Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Father, The Myth and Legend: The Twelve Labors of Dad

by Minnie Apolis
(previously published on 6-13-2012 on site) 

I recently finished reading Big Fish, by Daniel Wallace. It is a humorous and warm look at the author's father, but with a twist. It is almost as if the father were a mythological being. He outlines the Three Labors which his father accomplished, one of which was saving a three-year-old girl from a wild dog.

I can be proud because my father also accomplished several labors in his life, twelve in all like the immortal Hercules. So there.
 * * * * * * * * * * * *

ONE- He finished the upstairs. The house my parents originally built was a simple one-story salt box Colonial, with a living room, kitchen, bath, master bedroom, and children's bedroom for the two toddlers. This was a huge improvement over what was basically a small apartment in the city-run housing development after the war. But when a third child was on its way, the one-story had to be exploded into a two-story. I doubt this is ever done nowadays, but basically the roof was cut off and lifted up so a second floor could be inserted under it. You could still the line if you looked closely at the stairway walls.

So anyway, he paid for someone to raise the roof, for plumbers to put in the second bath, for electricians to put in the wiring. Then he went to work plastering and painting the walls, laying rubber tiles on the floors of four rooms, and moving the older children's furniture up there so each would have his and her own bedroom. He threw sand into the plaster so that it would have some texture. He mixed the paint colors himself, always adding a touch of blue no matter what the final color was.

And then he put his foot thru the floor of the unfinished storage room. At that point, there were just the joists and ceiling plaster between the storage room and the master bedroom below it. Well, somehow dad's foot slipped off a board and his leg up to the knee protruded from the bedroom ceiling. Cussing up a storm, he managed to extract himself and go about mixing a batch of plaster to patch the hole. If you looked at the ceiling in the right light, you could barely make out the outlines of where the hole had been.

TWO- He built the garage. It was a beauty. While he forever kidded that the next big storm would tear off the top of the house, no such thing would ever happen to this solidly-built garage. A two-car garage with room for a line of cabinets along the left for large and small tools and supplies, it was roomy in a way that no room of the house ever was.

He went to the library to find a book on how to build a garage. When the inspector came, he thought it looked like an old-time carpenter had done the job. When the outlines of the walls were constructed, us kids and mom all came out to hold an old-fashioned barn raising. It was fun, even without the big feed that was supposed to go along with barn-raisings in the movies.

Anyway, he had some help from a brother to put up the big ceiling beams; those were massive and even my dad's muscle was not enough to control such long beams while trying to nail them, too.

THREE, FOUR and FIVE- Raising a son and two daughters. Doting on them is more accurate. No one grew up to be a doctor or lawyer, but at least we all stayed out of prison.

SIX- He managed to stay married for fifty years to the same lady. Never sent flowers to her, just kept coming home every night for supper, and handed over his paycheck to the bookkeeper of the family.

SEVEN- He worked on the bubble chamber project for the Argonne Lab. His company got the contract to build the magnet for the bubble chamber (the University of Michigan received the contract to build the main unit). This was a huge job, the magnet when complete was about the size of a city block. And precision up the wazoo – the tolerances for each piece were measured in ten-thousandths of an inch.

EIGHT- Fought the good war, you know, that WWII thing. Fixed the fighter planes so that they stayed up in the air and gave the pilots a chance to get their licks in. Got four bronze stars. Never told us kids what those bronze stars were for – oh no, that might seem to be bragging, and anyway the real heroes didn't come back home. I do know that one time he had to hang out the plane and manually crank down the landing gear, which refused to budge otherwise.

NINE- Spoke two languages, he said. Polish and broken English. He was only kidding, his English was pretty good – he rarely had to point at stuff to get what he wanted.

TEN- Teaching all of us kids how to drive. Sure, we had the Drivers' Ed classes. But someone still had to put a family car at risk of scratches and dents and let us practice the parallel parking and Y-turns. And he had to teach Mom, too, ages ago. Now that was a good one. How they managed to stay married thru that, I don't know. He told her to put on the gas, and she did. In reverse, right into some shrubbery.

ELEVEN- He told me he loved me. Telling a family member that you love them often falls into the category of stuff-you-wish-you-had-done-and-now-it's-too-late. Well, he did this one years ahead of the point of imminent death.

TWELVE- He died without complaining to everyone within earshot of every ache and pain. After a lifetime proclaiming that dying was easy, it's living that's hard, now he had to prove it. Dang, don't you hate it when you have to live up to one of your personal mottoes. Went in the hospital on a Thursday, died on Saturday, my that was quick n easy.

Some forgotten book I read described a father's death like this: You know there is that mountain over yonder, looking like it will be there forever. Then one day you look and the mountain is gone.

That's what it is like when a good father dies – the mountain vanishes, it's like it was never there, and only you and your memories are evidence that at one time, there was a beautiful mountain in that spot.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lemonade or Ice Cubes? How are you keeping cool?

By Minnie Apolis
(previously ran on August 2, 2012 on Newsvine site)

Here we are, the first of June already, heading into the dog days of summer, and if you do not have some strategies for keeping cool by now, you're a goner. Especially with the extreme heat and dryness of this summer.

I will start off by sharing some of my personal “favorite tricks” of warding off the heat – broken down into categories – and let you readers chime in with your own.

DRINKS – Nothing like a tall iced tea or lemonade to help you stay hydrated in hot weather. Southern-style sweet tea is optional. Mint is also a key ingredient, having a curious cooling quality. In early America, from colonial times through the 1800's, one treat was sugared mint leaves. Most people grew mint or knew where they could gather the wild variety. Individual leaves were coated in a sugar solution which helped preserve them and turned them into a sweet snack with the afternoon tea. I was presented with a sample at an herbal-themed event some years ago, sponsored by the county parks, and it was a very refreshing treat indeed.

So try adding a touch of mint to drinks or even some vegetable dishes this summer: mint tea is probably the easiest option, but mint can also be added to peas or other veggies. Mint is also an essential ingredient in the mint julep, and trust me, the julep is a very nice refresher during the mid-afternoon break when it is too hot to do anything.

FOODS: A lot of people just stop cooking hot meals, you notice that? More takeout from the groceries or fast-food joints, for one thing. But there are lots of meals that do not require standing by a hot stove. Cold dishes may require only cooking some pasta to mix in with tuna, chicken breast, salad greens, mixed Chinese veggies, etc. And you can make your own version of chef salad, of course, preferably with fresh greens from your own garden.

Food preparation is more comfortable if you ditch the oven and stovetop for the microwave and the slow cooker. A slow cooker doesn't emit nearly so much heat into the kitchen like the stove does. And a slow cooker is pretty much a one-dish meal, just toss everything into the pot -- chicken, veggies, rice, whatever spices you want, and whatever sauce you want or none, and that's it. Throw it in and forget about it.

This brings up the other popular method of food preparation in summer which is cooking out on a grill. Why anyone voluntarily stands by a heat-emitting device for a couple hours in the dead of summer is a bit of a mystery, but there ya go. At least the heat is not trapped inside a room, broasting you while the meat grills. And whoever mans the grills usually gets some perks, usually involving the ingestion of hop-flavored liquids.

THE CAR: Boy do I hate getting into a hot car after work. You're lucky if you can park in a parking structure, where your auto is out of the direct sun. But doing any kind of errand will mean parking in a parking lot or on the street. I have already shared my tip about tossing an old towel over the steering wheel while it is parked. This keeps the sun from heating up your steering wheel to about the temperature of that grill mentioned above. I already have a wheel cover that wraps around it, but even the cover gets pretty warm. Ergo, the towel. Just toss it onto the passenger seat and you're good to go.

I also open the window for at least the first five minutes or so of driving, to get the hot air out of the car. When I feel the AC kicking in, then I can close them again.

BODY HEAT: No not the movie, tho it was a classic, hey? Try holding an ice pack on hot spots when you get home from work or play. Hot spots vary with individuals, but usually that triangle at the base of the neck is a good one to chill. (Drug stores sell reusable ice packs which give years of service; just wash them after use and stick them back in the freezer.) 

I have read of people putting an ice cube in the armpits, and tho it sounds funny it does help. The back of the neck, the forehead, the wrists, the belly are all good targets for cooling. In fact, the plains Indians would dip strips of leather in a cold stream and tie them around the wrists. The reason for that is the pulse points in the wrists are readily cooled this way. On the same logic, avoid wearing most metal bracelets in hot weather.

NO A/C AT HOME? There are places you can go for free where you can cool off. Some cities have cooling centers, but there are other places that one can go where one is cooled as a side benefit. One is the mall, of course, and many of them have places where you can sit near a mini-waterfall or other decorative feature. Going to a movie will get you in an AC-cooled environment for a couple hours at least. Bookstores and other shops may have lectures or readings, free to the public, by authors and authorities in their fields.

Another technique involves fooling the brain. You mentally place yourself in a cold environment. I enjoyed talking to a friend who just returned from a trip to Alaska, and it was very pleasant to gaze on pictures of glaciers and ice floes and the like. So rent a movie about Alaska, or about that disastrous Shackleton expedition, or anything set in winter or Christmas-time. Groundhog Day is a good one.

Flip ahead in the calendar to December and see what that picture is – probably evergreens in snow – or back to January and February. This is where I think the calendar makers have it all backwards. In summer we do not want to look at hot beaches and stuff like that. And in winter when we are freezing our buns off we do not need pictures of more snow and ice and cold stuff. In February is when I would like to look at a tropical beach, thank you.

Hope this brief article holds at least one new tip that you can use.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

What is the Soundtrack of Summer for You?

For me, there are two main songs that just sum up Summer for me. Whenever I hear them, on the radio or on the CD player or whatever, they just make my brain click and say, yeah, summer's REALLY HERE. One is Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts, from 1972. The other one is Ventura Highway by America. Summer Breeze's affinity for summertime is obvious due to the name. But Ventura Highway's connection to summer is a little more arbitrary. Sure you can drive the highways pretty much any season of the year in California, with the hood down and the wind in your hair. But here in the Midwest, that is pretty much a summer-only pasttime. I'm sure you could, theoretically, roll down the convertible roof in December and pretend you are sleigh-riding with Dobbin wearing his jingle bells, but people will look at you funny. (VERY funny. But only till the nice men in white jackets take you away...) Summer to me when I was a teenager (or a little-bit-younger “tweenager”) was hopping on my bike to the library, or over to the lakefront to lie out on the sand for awhile and just watch the waves breaking along the shoreline while other people sat down to a picnic lunch or fed the birds. It was the smell of suntan lotion and lake water and burgers cooking on a grill in the park. It was silly love songs on the radio that sat on your beach blanket while you worked on the tan or read a paperback novel. The same radio perched on a bench while you did yard chores for mom, or picked flowers from the garden, or helped hang laundry out to dry on the clothes line. Another radio sat on the grass tuned to the ball game while dad painted the garage or washed the car. Come to think of it, a big part of summer was the portable radio, not a boom box, not a CD player, not an iPod thingie. By “radio” I mean not just the physical gadget with one dial for volume and another one for tuning in to various stations – but also the institution once known as Top 40 Radio, something that many people sneer at nowadays but which brought me in contact with sounds I would never have been exposed to without it. In the decade when every band seemed to have a distinctive sound, they were all well-represented on that Top 40 Radio Station – no matter which particular station was your favorite. Not gonna spend time bashing how a lot of bands now seem to have imitationitis, with a side of cloned-production values – although that seems to describe how they sound to me now. I'm just gonna say, it was as if a thousand sound-flowers bloomed, and all of them seemed to have a hit record out. From the tough-as-nails wail of Grace Slick, to the bubblegum crooning of Olivia Newton John, to the torch rock of Linda Ronstadt, to the synchronized soul of Smokey Robinson or the Supremes or a dozen other Motown groups, to the Mamas and the Papas singing about California Dreaming, to Elvis singing 'bout those Suspicious Minds or that far-off Promised Land. A thousand sound-flowers bloomed and it was all good. VENTURA HIGHWAY (From the chorus) Ventura Highway in the sunshine Where the days are longer The nights are stronger than moonshine You're gonna go I know (I know I know I know I know) 'Cause the free wind is blowin' through your hair And the days surround your daylight there . . . SUMMER BREEZE See the curtains hangin' in the window in the evenin' on a Friday night A little light a-shinin' through the window lets me know everything is alright (chorus) Summer breeze makes me feel fine blowing through the jasmine in my mind Summer breeze makes me feel fine blowing through the jasmine in my mind See the paper layin' on the sidewalk a little music from the house next door So I walked on up to the doorstep through the screen and across the floor (chorus) Sweet days of summer the jasmine's in bloom July is dressed up and playing her tune And I come home from a hard day's work and you're waiting there not a care in the world See the smile a-waitin' in the kitchen food cookin' and the plates for two Feel the arms that reach out to hold me in the evening when the day is through (chorus)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“Merciless” a story of Mercy Gunderson acting as judge, jury and executioner of serial killer

 by Minnie Apolis

Mercy Gunderson goes over the edge in this third mystery in a series written by Lori Armstrong, featuring a female Army special services vet mustered out due to an eye injury.

The tale starts off promisingly enough with Mercy in training for a new job with the FBI, a job that at least on the surface uses much more of her skills than her previous jobs as a bartender or as candidate for sheriff.
The job has special stresses of its own, such as not being able to talk shop with Dawson at the end of the day due to the separation between local law enforcement and the feds.

Another layer of stress, although a happy one, is the addition of another member of the family. No, not that. Dawson's acknowledged son, Lex, comes to live with them, probably permanently, after being expelled from school while in his mother's custody.

Mercy gets assigned to research similar cases to a grisly new murder of a young woman on the rez. Turns out there is quite a string of them going back almost five years. Why have there been no investigations carried out? Most of them seem perfectly logical endings for what had gone before in each woman's life, whether it was drug addiction, spousal abuse, etc.

This entry in the series seems to be somewhat better constructed in terms of providing good red herrings. I cannot give away the red herrings because that would spoil things for some readers.

However, I am disturbed by the worsening tendency of Mercy to not only resort to threats or fighting when faced with some situations – but to go over the line and act as judge, jury and executioner in this one. She cannot plead self-defense in this case, as she shot the perp in the leg and had things well in hand when she left him to die. She creates a lawlessness that is the antithesis of law and order. Maybe that is a commentary on our times by Ms Armstrong, but I would prefer not to glorify such a character in a book series.

Sorry, folks, I am demoting Mercy to buck private and putting her in solitary. And taking away her entire arsenal. This woman has no business being around guns anymore.

[Also, I personally prefer, and recommend, the much more life-affirming-with-a-dose-of-humor novels by the master Tony Hillerman, who has won every award there is and has been honored by the Navajo people. I refer of course to the Jim Chee/Lt. Leaphorn mysteries set on the rez in the Four Corners area.]

MERCILESS, by Lori Armstrong, Touchstone books, a division of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013, 328 pages not including discussion. ISBN 9781451625363.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

“Mercy Kill” follows up edgy mystery with more of same

 by Minnie Apolis

Mercy Gunderson keeps seeing dead people. In the first installment of this western mystery series (No Mercy), she found dead bodies on the family ranch, and on the porch. In the second in the series, Mercy Kill, she finds a dead man in the parking lot of the bar where she has been working full time since leaving special forces in the military. And we aren't even a hundred pages into the book yet.

A mysterious Native American tells her “About your bad luck in finding dead bodies. Major Hawley won't be the last one. . . You died, and your spirit is still drawn to death. Especially the newly dead. It's the price you pay for your own life.”

Ooh, does that sound creepy or what? Maybe the word for it is karmic, instead.

Mercy Gunderson is a former special services specialist, mustered out after a career-ending eye injury. She returns to her family ranch in South Dakota in the previous novel, and began a difficult transition back to civilian life.

The body, the former Major Jason Hawley, nicknamed J Hawk when they had served together in the military, is now back in the area working for Titan Oil, an outfit that plans to put a pipeline through the state. The area's ranchers are not happy at the prospect of a pipeline cutting up their ranches.

Mercy is not happy really with being in a dead-end job as a bartender at Clementine's, the bar I mentioned above. She's not happy at being virtually a hobby rancher, leaving the actual running of the ranch to the foreman, Jake Red Leaf. And she's really unhappy at what she sees as nonfeasance in office by the current sheriff, Mason Dawson.

So she signs on as a last-minute replacement on the opposing ballot to run for the office of sheriff, right, against the aforementioned Sheriff Dawson.

In between electioneering stops, she sneaks in some investigation of her own into the life and death of her late Army buddy. She feels she owes J Hawk that much for saving her life when she had died in a nightclub bomb attack.

Along the way J Hawk's onetime paramour, and Mercy's good Army buddy, Anna Rodriguez stops in after attending their late comrade's funeral in North Dakota. They're just like teenaged girls, having beers, checking out the local antique shop, making investigational visits that are disguised as electioneering stops.

So you can imagine that Mercy is pretty shocked when she realizes that BFF Anna has not been merely having a bit of R & R between assignments. Can't give away any spoilers here, that isn't my game. But I guarantee a few surprises along the way to unraveling the plot.

I can tell you that Mercy does finally break down and visit a VA shrink, and she finally gets a job offer that might be more suited to her talents and temperament than bartender or sheriff. More than that, I cannot divulge. Besides, Mercy might have to shoot me, and that could hurt.

MERCY KILL, by Lori Armstrong, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2011, 293 pages not including discussion. ISBN 9781416590972.  

“No Mercy” portrays woman Iraq vet going home to hornet's nest of complications

 by Minnie Apolis

On page 22, one paragraph pretty well sums up the whole plot without giving it all away.
“With my assorted injuries, the loss of my career, the grief and stress of losing my father, and my having to make a decision on the ranch, I doubted my life could get more complicated or out of my control.
“Famous last words.”
(Note the foreshadowing there.)

Fictional stories with an Iraq vet are pretty scarce, and those with a female military veteran are almost non-existent. So for Lori Armstrong to start a series of novels in 2010 with such a female protagonist was pretty gutsy and risky.

Main character Mercy is on leave from the armed forces with an eye injury that precludes continuing in her specialty. She returns home to a family ranch in western South Dakota after the death of her father (her mother had died accidentally years earlier, another family tragedy seen in flashbacks).

Sibling friction with sister Hope, who is viewed as something of a flake or non-achiever, provides another layer of plot, but secretly I hoped that sister Hope would be offed pretty quickly so we'd be done with all that sister cr*p.

No such luck.

While out on target practice, Mercy is waylaid by some sweet-talking realtor who opines that he'd like to see the ranch preserved for its historical import to the community – while she sees right through that. Mercy can see that when he talks about dividing it up into 500-acre starter ranches for young couples, that it ain't gonna work. Five hundred acres in dry country will not support a herd that will support a family.

So what he is really proposing is developing “hobby ranches” where wealthy folks can play cowboy and pretend to be roughing it while sitting air-conditioned half-million-dollar housing.

That deal was a no-go as far as Mercy was concerned. Lucky she's the one in charge of what the future of the ranch will be, and she is nobody's fool.

Hers is a family marked by tragedy. Her mother died when Mercy was a child, killed by a panicked Thoroughbred. Ever since, the trauma of finding her mother dead has prevented her from ever riding again – until forced to do so to deliver a ransom package in the final scenes of the novel.

The younger sister accidentally killed a playmate in a gun accident. She is forever after labeled crazy.
A family friend begs Mercy to solve the murder of her son, a friend of Mercy's nephew, Levi. The friend's trust is mainly based in the fact that Mercy's father had been the local sheriff. Her father had hand-picked his successor, Dawson, who had yet to win over the locals as far as convincing them of his effectiveness.

Mercy seems to spend a lot more time in bars getting hammered than in hammering away at the suspects till they crack and spill the beans. In one such incident, she winds up spending the night with a stranger, and another night with the sheriff. Woo-ha, this girl is cruising for an emotional bruising.

In only one incident of her threatening another resident, is she taken into custody – not at all realistic, dear readers.
Another sour note in the plot involves her dear sister going into the hospital with a concussion, yet Mercy does not visit her even once while she is in the hospital. This lapse is not addressed in the novel.

So anyway, while Mercy's skills as a markswoman are admittedly impressive, her chops as a would-be shamus leave something to be desired. She questions two young people involved in a local young warriors group, who supposedly work on reviving tribal rituals and traditions – but the two interviews are widely spaced in the novel, with lots of drinking and sorting out family secrets and fighting off land developers in between.

There are lots of threads in the novel's fabric: sibling history, family tragedies, war flashbacks that plague Mercy's dreams, the pressure from developers who would mean displacing whole communities as the land got too valuable to hold onto, unraveling family secrets, and overcoming a personal phobia about horses. A bit too much bitten off by the author to chew properly, in my humble opinion. But an interesting stew from which further novels draw upon.

The main character, Mercy, is a bit too troubled, cynical, sarcastic, and raw of nerve to want for your very own BFF, but I suppose she will do as a multi-layered protagonist.

NO MERCY, by Lori Armstrong, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2010, 305 pages. ISBN 9781416590958.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Summaries of Tales from Mammoth Book of Merlin

 by Minnie Apolis

The Horse Who Would Be King” a humorous take on Sword-in-the-Stone Tale
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
If you need a bit of a break from too-serious or too-doomed tales from the King Arthur oeuvre, may I recommend the above story from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)?
Horse-lovers will find it entirely fitting that Merlin's magical steed engineers a way to not only create a sword, but fix it so that our humble and hapless sap, I mean hero, is the one to pull out said sword from said stone.
The noble sword Excalibur is created from the broad blaze on Merlin's horse – which I find entirely fitting. Only a noble animal like a horse could possibly create a noble sword like Excalibur! A sword named after the horse, of course.
And needless to say, our Artie pulls out the sword and then hands it over Kay without letting anyone know a thing about it, and then Kay goes around claiming to be The Rightwise Born King of England, so that Merlin (and his horse) have to finagle a way to get the sword BACK in the dang stone and gather everyone around once more for another go at pulling it out. I mean, it must have been exasperating! Artie, listen up! You are the Rightwise Born King, so if you have any objections, you can just stuff it!
So by now you have gathered that this is a light-hearted take on the old fable of the Sword in the Stone thing. Arthuriana nuts of all ages can enjoy this one, but especially those of the female persuasion since many of us fall in love with horses as young girls, even if they've never ridden one.

Dream Reader” introduces readers to a young Merlin just learning his craft
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
One of my favorite tales from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (aka TMBOM) is this one by Jane Yolen called Dream Reader, which portrays a very young boy who falls in with a troupe of magicians and other entertainers who help him develop the skills he later became famous for.
Primary among them are the gift of dreams that come true. Young Merlin needs help in learning not only how to interpret the dreams that come to him in the night, but how much of that interpretation to pass on to The Powers That Be (TPTB).
The dream is the one about the two dragons who are fighting beneath where a duke tries to build his new tower. The dragons cause each day's building efforts to fall down.
The elder mage who interprets the dream for young Merlin offers the ruling family a logical explanation: “Most likely the Romans built their conduits for their baths there. With the construction, there has been a leakage underground. The natural outflow has been damaged further by armies fighting. And so there has been a pooling under the foundation. Open up the work, drain the pool, remove or reconstruct the Roman pipes, and the building will stand.”
The portraits of the dreamy and starving youth formerly known as Merrillin, of the mage Ambrosius, the singer Viviane, of the town where the newly-married duke is building a tower, are all well-drawn. It seems like a very credible introduction to the young Merlin that ties in smoothly with later tales.

The Temptations of Merlin” a fine tale of a young wizard trying to find himself and his destiny
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
One of the more satisfying tales from TMBOM is this one by Peter Tremayne, of a young Myrddin who departs from a ravaged abbey where he had taken shelter for the night. He is on a quest to discover the meaning of the curious knot woven into the scrap of cloth which is the only clue to his real parentage and clan.
While on this quest he meets several tests and temptations, most of which he flunks. Among other things, he fails to recognize a young Artio (bear) as the future king who will unite Britain.
I don't mean to make Merlin sound like a fumbler and bumbler. He does have several skills or talents. Among them are a high tolerance for pain and cold, fighting skills both with and without a sword, a working knowledge of the Druid arts including healing, horsemanship which includes fighting while on horseback, a mastery of riddles, gallantry, a kindness to the weak and injured.
However the poor befuddled wiz fails to listen to the sounds of nature when he gets lost in his own thoughts. You know what they say, Merlin, you mustn't let your mind wander, it's too little to be out on its own. And his adoration of women makes him too-easy prey for the duplicitous machinations of characters like Lowri, Centwine's sister.
This flawed character is entirely believable and sympathetic as he gropes his way through various encounters once he leaves the shelter of his Druidic brotherhood.

Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood” brings Merlin as Green Man within sight
[stories from The Mammoth Book of Merlin (TMBOM)]
Childhood friends look back on a time when in one's innocence, one could sit by a tree and actually hear the Green Man – a trapped Merlin – talking to you. What did he say?, Julie asks. Sara replies, I can't remember.
Sara was orphaned at a young age by her parents' death, and went to live with an uncle in a large, rambling house on a wooded lot. Frequently awaking in the night with panic attacks, Sara would sneak out the next day to nap under the oaks. In her dreams while she napped, she saw a red-haired boy who lived in the tree. He said his name was Merlin.
Her uncle encouraged her interest in Merlin by giving her copies of Le Morte d'Arthur and The Sword in the Stone.
Eventually, after some months of “tree therapy” Sara's night terrors grew less frequent and disappeared completely.
Also eventually she forgets all about her tree friend – until one day, years later, he again appears in her thoughts.
What if we befriended a tree, a nice elder gentlemanly tree, and talked to him (or her) in our dreams? What would we learn from nature in this unconventional way, that reading books could never tell us?