Forests of the Heart
Also by Charles de Lint from Tom Doherty Associates
THE FAIR AT EMAIN MACHA
INTO THE GREEN
THE IVORY AND THE HORN
JACK OF KINROWAN
THE LITTLE COUNTRY
MEMORY AND DREAM
MOONLIGHT AND VINES
SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING
Forests of the Heart
Charles de Lint
A Tom Donerty Associates Book
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.
FORESTS OF THE HEART
Copyright © 2000 by Charles de Lint
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Edited by Terri Windling
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
De Lint, Charles
Forests of the heart / Charles de lint.
“A Tom Doherty Associates book.”
ISBN 0-312-86519-8 (hc)
ISBN 0-312-87568-1 (pbk)
1. Artist colonies—Fiction. I. Title.
PR9199.3.D357 F67 2000
Printed in the United States of America
0 9 8 7 6
Grateful acknowledgments are made to:
Miss Anna Sunshine Ison for the use of her
poem, and for allowing me to make a slight adjustment in it to fit the story. Copyright © 1998 by Miss Anna Sunshine Ison. Printed by permission of the author.
Ani DiFranco for the use of lines from “Pixie” from her album
Little Plastic Castle.
Copyright © 1998 by Ani DiFranco, Righteous Babe Music. Lyrics reprinted by permission. For more information about DiFranco’s music, contact Righteous Babe Records, P.O. Box
Ellicott Station, Buffalo, NY 14205-0095.
Karen Shaffer and Charles Vess
the stars shine brighter
where you walk
Special thanks to Mary Ann for helping me find the time to write this through a couple of years that were inordinately busy; Charles Vess for providing me with some of the Green Man material (though I hasten to add that my take on that venerable figure is far different from the usual folkloric depictions); Miss Anna Sunshine Ison for
Mardelle and Richard Kunz for putting up with far too many questions by e-mail—and for tracking down the answers to them; Jim Harris for the lexicon; Rodger Turner and Paul Fletcher for valiantly helping me through some rather severe computer woes (and thanks as well to Rodger for that early reading of the manuscript); Barry Ambridge for straightening me out on tires; Swain Wolfe for explaining the difference between power and luck; Lawrence Schmiel for vetting the Spanish (any errors are mine); Amanda Fisher for once again helping with the bookmarks; and the folks at Tor for being
patient this time.
I’ve been taken to task by a number of readers for not noting the music I was listening to when I’ve written my last few books. So, this time out my ears were filled, my toes tapped, my spirit was made more full by… well, too large a number of fine musicians to list them all here. But briefly, of late I’ve been listening to a lot of Steve Earle, Fred Eaglesmith, Dar Williams, Ani DiFranco, Stacey Earle, Buddy Miller, Tori Amos, the Walkabouts (including their “Chris and Carla” recordings), and all the various incarnations in which Johnette Napolitano finds herself, one of my favorites being the CD she recorded with Los Illegals.
When I’m actually writing, however, I lean more towards instrumental music where the words in my ear don’t interfere with the words going down on the screen. For this book that involved less Celtic music than usual, though Solas was never far from the CD player. Mostly I found myself playing some of those neo-Flamenco artists such as Robert Michaels, Ottmar Leibert, Gerardo Nunez, and Oscar Lopez, while towards the end of the book, Douglas Spotted Eagle’s
Closer to Far Away
and Robbie Robertson’s last two albums
(Music for the Native Americans
Contact from the Underworld of Red-boy)
were in constant rotation.
But man does not live by worldbeat alone. Many of the hours spent on this novel found me nodding my head to Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Charlie Haden’s duet albums, Clifford Brown, and this wonderful ten-CD set that my friend Rodger gave me:
The Complete Jazz at the Philharmonic on Verve.
If you decide to try any of the above, I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I have.
And as usual, let me mention that the city, characters, and events to be found in these pages are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
If any of you are on the Internet, come visit my homepage. The URL (address) is
—Charles de Lint
Ottawa, Spring 1999
In the middle of the journey of our life,
I came to myself within a dark wood where
the straight way was lost.
The Divine Comedy
El lobo pierae los dientes más no las mientes,
The wolf loses his teeth, not his nature.
Like her sister, Bettina San Miguel
was a small, slender woman in her mid-twenties, dark-haired and darker-eyed; part
part Mexican, part something older still. Growing up, they’d often been mistaken for twins, but Bettina was a year younger and, unlike Adelita, she had never learned to forget. The little miracles of the long ago lived on in her, passed down to her from their
and her grandmother before her. It was a gift that skipped a generation, tradition said.
pah!” their mother was quick to complain when the opportunity arose. “You call it a gift, but I call it craziness.”
would nod and smile, but she still took the girls out into the desert, sometimes in the early morning or evening, sometimes in the middle of the night. They would leave empty-handed, be gone for hours and return with full bellies, without thirst. Return with something in their eyes that made their mother cross herself, though she tried to hide the gesture.
“They miss too much school,” she would say.
“Time enough for the Anglos’ school when they are older,” Abuela replied.
“And church? If they die out there with you, their sins unforgiven?”
“The desert is our church, its roof the sky. Do you think the Virgin and
ignore us because it has no walls? Remember,
the Holy Mother was a bride of the desert before she was a bride of the church.”
Mama would shake her head, muttering,
“Nosotras estamos locas todas.”
We are all crazy. And that would be the end of it. Until the next time.
Then Adelita turned twelve and Bettina watched the mysteries fade in her sister’s eyes. She still accompanied them into the desert, but now she brought paper and a pencil, and rather than learn the language of
she would try to capture an image of the lizard on her paper. She no longer absorbed the history of the landscape; instead she traced the contours of the hills with the lead in her pencil. When she saw
winging above the desert hills, she saw only a hawk, not a
or a mystic like their father, caught deep in a dream of flight. Her own dreams were of boys and she began to wear makeup.
All she had learned, she forgot. Not the details, not the stories. Only that they were true.
But Bettina remembered.
“You taught us both,” she said to her
one day when they were alone. They sat stone-still in the shadow cast by a tall saguaro, watching a coyote make its way with delicate steps down a dry wash. “Why is it only I remember?”
The coyote paused in mid-step, lifting its head at the sound of her voice, ears quivering, eyes liquid and watchful.
“You were the one chosen,” Abuela said.
The coyote darted up the bank of the wash, through a stand of palo verde trees, and was gone. Bettina turned back to her grandmother.
“But why did you choose me?” she asked.
“It wasn’t for me to decide,” Abuela told her. “It was for the mystery. There could only be one of you, otherwise
would only be half so potent.”
“But how can she just forget? You said we were magic—that we were
“And it is still true. Adelita won’t lose her magic. It runs too deep in her blood. But she won’t remember it, not like you do. Not unless….”
“You die before you have a granddaughter of your own.”
Tonight Bettina sat by the window at a kitchen table many miles from the desert of her childhood, the phone propped under one ear so that she could speak to Adelita while her hands remained free to sort through the pile of
spilled across the table. Her only light source was a fat candle that stood in a cracked porcelain saucer, held in place by its own melted wax.
She could have turned the overhead on. There was electricity in the house—she could hear it humming in the walls and it made the old fridge grumble in the corner from time to time—but she preferred the softer illumination of the candle to electric lighting. It reminded her of firelight, of all those nights sitting around out back of Adelita’s house north of Tubac, and she was in a campfire mood tonight. Talking with her sister did that, even if they were a half continent and a few time zones apart, connected only by the phone and the
in their blood.
The candlelight glittered on the small silver votive offerings and made shadows dance in the corners of the room whenever Bettina moved her arm. Those shadows continued to dance when the candle’s flame pointed straight up at the ceiling once more, but she ignored them. They were like the troubles that come in life—the more attention one paid to them, the more likely they were to stay. They were like the dark-skinned men who had gathered outside the house again tonight.
Every so often they came drifting up through the estates that surrounded Kellygnow, a dozen or so tall, lean men, squatting on their haunches in a rough circle in the backyard, eyes so dark they swallowed light. Bettina had no idea what brought them. She only knew they were vaguely related to her grandmother’s people, distant kin to the desert
whose blood Bettina and Adelita shared—very distant, for the memory of sea spray and a rich, damp green lay under the skin of their thoughts. This was not their homeland; their spirits spread a tangle of roots just below the surface of the soil, no deeper.
But like her uncles, they were handsome men, dark-skinned and hard-eyed, dressed in collarless white shirts and suits of black broadcloth. Barefoot, calluses hard as boot leather, and the cold didn’t seem to affect them. Long black hair tied back, or twisted into braided ropes. They were silent, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes as they watched the house. Bettina could smell the burning tobacco from inside where she sat, smell the smoke, and under it, a feral, musky scent.
Their presence in the yard resonated like a vibration deep in her bones. She knew they lived like wolves, up in the hills north of the city, perhaps, running wild and alone except for times such as this. She had never spoken to them, never asked what brought them. Her
had warned her a long time ago not to ask questions of
when it came so directly into one’s life. It was always better to let such a mystery make its needs known in its own time.
“And of course, Mama wants to know when you’re coming home,” Adelita was saying.
Usually they didn’t continue this old conversation themselves. Their mother was too good at keeping it alive by herself.
“I am home,” Bettina said. “She knows that.”
“But she doesn’t believe it.”
“This is true. She was asking me the same thing when I talked to her last night. And then, of course, she wanted to know if I’d found a church yet, if the priest was a good speaker, had I been to confession …”
At least she can’t check up on you. Chuy’s now threatening to move us to New Mexico.”
“Why New Mexico?”
“Because of Lalo’s band. With the money they made on that last tour, they had enough to put a down payment on this big place outside of Albuquerque. But it needs a lot of work and he wants to hire Chuy to do it. Lalo says there’s plenty of room for all of us.”
“That’s right. You should have come to one of the shows.”
But Bettina hadn’t been speaking of the band from East L.A. Those
had given Lalo’s band their big break by bringing them along on tour as their support act last year. The wolves she’d been referring to were out in the cold night that lay beyond the kitchen’s windows.
She hadn’t even meant to speak aloud. The words had been pulled out of her by a stirring outside, an echoing whisper deep in her bones. For a moment she’d thought the tall, dark men were coming into the house, that an explanation would finally accompany their enigmatic presence. But they were only leaving, slipping away among the trees.
“Bettina?” her sister asked.
Bettina let out a breath she hadn’t been aware of holding. She didn’t need to look out the window to know that the yard was now empty. It took her a moment to regain the thread of their conversation.
“I was just distracted for a moment,” she said, then added, “What about the gallery? I can’t imagine you selling it.”
Adelita laughed. “Oh, we’re not really going. It’s bad enough that Lalo’s moving so far away. Chuy’s family would be heartbroken if we went as well. How would they be able to spoil Janette as much as they do now? And Mamá…”
Bettina went back to sorting through her
fingering the votive offerings as they gossiped about the family and neighbors Bettina had left behind. Adelita always had funny stories about the tourists who came into the gallery and Bettina never tired of hearing about her niece Janette. She missed the neighborhood and its people, her family and friends. And she missed the desert, desperately. But something had called to her from the forested hills that lay outside the city that was now her home. It had drawn her from the desert to this place where the seasons changed so dramatically: in summer so green and lush it took the breath away, in winter so desolate and harsh it could make the desert seem kind. The insistent mystery of it had nagged and pulled at her until she’d felt she had no choice but to come.
She didn’t think the source of the summons lay with her uninvited guests,
who came into the yard to smoke their cigarettes and silently watch the house. But she was sure they had some connection to it.
“What are you doing?” Adelita asked suddenly. “I keep hearing this odd little clicking sound.”
“I’m just sorting through these
that fries sent up to me. For a …” She hesitated a moment. “For a fetish.”
Adelita didn’t exactly disapprove of Bettina’s vocation—not like their mother did—but she didn’t quite understand it either. While she also drew on the stories their
had told them, she used them to fuel her art. She thought of them as fictions, resonant and powerful, to be sure, but ultimately quaint. Outdated views from an older, more superstitious world that were fascinating to explore because they jump-started the creative impulse, but not anything by which one could live in the modern world.
“Leave such things for the storytellers,” she would say.
Such things, such things. Simple words to encompass so much.
Such as the fetish Bettina was making at the moment, part mojo charm, part
a small, cotton sack that would be filled with dark earth to swallow bad feelings. Pollen and herbs were mixed in with the earth to help the transfer of sorrow and pain from the one who would wear the fetish into the fetish itself. On the inside of the sack, tiny threaded stitches held a scrap of paper with a name written on it. A hummingbird’s feather. A few small colored beads. And, once she’d chosen exactly the right
one of the silver votive offerings that Inés had sent her would be sewn inside as well.
Viewed from outside, the stitches appeared to spell words, but they were like the voices of ravens heard speaking in the woods. The sounds made by the birds sounded like words, but they weren’t words that could be readily deciphered by untrained ears. They weren’t
This was one of the ways she focused her
Other times, she called on the help of the spirits and
to help her interpret the cause of an unhappiness or illness.
“There is no one method of healing,” her grandmother had told her once. “Just as
is not bound by one faith.”
“One face?” Bettina had asked, confused.
“That, too,” Abuela said, smiling.
requires only your respect and that you accept responsibility for all you do when you embark upon its use.”
“But the herbs. The medicinal plants …”
Abuela told her. “Their properties are eternal. But how you use them, that is for you to decide.” She smiled again. “We are not machines,
We are each of us different.
Unique. The measure given to one must be adjusted for another.”
There was not a day gone by that Bettina didn’t think of and miss her grandmother. Her good company. Her humor. Her wisdom. Sighing, she returned her attention to her sister.
“You can’t play at the
all your life,” Adelita was saying, her voice gentle.
“It’s not play for me.”
“Bettina, we grew up together. You’re not a witch.”