Covid has delayed production of Totem for a year, which is fine, because during these months of isolation and home-bound-ness I have returned to a feeble hobby I enjoyed greatly decades ago, drawing sketches. This year, too, has been a chance to get back into the mountains for hiking, but these days I am slower, and tend to spend fewer hours a day under a pack, walking, leaving time to stop, observe, and draw whatever I see along the way. It used to be, for years, the definition of a decent hike was how blown you were at the end, how damaged, how great the pain, but age, while not removing the pain, has at least allowed enough small wisdom to be a little more conservative. Your scribe was never the brightest bulb in the room. So, hence, I have taken to drawing along the way, with pencil, or ink, small 5 inch square heavy paper sheets, easy to store in a back pack. The drawings are feeble, primitive, and reveal an unsettling mind, but they have been fun. My wife suggested, when I came back from one such hike last spring, perhaps I could draw a story with these panels, share it with our small tribe of grandchildren and nieces and nephews, or grand-nieces and nephews. This seemed like a fine idea, and so I did so, with the idea I could have a Zoom meeting with the widely scattered wee ones and tell the story in real time over the screen. Then, to increase their anticipation, my wife suggested that maybe I could send a story panel, once completed and copied, to each of the kids so when they watched the story then could also be holding part of it in their hands, waiting then to see where it fell in the tale.
This I did. It was (and is) a lot of work, hours, but great fun. I took heavy watercolor paper and cut it to fit in business sized envelopes, then drew the panels and mailed them to the kids after photographing them on my phone, cropping them, and then storing them on my computer such that I could prepare a PowerPoint slide show, but a slide show of drawings, pictures, which I then can run through, live, on Zoom, telling the tale picture by picture. The first time we did the Zoom event I hadn’t even finished the first story, but it was a way to tell the kids and their parents, my own kids and cousins, what to expect, and to get them ready for the pictures appearing in their mailbox. It is also possible to record these Zoom events, which means, I can then take the recorded tale and get it up on You Tube and send that, too, to each wee one, such that they have the story to watch again if they wish, at their pace and speed, but also available for those kids who may be unable to make the Zoom meeting.
Years and years ago when my own kids were little, at Christmas I would buy a lot of cheap – I mean, CHEAP – little plastic figurines of animals and dinosaurs and monsters and wrap them, one apiece, to the kids who would be present, usually three or four kids and their cousins, and with each tiny present was a card upon which I wrote a 3×5 chapter of a tale, one by one, such that as the other presents were opened a story was being told to all the kids, involving them. This was something that was a much bigger success than I expected. Then, a bit later, I began telling stories to my son Jack to put him to bed, when he was very little, in a crib, still, and these stories were about a young lad named Roland and him finding a hollow in a tree which was a Well of Time, a way to go into the past. I told him many such stories,all of which he has forgotten, which is probably good because I believe I was inhaling back then.
Now, fast forward 35-45 years, and it is another generation of wee ones, everything on flat screens, everything provided, and due to this pandemic everyone desperate for new material. These new stories, drawn on paper, copied, then shown via Zoom and Powerpoint while narrating the tale, have been much liked by the wee ones, whose minds are perhaps s twisted as my own.
Then, in November, one of the kids, the oldest one, actually, Ollie, sends me a drawing he has made and says, maybe you can put this in your next story, and this seemed like a fine idea, so I solicited drawings from all the other kids, whatever they wished, and then drew a story which included their characters and drawings, too. This was even more work, but great fun, great fun.
So it seems that just as I have finished one series, the Strong Heart Series, three books about the Pacific Northwest, ancient history, an ornery young girl and her companions, I have now embarked on another: The Well of Time series. This blog post here was started years ago simply as a great place to store the stuff I enjoyed and had fun with, and if someone gets into it and enjoys it, fine. Now the Well of Time tales, those done so far, are on this blog too, on the right hand side, available to anyone who wants to watch them.
When I finished Totem I knew I had completed the first series, in three tales. I suspect the Well of Time tales might carry on a bit longer. I would say, as far as the pandemic goes, there could have been many worse ways to pass the time.