Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This past weekend at LeakyCon I went to a talk by John Granger, an excellent scholar and author (if you haven't read his books, I highly recommend them), and while he was talking about Deathly Hallows he said something that really spoke to me. He was talking about what Dumbledore left Hermione ("Tales of Beedle the Bard"), and the specific task he had in mind for her, and he summed it up as follows: "Read a kid's book, interpret its meaning, save the world." Well, as you can imagine, that made me sit up and pay attention.

"Read a kid's book, interpret its meaning, save the world."

Isn't that what the HP Alliance is about? Reading Harry Potter (the "kid's book" part is arguable, I grant you). Interpreting its meanings. Using what we learn and discover to change our world for the better.

In fact, that's what this new initiative What Would Dumbledore Do? really boils down to. WWDD gives us the opportunity to not just read about Dumbledore, but to examine him in more detail and to pull out lessons and examples from his life that have taught us something important or that could in some way benefit our world.

So, whether you were at LeakyCon or whether you're just following us online, I hope you'll get excited about this project and this amazing opportunity we have. Seriously, just think about it: What would Dumbledore do? And as you ponder, share your ideas with the rest of us. Let's celebrate this amazing wizard and all the things he has to teach us.

We've read the books, now let's interpret their meaning. Better yet, let's save the world!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I have felt so small, so many times today.

There are many kinds of small. There's the small you feel when it's you in the middle of a field at night staring up at the starry expanse of universe above you and realizing just where exactly you fit into the grand scale of all that exists. That is a good kind of small. Terrifying, intense, but ultimately somewhat assuring.

The small I felt today was the ugly kind of the small, the mean little monster that attaches itself as your shadow and casts a gloom over your whole day.

I felt small when I went to try on dresses at the department store and their largest size was still too tight.

I felt small when people stared or downright pointed at my hair (I've recently dyed it pink/red/orange), and not in the "oh-isn't-that-different-but-not-unpleasant" way. In the way that someone might stare at someone who unknowingly has a noseblood... horrified fascination mingled with the desire to laugh because the person has no idea what they look like. But even that's not accurate, because you feel slightly sorry for the person with the nosebleed, or you at least let them know eventually so they'll stop it. These people just stared and pointed and looked at me like I was shifty or irresponsible or just altogether nasty.

I felt small because I was tired, and because I was in a strange place surrounded by too many movements, noises, sights. Too many people too close to me. My mind was a whirl.

I felt small because I felt like I could melt into the wall and no one would ever notice or care that I was gone.

I felt small because that tight dark feeling that haunted me so much of last year is back, and as strong now as it was then, and I hate the thought of zombie medication, but I don't know if I hate it more than this.

sharp as slice and not as nice and if you when you-but you-no. not what was ever going to happen. not in the very briefest while.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stone Bridge

I wrote a story based on a dream I had a while ago. It's not great writing; it's mostly impressionistic and melodramatic. But I am consistently moved by it, especially by the final line which resonated so strongly in my original dream. This is a story about the fact that life can be special if we choose to see it that way.

G.K. Chesterton, an author I love, was talking about allegories once and wrote about George MacDonald, another author I love love love, that contrary to the traditional allegory that takes ordinary life and dresses it up as a fairy story, "George MacDonald did really believe that people were princesses and goblins and good fairies, and he dressed them up as ordinary men and women. The fairy-tale was the inside of the ordinary story and not the outside." That is, I think, what this story eventually proves to be about.

Here it is, in all its unedited glory


In a village called the Old Town, at an inn called the Corner and Square, there is a scullery maid who gets glimpses of Something Else. For example, the inn’s namesake: the fabled cornerstone of Old Town, part of the church directly across the street from the green village square. History tells of a monk named Egfried who founded the colony that built the church; it goes on to speak of many a Christian festivity on the green, with the flowers of spring garlanded and the new life wreaths and the old gods cleverly disguised.

But the scullery maid, when she hears of this past, catches sightings of a different one. With the assurance one might sometimes feel in a dream, she sees that the church is really a castle and the village green the sight of an ancient and fearsome battle. She sees flashes of steel, not the flappings of prayer books in the wind. She sees blood spilt on the grass, darker than communion wine and hardly as sweet. She dares not tell anyone of the things she sees: all too many pine for witches and heretics to burn.

Sometimes it’s not so much a glimpse as an echo. She hears names in strange tongues but intuits easily their meanings: the market road is really Bright Path, the mill is Stronghold, the bog at the southward fringes of the village translates roughly in her mind as Cradle of the Dead. She hears these names and realizes—with some shock, surely, but really more of an acceptance, an understanding—that she knows them already. That she’s heard them before. That somehow these things she sees are True and remarkably Real.

She has lived her whole life knowing things no one else around her has even imagined. It is as though she has the most life-changing of secrets, a secret so great it actually succeeds in protecting itself with the disbelief and doubt it casts in men’s

This is a hard thing, the keeping of secrets. It can be wearisome. It is not for the weak. And sometimes even the strongest find themselves failing. They long to tell it. It yearns to be shared.

That is why it meant so much to the young scullery maid the night the stranger rode into town.

She was dumping a bucket of kitchen scraps to the pigs when she heard the clatter of hooves in the distance. She dropped the bucket and ran toward the sound, dashing around the corner leading toward Bright Path. Here she first saw him, tall and proud, the towering figure of a man on horseback sending the shadows of a giant sprawling before him on the cobblestones. She shivered in anticipation.

“Lass, could you tell me the name of yonder bridge?” the man asked, staring up at the lit crossing in an odd way, as if it reminded him of something else entirely.

“Simriel,” she wanted to tell him. “‘Journey’s hope,’” for that is what it had always been to her. Instead, she lowered her head and, in a defeated voice, said, “Stone, sir. They call it Stone Bridge.”

The flicker of recognition left his eyes and he sighed. “Thank you, girl. And good evening to you. I must be moving on.”

As he turned to leave she caught sight of a glint of metal at his waist. A sword? Her suspicions were confirmed upon his final turning, when she saw the leather scabbard poking out of his cloak.

“Sir!” she cried, excited and suddenly out of breath. For quite abruptly she saw them, the glimpses surrounding him, mysterious and not fully formed, but enough to tell her that he was not what he seemed. “Sir, if you’ll excuse me asking, why is it you carry such a noble sword, and the air of a man not from these parts?”

He turned and smiled; she could not tell if he was amused by her questions or impressed by her observations—or both.

“Many call me Veridel, but I am sure you haven’t heard of me. I come from far away, ‘tis true. But what of you, my lady? You say I carry a strange air about me, but you have that same air.”

He paused and gazed at her, his expression inscrutable. What must he see? A reckless and feverish excitement, that most unforgivable thing—hope. She had let her guard down. She had laid it all out on the line. The course of her life might well hinge on his answer.

“I think,” he said finally, “In fact, I am certain of it: we both know the name of that bridge was never really Stone.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Last Night

So I was sitting on my bed and typing in a Word document when there came a soft tap at the door. The cat, being more like a dog than a cat in its nature, bolted to the door to catch a glimpse of the unexpected intruder. Could he have barked, I'm sure he would have, but a subtle miaow sufficed. I slid feet to floor and paced the few feet across my studio apartment to the glass-paned door, but to my surprise, no one was there. I felt sure the tap had been real; the cat's response, above all, was enough to assure me of this. But there was no one on the outside patio, not a figure illuminated by the street lamp beyond, and with the quickness with which I'd been able to respond I felt sure any knocker would have at least still been in my yard upon my arrival at the door. To not even see a distant flickering of shadow was, then, quite unsettling.

Slightly puzzled and troubled, I left the door and returned to my typing. The cat remained at the door, gazing out, but I thought little of this for he is a cat who thinks he is an outdoor cat and often sits pining by windows. However, there may have been something to his watch, for barely a full minute had passed before I heard the tapping again, This time I did not rise from my work. I simply froze, and listened. And sure enough, I heard the quick, light tread of feet on concrete as someone--someone quite small from the sounds of it--slipped away into the night. The cat had not hissed, but his eyes were wild and his hair was raised as though in great alarm.

I debated what I could do. I could call and report a disturbance to the police. I would be going to bed sometime soon, after all, and it would not do to have some strange prankster tapping at my door all night. The light tread led me to believe this was a child, and perhaps he would be missed from home, so reporting the incident might be doing a favor to more than just myself. I could, of course, just ignore it and hope the perpetrator would grown bored and stop. This was the option I went for, and continued typing for the course of the next thirty minutes, hearing the soft knock at least seven times more in that span. But while I found I could peacefully ignore the minor tapping, the cat was having an altogether different reaction. With each tapping he grew more and more irritated and alarmed, and by the time the most recent knock had sounded on the door he was literally spitting, backing away from the door but not leaving it, as though both horrified and hypnotized.

It was this reaction that finally led me to take action. Scooping the cat up, I took him and shut him in the bathroom, away from the door. Then I slipped on my sandals and opened the door. It was a warm night, and a slight breeze stirred the thick air, though not enough to keep away the sweat. I could see no shadow on the lawn. I could hear no one breathing. Yet I knew, by common sense at least, that the knocker was out here somewhere, very near. So I rested a hand on one hip, and trying to sound authoritative, I said, "I know you can hear me, and I appreciate a good joke as much as the next person, but this has got to stop. If you keep it up, I will call the police."

There was nothing. Not a sound, except in the background I thought I could hear the sound of my cat from inside the apartment, miaowing and banging against the door in an effort to be let free.

"So we're going to try this again," I continued. "I'm going to go inside, and you're going to go home. We're both going to get a good night's sleep and laugh our heads off about this in the morning."

Again, the only answer I received was the night air, the long unmoving shadows on the lawn.

I turned back to the door and pressed down on the handle, which wouldn't give. I tried it again. I jiggled the handle. I peered closer at the door. It was quite blatantly locked; even the deadbolt was turned, which of course could only have happened from the inside.

It was about this time that something close to fear pricked around the edges of my body. All the tell-tale signs were there: an increase in heart rate, a cold sweat that had nothing at all to do with the weather. I had been standing not even two feet from the door, and yet someone had passed me and locked me out of my own apartment. A someone I had not heard or seen, nor even felt in the way one can usually sense another person is near: like when you're in the bathroom and you know the stall is occupied even though the person inside is silent and you haven't checked for feet under the door. All of my senses had failed me, including, it would seem, my common sense. I was now trapped outside my own apartment, without my phone, without any keys. Someone was inside there with all my stuff, and I was stuck outside. Someone was in there with my cat...

And that was when I realized that the sounds of frantic miaowing and pawing at the door had stopped. Other than my pitiful jiggling of the handle, the night was utterly silent.

"If you've done anything to my cat, I swear I'll kill you!"

I yelled it against the glass, but the words were beyond inadequate. I couldn't see anyone moving around inside. No one was looting the place. All the stuff within my range of vision remained untouched.

Why would someone break into an apartment if they had no use for the things inside it?

Again, options screamed at my mind... run to the neighbors. My apartment is in the basement of a house, but the people upstairs were on vacation. The nearest neighbors were at the end of a long gravel driveway off to the left of the house. I could make it there within minutes; we could call the police and sort this whole thing out that way. But that seemed too simple. It would be leaving the opportunity for the person to make an escape. I was afraid at this point, yes, but I was also quite angry; after failing to catch a glimpse of this person several times now, my pride would not let me leave without at least once seeing a face.

But how? The neighbors up above kept the spare key, and as I mentioned before, they were gone. The lock and bolt situation at the door made it a pretty impregnable entrance. I could break the glass on one of the panes and try unlocking it that way. Or I could simply break a window. But suddenly this mysterious person no longer seemed like a harmless child to me, and the thought of scattering shards of broken glass, something that could potentially be used as a weapon against me, didn't seem like a good idea. If only there was a way to hit it, but not shatter it...

And suddenly I knew. I knew what the stranger wanted.

I reached out a trembling hand and tapped, one two three, on the door.

Inside the apartment, a moment of absolute stillness. Then I heard that sound again of feet, this time on kitchen tile, though I could see absolutely no one and no thing in the entirety of the kitchen. My heart beating irregularly in my chest, speeding up and then nearly freezing in my panic, I knocked again. A third time. Sometimes I swear the person, or the thing, was near, investigating my presence. At other times I felt distinctly ignored. And after the seventh knock, the door swung open.

"Is that all you wanted?" I asked timidly, hoping not to be misunderstood. The thing I had mistaken for a nighttime breeze wavered translucently in the entranceway. I took that to be a yes. "I'll try to remember. To open the door to those who knock." My throat was tight as I said this. I could not fully see the thing, but now I could sense it. Inches from me, and it was not a pleasant sensation. Strong, and big. Like the kind of big that can crush you. I took a step back to let it pass.

I guess my words were satisfactory, because in a moment the nighttime noises returned, along with the frustrated noises of my cat. I slipped over the threshold and into my apartment, and found I could not breath again until the bolt was safely fastened and my cat was clutched tightly in my arms. He squirmed to be free almost instantly, but I held him tight. I looked in the bathroom, the closet, under the bed, moving in and out of every corner, examining the interior of every cupboard, but no traces of the invader remained. It was then I started really breathing, a bit too much, and too fast in my hyperventilating state, but breathing nonetheless.

In the morning, I looked all around for signs that it had been more than a dream, but I never found a thing. Not even fingerprints on the glass of the door.