Spring-Boards

The time of the lilacs is here.

The time of the lilacs is here.

Yes, the title of this post is supposed to be loaded with meaning — spring-loaded with meaning, if you will: because this post is about spring, and it’s about first lines of stories — which are the spring-boards into the tales.

Before I get into all that and before I forget, just last night I re-watched the movie Hero, starring Jet Li. This is one of those movies that I think highly enough of to endorse here, and it’s one I like enough to own. That’s my highest recommendation. It’s a movie I wanted on my shelf, so that I can periodically re-watch it. Don’t let the casting mislead you: this is no mere martial arts escapism flick. It’s a beautiful and mythic work of art from beginning to end, like a painting that moves. The musical score is haunting, and the film’s theme is epic and of consequence; it’s one of those stories that makes you reflect on how you want to live your life.

Just before rice-planting: sluice-ditches gurgle, the fields are flooded, and frogs begin to sing.

Just before rice-planting: sluice-ditches gurgle, the fields are flooded, and frogs begin to sing.

 It’s not a very long film, and it’s not hard to watch. If you feel like a foray into Chinese history and thought — and into an exploration of patriotism, loyalty, love, and the question of what defines a hero, check this one out.

A couple notes: the Emperor in this film, the King of Qin, is that same real-life historical Emperor who had all the Terra-Cotta Warriors made to be buried with him in his tomb.

In one single day and night -- with the flooding of the paddies -- the frogs appear: they gather like black cats to October, and our nights are full of frog music.

In one single day and night -- with the flooding of the paddies -- the frogs appear: they gather like black cats to October, and our nights are full of frog music.

Also, pay attention to the opening quotation on the screen. Also, the English translation of the character’s name “Broken Sword” is a bit misleading. His name is made of the kanji for “break” and the one for “sword” — so “Broken Sword” is one rendering, but it can also be understood as “Breaks the Sword” or some such. The idea is that he’s a man who has come to, as the film asserts, the warrior’s ultimate epiphany: that Peace is the best way. So this character has “surpassed” or “overcome” the sword. He has broken the sword and put it away.

Anyway, Hero, presented by Quentin Tarantino, starring Jet Li, Tony

Tulips, ready for May.

Tulips, ready for May.

Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Dao Ming, and Donnie Yen is an artful masterpiece. Two thumbs up.

Oh! — This is sort of explained in the movie, but when the candle flames whoosh and waver between Nameless and the Emperor, that indicates the waves of fury and hatred that are rushing out of Nameless toward his enemy.

Well, now, on to our main topic!

"I am looking at lilacs, and I see / Shapes of dreams in a ghost-light sea...."

"I am looking at lilacs, and I see / Shapes of dreams in a ghost-light sea...."

Spring is always the season when I yearn to do more reading and more writing. It’s a time of burgeoning creativity, with blazing summer just appearing in the distance, trundling down the road under a golden haze. So I thought it would be fun to roust out all the first sentences from my stories and line them up here for our mutual entertainment and especially inspiration.

"Secret sunlight and shadows near, / Unfolding, untold in the new of the year."

"Secret sunlight and shadows near, / Unfolding, untold in the new of the year."

Look at all these spring-boards into stories! Stories all begin (for readers) with a little string of words that gives us our first glimpse of the things to come. Here are mine, from nearly every one of my stories that I could remember, with a very few exceptions. They’re (almost) all here, published and unpublished.

If any of these stories catches your interest, remember that you can

 always go over to my website (http://www.fredericsdurbin.com) and see the specifics: when and where it was published, and if you click on the story title there, you can even read a little thumbnail blurb about it.

"Unwritten tales in their hollows, and me / Traveling fernwise the whispering hedge, / Finding dream paths at the shadow's edge."

"Unwritten tales in their hollows, and me / Traveling fernwise the whispering hedge, / Finding dream paths at the shadow's edge."

If a story isn’t there, that usually (but not always) means it’s not published yet. If you have any trouble, questions, etc., please feel most free to write to me personally, and we’ll talk it over. In some cases I may be able to provide you with the story or direct you to where you can find it.

Ready? Here we gooooo!

Dragonfly:

Bad things were starting to happen again in Uncle Henry’s basement.

“The Fool Who Fished for a King”:

Alaric, the fisherman’s nephew, was a fool.

 

 

 

 

"I am looking at lilacs, and I see / All things wild, forever, free...."

"I am looking at lilacs, and I see / All things wild, forever, free...."

“Star”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The old barn sang to Timothy.

“Ren and the Shadow Imps”:

Ren clutched his vest closed at the neck and shivered, although it was a summer night.

“Murik and the Magic Sack”:

Murik trudged deep into the forest, where roots twisted like slimy stairways.

“The Guardian Tree, Part 2″:

Far beyond the city, where birds still

 

"Seasons remembered, and Eternity...."

"Seasons remembered, and Eternity...."

 

sang ancient songs, the fey folk listened.

“The Gift”:

The winding stairway had never seemed so dark.

“The Place of Roots”:

Kirith had not been meant to ride the wind: I was sure of it.

 

 

 

 

"Where I have been, / And what I must be."

"Where I have been, / And what I must be."

“The Bone Man”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was hunger that made Conlin turn off the route.

“The Star Shard”:

Cymbril sang.

Corin Booknose:

Everything changed when the Wall of our world broke; the life we had known ended with the splitting of rock.

The Fires of the Deep:

Grape hyacinths!

Grape hyacinths!

Strange, Loft thought in the years afterward, that such a day could begin with the calm voice of water, a changeless voice on the day that everything changed.

A Green and Ancient Light:

As the American frontier moved westward, new homesteads blossomed in the clearings of the forests and among the prairie grasses.

100_0330“The Enchanted Mountain: A Tale of Long-Ago Japan”:

Another landslide had struck the village of Takakura.

“A Tale of Silences”:

Jii turned the carving in his weathered hands, pursing his lips to blow away a runnel of wood.

The Threshold of Twilight:100_0332

Trees outside the white frame house filled the kitchen with a lazy glow of sunlight and dancing green shadows.

“Shadowbender”:

Aunt Estelle wasn’t as bad as Shan had dreaded; it was her house that bothered him.

100_0333“Uther”:

Faint moonlight glowed in the room, though the curtains were drawn.

“The Giant”:

Wind shrieked over the bleak rise, driving snow that swirled and stung the men’s faces.

“Witherwings”:

The courthouse in Fillmore smelled old.

“Under the Tower of Valk”:100_0334

The garrison commander nudged the pale corpse with his steel-toed boot.

“Here About to Die”:

This is the day I am to die.

“The Bones of Oron-Dha”:

Red light flickers on the basalt blocks of the walls, the ceiling, and the floor of this temple of the dread god Arhazh.

 

 

 

 

"It'll be spring soon in the Shire, Mr. Frodo. They'll be plantin' the rice in the lower paddies! Do you remember rice, Mr. Frodo?"

"It'll be spring soon in the Shire, Mr. Frodo. They'll be plantin' the rice in the lower paddies! Do you remember rice, Mr. Frodo?"

“A Fire in Shandria”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A grand and fearful thing it is to be summoned into the presence of Azanah the Queen: grand, for I am a mere sword-maiden of the Fifth Heilon, those who guard the city’s west wall, specifically the Gate of the Moon; fearful, for all know the Queen’s severity.

“The Last A’Hanti”:

Light.

 

"Um . . . no, Sam." Seriously, this is a rice-planting tractor. Little mechanical hands on the back stick each seedling down into the mud.

"Um . . . no, Sam." Seriously, this is a rice-planting tractor. Little mechanical hands on the back stick each seedling down into the mud.

“The Heir of Agondria”:

Fire sang as it surged through the wood-heap, the brilliant flames flowing, consuming, leaping high in the autumnal night air.

“Lucia’s Quest”:

‘We are here!’ called Iloni over the ringing of swords.

“Seawall”:

Drums pounded in the night, the drums of the horse-clans of Hemath.

Rice-planting in Niigata.

Rice-planting in Niigata.

Quite a whirlwind tour, huh? I hope it’s had the effect of making you want to run to your bookshelf and dive into a good story — or maybe write one — and to enjoy the gifts of this season, when the world is trembling with ancient enchantment and nascent abundance. Petals are opening out there, and tales are to be born! Nurture them! Live them! As Garrison Keillor says: “Don’t sleep. You can sleep in the winter.”

I’m going to steal shamelessly a great concept I heard from Tandemcat

Seedlings in trays on the back of a truck, brought from the greenhouse and ready to be loaded onto the planting tractor.

Seedlings in trays on the back of a truck, brought from the greenhouse and ready to be loaded onto the planting tractor.

just now: we may write with ink on paper, but we also write in people’s lives, through our interactions with them. I like to use this quote in my classes from Tennyson’s The Princess:

“Our echoes roll from soul to soul,

And grow for ever and for ever.”

A finished field: this field is planted.

A finished field: this field is planted.

I know this is anticlimactic, but an urgent message needs to be conveyed: I continue to hear from readers who have just recently discovered the “comments” aspect of this blog. If you don’t know about the fact that you can read other readers’ comments and leave your own (if you want to — no obligation!), then I’m happy to tell you that your enjoyment of this blog can easily double or triple! At the end of every posting or entry, you’ll

Sing, frogs! Grow, rice! (This is within a block of my apartment.)

Sing, frogs! Grow, rice! (This is within a block of my apartment.)

 find the word “comments.” Click on that, and you can read what others have said. Leave your own if you feel so inclined! (If you’re doing it for the first time, your comment comes to me for approval, so there may be a slight delay before it appears.) I tell you the truth: if you’re only reading my entries, you’re missing out! You’re only sailing on the ocean’s surface, and you have all the wonders of snorkeling and SCUBA diving ahead of you! Come join us on the seamy underside of the blog. . . .

Happy May Day!

The straw "casa" hats are still used in Japan, equally efficacious against sun and rain.

The straw "casa" hats are still used in Japan, equally efficacious against sun and rain.

Rice-planting, Golden Week 2009, less than a block from my place.

Rice-planting, Golden Week 2009, less than a block from my place.

Rice-planting tractor. Niigata is famous for its pure water, delicious rice, and delicious rice wine, or "sake."

Rice-planting tractor. Niigata is famous for its pure water, delicious rice, and delicious rice wine, or "sake."

A very cool vine-covered house in my neighborhood. In the fall, these leaves turn a brilliant red.

A very cool vine-covered house in my neighborhood. In the fall, these leaves turn a brilliant red.

11 Responses to Spring-Boards

  1. tandemcat says:

    Well, I can tell that Fred really wanted to get this post up–of course I have no idea of what that feeling is like! :-) I had quickly (last night was a crazy night!) told him about the quote–it actually comes from a far more important source, namely, Plato: “The good teacher does not write his message in ink that will fade; he writes it upon men. ” It has been invoked several times in a Christian context, which is where I heard it last night–i.e., our job as Christians is to write Christ’s message on other people.

    Now that I see the new header picture, and the others, I can see the reason for Fred’s attraction to lilacs!

  2. Daylily says:

    This post is a wonderful celebration of spring! Thanks for the lovely pictures of flowers, the interesting photos of the rice-planting process, the illustrated poetry, and the food for thought. Could you, perhaps, print the poem all in one place? I like it so much that I would like to print it out.

    Here in rural Connecticut, spring has brought a bounty of pansies, daffodils, forsythia, hyacinths, and tulips to our yard, as well as three wild turkeys, including a thirty-pound or so tom. I did not attempt to weigh him :-) , but observed him fanning his tail and foraging in our backyard. Dinner theater at our house usually involves watching cardinals and goldfinches at the bird feeder. Lately a hen turkey has been coming as well. Today, she brought two friends! Sometimes we see one or two hawks in the tall dead trees at the back of our meadow. Deer are another common sight this spring. And twice in four years, we have seen a bobcat in plain view in our meadow. The only truly unwelcome guests were five rabbits I spotted making themselves at home in my asparagus patch last year. I went out there and chased them away, and they have not returned. Cute, yes. And I loved _Watership Down_. I like to picture these rabbits at home in the meadow, but not anywhere near my garden!

  3. Catherine says:

    I loved this post! Those lilacs are absolutely gorgeous. We’ve been seeing some in our neck of the woods, too: purple and white; beautiful in the spring sun — but also beautiful as they are now, in the gloaming hours; dripping with the rain that is being strewn so abundantly over all the spring flowers and the long tangled grass and the cherry-tree’s petals, tossed like abandoned fast-food containers all over the streets and yards. Ouch. Sometimes I forget to end a sentence until several sentences later.

    What is it about first sentences of stories?! That is nearly always the hardest part for me! Anyway, it was a lot of fun to scroll through and read first sentence after first sentence and guess what was going to come next. Of course, now I think it will take a thousand more springs or so to get me past the first sentence of the first story I ever wrote: “Once there was a little tomato named Bob, and Curious George was holding him.” Plagarism aside, it was hardly compelling . . . anyway, very inspring and thank you for posting, as always!

  4. Preacher says:

    I have always LOVED the opening line of Dragonfly! One cannot NOT want to read the next lines to find out what those “Bad things” are. Plus, it creeps me out by forcing me to think of the scary basements I grew up with.
    Awesome pictures of Spring. We’re not quite that far along in the blooming season here in Central Wisconsin. A tractor just plowed the field behind our house this afternoon, and planting won’t be for a while. We still have dangers of frost here for a few weeks.
    I’ll throw my latest “opening line” out here for you to consider: “There was no doubt about it–Jesus was crying…again.” I’ve just started writing it, so I hope to have an ENDING sentence one day too.
    Think I’ll go make some rice…

  5. fsdthreshold fsdthreshold says:

    Catherine: One of my close friends from high school is a guy named Robert Taylor. He’s now a world-class trombonist and plays with a band called Pink Martini. One of their albums is called Hang On, Little Tomato. Your first sentence about Bob the Tomato made me think of that title. :-) Lilacs in the gloaming . . . yes! Beautiful images there!

    Preacher: That opening line is certainly intriguing! Let’s see . . . Jesus cried once when His friend Lazarus died. In your story, it happens again. I am definitely curious!

  6. Chris says:

    Speaking of scary basements, when we lived in the Boston area and we were looking into buying our first home, we saw a great deal on an old circa 1910 house in Framingham. Giant structure which the developers had kindly gone in and redone the walls and kitchen (but failed to redo the electric which was still…no joke…from when homes were first electrified completel with push-button light switches). The mind boggles.

    But when we went down to look at the basement it was classic “Stephen King Creepy New England Rough Hewn Stone Walls Dripping with Condensation” SCARY AS ALL GET OUT!

    Even as full-on adults who are reasonably sane and know there aren’t ghosts it was unlikely we would buy the house in part because of that (and the high likelihood it would all catch fire as ancient electrical connections would surely short out some time.)

  7. Lisa Cuddy says:

    Hey guys, long time lurker here so thought I would finally post. I’m a little shy because I’m a girl and it seems there are mostly guys here but I wanted to know why it seems you guys don’t have lives. Are the guys with very high post counts really better posters than the ones with less?

    • fsdthreshold fsdthreshold says:

      Hi, Lisa! Though it sounds as if you’ve been here awhile, here’s an official welcome to this blog, and thank you for working up the courage to post!

      I can assure you that we’re not all guys here — in fact, there’s quite a nice mix of guys and girls. (In the words of Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society, “It wasn’t just guys!”) Ladies of the Blog: this would be a great time for you to speak out to Lisa here and assure her that we come in two genders and have lives!

      And Lisa, since your question was worded strongly, I’m going to say something a little strong in response: if we seem not to have lives, and you’re a “long time lurker here,” what does that say about you? :-) That’s not meant to be cruel — we’re always glad to see newcomers here, and we all appreciate those not afraid to speak their minds! So jump aboard this rolling ship, help us hoist that sail, and we guys will remember to bathe once in awhile.

    • Daylily says:

      Welcome, Lisa! Pull up a chair and join the conversation! I’m sure that the other girls will drop in as they have time. And anyone else who is hovering around the doorway, please do come in. There is plenty of room for all. We might, however, want to move the conversation over to the latest blog post, “The Enchanted Hour,” so that everyone can find us. Though I am glad you dropped in here, because it was a treat to once again see all those lovely flower pictures that Fred posted with the excerpts from his poem “I Am Looking at Lilacs.”

    • I loved the pond says:

      Ms. Lisa, Mr. Brown Snowflake here. The reason I post so frequently is that I check this blog only at my work and do so 3-4 times/day, so I just end up with more opportunities, I guess. It is also just about the only blog in the universe I check in on, so that probably adds to the odds I may reply.

      Shieldmaiden, Daylily, Zoe, Catherine, Jedibabe … there is a nice selection of the XX chromosone set on the blog and I am sure I have forgotten some! You and all the ladies are most welcome here.

      You are, in fact, absolutely essential to the success of this blog because without the wisdom and leavening sensibility of the ladies, us Neanderthals would surely destroy ourselves, so post and post often!

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