Friday, April 16, 2010
Many have asked how Mrs. Trowbridge's tiny journal pages found their way into a blog . Here's the short version.
It all began with a solo trek into the Quinault Rain Forest about eight years ago. I was hiking up Wild Rose Creek in search of one of the world's rarest flowers, the Albino Pipers Bellflower. Climbing over a fallen snag, I caught a sudden glint of light from the corner of my eye. The source of the flash was coming from the other side of the creek. My curiosity piqued, I crossed the creek, scrambled up a small scree slope until I reached the source of the light flash...a small gold box on a mossy ledge. I dropped it into my back pack and continued on with my quest for the Piper's Bellflower.
That night in my studio I examined the tiny box, and discovered a minuscule key protruding from the side of the box. The key was so small that a pair of tweezers were required to grasp the key. After a few failed attempts at turning the key, the lid of the box popped open.
What I saw inside the box took my breath away. It was a tiny book, with the words "The Trowbridge Chronciles" scribed in an exquisite Old English calligraphic style on the cover. The book was a brownish-green hue, appearing to be made from a delicate paper-thin hide, perhaps toad skin.
I was utterly amazed by the contents of the miniature book, which required a magnifying glass to read. I stayed up most of that night, transfixed by the beautifully hand-scribed text and tiny delicate watercolors. It was the personal journal of a Trowbridge shrew, named Violet Trowbridge. She lived in a village inhabited by small creatures on Wild Rose Creek, a tributary of the Quinault River.
It required considerable detective work to locate a lab that would carbon date the book. I found a facility at the University of Washington in Seattle and learned that the the journal is about 200 years old. That dates the book back to the time when Lewis and Clark were arriving at the western shores of the continent.
I put the book away in a drawer in my studio, where it remained for about three years. Then, one day I decided to share Mrs. Trowbridge's journal with the world, one page at a time, via a blog. The Trowbridge Chronicles debuted on January 1, 2006.
When I tell this story at my school visits the children are always amazed and spellbound. It pains me to disappoint them and reveal that it is only a made up story. But then I use it as an illustration of how they too can be creative and write similar stories themselves.
You might be interested to know that I did find, and photograph (above) the Albino Piper's Bellflower. This truly is one of the world's rarest flowers. There are only a few dozen plants known to exist, and only a select few wildflower enthusiasts like myself know its location. An endemic plant (found nowhere else on earth), it grows in crevices of boulders in the subalpine region of the Olympic Mountains.