Ursula K. LeGuin (1929-2018)

3/17/20172 min read

A bittersweet epilogue to my last blog. I wrote to Ursula Le Guin last fall, informing her of my intention to compose an 'Earthsea' sonata. She wrote back expressing great interest, and asked me to send her a recording of the premiere. I mailed her a CD of the magnificent performance by Dominic Desautels and Tina Chong... and then received word of her death. So I thought sadly that she had never heard the piece - and then, two days later, I received a handwritten card from her in the mail. This is what it said:

17 Jan 18

'Dear John Plant -

Thank you for the recording of your Earthsea Sonata - The music is beautiful, and the performance is stunning. It's a treasure.

Email of course emanates from nowhere, and it was an addition to my pleasure to know you live in Nova Scotia. Was briefly there years ago, and remember the landscape vividly. (This card is a sketch from the high desert of E. Oregon - I liked the fences so much I just left the rest of the ranch out.)

Many thanks for your music - may you keep making it.

Ursula Le Guin

Needless to say, I was touched beyond measure to know that she heard and liked the sonata during her last days on earth. She has been an essential writer for me ever since I first discovered her. One of her great gifts to me was this sentence, spoken by Ged, in the penultimate chapter of 'A Wizard of Earthsea:' 'My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars....'

Of course it is sad to think that there will be no more books from Ursula K. Le Guin. But this sadness is tempered by the knowledge that her work is inexhaustible; each new rereading yields unsuspected treasures and discoveries. She's like Mozart in this respect. She also made a matchless translation of the Tao te Ching, and recorded it - listening to her voice, steeped in wisdom and rich with quiet humour, kept me sane and smiling more than once during Montreal rush hour traffic.

And it is good to think of her name slowly unfolding in the shining of the stars.

Thank you, Ursula K. Le Guin.