I found out today that Ursula K Le Guin died this week.
But the death of a great mage is a strange matter
I first read “A Wizard of Earthsea” when I was young, I’m not sure how old, in elementary school for sure, possibly fourth grade? And this book changed my life. She would have agreed. She believed that each book we read changes us in ways great or small. Her books changed me in no small way. During a dark time in my life (3rd – 9th grade) they were a light that led me back out of the dark time and time again. Reading about another young boy who’s greatest enemy was himself, and had to learn to accept his own darkness really resonated with me, and to an extent, still does 30 plus years later. To my mind, this is the mark of a great writer, to take the timeless, make it timely without constraining its timelessness. This is true magic.
Inspiration and frustration
She is one of the biggest inspirations for me wanting to write. Her voice is so powerful, ephemeral, resonant, and spare, that it’s just like a light shining from the page. That’s the inspiration, and inevitably, the frustration is that when I put words down, I feel like they’re a pig pretending to be a peacock. Of course, I realize intellectually that I’m still barely a beginner at writing, but that’s cold comfort when I look at something like this:
The Archmage looked at Ged and looked away, and began to speak in a tongue that Ged did not understand, mumbling as will an old old man whose wits go wandering among the years and islands. Yet in among his mumbling there were the words of what the bird had sung, and what the water had said falling. He was not laying a spell and yet there was a power in his voice that moved Ged’s mind so that the boy was bewildered, and for an instant seemed to behold himself standing in a strange vast desert place along among shadows. Yet all along he was is the sunlit court, hearing the fountain fall.
I read things like that and I just want to give up writing since I’m such a hack. My version would be more like:
The Archmage started mumbling some stuff and Ged got confused because he didn’t understand the language and he imagined he was in a weird desert but really wasn’t.
It wasn’t just about the writing, either
Ursula Le Guin wasn’t just an inspiration as an author. She also wrote the first version of the Dao De Jing I ever purchased, and it’s still my favorite, despite Jonathan Star’s not so subtle snarky remarks about it. This book is what got me into Taoism, at least as a philosophical system, and is just one more way Ursula Le Guin influenced the course of my life.
Farewell Segoy. I’ll miss your voice, and I’ll endeavor to shine mine to the point where it would do you proud.