Wow...Easter's coming early this year. With Lent starting on Valentine's Day and Easter Sunday coinciding with April Fool's Day, we've got all our holidays mixed up.
Every family has Easter traditions, and our family has ours. Unfortunately, since my sister and I are growing up, we're too big for a lot of them. For the first time this year, we're not decorating eggs. I'm a crafty type-and by crafty I mean creative rather than cunning--and when I realized that egg decorating could be more than dyes that never came out right and stickers that never quite stuck, I was ecstatic. Suddenly, eggs became works of art. I'd draw designs on them with white crayons before dying them. Some were two different colors. It might not have been perfect, but it was nice.
We might have ditched the Easter eggs, but I'm still going to hold out for sugar cookies come Christmas. They taste way better than hardboiled eggs.
I guess I've never really stopped to wonder why people decorate eggs for Easter. What's so special about them? Does the egg symbolize something? Why are the colored? Can a special combination of colors represent a secret code? That sounds interesting....who wants to read a mystery book in which the two detectives communicate via the arrangement of Easter eggs in a basket? It's like the language of flowers--but with eggs.
Speaking of flowers, do you decorate your house for Easter? We have a family of bunnies--fake ones, of course, wearing matching pink dresses. There's a mom, a big sister, a little sister, and a baby. I've always wondered what happened to the dad. I look at the mama bunny, with the baby sewn into her arms (and usually hanging by a thread, because they're old bunnies), and the responsible older sister with the basket of flowers, and the younger sister who's wearing a ballerina tutu, and my writer brain starts rolling.
We haven't put our Easter bunnies out yet. I don't know if we're going to.
And then there's that grass. The grass that goes in the egg baskets. It's not even worth it, because it gets absolutely everywhere. I had a friend growing up whose bedroom carpet was always covered in Easter grass. Always. It didn't matter if it was April or August, you'd find a stray bit of annoying plastic in her carpet.
No! Get it away! My carpets! My vacuum! Argh!
And now, if I can pry my eyes away from the most annoying substance this planet has yet created (unless it's second to whistles designed for young children), I can focus on the good things about Easter. See, there's more to holidays than just traditions. Most of them were created for reasons. Easter is arguably the most important holiday in the Christian religion, because Easter Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the grave. Without the resurrection, there's no possibility for salvation and really no reason to be a Christian.
And that's the thing about Easter. Just like most other holidays, it's been commercialized. People hear the word "Easter" and think of chocolate, bunnies, and annoying plastic grass. But they don't think about Jesus--or not much, at least--and the light, the hope, the joy that He brings to us. Because if the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, there isn't a darn thing that can prevent us from living the lives God has planned for us. Not poverty, sickness, circumstances, loss, or emotions. Not even that darn Easter grass.
What's your favorite Easter tradition? And when, since Easter falls on April 1, are you celebrating April Fool's Day? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
Leif held his breath as the latch moved, and the door was opened by a man wearing a slave’s collar. The tired eyes, the tall build, the short mousy hair that had once been fawn-colored—yes, he was the same man Leif remembered, only older.
The slave looked up, and his eyes widened. “Master Leif?”
Leif embraced Othinn. Aye, it was the same man—a good friend, a trusted servant, and not quite a father figure for him. Leif hadn’t realized how much he’d missed him.
“Master Leif, you aren’t dead!”
“Of course I’m not.”
Leif thought. Why had he gone to Scotland in the first place? He’d been on a raid with Konar, injured, and not given a second thought as the longships sailed away. Aye, everyone here had good reason to think him dead.
“How have things fared here?” Leif asked.
“Well—all’s well here. Come inside, Master—warm yourself, break your fast. Should I wake your brother?”
“You’re brave to offer,” Leif said softly. Drostan wiggled, and Leif tightened his hold on him. He’d be awake for good now, until his nap at noon. “I’d rather he sleep as long as possible.”
Drostan nearly squirmed his way out of his father’s grasp, and Leif let him stand on the dirt floor. Othinn might as well meet him; he’d already served three generations of Leif’s family. “Da, I’m hungry,” Drostan said.
Othinn’s eyes grew even wider, and for a brief moment Leif worried for him. Too much of a surprise at once was never good for the heart of an elderly man—but how old was Othinn? Sixty? Seventy? He looked old.
“Sorry, Othinn. This is Drostan. I’ll be taking him back to his aunts and uncles on the next ship to Port Ellyn.”
Othinn blinked, then knelt next to Drostan and tidied his hair. “Master Drostan,” he murmured, “it’s a pleasure to meet you. Be in no hurry to leave.”
Drostan hugged Leif’s leg. “Nay,” he said decisively. “Da. Hungry.”
“The skouse will be ready in a moment,” Othinn said. “Come—sit. Welcome home, Master Leif.”
Leif took Drostan into his arms again and stepped into the longhouse--his longhouse—inhaling the scents of wood and fire and food. Aye, this was home. No one in Scotland made skouse, or at least good skouse, and even the soft cheese skyr sounded good to him. And stockfish—they’d stockfish in Scotland, but none so good as fresh stockfish, eaten on the same shore it was caught and dried on. And come Althing in summer, there would be Leif’s favorite dish of puffin.
Leif looked up to see Karl, the slave who’d served his family since they were both thirteen. He’d have made a very good friend, if Leif hadn’t been so caught up on his high status as the son of the chief. What had he been thinking? Karl was a good lad—and certainly a good man, now that he was in his mid-twenties. Perhaps they would be friends now.
“I always thought you were too good of a swordsman to die in a raid,” Karl said. “And your son—I will serve him just as I have served you, and your father before you.”
“I have no doubt you will,” Leif said, embracing Karl. “It is good to be home.”
Leif felt another pair of arms encircle him—and there was Hallbera, the youngest of the slaves, with a smattering of girlhood still left in her at eighteen. She’d been a mere child when she’d first been brought into the house. “I’ll make beef with greens tonight,” she said, remembering correctly Leif’s second-favorite meal. “What will the boy eat?”
“Ockkish,” Drostan said.
“Stockfish,” Leif translated. “He loves it.”
Hallbera smiled, then took Drostan into the workroom to feed him. Leif felt strange not having Drostan near him, but at the same time, it was marvelously freeing.
The door to the closed-in portion of sleeping platform opened quickly, and a strange woman stepped out. She looked at Leif, then covered her nightshift-clad chest with her hands and hurried into the workroom to dress.
“That’s Hildegaarde,” Karl whispered to Leif. “Konar married her after Thordis died.”
“Thordis died?” Leif asked. He’d liked Thordis—a kind sister-in-law, a good cook and prolific maker of fabrics. Strange, how both he and Konar had been widowed so young.
Another figure emerged from the paneled portion—heavyset, strong, bearded and brawny, with red hair that streamed to his shoulders and a piercing, cold gaze that could freeze water.
Leif took a breath. “Konar.”
Konar stood still, staring at Leif. What was in his gaze? Wonder? Questions? Anger? The love any decent man had for his brother? Or was there only emptiness, coldness, the apathy that had characterized Konar since his birth? The only thing Leif saw was a cold light that could have been anger or compassion, or some strange mixture of both.
Konar’s voice broke the silence. “You were dead.”
Leif blinked. “I never died.”
“Then why did you stay?”
“I met—” The words didn’t want to come out, but Leif forced his grief into a masculine, angry huff and exhaled it. “I met a girl and I married her.”
“Your place is here, Leif. You had a job. I hired two people to take care of the tenant farms.”
“Well, I’m back.”
Konar gave Leif a friendly shove in the shoulder. It was the closest thing to a hug Konar was capable of. “You’d better stay here this time. You’re too valuable to lose.”
Konar pulled on a pair of clothes and left to fill the woodpile. Leif looked at Drostan, happily eating a bowl of skouse in the workroom while Hallbera watched him. He borrowed Konar’s comb to brush his son’s hair, then his own hair and beard.
It seemed that Konar would let him tend to his family’s land again. That was comforting. Maybe he could put in a few hours with the shipwright, too, so he could do something with his hands. He’d never enjoyed sitting still.
It takes work to make a home, Leif realized. And no matter where that home was, there would always be work. There would always be reality to deal with, whether that reality was Adelaide’s grave or Konar’s temper. There would always be farms to tend to, ships to build, sons to raise. There would be little joys in the everyday, and the little grievances that outweigh them to a person with a wrong perspective.
There was no use in chasing the comfort of memories at the expense of tomorrow’s glory. And that, Leif decided, was why he would stay in Diaparn. At least until the future called him somewhere else.
--A note for the reader by Alynn McNeil
Apparently, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. I wouldn't know much about how ye Americans celebrate it, except that The Author went shopping on March 17, and nigh everyone was wearing green shirts with shamrocks and Celtic knots. There was also a green swimming pool that she saw, but I'm thinking the pool wasn't supposed to be green.
Ye Americans love thinking Ireland is green, don't ye? And ye aren't wrong. We get a fierce lot of rain, and the grass can't help but be green. It's the same green that things are nigh everywhere in the spring, when the grass is bright and new and ready to begin a new year. But there's so many other colors, too. The water is blue, and the skies are sometimes white but mostly grey, and the flowers are all different colors. My favorites are fairy's gloves--well, ye call them foxgloves, just as Father called them dead man's thimbles when he didn't think I was listening. They're a grand purple color.
Another thing ye're right about is all the tales we have of fairies and leprechauns. The church doesn't fancy them and would rather us tell stories of saints and such, but Mum didn't always listen to them. It was the stories of Cu Culainn, the great war hero, that I loved most. But there were leprechauns and clurichauns and banshees and merrows, and Tarin always loved the ballybogs.
But for as much as ye love Ireland, most of all on St. Patrick's Day, ye don't know much else about my country at all, at all.
First, we don't speak English. We speak Hiberno-English, and ye Americans get it all wrong. We don't say "Sure, and" in front of every sentence, and we don't sound like ye think we do. A man from Cork and a man from Limerick City and a Dubliner all sound different, just like a man from Boston sounds different from a man from Texas. That being said, we're alike in some ways. "Ye" is our way of saying "all of you," or as The Author says, "y'all." If I just did something, I'm "after doing" it, and if something isn't good "at all, at all," it's fierce bad.
And why do ye think we eat nothing but potatoes? They're American, brought to Ireland in 1590. That's nine centuries after all the stories ye'll read of me are set. Before that, it was milk we ate, with stirabout (which ye call oatmeal) and bread. We ate seaweed, too--so much that someone wrote a song called "Dulaman" about it. And then there's blood pudding, which Father always liked a good deal more than I did.
And a last thing--we don't wear kilts. The Scots wore kilts for a while, starting in the 1700s, but now even they save them for special occasions. I always wear a dress, properly called a leine, with a cloak called a brat. I believe The Author calls them "plaids" rather than "brats" because ye Americans take "brat" to mean something else. Some leines have long, hanging sleeves. It's pretty I think they are, but I'd trip over them or catch them on fire, and besides, I'm not about to waste the fabric.
No matter what gets lost in translation, I always love celebrating my country. Ye don't have to wait until next year to celebrate Ireland again. We've three patron saints. St. Patrick is fierce popular, but we've also St. Brigit of Kildare and St. Columba. St. Brigit's feast day is the first of February, and St. Columba's is June 9. I hope you'll think of us kindly before the next time March 17 comes around.
Leif stirred. There was something on his chest...wait, that was Drostan—how long had they been asleep? The world was dark. Was it cloudy, or still night? Where were they? What time was it? Why had Leif been waken up? Was something wrong?
“We’re at the port.”
Ah, this made sense. Carefully, Leif sat up. If he moved slowly enough, quietly enough, maybe Drostan would stay asleep. Nay—don’t move, son—go back to sleep….
“Whisht, you’re alright,” Leif whispered. Drostan grew quiet again, his head heavy against Leif’s chest. Thank God.
“I’ll give you a hand with your trunk,” the sailor offered. He kept his voice down, as if he knew how hard it was to get children to fall asleep. “You’ve more important things to carry.”
Leif smiled. “You’ve your own children, I suppose?”
“Four of them, and another by autumn.”
What a lucky man, to have four children and a wife to care for them all! But all the work they required! “How do you do it?” Leif asked, a hand on Drostan’s head. “Having one is trial enough.”
“You’ll find it gets easier with time,” the sailor said. “I’ve overheard your plight—you’ve my condolences.”
The word was said with as little emotion as Leif could muster. Now was not the time for thinking back on Adelaide, or wishing she were here and they were together, the big happy family she promised. Now was the time for thinking, for doing, and for being brave.
Nay, but there would be feeling, Leif realized, as he stepped onto the dock. But strange, good feelings. He was home.
Here was the path he played along as a boy. There was the longhouse belonging to Ljot the fisherman—the same longhouse, only a little more weathered—and the fish drying racks. Leif had often stolen stockfish as they hung drying from those racks. He ought to visit Ljot and repay him.
And the docks—ah, the docks! Leif had always loved them. Perhaps it was the stories he’d been told of how he was born on a boat, in this very harbor, as the warriors of Diaparn were forcing the tribe of Gythia off the island. Perhaps he’d loved the docks for the simple freedom they offered from his chores. Or perhaps it was the scent of the salt and the cries of the gulls, the ringing of hammers and the shouts of the shipwrights that had called him.
He knew the houses he passed. This was the longhouse of Hanvald the Stout, here lived Yngvar Sturluson—if he still lived, and his sons if he didn’t. Yngvar’s son Thorstein had been a good friend of Leif’s growing up. How had he fared in the five years Leif had been gone?
And there was the house of Elder Steingrim. Leif hurried past this house. He prayed that Steingrim’s daughter Signy had been promised in marriage to someone else. Steingrim had been rather eager to marry his daughter to someone from high society—Leif, as the son of the chief, had seemed favorable to him. But he couldn’t bear Signy, nor the thought of her raising Drostan.
Leif scanned the streets. He caught the sailor out of the corner of his eye. He looked lost. Leif realized how slowly he’d been walking, how aimlessly he’d been wandering.
The sailor smiled. “Where to, sir?” he asked, his voice thin and losing its patience.
“Konar Idirson, the chief—his house.”
Not Konar’s house. Leif’s house—or it had been. He would be a stranger here, like he was in Scotland. He’d lost his home. No, he hadn’t lost it. He’d given it up. He’d given everything up, but willingly, because Adelaide was worth it.
But Adelaide was gone.
Without her, nowhere was home. It didn’t matter where he would go, how much time he spent there, who he lived with. He would always be alone without her.
Leif pressed his eyes shut. He wouldn’t cry now—not in front of Drostan, not with Konar just a few houses away. But the knives in his heart would not wait for an opportune moment, and tears slipped down his cheeks despite his efforts. His Adelaide. He would have given anything to keep her.
He looked up. He needed to compose himself—dry his eyes, take a breath, run a hand through his unkempt hair. He hid Drostan under his plaid and knocked at the door of the house he stood before.
He was home.
I know it's early...but happy St. Patrick's Day to all of my wonderful readers!
Lots of people celebrate the feast day of St. Patrick, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, by wearing green and eating potatoes. Last year, I made Irish soda bread. I doubt I'll do much this year since we're getting back from a vacation that day, but I'd better wear green or my sister will pinch me black and blue. Heck, I'm pretty sure we pinch each other even if we are wearing green. We're sisters.
But similar to St. Valentine (whom I blogged about back in February), not many people know much about St. Patrick. To be honest, I don't know very much about him, either. But what I do know actually came from VeggieTales. Watch the short yet wonderfully hilarious video here: https://youtu.be/fg5ejLGEnZk
Anyway, the man now known as St. Patrick was actually an English boy named Maywin Socket who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland. People who are kidnapped into slavery, especially when they're sold to a distant land with a strange language, don't always react in the greatest ways. Some grow angry, others escape, and yet others develop a victim mentality. But not Maywin. He clung to the faith he'd learned in England and began to pray. By the time he left Ireland six years later, he was praying 100 times a day!
Eventually, Maywin went back to England and became a bishop. The church, for reasons I have yet to understand, decided to change his name to Patrick. Patrick then had a dream in which he felt led to go back to Ireland and preach to the people there. Today, he's credited with introducing Christianity to Ireland, as well as driving out all the snakes. But that's a story for another day.
I find it interesting that St. Patrick was called to preach to the same people who enslaved him. And he went willingly! I remember being in spiritual bondage. It's similar to physical slavery in that whatever bondage you have, fear in my case, dictates your every action. Sorry, I can't go to that party, I'm too scared. Sorry, I can't spend the night, I'm too scared. I don't want to go on vacation. What if something happens while I'm away from home?
And yet St. Patrick was willing to face all those fears he had, fight the good fight, and do what God was calling him to do. And because of him, an entire nation met God for the first time.
I know that I'm not always willing to face my fears. I have a lot of growing to do. But I'm starting to learn that God uses the battles we've gone through in life for our good. I dealt with fear--heck, I'm still dealing with it on occasion--but I can help other people. I can give them a hug, along with the kick in the pants and the "snap out of it!" that I needed in the midst of my own battles.
I haven't had many opportunities to help people through their fear. Maybe I'm not ready to do that yet. I know I still have a long way to go, that I still give into fear more times than I ought to. But I know I'll keep growing, learning, and that someday I will be ready to teach others.
Do you have any St. Patrick's Day traditions? I knew a family that dyed their Guinea pig green every time March 17 rolled around. If you have anything that crazy--or if you're just planning on eating a potato and wearing a green shirt--be sure to let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
Good afternoon, dear readers! In case you haven't seen it, you can actually buy your own copy of Where the Clouds Catch Fire! Scroll up, it says "Purchase." The book itself is $10; the price you'll see includes shipping and handling.
That being said, I can get into what today's blog is really going to be about. And strangely, this blog isn't going to be about the onion slices on my feet right now. Some people say that putting onions in your socks help cure things, and I want to see if it'll help this cough I'm starting to develop. So far, I just feel stupid. But one of my many favorite quotes in life is "If it's stupid but it works, it isn't stupid." And that can be said about so many things besides putting onions on your feet.
So many things we as humans do on a daily basis might be considered strange. Why do we drum our fingers on tabletops? It doesn't serve a purpose. Why do we twirl our hair, chew on our lips, clear our throats our of habit? Why do people have quirks? What purpose do they serve?
Honestly, I have no idea, other than the fact that quirks make people unique individuals. They help cement our personalities. And if you, like me, are a writer, I can almost that you'll have certain quirks.
A common quirk writers have is the compulsive need for their work stations to be perfect. They have to have three sharp pencils and four black pens in their pencil holder. The Kleenex box has to be perfectly flush with the side of the desk. The mouse pad can't be crooked. The radio has to be tuned to 101.7 FM, even though the same station comes in clearer at 101.8 FM. Let me find a Stock photo that more clearly demonstrates what my own desk looks like.
I'm not just a writer. I'm also a student. Which means that at any given point in time, there is a calculator, three textbooks, an empty package of fruit snacks, a whiteboard, and a Teeny Ty on my desk. Right now, there's also part of an onion, because I also read keeping an onion nearby can help you get over colds faster.
But the time is coming, saith the professional authors, when I shall be smitten by the overwhelming desire to keep my work station perfect. Apparently, it's inevitable. I should just give in, and start organizing my work station. But until that time comes, I will fight. I refuse to bow to the pressures of society to have a perfect desk. I will leave sixteen CDs scattered on the dark composite wood. I will deposit my weekly earnings on its dusty surface. And no matter how many pennies I lose, no matter how many pencils fall into the abyss, I will fight until the dust grows--
Never mind. My sister nearly stole $12 off my desk. I really should be taking better care of things. Now, how much longer do I have to keep these onions on my feet? They're starting to burn....
What's on your desk right now? Have you ever put onions in your socks? If so, did it work? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
The air was dark and chill. Leif hoped that Drostan was snug and warm in the fold of his plaid. He leaned against the back of the ship. He wouldn’t sleep. He’d watch over Drostan, and be alert for when the ship came to dock at Diaparn, and then he’d pick up his trunk and go to his brother’s house. Would he be accepted there? There was no telling with Konar. Ever since he was a boy, he’d been mad, slowly losing his sanity and replacing it with a strange, manipulative cunning. And anger. A good deal of anger. What was he doing, bringing his three-year-old son to live with a madman?
Guilt welled up in him. Aye, he was bringing his son back to his aunts, uncles, and grandmother on the next ship to Scotland. He was making a mistake.
“We’re nigh there, Mr. Leif,” one of the sailors called. “We’ll dock before sunup.”
“Thanks,” Leif said. He settled back against the ship and sighed. Drostan’s tiny hand slid across his chest as he rubbed sleep out of his cat’s-green eyes. Where he’d gotten those eyes, Leif had no idea. They weren’t his own, and they certainly weren’t Adelaide’s. Perhaps one of Adelaide’s siblings, or her mother, had green eyes, and Leif hadn’t noticed. Or had either of his own parents had green eyes? His father’s, Leif remembered, had been hazel, like his own.
Drostan’s eyes opened. “Mum?”
Leif blinked. He swallowed the lump in his throat and kissed Drostan’s disordered hair. Adelaide would have insisted on brushing it, so Leif tried to sort the little red wisps into a more natural layout. “Mum’s not here,” he said.
Drostan’s little voice was full of sleep and innocence, too little to understand death or heaven or grief outside of his toddler’s need for a mother. “Where’s Mum?”
What could he say? What was there to be said? He’d tried to explain that Adelaide was gone, that she was in a pretty place with Jesus, and that she was happy there. Drostan never seemed to understand.
“She’s…she’s with Jesus, son. Don’t worry about her.”
“When’s Mum coming back?”
“Perchance you’ll see her if you go to sleep.”
Leif ought to have been speaking in Norse, he realized, if his son was going to be spending any time on Diaparn. He’d tried to raise Drostan bilingual. His mind was brilliant, flexible, soaking up knowledge of the wide world he lived in. But he still preferred Gaelic to Norse.
Leif hoped Drostan would drift back to sleep. He had no energy to deal with him. He was tired, but it was a strange tired, as if he’d been sick and spent the day in bed. And yet his spirit felt as if he’d just completed a long day of work.
Work—what was he to do, once he arrived at Diaparn? His family had owned a good deal of land, but Konar had probably sold it. He preferred the much more profitable slave trade. It hadn’t bothered Leif until he had become Christian, but now the mere thought of it sickened him. He’d learned the trade of the shipwright in Scotland. Perchance Hakan, the shipwright of Diaparn, would hire him. Hopeless wish. Hakan had always hated sharing his business.
Drostan wiggled free of Leif’s arms, and he caught him by the back of his tunic. Drostan wailed. “I’m not sleepy, Da!”
“You will go back to sleep,” Leif said in Norse. “It’s night time.”
Drostan’s Norse was pitiful, nearly impossible to understand, yet a valiant effort for a three-year-old. “No!”
“Drostan, when the sky is dark, it is time to sleep.”
“Then why aren’t you sleeping, Da?”
“Because I’m your father, and I don’t need sleep.”
“You sleep during church.” Drostan used the Gaelic word for ‘church.’ Was there even a Norse word for it? “And you make a noise with your nose.”
What grace was given to mothers, that they spent their lives with children like this! For less than a week had Leif been Drostan’s caregiver, and he was losing his mind! Had Adelaide ever grown impatient with him?
Precious Adelaide. What would she do?
Leif lay on his back, making Drostan lay facedown on his chest, and he covered the both of them with his plaid. “Suppose I tell you a story?” Leif said, returning to Gaelic.
“Saint Cuddy and the geese!”
Leif had heard Adelaide tell the story enough times—about how the affectionately-nicknamed St. Cuthbert had turned a miserly farmer and his geese into statues. Drostan simply thought that “geese” was a funny word to say, and he giggled every time he heard it. But as the story wore on, Drostan’s giggles turned to simple smiles, and he was asleep by the time it ended.
It was peaceful—the gentle rocking of the ship, the dim starlight, the quiet noises of the waves lapping at the side of the ship and of the wind ruffling the sails. Leif closed his eyes. It might not hurt him to have a nap...just a short one….
I've heard a lot of wonderful things from my pastor, and one of the most powerful is "The only thing worse than unbelief is a wrong belief."
It's true. It's easier to build a house on an empty lot than it is to destroy a building that's already there. It doesn't just apply to beliefs, but to knowledge.
That's one of the reasons why, when I'm writing a book, it's important for me to get everything right the first time. Research lays foundations. If I start writing a book on an incorrect assumption, I might not be able to correct myself. And that's where excuses and imagination have to come together beautifully.
For example, most people know that all monks wear brown robes. Right? Nope. Only Franciscan friars wear brown habits and rope belts. Benedictines typically wear black, and Augustinians wear white. But I didn't know this when I started writing Where the Clouds Catch Fire, and so I designed Lukas as always wearing a brown habit with a rope belt.
Later, I realized just how much I hate researching after-the-fact. I couldn't get brown-robed Lukas replaced by a black-robed Lukas, at least in my mind. Brown suits his personality better. Brown is my grandfather's favorite color. Black is the color of business suits and funerals. And besides, Lukas just looks better in brown.
I could have done a simple search-and-replace and solved my problem. I could have just sucked it up and made Lukas more historically accurate. But I didn't. I didn't have a good reason not to. Or maybe belief is the best reason in the world to do something. And this was when my imagination started working with whatever part of me is good at making excuses.
I did more research. Turns out, the Law of St. Benedict didn't specify what color monk's clothes were supposed to be. They would wear the same clothes a poor person would. The black color was added later, just for a standardization across the Order. I might have exploited that loophole, but I had a better idea.
We tend to take colors for granted today. If a store doesn't have a shirt in the color we like, we order it online. There's an entire aisle at Walmart dedicated to different colors of yarn. But back in the day, dye had to be made by hand. It involved time and plants and hot water and, for some reason, urine. Some colors were harder to obtain than others, and one particularly difficult color to make was black.
But one particularly easy color to make was brown.
I still feel a little guilty about not doing my research beforehand. I've learned my lesson for future books. And while I'll do my best to learn information before I need it now, it was still worth it for the simple exercise in creativity.
What's the most creative solution you've ever made? Do you prefer wearing black clothes or brown clothes? Tell me in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.