This is a chapter that contains probably one of the more bizarre scenes I’ve ever included in one of my books. (And for those of you who have read some of my other books, you’ll realize that that’s saying something.) Dancing and singing alpacas? Let me tell you how this came about. I knew that I wanted to establish more the mystical traditions of the alpacas. I wanted them to have more of a history and culture than they did in the original draft. As I recall, when Buttersby went to the Cavern of Babel in the original, that’s the first there was really mention of the whole idea of Arks. It didn’t fit in with the rest of the story. So I wanted to put it in earlier, but I didn’t just want to throw it in as an afterthought. It had to be part of the alpacas–part of their culture. Alpacas come from Peru, and it made sense that they would have a long history and quite a few traditions, just like people. The Feast of the Arks was born. I just loved the idea of having this secret ceremony that humans have no idea about–that as soon as the alpacas are alone, they all start doing these strange things. Since Meander and Buttersby were descended from these Peruvian alpacas, I thought it would make sense if some of this dance were instinctive. Since Meander is so willing to follow his heart and desires, he fits right in. If Buttersby would have let herself, she could have done the same. Naturally she doesn’t–she’s far too uptight to let herself go like that.
In my experience, Americans are for the most part much more like Buttersby. As a culture, we’re very uptight and not willing to do things that don’t fit into our strict range of experience. In some ways, this is a good thing. We value our culture and try to stick to it. But I think at the same time, we end up missing a lot of wonder in the world, just because we–as a culture–have decided not to accept it. So maybe one of my thoughts of this section of the book was to hope people might ask themselves if they’re ever like Buttersby. Do you ever pass up a wonderful opportunity just because you’re afraid of looking stupid or not fitting in? Sometimes it’s a good idea to let go of your self image so that you can do things you wouldn’t otherwise do.
Not that I want to seem like I’m trying to preach something through my writing. Primarily, this was a cool scene I got to write about singing and dancing alpacas. But there’s some of my philosophy lying beneath it, as well. I don’t necessarily think I did that intentionally, but rather that I couldn’t help but expressing my ideas through my writing. They just seep through.
Anyway–that’s all I have for this week. I have to say that the picture that went along with this chapter is one of my favorites. Shawn did a great job with those alpacas. Bye.