Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).
I’m sorry. I still haven’t gotten around to scheduling these posts this year. Or to blogging at all. Busy, busy, busy. Work and boyfriend and friends and balcony and making birthday presents and receiving birthday presents and actually inviting a couple of people to celebrate my 30th birthday, and then a mad scramble to finish the paper I need to write to become a master horticulturist… can you keep your fingers crossed for me on that account? I need to call my advisor tomorrow and ask what he thinks of it… and I’m terrified that he’ll tell me it’s total crap… I have had a really hard time with writing this thing. So much crying, so much nearly-giving-up, and now I’m so close. I just need him to tell me that it’s okay, that I just need to finish up the bits and pieces I already know about.
In other news, if any of you speak German and are interested in balcony gardening, on March 17th/18th you can watch me give an interview about it here.
Whoops. A month into this year, and I still haven’t scheduled the calendar picture posts. And I don’t have time to do it now, either, so let’s just hope I don’t forget about it by March 1st.
Anyway, here are some borage flowers (which change colour with age) on a chard leaf.
But that’s not going so well. I keep losing plants, to disinterest and lack of time and bugs and simple bad luck.
(A conversation with my friends from my master classes, a couple of weeks ago:
M.: “So, anything interesting happening at your job?”
Me: “At my job, no. In my private life, yes.”
M.: “Ooh, that was the next thing I was going to ask about! So, you and the guy you told us about last time?” (We don’t see each other that often.)
K., who had already had that conversation with me earlier: “She has already had to throw out a few plants!”
*scandalised gasping all around*)
Anyway, yeah. This is my Christmas cactus now… remember how proud I was of getting it to bloom? I could cry.
I don’t have much hope that it will recover…
I took a couple of cuttings in the hope that those will still survive. If not, I will have to go to the botanical garden to… ah… acquire new ones. Either by politely asking an employee, or… um.
Well. One of our teachers did tell us that the things a master horticulturist should always have are a knife, pruning shears, the Zander plant name dictionary, and a bag.
If this had been my own book, this would have been thrown against the wall so many times. But alas, it was my boyfriend’s, and he liked it a lot and lent it to me, so I couldn’t do that.
I think the main thing that annoys me about this book is that it feels like, “if you have bad luck in life, it’s all your own fault, because you’re thinking wrong.” And I do absolutely not believe that people deserve to be blamed for their poverty or illness or similar.
And then it felt like it was just repeating that point over and over and over, while I sat there thinking, “Yeah, I get it, and I don’t agree at all, so tell me something new or just shut up.”
I mean, I agree on one point: a positive outlook on life will probably make more positive things happen to you than a negative outlook. But I disagree that there is anything “secret” or supernatural about that, that it has anything to do with ordering certain things from the universe or other crap like that. It’s just the simple fact that if you’re pleasant to be around, people be more likely to want to do nice things for you. And if you focus on the positive things, you notice how many of them actually happen to you, while if you focus on the negative things, you’ll feel like nothing good ever happens to you (even when it does).
Ever since The Heart of What Was Lost came out, it’s been cold and snowing. Coincidence? Surely not. Surely that is the result of Norn weather magic.
(After having the honour of reading the manuscript and offering some thoughts about it, I’m so glad read the final version and to be able to speak openly about it at last.)
On the surface, this book seems cold and dark, a perfect read for snowy January nights. But underneath the grimness of war, of death and destruction, the story has a warm and hopeful heart, as Tad’s books always do.
When we left Osten Ard at the end of To Green Angel Tower – just recently for the characters, years or even decades ago for many of us readers – it was on a bright and hopeful note. But now that we return, we also return to the cold of the Storm King’s magical winter and to the brutality of war, neither of which has ended suddenly after the battle at the Hayholt.
The Norns may have suffered grievous losses, but the survivors are fleeing back to Nakkiga, while the humans are – understandably – unwilling to let them regroup and gather strength for another war.
And so we find ourselves with Duke Isgrimnur and his army (and in particular, the Perdruinese soldiers Porto and Endri) pursuing them all the way to the gates of Nakkiga.
But we also find ourselves with the Norns, fleeing and then trying to defend their mountain home.
Memory, Sorrow and Thorn might have given us glimpses of the Norns sometimes, but they always had a distant feel to them, nothing like the intimacy with which we get to know Host Foreman Viyeki sey-Enduya.
Getting to know him, with his hopes and fears, seeing the Norns and Nakkiga through his eyes, it becomes difficult to root for the humans, to hope for their victory. Which is not to say that Norn society is one I would like to live in – no way! – but even so, they are people now, rather than the incomprehensible evil.
That is, for me, the big difference to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn – while the antagonists in those books had their reasons for doing what they did, and were not evil in their own eyes, they were still very clearly the antagonists. But now, it’s not so easy to pick a side.
I remember Tad saying that once that, since George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was a reaction to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, his plan for The Last King of Osten Ard was to “keep the conversation going”.
I think I do see some of that influence in The Heart of What Was Lost, in how the story generally feels darker, and in how both sides of the conflict have equally valid reasons to fight.
And yet, it still feels like a brighter, warmer story than A Song of Ice and Fire – admittedly, it’s been years since I read the books, and I’ve only seen two seasons of Game of Thrones so far, but it all feels so hopeless, with everyone either dying or turning out to be awful, or both.
That’s never the case with Tad’s books. People die, and die in awful ways, but there are also true friendships like the one between Porto and Endri, there are people like Yaarike mentoring their successors, willing to make drastic changes to ensure the survival of their people, like Suno’ku, there are people willing to negotiate, like Isgrimnur.
And even if all of these can’t bring about a happy ending, the knowledge that all these people exist, and that there are true friendship and love and honour, that is the warm heart of the book, that is what makes me feel hopeful for Osten Ard. (And more hopeful even for our own world.)
… but sometimes they are the best solution. Like when I can’t wait for a paper copy to get here. Even if it means reading on the laptop because I still don’t want to own an ereader.
But I really can’t wait longer to read The Heart of What Was Lost.
(Lalala, I’m not crying about seeing my name in the acknowledgements, no, not at all…)