I grew up on an old tobacco farm in North Carolina. We never grew a thing, but oh did I love that land. We had a zip line from one barn to another, where my sister almost lost a pinky sliding down the tin roof. I had visions of a club house and so whitewashed in the inside of one barn. I got just enough paint on to make my mom mad when I realized that I didn't live close enough to anyone to have a club with them. It was a hard day. There was a mile long walking trail around the property where I would stroll, talking to myself, telling stories to the woods, and singing as loud as I wanted.
We dug out a pond and put an island in the middle, where my Dad built this enchanting gazebo with a swing. Many mediocre poems were written on that swing. There was a lone pine tree on the island and under that island there was a familiar indentation. In that spot, every year, came a pair of geese. They came, they laid, they sat. And then, they left. The eggs stayed behind and rotted. Never once in those many years did I ever see a gosling. I saw two geese guard a barren nest with frightening, if futile, ferocity. But, they guarded it. Because it was theirs. I wondered so many times why they kept coming back. I also wondered if they had snakes in their mouths. Seriously, geese are terrifying.
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale, reminded me of those geese and my beloved piece of land. The quarry where Miri lives is cold and sharp and a bit of a mystery, even to a girl who grew up there. And in the leaving of her village, she finds it. That's just the way it goes sometimes. She learns to sing with the rocks of the quarry when she leaves them behind, realizing that the quarry doesn't ever actually leave her. It's a delightful tale.
I live far away from that island and that gazebo now. Another family strolls through those woods and wonders why the upstairs of that old barn is halfway painted white. And maybe, they see the same barren couple of geese returning every year, refusing to give up hope on their nest, on each other, and on some chance that one day, a baby will come. Because they find their home in each other. And that is quite enough to make anyone sing.