Sunday, April 26, 2015

Space App, The Witches of Worm, Worry Ward

Recently, I came across an app that lets me know how many people are in space. It seemed like an absolute necessity, so I downloaded it, and now at any given time I can tell you….how many people are in space. Currently, it’s six, and most of them have Russian-sounding names. Six seems like a low number to me considering the vastness of the cosmos and how many people there are on the planet, but then I suppose sending humans into space is a costly and complicated endeavor. It’s a strangely comforting app. It shows photos of Earth from a great distance and pictures of the astronauts floating around in the vastness of the universe. I find myself using it for perspective. Whenever I start to get anxious, I open it, and it reminds me that we exist in an infinite galaxy and that maybe the exact hue of the napkins at the annual banquet I plan isn’t really that important in the overall scheme of things.

During my writing group last week, I was trying to remember the name of my favorite author when I was a pre-teen. I was talking about one of her early books, “The Witches of Worm”, which I took a brief stab at trying to turn into a screenplay in college. I finally remembered that the author was Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Upon a Google search, I found a list of her books, and I was reminded with an almost mystical nostalgia of her book “The Changeling”. I can’t believe I ever forgot about it. I was fascinated with that book as a young adolescent. It ignited my imagination in a way that nothing else I read did, and to this day, it still has an influence on my writing style. It was just one of those books that imprinted on me very early, and even though I consciously forgot about it, it’s still rattling around in the deep recesses of my soul, leeching out all over my poetry and stories. The book’s main character Ivy Carson is my spirit animal. Sadly, Zilpha Keatley Snyder died last October due to complications from a stroke. But I’ll always be grateful for her literary legacy. If you’re interested, you can read a synopsis of “The Changeling” here.

I wasn’t really joking about the hue of the napkins. Last Thursday was the Big Annual Stressy Event I Plan Every Year for work, with a bazillion moving parts and all kinds of things that I worry will go wrong/fall apart at the last minute/epically fail. I spend the weeks leading up to it obsessively checking and double-checking lists, nagging vendors, going over things in my head, etc. I have a superstitious but unshakeable belief that my worrying acts as a ward against disaster. It proves to the banquet gods that I’m paying attention, and therefore I will be rewarded with a smooth and glitch-free event. Ironically, all of the things I worried the most about and planned contingencies for were complete non-issues, and things that it never even occurred to me to be concerned about went awry. There comes a point where your brain just can’t process any more possibilities and walls itself off to focus only on the essentials. It was a lesson in rolling with it, but in the end, it all went off brilliantly, and I came home exhausted but deeply satisfied.

Here’s a brief interview with Zilpha. It reminded me of some other long-forgotten books of hers that I’m now determined to re-read, including “The Velvet Room” and “The Egypt Game.”

--Kristen McHenry

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