Monday, January 31, 2011

End of January

And it is, really. This is the fortune cookie message E got in her cookie on New Year's Eve. We have this tradition of going to Chinese restaurants for New Year's Eve. It's funny...since they have their own New Year's, later in the calendar year. Plus you get fortunes. And E's is true: it really is enjoyable to talk with her. She's bright, curious, and creative.

My other one, The H, is also fun to talk with. Here we are at our favorite store:

A view from our porch. Winter has set in for the long haul.

A few weekends ago, I went to Massachusetts for a felting class. (It was awesome.) On the way back, I ventured to the middle of the earth all by myself (and with a group of strangers) for some book research. Since nearly half of my book takes place below-ground, I couldn’t rely on my decade-old experience at Carlsbad caverns. I needed to be inside a cave and turn on my character screen, in which I try to see everything as a character in my book would see it.

It was amazing! Howe’s Caverns has an underground stream (they call it The River Styx...ha ha ha). One of the rocks has created a natural dam, building up an underground lake, and the owners of the cave let you ride on a mystical boat* and cross the river! How awesome is that?!

I was taking a picture with my cell phone, musing about how awful it would be if I dropped it in the water, when a bunny fell into the water. It flowed downstream until it got caught in some foam**. The guide climbed down and saved the bunny (and the parents). I had to take a picture because, seriously, how often do you get to see a stuffed bunny floating down an underground river?

Look at that river. Seriously. It’s cold, it’s flowing fairly quickly, and it’s coming from outside, flowing through the cavern, and then flowing back out again. If a frog or fish washes in during floods, they make their way out, because there isn’t anything living in the caverns. (Except for a fair bit of moss that grows wherever they’ve put up lights.)

I wore my valenkii from St. Petersburg; they kept me warm and provided excellent traction***. (Thank you so much, Val!!! They’re gorgeous!)

I emerged, after an hour and a half, with a mind chock full of details (textures, sensations, emotions, images, etc). It was totally worth it. Plus, now I know of a great place to spend Halloween.

The absolute best part was when the tour guide turned off all the lights. I’d never been in such complete darkness, in such a large space, with such a large group of people. (Agatha Christie would have had someone murdered and tossed into the knee-deep water during that moment.) It was perfect because the very last scene I’d written in my book had one of my characters walking deep into a tunnel, in the middle of the earth. In the dark.

Status on my book: I’m 2/3 or 3/4 of the way done (it’s hard to judge, exactly). My critique partner Emma is hoping to finish hers by mid-February, when she has February Break (a strange NY school tradition). So it’s my goal, as well. I need to keep up with her so we’ll stay on track and be able to read each others’ completed draft at the same time.

* Ok, so it was a cranky old barge.
** Seriously, what is foam doing in the middle of a cavern? The tour guide said it's chemicals and other things from outside that have run in with the water.
*** While valenkii are great for trudging through snow/slush/over slippery rocks, they tend to fall of while walking upstairs, so beware. But really, they're the best!


Val said...

Thanks for the pictures. Your kids are amazing!
Valenki look too big for you. It seems that I was wrong with the size. I’m sorry for that.
Naturally, protectors (galoshi) must be colored, but I could find only transparent ones.
And I’m really frustrated with ems-turtleexpress.

Amber Lough said...

I love them, even though they are a bit big. And I actually like that the galoshi are clear. The mail is slow between here and Ukraine, as well. These valenki are soooo cool. Everyone comments on them when I'm out.

Sophia Richardson said...

Thats sounds like such an amazing adventure! I can definitely see how you'd come away from the experience rich in details for your book world. Ah, the perks of being a writer!
- Sophia.

Christina Farley said...

Your daughter is just adorable. I love these pictures. Especially the one of the lantern.