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The Magic of Dragons and Dust

"I think... that when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn't do. All that I might have been and couldn't be. All the choices I didn't make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven't been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed."

- Ursula le Guin, The Other Wind

Yesterday, The Other Wind arrived on my doorstep. I read it right through. Today it lingers in my heart like a dragon's claw or the memory of sun flashing against a high window. This is the third time I've read it, and I've gone deeper into it than before; next time, who knows how much deeper I will go.

I came late to the Earthsea books, but I'm glad. I came to them after I'd lived on an island of heat and stone and dust, after I'd sailed, slept under the stars. The books did not so much lead me into enchantment but accompanied me through my knowledge of what enchantment feels like. I have been in Tenar's dark and in her farmhouse kitchen; I have lived in the wind, looking for dragons.

This morning, I was thinking of how profoundly, and with only sparse simple words, Ursula creates images in my mind, and I was wondering what other books that reminds me of. Then I realised - none. Earthsea reminds me of itself. And of places in my own world. That's how real it feels.

illustration by jeanie tomanek

ps: A fairly new reader of my weblog tells me she assumed I was a teenager. I'm curious now. For those of you who have read my online writings for a while, and who have read my books, how old would you guess I am?


  1. I do love these books so deeply. I think I lived in their world somewhat as a child, as I did with other beloved book worlds. and yes, it felt---still feels---very real.

  2. I first read the Earthsea Quartet when I was 12 or 13. Rereading all the books more recently, I realised how very influential they were to the development of my view of the world. The idea of equilibrium has always stayed with me. And yet there is so much more to them that I was not aware of when I was younger, the layers, the feminist ideas. Earthsea is a land that is still very much alive, and nourishing.

  3. Thanks, I needed a book suggestion for today.

    I don't think about age when I read you, but I've been approximating 40's. Early or late I have no clue, and it's probably generated from knowing you have a daughter.

    Inside we are almost timeless after we're grown, but you don't sound like a highschooler!

  4. A teenager!? Bless. No, you don't come across sounding like a teen! You have a mature grace that times gives :-)

  5. I never thought about your age...but I knew that you have a child or children, so I suppose I would have guessed 30s at least and probably 40s? I think we all have some child-like and also some very elderly traits in us, all in our own special mix and style...

  6. I'm curious - is it The Other World or The Other Wind? I've been googling it and I can only find The Other Wind (Earthsea no.6)

    1. Oh my gosh, you are right! My stupid mistake! Yesterday was an awful day for me and my mind was somewhere else. Sorry!


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