. This motel is exactly the kind of roadside Americana that remind me of Sam and Dean Winchester and the motel has cut a semi-private path straight down to one of the best beaches, aptly named, Hidden Beach. The rates were reasonable even in summer starting @$89.00. Your experience will be pretty dated and authentic though, the WIFI has been said to exist in that area, but like Bigfoot, nobody has seen it. As mentioned, the furnishings are throw-back. It works if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Next up on the things to be done this summer was Salmon fishing on the Klamath. The Salmon hasn’t been running very well for the past several years. Last year at the Yurok Tribe’s Salmon festival, they decided for the first time in history to not serve or sell Salmon at the festival. The sacred trout’s runs were that bad. They had improved a little bit this year, as everyone had hoped they would due to the increased rains. The real problem however is the damming on the Klamath river. It inhibits the Salmon’s course and keeps them from spawning successfully. There is a plan in place to remove 4 dams and money for the demolition has already been earmarked. The legislation passed in 2016, but no movement has yet been made to begin demolition.
We went with a friend and neighbor who is also Yurok. The day was spent going up and down the river, casting lines and catching exactly nothing. Neither did we see anyone else catch anything. Nets, being used by Yurok fishermen and women were unsuccessful as well. It was an interesting process to watch, the gathering and casting of handmade nets. We had to watch from the shore as non-Yurok by law cannot be in the boat when nets are casting and cannot approach nets. It was, in any case, a beautiful day, on a beautiful river. We left almost happy to not catch Salmon. If it was having such a hard time, we didn’t need it.
Finally, this Summer, as every summer, the beach. Even though we live a mile from the bay, there are times when life gets busy and weeks go by before you make your way down to the shore. This summer, with the beach being free, we spent a lot more time there. In the day time, we combed up and down, looking for driftwood for art projects we are working on. We spent a whole day at Agate Beach in Patrick’s Point State Park, not looking for agates but looking for the perfect 2-3-inch pieces of driftwood. We reached for them as they called to us and walked away with a grocery bag full, which is still bleaching out back. We went at sunset for dinners overlooking steeply cragged shoreline. Rugged and dramatic, the perfect backdrop to contemplating your smallness. We went at night and built fires and did what humans have done, probably since they began building fires; stared dreamily into the flames, picking out shapes and making up stories, singing and leaning together and feeling deeply content.
All in all, it was a good summer, this. Slow in the way that summers used to be, when you were younger. I had a lot less personal “have-to’s” which in a way freed me up for more of other people’s “have-to’s” but that’s what life is all about isn’t it? Making space and time for each other. In that way, it was a very busy summer indeed.