21 October 1992 - 22 January 2018
Ursula Le Guin passed away yesterday. Somewhere she is flying on the other wind.
I want to say that, for me, her stories are weaving – I see the loom in them, the threads, the deliberate careful movements of the artisan making a shape manifest. I see how the conflicts the characters live are first and foremost within, and I see the core story is the discovery of your own path. There is such tenderness between her characters; they are unafraid to love and lose and love even more.
For some reason, it took me a while to start A Wizard of Earthsea; I kept starting and stopping. But then, one summer in 2014, before I went to Palestine, I began it again. And that was that. I remember saying to Omar on the bus returning to Ramallah – I remember saying to him, how you can feel the incantations that her wizards speak working on you; I mean, the care they take, and how the spells are woven, how they require such thought and feeling and precision and a kind of touch too. The laying on of hands. How I felt at peace reading them and afterwards, my thoughts followed that rhythm and I sought to be kind to myself and others.
It was the summer that the assault on Gaza began; when Mohammed Abu-Khdeir, the young Palestinian boy was killed and I went to his funeral in East Jerusalem; that summer in Palestine, the heat, the bombs, the walls, the military hand thrust in the car window asking for your passport, that was my first summer of Earthsea. I remember it now as healing.
There are raids and fighting at the start of the first Earthsea novel, but in most of her books, war does not serve the story. Not does it serve her characters. (does it ever serve ours).
I feel she calls out the oldest truths. Something spoke through her and she let it and grew it and nurtured it and served it profoundly.
These past two weeks, I had been re-reading her books, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, The Other Wind and had just begun A Wizard of Earthsea again last night.
And woke to read of her passing this morning.
Somewhere she is flying on the other wind. somewhere….
Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky
-- The Creation of Ea
(from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin)
Farther west than west
beyond the land
my people are dancing
on the other wind
-- the Song of the Woman of Kemay
(from The Other Wind, by Urusula Le Guin)