Twig Domes and Lovespoons – a guest post by Mary Ann Rivers

I got some exciting news this morning: It is January 21 today!  (I know, I know… it’s well past afternoon now, and how could the date be news?  Well, let me just tell you: I am in the depths of the worst allergy season I’ve ever had — currently battling my third case of sinusitis since October — and there is no such thing as time here in the pit of congestion.  I understand that time is a reality for the rest of the world, but sickness creates its own, alternate reality.)

Anyway… why is January 21 an exciting day?  It’s the release day of Live by Mary Ann Rivers, of course!  (Cue the fireworks.)  To celebrate this release, Mary Ann is providing an extended excerpt of the book (the first three chapters) on Scribd.

LIVE by Mary Ann Rivers – Excerpt by Random House Publishing Group

As if that were not exciting enough, subscribers to Mary Ann’s newsletter will also get a link to an exclusive epilogue to The Story Guy, Mary Ann’s phenomenal novella.  All you have to do is sign up for the newsletter, and Mary Ann will send you the link later on this week.  (In other words, sign up pronto. You can do so on Mary Ann’s website.)

And now I’m turning things over to Mary Ann and retreating back to the pit of congestion.

Wanderlust is is a tricky affliction.

First, it is a disease of agony. It agonizes, it seeps in everywhere and not only makes you ache, it makes you restless, often physically restless, so that you’re driving to the grocery store and looking at every exit along the way wondering how far each one might take you.

You pick up books, you put them down. You rearrange the furniture, hoping it tricks the yearning into satisfaction. I was recently telling a friend, when I was in the worst of it several years ago, I used to watch back to back LONELY PLANETS and then go stare at the ceiling on my bed, overcome with the desire to just see something, do something, be a part of something. I remember there was an episode where the host came down with Malaria, and I found myself thinking — oh, that’s amazing. I’ve never had malaria

LIVE is a book about home, but it is also a book about about Destiny — the heroine, and the idea. Her hero, Hefin, is Welsh and has traveled the world but has been held up, for years, in Ohio. Destiny has never been anywhere but her hometown, her own neighborhood. She’s surrounded by people and landmarks she’s known since she was born. 

Hefin plans, finally, on going home. To Wales, which is only his first stop before he will set off in the world again. 

Destiny believes she was always meant to stay and be a part of a landscape as familiar as her own palm. 

Except . . . 

They meet each other.

It’s one of those stories where, if it were an illustration, the picture would show two red hearts on a map, far away from each other, and a lot of uncertainty if there will ever be little dots connecting them, over the wide ocean.

Wanderlust permeates, and I think the restlessness often has to find an outlet. I think that often the outlet is creative output, making something, trying to make some mark, trying to work through all of these ideas about what you see and what you yearn for. 
In LIVE, Des is a fan of the environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, and the documentary about his work, Rivers and Tides. Goldsworthy uses what’s at hand, in his own environment, to make sculptures and art. He alters what is familiar and makes it unfamiliar, and, yet, the environment always reclaims his domes of twigs and paintings of leaves — returning the landscape to its familiar view. 

She tells Hefin about it here: 

“I don’t do any kind of art. I guess you could kind of count design, but that I only do a little of, and what I do is very functional. But I have a little project, lately.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Do you know Andy Goldsworthy?”

“The natural materials artist?”

“Yes! Wow. No one knows who he is.”

“I’m a wood engineer, remember?”

“Right. Actually, you’re a sunflower engineer. But we’re quibbling. Anyway, I watched his documentary in college, Rivers and Tides and then, for months, I was always trying to make little bits of art when I was at the park—a stack of pebbles, a leaf chain, whatever.”

“Of course. I did similar when I saw it.”

“You know the big, like, hives he makes? The domes? Sometimes from rocks, sometimes from twigs?”

“The giant egg-like structures?”

“Yes! That’s what I’m doing.”

“You’re making a giant egg?”

“Actually, a giant dome. Out of sticks. My landlord, Betty, she used to live in my house with her husband, years ago, and he planted a tulip tree for her when they were young. It’s huge now. But I think it’s sick, or dying, and probably should be taken down, but Betty is sentimental about it. So it stays, but it’s dropping all of these twigs all the time. There are lots of twigs, and sometimes I just need to do something sort of repetitive and soothing to take my mind off things. So I started building one.”

“Ambitious.”

“Yes, I think so.” She was quiet. 

Destiny, here, is still anchored by her neighborhood, her family, but wanderlust has taken her. She’s altering her landscape, altering twigs from a tree that represent a past love, even. Before she’s even read to admit what she wants, her creative output is tell the world what it is she wants.

Likewise, Hefin, who’s an engineer by trade and loved it, but could never find the work that was his sub-specialty in the U.S., returns to woodcarving, the art he learned in Wales, from his father, and is traditional. What he makes is where his mind has already traveled.

Our actions and creativity intersect, often, with what it is we haven’t quite worked out in other ways. It’s part of the affliction agony — a kind of tortured sweetness. 

Perfect for a love story. 

Thank you, Mary Ann, for joining me on the blog today.  Mary Ann has graciously offered to host a giveaway of e-ARC copies of Live to three commenters chosen at random.  To participate in the giveaway (open internationally, I believe), please leave a comment about life, wanderlust, the urge to create, or the awesomeness of the name Hefin (or anything that strikes your fancy, honestly).  I’ll choose three people (with the help of random.org) at some point after 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, January 26.

In case you’re curious about Andy Goldsworthy.

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