Ancestral Input

Tell us about the moment/realization when your original character concept popped into your head and you realized you had to write them.

Note: This version posted here on Fanny’s private LJ and on Pan Historia is admittedly somewhat different than the one posted to the community. Some things I am just not so very public about.

“This one, not that one,” her voice was low and sensuous with an obvious Scottish brogue. Those large eyes looked at me beneath the tossled mane of dark curls and she seemed to cluck at me. ‘Ye’ve been wanderin’ these woods as an herbalist and Wytch for how long and ye’d not be knowin’ the difference a’tween one herb an the ‘tuther.”

I felt myself flush with embarrassment. With a nod I harvested the herb the woman had indicated with my boline and put it into the basket along with the odd morels and first ferns of the spring. The primeval forest that stretches over most of my fifteen acres and into at least several hundred more in every direction around us are filled with spirits of one kind or another. Forests in this part of farmland are rare and those of us who are blessed enough to live in the trees guard them with a kind of zealous ferocity. Pitchforks and small caliber rifles are seen in the hands of neighbors whenever the sound of a chainsaw is heard. Only with profuse assurances that a tree is indeed already dead and that the wood will be used to heat the home of the person cutting down the tree do any of us let ourselves relax. Stories are still recounted of a neighbor whose out-of-state children chopped down two ancient old oaks that judging by their size had to have been there long before the first white man ever set foot in the area. No one remembered why they had done it; just that they had.

Just a mile from my back door is a cemetery that dates back to the first days long before Iowa had been declared a state. A few miles away in another direction is a cemetery that is filled mainly with the bodies of both children and adults that died due to a smallpox outbreak a little over a century ago. The only sign of their existence and passing are limestones with crudely etched notes of the year and initials on them. On some nights, especially in the summertime, you can hear children playing. There are no signs of civilisation anywhere that would explain it. So seeing one kind of spectre or another or hearing cries at all times of the day and night is nothing unusual here. Suffice it to say that I have been taking dictation from Fanny from that day onward.

But this voice I had heard before. I had experienced it for several weeks now just to the left of me behind my head, and just shy of my peripheral vision. I can see her height, her clothing and attire as clearly now as I did then, but she and I have changed. Almost completely gone is that Scot’s brogue, and it only flashes at times when she is in a state of extreme agitation. Her cadence and grammar are so measured now, after years of living in France for love of her husband and later for the place, all the while trying to divorce herself from her origins because it had been a sore point in her early years in France. She would only indicate that in spite of pretended politeness by courtiers close to both Louis XIII and her husband, she was referred to as “that barbarian woman with the dreadful accent”.

But far from that place, and when I first saw her, she was dressed as any peasant Scotswoman might be; a white blouse covered with a red and blue bodice over layers of skirts in various colours and bare feet. Even in this state, even as she was, she still managed to carry herself with such dignity and assurance that it was hard not to listen to that voice. Being both a writer and one who walks Between the Worlds, it’s easy to sometimes give pause to questions about your sanity. Are you really seeing, hearing, feeling and experiencing the things that you are or is it just a touch of madness? Are not magicians and writers all just a little bit mad anyway?

In spite of it all, and all through the times that I dance with the muse, fountain pen in hand, I still hear that voice and there is a certain depth and loyalty to the memory of that ancestress – Frances Moira MacKay.

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