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  • crissimcdonald

From Horses to Killer Whales

I woke up in the early morning dark in November 2020. Like many, I was pandemic fatigued, but that wasn’t why I was awake. For the fourth time in as many nights, I’d had the same dream: a killer whale shimmering under the turquoise water in a concrete tank.

Dreams have many meanings to me. Some are trash can dreams: those images, fears, and worries that your subconscious needs to dump. Some dreams are inspirational: flying through the clouds, or galloping across a vast stretch of green land. Some dreams (though these are far fewer) are portents of things to come. This dream, however, left me with more curiosity than answers.

I grew up loving dolphins and horses. My original plan was to become a marine biologist and live in San Diego. Once in college, it only took one semester for it to dawn on me that science (and its evil twin, mathematics) wasn’t a skill set my brain could absorb. I finished college with a degree that suited me, and then it was a natural progression to pursue my love of horses. I was teaching by the time I was twenty, and training when I was twenty-six. I haven’t stopped since.

So why the killer whale dream? I hadn’t read anything about cetaceans in years. Maybe, I thought, the killer whales are a sign for something else, a metaphor. After reading a couple of books and scouring the internet, I had a few answers. This didn’t stop the dream.

When I woke up on the fourth morning, bedeviled and enchanted, I decided to sit down in front of my computer and write what I saw. That singular image, only one page in length, gave birth to a story that is over 300 pages long.

The idea that enchants me is how our species can communicate with other species. Although I allude to it in my books about horses, I do believe that all people are born with an innate capacity to listen to the world around them. North to Home explores this theme (and others) in the context of a love story where killer whales make an important appearance.

Marine biologist I might not be, but it seems something was calling to me from the oceans that cover our beautiful planet. Once I had committed the image of the killer whale in a tank to words, the dreams changed. I wrote them down, and when one scene was done, a different dream would appear. The order of the scenes was random, and it wasn’t until almost the end that I began arranging the scenes into chapters. It was a truly magical process, arriving at a time when it seemed magic was on its way out of the world.

The second book is in the editing and rewrite phase, and I’ve discovered that there’s now a third book waiting in the wings. This series has allowed me to explore ideas that fascinate me, through a story whose origin is as mysterious as the ocean’s deep waters. I hope you enjoy the exploration, too.

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#killerwhales #magicalrealism #orca #books #fiction #lovestory