As a writer, my other favorite activity is to read, read, read…
I’m often asked, ‘What is your favorite book,’ and I’ll be honest and say that I have no one overall favorite. I have several that I adore, for various reasons, (and some that I detest for other reasons), so… from time to time I shall share my thoughts about some of my favorite, and least favorite books – and honestly, just because a book might be one of my least favorite, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad, just that it doesn’t match my taste.
I want to begin then by sharing my thoughts about a truly remarkable book – actually the whole series is amazing, and has a permanent place on my bookshelf. That book is Duncton Wood, by William Horwood.
“Hers is the love of life itself and love with her is as big and strong as a great oak tree, with a thousand branches for its feelings and a million trembling leaves for its caresses. And because your heart was open to hers the love you found was far, far greater than the love each of you gave…”
Bracken to Cairn, of Rebecca.
As Rebecca spoke, Rose felt a great releasing flow through her body as if she was returning to a welcoming burrow whose nest was warm and where she could lay her head and sleep at last. She had only ever once heard another mole describe the force of compassionate love that pulls a healer from her burrow, however weary she may be, so that she may find the strength to tend and cherish the distressed and sick… if only she had the power to save this young creature from the pain and suffering becoming a healer seemed so often to bring.
Rose, thinking of Rebecca
From Duncton Wood by Willam Horwood.
It perhaps seems a strange vehicle through which to explore the subject of love and loss, and courage and healing, but speaking for the healers among my guides, I believe he does it very well and manages to make you almost forget that it’s moles whose struggles you are reading and sharing through the 730 pages of a book that’s hard to put down.
Duncton Wood tells the tale of a community of moles and their searches to find what is the center of the souls of all-moles, through the interconnected lives of a small group of moles whose struggles so easily match those of the human condition that it is very easy to relate to.
There is Bracken, a male, whose isolation and skills in pathfinding, and whose natural curiosity, lead him to become somewhat of a philosophical explorer who comes to see the sacredness of the ancient system his people have long since abandoned. Through the course of the book he becomes a revered warrior mole , very reminiscent of holy code-guided warriors such as Samauri. One day, by accident, he meets Rebecca, whom he ultimately comes to love, but his and Rebecca’s love is tested and long in coming to fruition through many hard fought trials.
Rebecca is the daughter of a mole who is much feared and whose impact on the system to which he travels is devastating. However, Rebecca’s love and life carries her beyond her father’s influence. That’s not to say, of course, that she does not face many things in her life until she ultimately finds joy in her love of Bracken through the Silence of the Stone ~ the spiritual force that guides all moles.
Finally there is Boswell, a holy scribe-mole whose personal quest is the discovery of the seventh and final holy Stillstone and accompanying book. his tale becomes entwined with that of Bracken and Rebecca, whom he comes to love deeply. His quest takes him around the far reaches of moledom before bringing him right back to where he began his search ~ and ultimately to himself and all moles.
Through these moles, Horwood explores quite deeply such issues as the nature of the divine and the existence of ‘god.’ He explores love and loyalty, loss and faith, courage and compassion ~ all those things and often leave us, the reader, gasping for breath and reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex.
The writing is beautiful, honest, elegant and simple, and often the reader is encouraged to believe that they are crouching in the warmth of a burrow, listening with awe to the tales of these legendary moles whose trials might remind us that with all of those qualities, if we embrace them, we might just survive, or better still, approach a holy bliss ourselves.
As a treaty on love, it often had me thinking on the beauty and depth of my own love for my spouse. As a treaty on what makes a healer, I defy any healer not to associate with moles such as Rose or Rebecca. A strange vehicle for the philosophies he explores, perhaps, but William Horwood has created, in my eyes at least, a beautiful and very special story.