Where are the words, when words lack?
Who takes this emptiness and gives it name?
You are gone and feel no more, but I am just the same.
You wove dreams to change lives
You changed the world with words
You gave me the door and the window and the key
To make my own words and worlds and be free.
Rest in peace, Ursula K Le Guin
You have left us, but not gone.
I know where to find you when I have need
In these well-loved pages; in your Earthsea.
In loving memory. I can’t think to express what Ursula Le Guin’s works have meant to me. Until I read A Wizard of Earthsea, I read well enough, but not fiction. Not for fun.
Though I loved to make up stories, I had been passed only dreary and lifeless books in school. When taken to the library, I brought home Choose Your Own Adventures, because nothing fired my imagination. Strange, when I was such a creative child. Always wanting to play pretend, imagining other worlds – looking for magic, for more than the world around me could give.
And I found what I was looking for in A Wizard of Earthsea.
I wanted fantasy. I wanted science fiction. I wanted voyages of the imagination. I found something in the shadow that followed Ged from island to island – in his struggle with it – almost more than the dragon and the magic. I found something in that world. I could not define it, but it stirred something in me.
The same something that was stirred by the dark labyrinth in The Tombs of Atuan. By the girl priestess who finds a dark-skinned stranger within those dark halls and decides to help him.
I can’t quantify what Ursula Le Guin gave to me. Do I grieve for her? I don’t know. She’s an almost mythic figure for me. She changed my life. She showed me where the books I wanted to read were hiding – in the science fiction and fantasy section. From there I went on to Anne McCaffrey and Tamora Pierce, David Eddings and Stephen King… then circled back to read the books that had been read to me as a child: The Chronicles of Narnia and Watership Down. And on, and on – eventually to an English Literature degree.
It wasn’t that I had never read a book that I had enjoyed before – I had stumbled upon the odd one – but I hadn’t know what tied them together. I hadn’t know quite how stolen away one could be by a book. And now, I have more books than shelves. I write for a living, and I edit, too. I help other people make books, and I am writing my own.
Everything. She changed everything to me.
Rest well, Ursula, we were so very lucky to have had you.