Ursula K. Le Guin’s Blog
122. The Wall by Anita Endrezze
My friend Deborah Miranda sent me this poem by her friend Anita Endrezze, which says a lot of the things that have been struggling in me to get said lately, and makes me cry, and rejoices my heart. I asked Anita if I could post the poem here, and asked her to write a little about herself and about it. Here it is.
Anita Endrezze is from Native American (Yaqui) and European heritage. She has ten published books plus is included in numerous literary magazines and anthologies.
Her most recent book is A Thousand Branches (Red Bird Press), which is a book of poems and art. Her book of short stories, Butterfly Moon, is available from University of Arizona Press. She was given the Governor’s Writers award for Washington State and has received other awards as well. She has a M.A from Eastern Washington University. Her art has been in international exhibitions. One of her projects was a collaborative altered book which is now at the Smithsonian. Her next exhibit is in Seattle in February. It’s a collaborative work about Don Quixote and migration.
She has Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and is mainly housebound.
More info can be found at her website: Anitaendrezze.weebly.com
About the poem:
I asked myself, what should the Wall be made of? Since I'm a poet, I work with imagery and symbols. The Wall itself is a symbol. But I’m a visual artist also so I like to see. A wall of taco trucks, a wall of solar panels. The humorous, the utilitarian, the inventive. And layers of messages. What could be freer than sunshine and renewable energy as opposed to millions of dollars to build a wall? Or tacos, a blend of cultures, to nourish people. I took some images from social networking posts, like the solar panel and Lego ideas in order to connect with the current situation. I also wove my own creative ideas into the poem. The poem seems to resonate with many people because of those techniques.
123. Constructing the Golem
The legend of the golem varies according to the teller, but I will follow the version that tells how in a time of persecution a rabbi made a mighty giant out of mud, a golem, and wrote a sacred word on its forehead — “Truth” — that gave it life. With its frightening size and enormous strength, the golem was to defend and safeguard the Jews. But the golem was not rational, not controllable. It was a danger in itself. So the rabbi removed a single letter from the word on its forehead, which then read “Death,” and the life went out of the giant, leaving only mud.
Sometimes it seems lately that most of the emails I get from my friends are about Donald Trump. Some are laments, confessions of despair; many are witty parodies of him, funny imitations of him, scathing cartoons about him. He is the subject, the object, of all of them.
He is also the subject of most lead stories in most newspapers, which is expectable for a new president, and of endless editorials. I gather that he fills the political news on TV even more thoroughly and is exhaustively, continually discussed, attacked, defended, parodied, etc. on the social media, not to mention his own nightly fits of twittering. I don’t know this firsthand because I rarely watch or listen to any media news any more, don’t follow or read social media at all (though occasionally have posted something from my website), and don’t have a smart phone. If this makes you feel that I am disqualified to comment on modern life and politics, I can’t argue.
As a science fiction writer, I will, however, say that sometimes the view of Earth from another planet can give insights otherwise unattainable.
Looking at the New World from the ancient one I inhabit, I am appalled at the constant, obsessive attention paid to Trump.
He appears to be exactly what he wants to be: addictive.
He is a true, great master of the great game of this age, the Celebrity Game. Attention is what he lives on. Celebrity without substance. His “reality” is “virtual” — i.e. non-existent — but he used this almost-reality to disguise a successful bid for real power. Every witty parody, hateful gibe, clever takeoff, etc., merely plays his game, and therefore plays into his hands.
Reagan was the master of TV, but this guy has a nation full of people with their eyes and ears already glued 18 hours a day to screens and speakers, already habituated to a stream of disparate, disconnected “information” (news/entertainment/commercials mashup) which cannot be fact-checked, cannot be organized into understanding, because it’s so huge, so incessant, and goes by so fast. Exactly the way Trump thinks and talks.
It’s how he won the campaign: keeping in the limelight, flummoxing his Republican rivals, outshouting poor, rational Clinton, silencing thought with a flood of incessant, bullying, meaningless words.
It’s no use wishing the media would stop hanging on him and the press would stop reporting every tweet, but it may be worth saying that they’d do less of it if we stopped watching and listening to him — if we weren’t so literally fascinated by him.
He’s the snake and we’re the chickens.
When he does something weird (which he does constantly in order to keep media attention on him), look not at him but at the people whom his irresponsible acts or words affect — the Republicans who try to collaborate with him (like collaborating with a loose cannon), the Democrats and Government employees he bullies, the statesmen from friendly countries he offends, the ordinary people he uses, insults, and hurts. Look away from him, and at the people who are working desperately to save what they can save of our Republic and our hope of avoiding nuclear catastrophe. Look away from him, and at reality, and things begin to get back into proportion.
I honestly believe the best thing to do is turn whatever it is OFF whenever he’s on it, in any way.
He is entirely a creature of the media. He is a media golem. If you take the camera and mike off him, if you take your attention off him, nothing is left — mud.
124. Refusing to be Bullied
The manic speed and vindictiveness of the Republican attack on American core values and institutions make it all too easy for us, the majority opposition, to feel defeated — hopeless. This article is a good antidote.
It’s appropriate that the city of Santa Ana, with its long, deep Mexican-American heritage, its fourth and fifth-generation Mexican-American families, and its sympathetic State government, achieved this genuine victory over prejudice, this refusal of obedience to a hateful, cruel federal policy.
But don’t think it was easy, even there, to do so. Becoming a Sanctuary City isn’t just a matter of words, it takes real commitment, long and steady resolve, and determined hope, to resist and keep resisting the politicians and interests that seek power by supporting those shameful policies, and the misguided citizens who imagine they will gain profit or status from them.
I wish with all my heart that my city, Portland, Oregon, would follow the lead of Santa Ana — stand by its hard-working Mexican-American population, and let all its citizens share the honor of refusing to be bullied into bowing to the orders of a bigoted administration.
¡Nadie es ilegal!
P.S. I was unfair in this final paragraph. Portland did declare itself a sanctuary city a while back, as our new mayor, Ted Wheeler, reminded us in an editorial in The Oregonian, Jan. 29, 2017
I took this declaration as well-intentioned but little else. To be more than a feel-good announcement, it must be implemented with effective instructions to the police, effective provisions for actual sanctuary for people whose documentation is in question, and so forth — a very big commitment, that will inevitably rouse loud and angry opposition. But I was wrong to assume that my city had not made that commitment, and truly hope that it will make and keep it.
125. A Work in Progress: Earthsea Sketches by Charles Vess
Here are a few more of Charles Vess’ preliminary sketches for the illustrations for the one-volume Earthsea next year, along with excerpts from our correspondence about the pictures and their subjects.
As you see, the dragons of Earthsea are now very splendid creatures. The people, the islands, the towns, the houses and ships and forests and goats of Earthsea are all coming to visible life. The pages of the book will be thronged and vivid with them.
These are first-draft, rough-draft sketches in pencil, alterable in every detail. Charles will not finish them in ink until we have got every roofbeam and wine glass right. But I love the freedom of the pencil sketches, the energetic lines and vigorous composition that give the sense of motion in open space.
Collaboration between two arts is an exciting business!
I. Inside An Imaginary House
(March 17, 2017)
. . . I also discovered that the Mage’s home in Re Albi had a wooden floor. Good to know, perhaps?
The wooden floor also came as a surprise to me when young Ogion insisted on laying it for Dulse (and I hope there is nothing in the earlier books that contradicts it).
How do you see the roof of the house? The Overfell is a windy place much exposed to weather, and I think I vaguely imagined slate or tile rather than thatch; but all I am sure of is that it’s not ceiled, inside the house one sees the beams and rafters.
I’d been doodling a floor plan (which I don’t know if I’ll ever use . . .) and had a stone floor in mind. But wooden planks makes much more sense.
Roof: It would certainly be shingled with either wood or slate because in that high place thatch would just blow away in the wind.
Also, I discovered after carefully reading through the first 4 books that the one, small window is facing west and in the alcove. Good to know.
I will doodle the floor plan in my head and try to scan and send it. I realized that the way I describe the interior of the house in A Wizard is a bit different from the way I later worked it out, and I want to see if I can make it consistent.
That’s what I thought about thatch.
The conformation of Gont Mountain/Island certainly suggests volcanic; therefore probably not much slate around. But lots of forest. Therefore wood shingles?
Old Mage’s House floor plan, by UKL
I sent Charles this floor plan of the house, with the following note:
Very scrawly, sorry.
Proportions not to be taken as accurate! I was just trying to work out roughly where things are in relation to each other.
The alcove is more or less opposite the fireplace, and only large enough for a pallet bed (young Ged’s, later Therru’s)
I think the other bed (Ogion’s, later Tenar’s, then Ged and Tenar’s) is described in Wizard as being “at the back” of the house, but by now I know it’s in the back room but more in the middle of the house. Its head is against the room-divider, which is all that is left of what was the inner dividing wall between the hearthplace and the barn or byre part of the house.
Dulse’s teacher Ard (Bones of the Earth) exiled all animals from the house, built a goat house as a lean-to against the East wall, and took out much of the original divider wall (which was 4 or 5 feet high — did not reach to roof).
So the house is spoken of in Wizard as “one large room,” but it is semi-divided, with the old byre serving as bedroom-workshop-storage closets or shelves. The back door, a sliding door as in a barn, is now unused except in emergency.
I think when Ogion reintroduced goats, he moved the goat house farther from the house and took down the lean-to, so I did not draw it.
The goat house, chicken house, cow-barn (I am sure Tenar had a cow) etc. can be anywhere you please in relation to the house.
I hope this is helpful. If you see anything missing or anomalous please let me know.
March 20, 2017
I take back what I said about Tenar keeping a cow. If she did it would be mentioned in the books. She made goat cheese, but bought her cow’s milk and butter from a farm just outside Re Albi.
(It was just because I have always wanted to keep a cow, a Jersey.)
II. Outside An Imaginary House
(April 11, 2017)
Ged and Tenar in Front of Old Mage’s House
Now, don’t panic, I haven’t sketched out any of the other planned drawings for this book yet. I just thought that I’d do the last one first so that it wouldn’t be quite so sad when I got to it. That is, sad for me, not Ged & Tenar who are well content to spend their remaining lives peaceably & together but conceptually, I’ll be almost done with this lovely project.
Anyway . . .
Here are Ged and Tenar sitting in front of their home, glasses of wine in hand, attended by a goat (or goats ?) with the sunset bathing them in its color (I wish that this was to be in color but alas, it is not . . .). I wanted to run this by you in this very rough stage just to make sure that I have all the elements orientated in the correct manner, ie: what’s facing west is supposed to be there.
This is lovely. Mood perfect. Compass orientation correct. Old Mage’s House perhaps a little more imposing than I had imagined it: perhaps the stones would be less perfectly faced? the general impression a little messier & humbler? — but all in all, I am simply glad to see it realized.
I had no idea there was a tree at the NW corner! What kind of tree is it?
I can’t make out the wine glasses. I was just worried that they might be stemmed. They wouldn’t be. In fact, would they be glass? I guess so. Everybody who can put their wine in a glass does so, don’t they.
A couple of hens maybe? I do think hens are good company
The tree would be a Peach Tree, growing there in the protective corner of the house wall.
They would be holding simple crockery to drink their wine out of wouldn’t they?
Certainly, I’ll put some hens pecking about their feet. That will be fun.
And, I’ll make the house a bit more humble.
The Old Mage’s House at Re Albi, revised
(April 12, 2017)
Here’s that drawing put onto paper a bit more carefully.
Also, its summer? I say that because Ged has just been watering the cabbages. So are there then peaches on the Peach Tree?
If so I must laden those branches . . .
A few peaches, not ripe yet . . . ?
The house is perfect.
I don’t know if expressions come into it at this stage? Tenar looks a bit timid or downcast to me — it’s partly her posture, which suggests to me that she is looking to him for reassurance (but not vice versa). Tenar is a strong woman with a courageous, independent, and (by now) essentially serene spirit. I just don’t want to see her looking the least bit weak!
The chickens are a joy.
III. A Foolish Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds
(April 24, 2017)
Charles and I both detest discrepancies or contradictions between text and illustration and strive very hard for consistency. Nobody might ever have noticed the problem we discuss here. But I feel like confessing it, because in this case, deciding that consistency would be foolish, we called on magic to bail us out.
I have a question. When I was rereading this section with Alder walking up from the Gont Port I came to a short sentence that gave me pause, especially after having drawn the house at Re Albi twice and worked out its floor plan with you. Right on page #5 you describe the small house as “wooden”. Yikes! I don’t remember it ever being described that way before. Is it? Maybe I’m just catching that aspect now. Please let me know, because if it is I’ll need to redraw those other two images.
Arghh! Gont Mountain is all forested, plenty of timber, & so I saw the house as wood.
But I was so convinced by the house you drew that I never gave it a thought.
Now I wish I could go back and take the word “wooden” out of the text!
I hate to think of you having to take that handsome stone cottage down and rebuild it all with a pencil.
We could just ignore the discrepancy for once?
After all a wizard’s house might be capable of unexpected transformations….
The floor plan is unchanged.
Double bubble, toil and trouble. By the magic that is invested in these fingers and this pencil I transform thee, wood into stone.
(April 2017, 2017)
This sketch is still just roughed out in many respects, but I wanted to post it here so you can see how our dragons have developed, and also see Charles drawing a physical transformation as it happens, which is not really possible.
Such transformations are so easy faked visually on film that we may cease to realise how truly strange it would be to see a dragon descend and become a woman in flesh and blood. The unmoving picture, defying possibility, saves that radical strangeness from the banality of the filmic anything-is-possible.
And look at the movement in the unmoving pencil lines — the dragon towering like a great hawk among the castle towers, the girl startled and amused to find herself again diminished — grounded — standing on only two feet…
126. Cause to Celebrate
First: Last week the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling that bars the Port of Portland, manager of the Portland Airport, from banning an ad from Oregon Wild in partnership with ACLU of Oregon. The poster, a photograph of a totally barren mountain wasteland of rocks and gravel, says “Welcome to Oregon, Home of the Clearcut.” The state has long been under the thumb of the timber industry, and its feeble laws protecting public health and the environment must be strengthened. (You can find out more at ClearCutOregon.com.)
And: Today the state legislature voted for the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which codifies the legal right to abortion and protects and increases health care including contraception, abortion, and postpartum care to all Oregonians regardless of income, gender, or citizenship status. NARAL Pro-choice Oregon announced this under the banner, “Abortion is Healthcare.”
These local actions won’t get attention the way weird presidential twitterings do. But they make me feel my Republic can and will survive the mindless destructivism of misled Republicans and the frightened apathy of an opposition without leadership. Two cheers for Oregon!
128. Pard: An Interrupted Nap
Linda Long, photographer.
130. Poem Written in 1991
When the Soviet Union Was Disintegrating
by Ursula K. Le Guin
The reason why I’m learning Spanish
Una palabra, un aliento.
So now I’ll turn right round
Seventy years for nothing.
And the dream that came before the betrayal,
Once I sang freedom, freedom,
–Ursula K. Le Guin