Hey kids! The holiday season is upon us once again, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite winter-themed reads over on the Spellbound Scribes blog. Go have a look-see and maybe something will catch your fancy!
Hello my loverlies! I’m over at the Spellbound Scribes blog talking about how to weather the perils and pitfalls of the query process with grace. Expect new posts to go up next week! Until then, have a good weekend!
Four years ago, I packed up a rental car with 2 giant suitcases, my comforter, and my bike, and drove all the way from my Florida hometown to Washington D.C. I had recently graduated undergrad and was moving to the home of American government for the foreseeable future. I made the drive up alone–my then-boyfriend (now husband) had already flown up the month before to find us an apartment.
Driving for thirteen hours straight with no one to talk to gives a person time to think. Music was blasting from the CD player, and as the notes swirled around my brain a vague story started to coalesce. Inspired by the soaring refrains and intense lyrics of Muse’s latest album, the story was grand and sweeping and dramatic. An epic tale of romance and betrayal. Politics and religion. A city on the brink.
When I stopped off at the next rest area, I jotted down a few notes into my journal. “Mad Men meets Ancient Rome meets War and Peace,” the notes read. “Star Wars meets Gone With the Wind.”
I was only a slightly ambitious.
Picture this: you’re standing in front of the mirror, brushing your teeth. Your reflection stares placidly back. A whistle from the kitchen startles you–you turn to look into the kitchen, and you see the noise is just the kettle going off. You turn your gaze back to the mirror, and in that instant, out of the corner of your eye, you are certain that your reflection has not moved. You lock eyes with yourself, but your reflection seems suddenly wrong. Are your eyes really so dark? Your chin so sharp?
But no. You tell yourself you’re just being stupid. Of course that’s what your reflection looks like–it’s you, after all. Isn’t it?
Maybe. Or maybe it’s your doppelgänger.
Although the German word doppelgänger, translating literally to “double-goer,” is a relatively recent addition to the vernacular, the concept of an alter-ego or shadow self appears frequently in the mythology and folk-lore of many world cultures. Although a physical lookalike or double of the person in question, a doppelgänger often takes the role of a darker counterpart to the self. In many cultures, it is said that to catch a glimpse of one’s doppelgänger is a harbinger of bad luck, and potentially an omen of one’s own death.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the ka was a tangible “spirit double” possessing the same memories and feelings as the physical counterpart. In some myths, the shadow double could be manipulated to perform tasks or duties while acting as their physical counterpart. In Norse mythology, a vardøger was a spirit predecessor, a shadowy double preceding a living person in location or activity, resulting in witnesses seeing or hearing a person before they actually arrived. And in Celtic mythology, a fetch was an exact, spectral double of a person, whose appearance was ominous in nature, often foretelling a person’s imminent death. The fetch could also act as a psychopomp, stealing away the soul of their living double and transporting them to the realm of the dead.
This past weekend I was privileged to attend Sirens 2014, a writer’s conference devoted to literature by and about women. I attended so many fantastic keynotes and panels, and found kinship and inspiration in the ideas and creativity of my fellow attendees. One panel in particular, however, sparked something deep within me; the panel discussing Haunted Landscapes, hosted by Kate Tremills, Roberta Cottam, and Kathryn Cottam. Perhaps it was the just the fog-drenched hills of the Columbia River Gorge, but the idea of landscapes echoing with memories of the past promptly tip-toed into my imagination–and refused to leave.
When I first heard the phrase haunted landscape, my mind immediately conjured up the setting of Wuthering Heights; a windswept moor, howling with the voices of restless spirits, and a cold, empty manor, full of memories and secrets. But any landscape, really, can be haunted–by terrible acts of violence, or moments of human bravery. History, memory, action–places are indelibly marked by the past, and by the people whose lives shifted and changed the environment around them.
All too often, a haunted landscape is one that has borne witness to bloodshed, tragedy, or death. Ghosts of terror shade the atmosphere of a place, and some things never leave. We’ve all experienced this–the sudden hush of a cemetery, the creak of tree branches heavy with some unseen burden. In college, I visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp just outside Berlin. From the moment I set foot through those gates, I sensed the layers of memory and pain etched into the very earth I walked on. The site of the Battle of Culloden–a battlefield soaked with the blood of an entire people, where the grass and sky heard the final breaths of a thousand brave soldiers. Tiananmen Square. The Tower of London. A Native American burial mound.