The Cailleach is as old as the land itself. She wandered the Green World since it first coalesced from the waters of chaos. Bheara was already ancient by the time the Tuatha de Danann arrived on the shores of Ireland. She has crowned Kings and toppled empires. These are curated collections of her most important entries to her grimoire.
Fintan thinks himself both old and wise in the matters of time. It took me much of the night to disabuse him of that notion! He's right that the Oran Mor began with a single note containing all things and yet no things. He is most definitely not right that the unfolding of the Great Song progresses along an evenly metered straight line. Do not the seasons repeat and yet build each cycle toward greater complexity of forms, greater knowledge? Wisely he answered yes, even one as thick headed as him can see the sun rise each morning! All the same, he views circular time as a dead end, 'an endlessly turning wheel cannot account for the origins of species or the bulding of wisdom', he lectures. Might we both be right? The cycles of life-death-and rebirth, the turn of seasons, the very mechanism driving the forward growth of more and more complex life ever recur in cycles, but ever change. It's why fins became fingers and the old coot can drink his tea. The Oran Mor must be a spiral of repeating themes progressing around the forward line of endless variations. All born out of the big banging resound of the First Note who contained all things not yet formed.
And I believe there are cycles within the ascending spiral of the Oran Mor, another opportunity for Fintan to be wrong about something else. Long have I charted the swells and eddies of the Song, longer than even he has existed. For aeons it built and built, the diversity of voices and melodies joining it seemed to never end. While the Children of Danu abided in the Undying Lands, this was so. They learned every coda during the first Triune of Creation. So many refrains had joined the song that nothing new could find room to even warble. When there was nothing more they could learn in the land without Death, Mother Danu sent them forth into the Green World because, to play new music, some strains must end. Her children set sail for Inisfail and set to work conducting the music to mold the Green World. This current Second Triune is, therefore, an Age of Preservation where little new is added to the song, and little leaves it, but what exists is reshaped and reformed into a wondrous array of beings. But what happens next?
Old Fintan believes once the Second Battle of Moytrua ended, the Song was fully realized. He thinks it will go on and on near forever marching forward with only the incremental change until it all winds down and falls silent. He's wrong about that too. He fails to see crescendos in the song come always in threes, and this time we inhabit now is only the twilight of the latest cycle. I jab my finger at the drawing from my grimoire. Big shift is coming, I tell him. A Final Battle of Moytura draws nigh. The only question is when! He screwed up his face and flapped his gnarled hand at me as though I were a child. 'No one can predict the next harmony in the Great Song. Not even you.' He said and tittered in his grating laugh. He demanded I prove it. I've always hated that hideous knee-length beard he insists on keeping, so I offered him a wager. If I can predict with reasonable accuracy when the next crescendo in the song will occur, he has to shave it off! The damn fool took the bet. For three days I will sit and listen to the Oran Mor, and then I complete my chart of the Second Triune, and we wait.
As I harken to the Oran Mor, impereceptibly at the edges, the notes sour. Melodies as threadbare as my dress. These old bones tingle and pop. Thousands of sun cycles have passed since the Children of Danu drove the Children of Domnu into darkness at the end of the Second Battle of Moytura. On that Plain of Towers, the Tuatha's victory over the Fomorians promised a world of seeming infinite growth to those who took the world from the Tuatha. Humans alone rule this long arc of the Song, but the third, and final crescendo of this age hastens. Battle defined the last Triune, while Scholarship ruled the first. I see a new plane of towers in a faraway land. Towers of metal and glass clumped on the land like a forest. The Tuatha and even the Sidhe return to the Green World, and a battle looms. What force will dominate the Third Triune? Will it be another Age of Creation or an Age of Destruction? This I cannot tell. I can only hear the shreiking discord in the crescendo and know the Green World will never be the same.
The central location in my upcoming book The Tower in the Mist is an actual place along the Oregon-Washington Border called Sauvie Island.
The island, near the city of Portland, covers over 32 square miles, and is one of the largest river islands in the United States. Much of modern day Sauvie Island consists of a wildlife area, but the island also supports a small community. Some of the roughly one thousand year-round residents operate u-pick farms and retail outlets serving bicyclists and other tourists who cross the single bridge to the Island.
Portland would seem to be an odd choice of location for the return of the Sidhe to the human world, but it's wild places and creative pulse are just the kind of place that would attract the fae like moths to flame. The Underworld, where the fairies reside, is a place betwixt and between. It is a realm parallel to our own and accessible in wild places that are themselves in a between state. In most fairy stories, the only way to reach the Underworld is to cross water. An intrepid traveler might descend to the bottom of a lake, step through a mist, or cross an ocean to arrive in a mystic land. Sauvie is a perfect place for both wildness and being not fully land yet not fully water. It lies between two rivers and the area is very often covered in a mist.
Mist is also a liminal state, not quite water, not quite air, making it a perfect crossing point for magical beings entering the Green World. Fogs feature strongly in the stories of the Celtic gods, the Tuatha de Danann. The tale of how the Tuatha first came to Ireland describes them arriving in a mist lasting for days. So Sauvie Island being surrounded by water, between two great rivers, and misty made it a wonderful place to set a modern day tale of gods and fae. But it is not just Sauvie Island's natural resources that make it a great setting.
The Island's history and present day culture also offers some wonderful fodder for storylines.
In 1805 Lewis and Clark were the first non-natives to see the island, they called it Wapato Island after the growths of wild tubers they found there. The tubers were a staple crop to the Chinook people who lived in the area. The Multnomah village was the prominent native settlement on the island at the time, but plague and displacement brought by the settlers eventually decimated the native population. The last survivors were removed from the Island in 1832 and the village burned. The image of Sauvie in the 1800s above is from the Oregon Historical Society.
My family drove past Sauvie numerous times on our summer trips to the Oregon coast. Until my late twenties, I just assumed it was the shore of Washington State on the other side of the Columbia River. The picture below from TravelOregon.com shows the lakes and thick trees of the wildlife preserve.
The energy of Faerie runs strong on this freshwater isle. It is brimming artistic energy. Human creativity always attracts the Fair Folk. Two interesting creative works stand out, the annual corn maze and the UFO near Collins (nude) Beach.
The Bella Organic Farms corn maze is an annual work of art and family attraction. Each year, when viewed from above, the maze forms a detailed picture. My personal favorite was their Rosie the Riveter portrait. I really need to find a way to work it into the storyline of the trilogy somehow. Corn mazes provoke waves of mild anxiety for me, having never successfully navigated one. Friends delight in reminding me of the time I had to be rescued from one we visited near Tamaqua, PA. In my defense, it was cloudy out and I had nothing to navigate by. Since standard writing wisdom is to write what you know, A labyrinth of maize might become downright terrifying for a book character lost in one while pursued by Fae out for blood.
Perhaps the most bizarre attraction on Sauvie is the graffiti and moss-covered UFO near Collins Beach. When I first discovered the strange vessel, I scoured the internet for its history.
So, first things first, it's not a UFO. Unless the F stands for "floating". This 31 foot long disk of concrete on legs was formerly a sailboat. You read that right. That lump of concrete was meant to be a groovy sailboat. Apparently when Richard Ensign built it in 1972, there was speculation that it would float as well as a large rock. He was ridiculed for daring to believe the thing would sail. And yet, Mr. Ensign got the last laugh. Outfitted with a sail and a paddlewheel powered by a 6 cylinder car engine, the craft took a crew of eight on a three month voyage up and down the Columbia and Wilamette Rivers of Oregon.
The sailboat was self-righting and designed to have everything a crew of 12 would require to survive an extended period of time on the water. Considering the tiny homes movement today, Ensign was ahead of his time. He believed the impending social and economic collapse of society would force people to live more simply, and he wanted to be able to flee onto the water to survive the tumult that would accompany the inevitable decline.
In 1996, the sailboat came to its resting place near Collins beach when floodwaters cast the vessel high onto the shore. When the waters finally receded, the concrete boat was stranded. There will be a fun scene featuring the Sauvie UFO in the second book of the Last Battle of Moytura trilogy because I couldn't resist incorporating this fascinating bit of Oregon culture into my writing.
The Tower in the Mist will see Sauvie Island transform into something far more sinister than corn mazes and nude beaches. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit about the place and why I chose it. I have created a Pinterest board featuring a smattering of my location research for my books. I'll be adding more images to it as the world of the Last Battle of Moytura trilogy is built.
I'd love to hear about places you have visited that felt very "faerie" to you in the comments below!