The year is 1568. Queen Elizabeth sits on the throne of England. Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled Scotland seeking refuge with her cousin Elizabeth. Instead, she finds herself imprisoned and turned over to the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury. In March of 1568, a young stonemason, by the name of Robert Smythson, leaves Caversham, where he has been working for the Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Sir Francis Knollys, and travels to Longleat in Wiltshire, to join the workforce of Sir John Thynne. He will spend the next twelve years building one of the most beautiful homes in England for a man renowned for his demands for perfection and stinginess, before moving north to oversee the design and building of Wollaton Hall for Sir Francis Willoughby and finally Hardwick Hall for the Countess of Shrewsbury.

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Radio Silence

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy living or writing. I have, however, been wearing my parenting hat a lot of late, answering more to the sound of “Momma?” than to my own inner voice.

May is always hectic, as any mother of school age children knows. Add to that the start of summer swim team, the re-occurrence of a child’s health concern, and some serious vacation planning (more on that later), and you can imagine how creativity and introspection have taken a back seat.

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The grace of substitutes

“I’m the class bookworm,” he said to me, his blue eyes meeting mine over the book cart.

“Every class needs one,” I quipped back.

“Yup, and I’m it.” We chatted for a few minutes about the series he had just finished, what he might read next, etc., before he turned to go find some new books, and I turned my attention to something else.

He returned a little later, carrying the books he had just borrowed. I asked if he had read them already. He said yes, and added that he had gotten 100% on the comprehension quizzes. Good job, I said, and he went off happily to find some new adventures.

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Trees, continued

I first mentioned my current obsession with trees here.  Please, allow me to continue to ramble on.  My current WIP takes place in a dense forest, similar to or based on the dense forests in southwest Germany or the Alsace region of France.  The story is fairy tale-like, evoking (I hope) the magical forests of classic fairy tales.  Trees shelter and protect characters in danger, they warn of intruders, they supply needed medicines, and generally act as a force for good for all the forest inhabitants.

Then, I came across this delightful book:  The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, by Peter Wohlleben.   This is not a case of life imitating art, but surpassing it.  This is a case of truth being equal to or better than fiction.  Turns out, trees found in dense natural forests really do all those things, at least for each other.

Wohlleben manages forests in Germany, and he writes with great affection of trees interconnected with one another through their root systems, sharing nutrients, supporting and nurturing sick trees back to health, even supplying nutrients to a seemingly dead stump.   He tells of trees releasing toxic substances to deter pests, then other trees reading the situation and releasing their own toxic substances.  Trees are communicating with one another for the good of the entire population, they work together to establish a local climate or ecosystem in which they all benefit.  Overall, he sees a group of related trees functioning as a single unit, much like an ant colony.

Other topics include the maternal instinct of some trees, who actually slow the growth of young trees, because a slower growth is associated with longevity, the interaction between trees and other organisms such as mosses, birds, or ivy, and how trees recovery from injury.   Time is measured differently for trees, with units of decades or even centuries, rather than hours or days.  The dramas that unfold in a tree’s life cycle unfold very slowly.

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A writer’s prayer

Let the air and ideas float around me
While I sit among papers and words.
Let me submerge myself in fable and adventure
And grasp the whisper on the wind.

Today let me live in possibility,
Allowing myself to wander in wonder,
Daring to imagine the infinite
Possible combinations.

For you, O Lord, are a God of word and story.
The creator, who created me to create.
To live a life of self-expression and
Quiet the voice of denial and doubt.

I pull hope from the corner of my heart,
And banish wounds of criticism and fear.
I hold my offering gently in my hand and ask
Your spirit to breath it into life.

O creator God, create afresh in me.
Allow me to dig deep and bring forth
Character – both within and without.
Bless the work of my hands, O Lord.
Bless the work of my hands.


By Katherine J. Scott

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