The silver mare carried her through the wild night as if the hounds of Helmdon were on her tail. Arianna’s cloak cracked like a whip; her eyes streaming with tears from the wind’s force. There came no hounds in the forest that night, and the only hell that compelled the woman forward was fear. She must reach the Castle Ionia before the rising of the second sun or the binding spell could never be broken. The wizard Clivane had been adamant about the timing, and an adamant wizard was best to be believed. With a silent apology she dug her heels hard into Skyhorse’s flank and the felt the beast respond beneath her. She must arrive in time or Leaf would be lost to her forever: married to that, that…
“Excuse me ma’am, would you like something to drink?”
Wait. What? Drink? Can’t you see I’m galloping here? “Um, no thank you, I’m fine.” I managed a somewhat confused smile for the flight attendant.
Arianna has arrived safely at the castle and things are going rather well with the prince, in fact, I might be blushing when the my tray of food arrives. This time I have to actually put the book down. I place my bookmark between the pages and smooth the edges with satisfaction. Reading on airplanes is one of the great joys in life. Long uninterrupted hours, well, except for the delightful people who bring you food and drink—which is a bonus for me because at home I have to get it myself—immersed in a story, no place to go, nothing that must be done. Combine that with the delicious anticipation of arriving someplace new with your own adventure story about to begin, and you have a recipe for happiness.
Choose two complementary pieces of cloth that are the same size. About six inches long is nice. Width can vary—something divisible by an inch and a half or so works, but there are no rules. Edges are a personal preference: cut or tear, it’s up to you.
Grocery lists, business cards, plane tickets, love letters, I’ve used them all as place holders. Left behind they become emotional markers in past journeys. Apparently I read Dick Francis’ Under Orders, that time I flew, alone, to Shanghai. Flipping through the pages of Connie Willis’ Blackout, reminds me that her time-traveling historians in war torn London distracted me that last time we went to Philly to visit mom in the hospital. We took the train from Richmond. I had to put the book down and mark my place as we slid through the impoverished back streets of Baltimore. Looking out the window I felt disoriented. Was I still reading? Had there been a war here? Where was I? Even though I had been an adult for a very long time, I grew up a bit that day.
Fuse the two pieces of fabric together. This is a good time to use up those pesky scrap pieces of fusible web you’ve got hanging around or cut a fresh piece slightly smaller, an eighth of an inch will do, than your cloth.
A Tan and Sandy Silence, vintage John D. MacDonald, is open on my lap, but I can’t see the words. I’m tracing the ridge of stitching on the bookmark with my finger, over and over, like a pocket stone or mala beads, it is a prayer.
A young friend has died. Likely the result of his struggle with alcoholism. Grief washes over me. My mind works up to the edges of how his mother, his father, must feel and snaps back to my hands on the cloth, tracing the stitches. Pain. What do we do with all this pain?
Line the fused cloth up on a cutting mat as square as possible. Using ruler and rotary cutter, slice inch and a half strips. Embellish, keeping in mind the result must comfortably fit between the pages of a book to do its job. Keep any beads or 3-D texture to one end.
I used to read a lot of Science Fiction Fantasy, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels are among my favorites. I don’t remember hiding the fact that I did this, but it was somewhat of a guilty pleasure. It just didn’t jibe with my perception of myself as, well, you know, literary. Why, I would wonder? Why are these books so compelling to me?
I can picture the exact time and place I figured it out—I was in the living room of my apartment on 9th Avenue in San Francisco, late afternoon, weekend—I had a very clear thought: a rather wizard like voice, perhaps even the Wizard Clivane said: “You like these books because no matter how bad things get, in the end the GOOD ALWAYS WIN.”
Unlike life, of course, in which they don’t.
Has a book or a bookmark played a part in changing your life? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below or write to me here. The Baltimore Reads literacy program receives 20% of every bookmark purchase from my Etsy store. Bookmarks make great treats for yourself and are fun to give away. Most importantly, read lots of books and help someone who can’t.