(Fou drummers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 -- Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
For those of you wanting a daily update on Olympics-related stories, or wishing to have an online conversation about this event, I/we will be posting a thread here every 24 hours which will report on what's been happening, offer some analysis, and create community.
Here are the ground rules:
(1) No sexist, racist, classist, or ablist language. You can (and will) comment on these events without targeting oppressed groups in your choice of words. If your post contains such language in my opinion, I will delete it. I am the moderator here.
(2) This is not the place for U.S. nationalism per se. That hype exists in the mainstream media. Of course, we should celebrate those who perform well, but ALL of those who perform admirably, not just American. You will receive prestige points for commenting intelligently about non-U.S. competitors.
(3) This is not about medals only. All performances worthy of attention should receive air time.
(4) Background cultural history or related political stories are welcome, as long as they follow the previous guidelines. Distinguishing between your opinion (which is fine) and more documented fact will earn you more prestige points. Documentation and links are more valuable that vehement argument.
(5) Please don't use this to whip your particular hobby-horse into a lather. This is a general thread about the Olympics, the coming together of nations and the meaning therein.
(6) Limits your comments to one or two, unless you are asked a direct question. Read, listen, and give others a chance to jump in.
(7) If you have suggestions for how folks can watch events online, please pass those on.
THE OPENING CEREMONIES
This will be subjective, of course. The artistic presentation was stunning in many, many regards. Beginning with a series of 29 "footsteps" across the vast city of Beijing which were outlined in fireworks, as if a giant were walking on a wet beach filled with phosphorescent organisms who burst into luminescence with every footfall, the new and beautiful structure called The Bird's Nest was reached.
2008 drummers in the middle of The Bird's Nest began drumming in the countdown, beginning with 60 (for 60 seconds) outlined by drummers whose instruments glowed in the darkness. Down by ten second intervals, until we reached 10, 9, 8 .... I was particularly moved by the sound of 100,000 people chanting numbers in unison in who knows how many different languages, a sound both familiar and utterly untranslatable except definitively human.
In the absolute center an enormous scroll unrolls. A group of dancers begin moving across the blank page at its heart, celebrating the three ancient Chinese brush arts: Painting, calligraphy, and poetry. Each dancer leaves a mark, because enormous ink pads at the edges leave red, green and black on their feet. They are creating what is called a "Mountains and Waters" painting (Shan Sui), a style used for millenia to reflect the harmony between elements of nature. Harmony is the overriding theme of this ceremony.
Where America celebrates (and fetishizes) individualism, many other places in the world pay much more attention to harmony, to creating a harmonious society. Our ethnocentrism generally leads us to read this as stepping on the rights of the individual. However, I try to step outside my conditioning and my bias, as I watch this, to understand that harmony is necessary to lift a huge population from poverty and hunger. Warfare always creates deprivation around it. You grok, of course, that I'm not advocating repression by the state to avoid dissension. I'm simply attempting to admit a contrary idea.
Gandhi said "There are those so hungry that the only meaningful definition of God is bread."
Now 850 Confucius scholars appear, wearing bamboo scroll headdresses. These are a reminder that the Chinese invented paper, and are also a reference to the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history (722 BCE to 481 BCE). The scholars traveled around China, offering advice on how to maintain a harmonious society.
The scholars give way to a throng of printing presses (the Chinese invented this as well). These are blocks with a human being inside them, and all their motion is done by choreography -- no computers, no hydraulics. They move up and down in irregular waves, as if the wind is blowing them. This references a famous Confucian saying, "The virtuous leader can pass across his subjects with the ease of the wind."
The blocks form the Chinese character for harmony, followed by drops of water (representing inner peace), then harmony again. Eventually the blocks form the Great Wall of China, which is brought down/transformed by a sea of plum blossoms. The crowd's reaction is extreme. It is an extreme part of Chinese history, the transition from isolationism to joining a world community. I'm indescribably moved.
A female dancer appears, supported by others, representing the new openness of China.
The period of China opening to trade and navigating the globe begins, showing Zheng He, the great navigator of the Ming Dynasty who was the first to master use of a magnetic compass. He was an explorer, diplomat, and fleet admiral, a major figure in Chinese history. He was also a eunuch.
From the ship and sea imagery emerges a modern era, symbolized by a mass of figures in bright colors with light-up costumes. They arrange into the shape of a dove, which flaps its wings -- amazing choreography. Over them is now suspended a little girl, Chou Chou, who is flying a massive tiger kite.
A group of children representing 56 ethnicities of China move into the center. What are the 56 ethnicities officially recognized by the government of China? Go here to find out. Shorter answer, according to Wikipedia: The major minority ethnic groups are Zhuang (16.1 million), Manchu (10.6 million), Hui (9.8 million), Miao (8.9 million), Uyghur (8.3 million), Tujia (8 million), Yi (7.7 million), Mongol (5.8 million), Tibetan (5.4 million), Buyei (2.9 million), Dong (2.9 million), Yao (2.6 million), Korean (1.9 million), Bai (1.8 million), Hani (1.4 million), Kazakh (1.2 million), Li (1.2 million), and Dai (1.1 million). Can you imagine our own government creating a list of American ethnicities without deliberately leaving out someone?
Surrounding the children are 2008 Tai Chi masters going through forms. (One of the commentators, I think Costas the Moron, refers to them "doing karate".) They flow into absolutely perfect concentric circles as seen from above, without the aid of any markings on the floor -- they form these through an awareness of each other. One of the commentators states that in the philosophy behind Tai Chi, a movement in one direction often begins with a subtle movement in the opposite direction. (Yeah, baby.) Again, the idea being emphasized is harmony, that between humans and nature.
During this, Bush is talking nonstop to Putin, over their wives and an aide -- he is not watching this part of the ceremonies.
The Tai Chi masters give way to soldiers, who march in protective order around the children. I am jarred by this. The commentators say this represents the state guaranteeing stability, and thus protecting the children's future. My Quaker heart struggles to consider such a notion. A little girl is singing "Hymn to My Country". When the flag carried by the children is passed to the soldiers, they sing the Chinese national anthem "March of the Volunteers".
An enormous globe rises, and the first three Chinese space explorers, taikonauts, receive homage. Suspended sideways by wires, I'm guessing, figures run in tracks around the globe above -- fantastic athleticism and artistry combined.
The cultural part of the opening ceremonies was a stunning success, but was marred by the fact that none of the thousands of drummers, martial artists, scholars, or explorers portrayed were women. Only a handful of women and girls appeared, from what was a cast of 10,000 and a nation of 50% female. Not acceptable.
Note: For a fabulous set of photos covering the opening ceremonies, check out the Boston Globe online.
We move into the Parade of Nations. Because the host nation does not have an "alphabet" which is in a particular sequence, the order of nations as they appear is determined by the number of strokes in the Chinese characters spelling their name. Nice.
Greece, of course, leads the way as is traditional. But each of the Greek athletes is carrying a Chinese flag as well as a Greek flag. I am welling up: Patriotism can be expressed in a non-selfish manner.
Of the 205 nations appearing in this Olympics, 204 are marching. The missing group is Brunei. Of these 205, 87 have never won a medal in any Olympics. They are here for the honor of being here, and this, the Parade of Nations, is their shining moment.
Without a predictable order to the sequence, the atlas game -- finding the nation just entering the stadium on an atlas -- becomes an adrenalin-filled scramble. Yee-haw!
(For a list of the nations in the order they appeared, their flags and flag-bearers, check this Wikipedia entry.
What I noticed: Niger had only one athlete attending, and he was of course the flag-bearer.
The following countries had contingents of more than 3, but had NO women athletes marching: Yemen, Central African Republic, Qatar, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Syria, Swaziland, and Myanmar. (The single Afghan woman who was planning to compete, middle-distance runner Mehboba Ahdyar, received so many death threats for her attempt that she has disappeared from her training camp and it is believed/hoped that she is seeking asylum somewhere.)
The following countries had contingents of more than 3, but had only 1 woman athlete marching: Madagascar, Gambia, Pakistan, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Equatorial Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Lesotho, and Monaco.
The following countries had contingents of several people but had suspiciously low numbers of women athletes marching: Uzbekistan, Barbados, Chad, Iran, Dominican Republic, Surinam, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (there were two women but they are the daughters of the government's leader), Guam, Palau, Puerto Rico, Tajikistan, Cameroon, Lebanon, and Zambia.
As far as I'm concerned, a nation who can't foster women's equality is unlikely to foster basic freedom for its citizens. It should be right up there with ending race and class oppression.
Vanuatu has the oldest Olympic competitor in these games, a man in his 70s who has been competing in equestrian events since the Olympics of 1964. Palestine has a swimmer competing despite the fact that they have no Olympic-sized swimming pool in which to train. (Shades of Eric Moussambani.) Eritrea had several athletes marching, from a country where the average annual income is $130. Taiwan, once again forced to march under the name Chinese Taipei (because China will not recognize them as Taiwan) and to use a flag not their own, nevertheless drew a huge, heartening cheer from the crowd in The Bird's Nest.
Iraq also drew a huge cheer. The camera cuts to George and Laura Bush. George's applause was perfunctory, his face in his usual dimwitted scowl.
Jordan's contingent of seven had four women, three men. (Way to GO.) Nauru, in their first Olympic appearance, is a nation of 8 square miles with a population of 13,000 -- but they sent a woman athlete.
North and South Korea did not march together this time, although the IOC offered them the opportunity. Governmental pressure prevailed, and the North Korean contingent asked to march separated from their sistren by at least three contingents. Our increasingly polarized world via Chimpy and Gunner Dick's master plan.
After all the blondingly white visages of so many wealthy European and formerly Russian national contingents, I was glad to see solid blocks of people of color in the U.S. crowd. But it's a mixed gladness. While every one of those Olympians has more than earned their way into a chance to compete, I know all too well that the celebrity and respect offered black athletes in this country is part of a system which keeps the majority of those disadvanted by race and class locked into generational hopelessness, with the illusion of the NBA, etc. trotted out to pretend we have class mobility and reward for merit.
(Yao Ming and Lin Hao leading the Chinese contingent in Parade of Nations)
The end of the Parade of Nations was brought in by China, as the host nation. Their flag bearer was Yao Ming, but marching alongside him was a 9-year-old boy named Lin Hao, who had a visible patch of hair missing from his right scalp. Lin Hao was in the Sichuan earthquake two months ago which killed at least 70,000 people. Twenty of those who died were his classmates, from a class of 30 in a collapsed school. Lin Hao managed to free himself from the rubble, but then went back in and rescued two of his classmates. After other rescuers arrived, he sang songs to his still-buried classmates to keep up their spirits as rescuers tried to dig them out. When asked why he had risked his life in this way, he replied that he was the hall monitor, he had a responsibility to his sister and brother students. At the end of the Parade, Lin Hao was in Yao Ming's arms, and his somber, radiant face drew every eye.
After the Parade, ceremonial speeches and welcomes are extended by president of the Beijing organizing committee, Liu Qi, and IOC president Jacques Rogge. The Olympic flag is carried in by eight revered Chinese athletes: Li Lingwei, 13-time world badminton champion; Xiong Ni, three-time gold medalist in diving; Mu Xiangxiong, who once held the world record in the breaststroke; gold-medal winning shooter Yang Ling; speedskater Yang Yang, a five –time Olympic medalist; Zheng Fengrong, once a world record holder in the high jump; Pan Duo, mountain climber; Zhang Xielin, table tennis champion and coach. As the flag reaches the top of the pole, it is caught by some wind that is only apparent at the heights, making both the Olympic and the Chinese flag extend outward and flutter vibrantly.
Prior to the procession of the flag around The Bird's Nest, the Olympic cauldron has appeared above the lip of the stadium, with a spiraling drape of metal up to its dark bowl. The Olympic flame now entered the stadium, carried by Xu Haifeng, who won the first gold medal (in shooting) in China's history during the 1984 Olympics, after China had not participated in the games for decades. He is immediately recognized and roared at with approval by the crowd. From him the torch is passed, in succession: diver Gao Min; gymnast Li Xiaoshuang; weightlifter Zhan Xugang; badminton player Zhang Jun; taekwondo expert Chen Zhong; and volleyball player Sun Jinfang.
The final athlete to receive the torch is Li Ning, a gymnast who won three gold, two silver and one bronze medal at the 1984 games. He takes a couple of steps, then ascends into the air by barely visible wires, causing the crowd to gasp. They gasp again when he reached the margin at the top of the stadium and begins slowly running through the air. His form is utterly beautiful, his leg muscles flexing and extending, as he lopes through the void around the entire perimeter of The Bird's Nest. When he comes back around to the Olympic cauldron, he touches his flame to a pipe which sends a stream of fire up and around the spiraling base of the cauldron until, finally, the bowl bursts into a blaze. Spectacular.
Followed by crescendos of fireworks which remind us that China invented, too, gunpowder, and they remain geniuses at its artistic uses. Thus the 2008 Games are begun.
TODAY'S LINEUP (click on a link to find out details of the competition)
Non-final competition in:
Swimming [Natalie Coughlin! Dara Torres!!!]
[Cross-posted at Group News Blog]
Saturday, August 9, 2008
(Fou drummers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 -- Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Friday, August 8, 2008
I haven't missed an Olympics since 1964. I know all the hype is designed to (a) sell us crap and (b) pretend like poor nations get a chance to compete equally. I know women are frozen out of the picture in too much of the world, and I know countries which are chosen to host are often imperialist overlords who authorize spying on its citizens, uncontrolled torture of "dissidents", unprovoked violence against smaller nations, and diverse forms of cultural intolerance or outright genocide. (Like the U.S.)
But it is a chance to see non-political people from 205 nations gather together peacefully. If you use the mute button for everything but the actual competitions and some of the ceremony description, you'll see pinnacles of human effort and connection.
In 1968, I saw Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a Black Power salute of the medal stand of the 200 meter race in Mexico City. (I was hooked forever after that.) In 1972, I sat glued to the television, weeping, as 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer were killed by members of Black September. During the 1988 winter games in Alberta, friends and I watching in the Bay Area called the phone machine of Brian Boitano in Sunnyvale, California to leave messages praising him for acting so queer in his skating routines. That summer, in the Seoul games, a living room full of us gasped out loud as Greg Louganis his hit head with a whack on a reverse 2.5 pike, sustaining a serious concussion, but he went on to win the gold in diving. At the 1998 Nagano winter games, I screamed as Elvis Stojko leaped across the ice in his black leather jacket. In the Sydney games of 2000, I again wept as I saw North and South Korea marching together under a unification flag, and four people from the country-about-to-be of East Timor literally jumping and running with joy at this first manifestation of their people's nationality. In the 2004 Athens games, the Greek people gave a standing ovation to Afghanistan and Iraq, expressing their sympathy for these nations in the face of U.S. aggression. Too many times to recount, I've seen nations where their entire female population is represented by a single athlete -- or none at all.
So, I will be watching the opening ceremonies tonight and digging for the larger stories, even as I protest China's human rights abuses. During the opening ceremonies, the host nation is given enormous opportunity to present its culture and accomplishments to the world. I really enjoy these displays, hokey or confusing as they often are: A chance to learn is buried within. At some point, the Parade of Nations begins. The first nation is always Greece, because of their founding of the Olympic games. The host nation marches last. Between these two nations, all other participating nations march in alphabetical order of the dominant language of the host country, or in French or English alphabetical order if the host country does not write its dominant language in an alphabet which has a set order.
My particular ritual is to watch the Parade of Nations with either a globe or an atlas and compete to see who can first find the next country entering the line-up. It's a great geography builder. The BBC has a terrific website which shows full profiles of every nation in the world, an instant guide to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories, and background on key institutions, available here. For a more generic world map which has easily readable names, you can enlarge the one below.
The Summer Olympics includes 28 sports with 34 disciplines (clicking on each sport will take you to the NBC link for that event): Archery, Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Canoeing/Kayaking, Cycling, Diving, Equestrian, Fencing, Field Hockey, Gymnastics, Handball, Judo, Modern Pentathlon, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Synchronized Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Track & Field, Trampoline, Triathlon, Volleyball, Water Polo, Weightlifting., and Wrestling.
The official website of the Olympic games is here. NBC's website for coverage of the Olympics is here.
Unusual Maps offers the map copied below illustrates the average number of medals won per million people in an Olympic Summer Games between 1996 and 2004. More than a medal count, this is an illustration of how economic power and political control determine too much of Olympics outcome. But there are exceptions, and I'll be hoping for those. More to come...
[Cross posted at Group News Blog.]
(Blue heron on Mollys Falls Pond, Marshfield, Vermont, photo courtesy of Oak LoGalbo)
A tragic accident occurred on August 6th involving women traveling by van from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival to the nearby airport, resulting in the death of one woman and critical injuries to another. The 15-passenger van, completely full, blew a tire and hit a guardrail, causing it to turn over and land upside down.
The woman who was killed is Lynn J. Marshall, 56, from Sumner, Washington. Her sister, Susan Martin, was coordinator of the van shuttles and not in the van at the time. It was Lynn's first time to attend the Festival, although Susan is a long-time worker there. Lynn was the only woman not wearing a seatbelt when the van rolled over.
The critically injured woman is named Flame. She had broken vertebrae, broken ribs, and a jaw broken in three places. Her sister has gone to be with her in the hospital, while her lover remained at the festival with their children.
Apparently usually festival-goers take a bus to the airport on Monday after the festival, but these women's flight was cancelled in Chicago and they were stranded there overnight. The festival sent a van to pick them up.
More information about this terrible event can be found at the MWMF forums located here.
The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival occurs annually for a week every August on private land outside Hesperia, Michigan since 1976. It is the largest (and only) festival of its kind, open to all girls and women who were raised as girls and still identify as female. Hundreds of thousands have attended, celebrating the complete range of girl-and-woman consciousness. It is constructed from meadows and forests each year without permanent human traces left behind, and returned to pristine condition after the festival is over. Almost all of the work done to create and maintain the festival is done by women. It becomes a small city where girls can not only roam in utter safety, but experience a reality without the intrusion of male conditioning for several days.
My heart goes out to the family of Lynn Marshall, a sister, lover, and friend to many. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured women as well.
(Maggie in Calcutta, 1956)
In 2001 I had the chance to hear one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, speak at the annual Art and Soul Conference at Baylor University. The talk she gave that night altered my life in more than one way, but what I want to share with you here is how she began her Q & A session. She said something like this: "I'm opening the floor to questions. If what you want to do is argue with me, or present your point of view, I hope you'll go find a place where others want to listen to that and not force it upon us here. If you try to do that here, you'll get no response from me. When you are done, I'll simply move on to the next person who, hopefully, will have a real question. I will not be taken in by any tricks you may employ to disguise your pontification or rebuttal as a question. I say this especially to the men in the audience, because I have found that men in our culture have too often been raised without the ability to listen respectfully to women speakers, without arguing in their heads and then out loud."
This drew a huge laugh, and a simultaneous air of relief and tension settled on the audience. She had to use her technique twice -- both on men, both men white and well-spoken, who needed to tell her why she was full of shit, they could not wait another fifteen minutes to prove her wrong. When each was done, she pointed to the next hand in the audience without a word, which again drew gleeful laughter and, increasingly, a sense of connection among the rest of us.
It seems to me that in our current culture, we are in the midst of a great experiment of pitting "free speech" against the deleterious effects of having to listen to unrestrained hostility, disappointment, and oppressive language disguised as thought. I personally think it is an experiment which is failing. As in, Epic Fail. It's poisoning our elections (which is, ahem, affecting the survival of the planet) and shutting up people who are the very voices we need most desperately to hear.
A recent article at The Onion began:
'In a statement made to reporters earlier this afternoon, local idiot Brandon Mylenek, 26, announced that at approximately 2:30 a.m. tonight, he plans to post an idiotic comment beneath a video on an Internet website. Mylenek, a moron, prepares to publicly address the "dumbest shiz [he's] evr seen!!!1!"
"Later this evening, I intend to watch the video in question, click the 'reply' link above the box reserved for user comments, and draft a response, being careful to put as little thought into it as possible, while making sure to use all capital letters and incorrect punctuation," Mylenek said. "Although I do not yet know exactly what my comment will entail, I can say with a great degree of certainty that it will be incredibly stupid."
"Mylenek, who rarely in his life has been capable of formulating an idea or opinion worth the amount of oxygen required to express it, went on to guarantee that the text of his comment would be misspelled to the point of incomprehension, that it would defy the laws of both logic and grammar, and that it would allege that several elements of the video are homosexual in nature.'
It's funny, except it's not.
A year ago today, thanks overwhelmingly to the support of Liza Cowan, I began an individual blogger. This was not primarily a wish to express my opinions -- I do that already, to great effect. (I be a WRITER.) Instead, I wanted conversation and exchange of ideas, hope, insight. I had been inspired by an essay on Bitch Ph.D. on how to be a responsible blogger, which emphasized moderating the hell out of your comments. You cannot build an online community AND tolerate anger-filled idiots. They have to get their therapy elsewhere. I compare it to the problems public libraries are now facing, since so many homeless people seek libraries for shelter during the day and so many of them (a majority) are mentally ill: patrons who want a quiet place to read or research have gone elsewhere in most major cities.
There's at least one major blog I no longer read because during this last campaign cycle, it allowed its commenters (and too many of its posters) complete freedom to trash a woman candidate in whatever language they could dredge up from their woman-hating ids. This continued even after her campaign had come to an end -- it was a culture, by that point -- to such an extent that one of their major diarists, a gay man who was the only poster I still wanted to read, made a comment to the effect that the bashing could and should now stop. His remark had some effect. Still, the damage was done. I wasn't her particular supporter, but a blog which will allow that is going to allow other shit that I don't want to see, either. I want to save my reading time and energy for that which is positive, not that which I have to wade through for islands of clarity.
The reality is, when angry voices are allowed to dominate a conversation, they will be overwhelmingly male, white, raised Christian, power-seeking rather than cooperative, classist, and add absofuckinglutely nothing new to what has run the world (into the ground) for 2000 years. It's over; time for a new paradigm, whatever means it takes to bring it through the door.
Appropriately, my first post here was entitled Who Feasts and Who Famishes.
I'd like to thank the folks who come here and read for being an impeccably intelligent, kind, open-minded and diverse community, who treat one another with respect and interest. As I build Meta Watershed, I'll do my share to insure this stays a genuinely safe place: Safe not as in "no divergent views allowed" but safe as in "you will not be called names for your divergent viewpoint".
Happy anniversary, ya'll. A little more after the fold.
Another segment of the Anne Lamott talk mentioned above resulted in my writing a poem which won acclaim. Her story was about something that actually occurred in the period immediately following the liberation of Europe after World War II. American aid workers poured in to help the destroyed communities of Europe -- the civilian casualties of this war, as in all wars, was exponentially greater than military losses. In particular, there were vast numbers of orphans or lost children. Huge encampments were set up by Americans to feed, clothe, and treat these children as some surviving member of their family was attempted to be located.
One relief worker talked about his experiences with these children. They were ravenous in every regard (when they weren't catatonic) and for the most part, the adults looking after them allowed them to eat as much as they wanted. One little boy, emaciated and starved beyond belief, ate his fill but still woke up every single night with screaming nightmares. The relief worker would hold him until he went back to sleep, but often the nightmares recurred the same night. This went on for weeks. Finally, one night as dinner was ending, the little boy picked up a loaf of bread from the table and slipped it under his shirt. The relief worker noticed this act and didn't interrupt. When the little boy went to bed, he put on his pajama, then hid the loaf under his pillow. After the lights went out, he retrieved the loaf and held it clasped in his arms.
He had no nightmares that night.
He knew he would be eating the next day, even if all the adults disappeared.
Offering succour to those who are damaged to this extent means giving them a loaf, yes. But it has to be a real loaf, not simply listening to the screams of nightmares.
Filling up on bread,
leaned against our deep old sink so
as to not be tempted
by the meal she'd just dished out
enough for us, not her
Talking to us around the fridge
so we could still call it a family meal
There are worse things than
watching your children go hungry
Worse than watching after
having grown up hungry
Worse than the anger of your oldest
because all he can stand to feel is deprived
Worse than the silent daughter
who swallows shame with every bite
you are not taking
Worse than teaching the baby
to not accept meals from the neighbors
Better to go without
than to settle for a public slot at the bottom
Worse of all
is to die with the bread all eaten,
last crumbs pressed up by moistened fingertips,
no new loaf on the way.
Generations of you.
I bake for your graveside altars
but I take the first slice for myself.
© Maggie Jochild, 24 February 2001, Waco, Texas
Published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Fall/Winter 2002
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
From a link at Bitch Ph.D., I tried a little gizmo at this website which uses my browser URL history to guess which gender I am (that's constructed gender, of course). It took a while, but the results came in at:
Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 94%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 6%
Okay, that's a great guess. However, far more interesting was the detailed list of how this estimate was created:
Site / Male-Female Ratio
From this, I deduce that even or almost even numbers of males and females use YouTube, Google, Blogger, PayPal, and ICanHazCheezburger. I was surprised that Big Fish Games was heavily skewed female -- I think of computer games as "boy dominated" -- until I realized that the realize why I consume games from this particular site is because they AREN'T sexist, shoot-em-up hand-eye coordination driven types but often rely on thoughtful deduction and, in the case of Virtual Villagers, creating relationships fer cripes sakes. It was also intriguing to see they think using Walgreens, Walmart, Pizza Hut and Amtrak are "female". Playing Free Rice online is an addiction I acquired from a lesbian comic strip site frequented by linguophiles, so I guess language skills are "female", too. And -- Alternet and DKos skew heavily male. No surprise there at all.
If you try this, feel free to post your results and reactions in my comments.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
(Maggie at around six months of age)
Here's what I was told each year on my birthday:
My parents had lived in Rockport (a small Texas town right on the Gulf, now famous for being an artists' colony) only a month prior to my birth. They rented a small white house near a school. My mother was certain I was going to be a girl and would not consider a boy's name for me. She had tried to get pregnant with me for seven years before I came along.
She went into labor on the evening of August 4, 1955 and checked into the Rockport Hospital. This was a small brick building just off the main street, a hospital with two patient rooms in it. Yep, that's right. I've been back since (it is now a realty office) and it's a tiny place. The doctor who attended my mother and delivered me was named L.G. Wood, MD.
When Mama's labor became intense in the early hours of August 5th, they gave her the latest thing in anesthesia called Twilight Sleep. This is no longer used as it causes psychosis in a lot of women and doesn't actually stop pain, only renders the patient tractable and amnesic. (Ah, the apex of 1950s medical care...) Mama said it was a small sort of cup on a wrist cuff that she could breathe into her lungs when needed, but perhaps that is hallucinatory memory talking.
By the regular morning shift, Mama was apparently filling the hospital with her screams. These became more intense whenever my father entered the room. When Mama saw Daddy, she would shift her general shrieking into ranting at him, accusing him of every vile thing under the sun, using language unimaginably profane. (Mama was gifted and nonrepetitive when it came to profanity.) Eventually the nurse on duty asked Daddy to stay out of the room because it set Mama off so. He was happy to comply.
This was the hottest part of the summer, in a flat landscape a couple of blocks from the sea. The hospital had no air conditioning. My poor mother...
I was finally born at 3:42 in the afternoon, without the use of forceps or episiotomy. I was small but not alarmingly so. It was the custom at that time to put babies into a bassinet, not next to the mother, and to not feed them for the first four hours of life. When Mama came down from her wild drug ride, she noticed I was fussing in my bassinet -- not overtly crying, just agitated and trying to get my tiny fist up to my mouth. The nurse on duty, an elderly black woman, picked me up and brought me to Mama, but being held did not completely comfort me.
Mama said "She's hungry. Screw your protocol, this baby needs to be fed." She had opted not to breast-feed, after a disastrous trial of it with my older brother, so she begged the nurse for a bottle. The nurse slipped out and surreptitiously prepared a bottle for me. Once I ate, I went right to sleep and, according to Mama, I cried less than any of her other children. I was a good girl.
We moved to Palacios, Texas when I was six weeks old and I did not return to Rockport until I was 35, when I returned in August to search for where I had been born. Right outside Rockport is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuse, where whooping cranes are holding on against extinction. As a birder, I've been to Rockport several times since -- it's underneath the best flyway in North America. Three of my favorite birds are in great abundance here: whoopers, roseate spoonbills, and black skimmers.
Rockport is also famous (?) for having the oldest liveoak tree in North America, reputed to be over 2000 years old. It's still around. As am I.
(Quinault baskets and razor clams, photo by Larry Workman)
Another installment of my Great American Lesbian Novel (in progress), Ginny Bates. If you are new to reading GB, go to the section in the right-hand column labeled Ginny Bates to read background and find out how to catch up.
Late December 2012
Gillam, Jane, Carly and Beebo drove up together on the afternoon of Wednesday the 19th. Myra had the dining table stacked with divinity, mini pound cakes, stained glass cookies, candy-cane cookies, pecan tarts, and all the other holiday baked goods she'd been mass producing every December since Margie was a year old. Stacked on the breakfast bar were two dozen square metal tins with tight lids which had been hand-painted by Ginny over the past year. Once the young folks carried up their bags and relaxed a few minutes, Myra handed them waxed paper and said "Begin the assembly line. Don't hog all the good stuff for us."
When all the tins were filled to capacity, the remainders were aggregated on the massive solstice platter painted by Ginny when Gillam was three, showing Stonehenge, a crescent moon precisely aligned through the sarsens, and a throng of wildly dressed people painted blue and dancing around with torches. The rest of the table was wiped down and each tin was wrapped in plain brown paper -- though when the children were younger, they had decorated these sheets with magic markers -- and addressed to friends and family around the country.
"We're late this year, but I'll shell out for one-day delivery in the morning, they'll have 'em in time to pig out for whatever they celebrate" said Myra. She turned to Ginny and said "I'm still roasting chickens for the latke party, but since you're planning to also make stuffed crab cakes, which is technically tref, I want to try a new pork recipe too that I saw on TV. The boys will flip over it."
Ginny looked at her thoughtfully. "It's funny, I don't think of crab as objectionable as pig. Fine, there'll be lots of people there who eat it."
"My ancestors no doubt saved a big boar past hog-killing time for the winter festival" said Myra.
"As long as you don't smear its blood on your cheeks" said Ginny. Myra made a crazed face behind her back and Carly giggled.
"What's the recipe?" asked Gillam.
"It's called clay-pot pork, Vietnamese style, but Gourmet showed how to do it in a dutch oven. You start with a caramel sauce, add chicken stock and nuoc mam and stir until the caramel calms down again. Add shallots, garlic and scallions for a few minutes. Then add heavily-peppered pork shoulder in one-inch cubes and simmer for one to two hours. The caramel coating plus that umami of fish sauce makes it crunchy delectable, and the meat falls apart" said Myra.
"Count me in" said Gillam. "Are we shopping tomorrow morning?"
"Yeah, got a list as long as Rumsfeld's war crimes" said Myra. "Plus we need to pick up our raw milk allotment, we got extra whole milk because Ginny's making her own sour cream for the latkes."
Margie and Frances arrived the following morning while Myra, Gillam and Jane were at Pike. Carly had stayed with Ginny, to talk, Myra thought. She hoped it wasn't about furniture refinishing. Myra was surprised to see Frances at the breakfast bar when they got back, laden by bags -- she grinned to herself, remembering Chris's bet. Nika would be arriving at 2:00, presumably to work on the book project but Myra guessed she really wanted to be part of the food preparation fun.
Gillam had brought his Leica with him this time, and it stayed near at hand. They all got used to the flash. Every now and then, Ginny would take it away from him and make shots with him in it. Myra wished someone had clicked the shutter at the moment when Margie introduced Frances to Nika and they shook hands formally. There was no describing the glitter in Frances' eyes, or the smile Margie couldn't subdue. Nika, for her part, looked the same as always, though she schmoozed more with Carly than Margie that evening.
Frances's focus became torn when Jaime and a boyfriend showed up for the party. Margie had invited him but didn't really expect him to attend. He looked tired but content, Myra thought, and very much a man instead of the teenager she always remembered when she heard his name. Jonah and Isaac, Karin Barbaras' sons, also dropped by to see Gillam. Myra unconsciously steered clear of them; the temptation to ask them about Karin's death was too strong.
Annie Gagliardi came with Lute and their 16-year-old son Judah who promptly went outside to the new bench with Ava, Jen and Poe's daughter, now 14. It was deeply cold tonight, so Myra had Gillam carry down one of the outdoor heaters from the upper deck to put between them, and Carly took them her Anacortes chess table, giving them a pretext for huddling away from the main group. They were the only teenagers present.
Myra wished someone were taking photographs a second time when they lit the candles and said prayers, Margie, Sima and Ginny side by side in front of the flames, and beyond them Gillam's face luminous as he welcomed shabbos with Jane in the house where he had grown up.
Every scrap of food was eaten -- a product of the cold combined with endless laughter -- except for four tins of baked goods Myra had saved to send home with Jane, Nika, Frances and Carly. Inevitably, at some point they did the Electric Slide, which Margie called the Electric Hora. She positioned herself between Jaime and Nika to teach them the steps, her cheeks dark plum from exertion and excitement. Even Judah and Ava came in to join the dancing.
The following afternoon, Gillam, Jane and Carly were driven to the airport by Patty and Thea, driving up from Olympia. Nika left that night, after dinner; Margie and Frances stayed one more night before driving back to Portland to drop off Narnia and catch their plane. Myra and Ginny finished packing, gave final instructions to the new housesitter, kissed a disconsolate Beebo, and walked down the drive to climb into Edwina's old Cherokee which was the only vehicle that could hold the six of them plus luggage on the potentially icy roads south around the Sound and west into the mountains.
They arrived by 1:00. After checking in and touring each other's rooms, they went to the dining hall where lunch was still being served. Ginny ordered the Quinault Nation clam chowder plus grilled scallop salad, despite Chris's comment she wasn't convinced the recipe was actually "Quinault Nation" anything. Allie was happy that sweet potato fries came with any sandwich. Sima said "Damned pricey."
"Yep" said Myra. "But it's part of the package we got, meals are included in the room rate." Sima looked at her suspiciously, but eventually ordered the pan-fried lemon trout.
When the meal was over, Edwina said "That was great, fresh ingredients, but you're right, Sima, it was a lot to pay for what we do most nights better. Still, it's nice to be fed."
"And no dishes to do" said Myra, pushing back. "What's on the agenda now?"
"We -- me, Edwina, and Chris -- have signed up to go fishing first thing every morning, have to be led by a Quinault guide. They said to go to the nearby Mercantile to hook up with 'em" said Allie.
"I want to hike into the rainforest" said Ginny. "I'll go with you" said Sima. Ginny looked at Myra, who replied "Too cold for my chest to hike much. I will walk to the Mercantile with ya'll, though."
Ginny said to Edwina "Keep her away from marine hardware, if they've got any".
Myra didn't make it as far as the Mercantile, however. In a sheltered corner of the lodge's L outside was a covered stand. Behind a portable table sat a native woman, around their age, who was weaving an oval coiled basket with dark beads of a material Myra could not identify being imbricated into the pattern below the rim. On the table was an astonishing variety of baskets. Myra stopped in her tracks and, after a minute, told her friends "Go on without me, I have to watch this."
She said hello to the weaver, who smiled and said hello back but didn't lift her eyes from her work. Myra stood for half an hour, watching intently. When she shifted the second time from one foot to the other, the woman said "There's a second chair back here." Myra slid awkwardly behind the table, noting as she sat down that a small pool of warmth extended from a coal-burning brazier between the chairs.
When her friends returned, Allie hoisted a bag and said "I got you Coke, and Ginny some OJ for ya'lls room."
"Will you put it in there for me?" said Myra. "She was burning up beside me on the drive here, I'm betting she'll be stretching a canvas by dinnertime. I'll catch up with you later."
Chris raised her eyebrows but they went on without comment. After a minute, the woman set down her basket and said "I'm Lois. I work for the Lodge as a storyteller, and also sell my baskets here. Are you a weaver?"
"No. But I live with a painter. Are these for sale, then?"
"Yes." Lois began explaining the traditional functional of each style. Myra asked more and more detailed questions, until finally Lois said "Are you an anthropologist, then?"
"No. I write, mostly poetry, but I'm currently working on a history. Of lesbian-feminism" she added, in case Lois thought she was presuming to write native history. "I don't mean to interrupt you. You don't have to entertain me, you can just work.
Lois looked surprised at the word lesbian suddenly jumping into the cold air, but not judgmental. After a slow grin, she picked up her basket and resumed threading fibers through a pattern Myra could not quite anticipate, not yet.
An hour later, as Lois was slowly, methodically completing the basket, Myra discovered two things had been occurring in her brain: She had begun to anticipate where Lois's fingers would move next, and the phenomenal sludge-heap of history she'd been reading and researching for months was starting to organically separate itself into related strands. She pulled out her notebook and wrote down these initial divisions, using her all but unreadable code because she wanted to get it down before it slipped away.
When she was done, she looked up to see Lois watching her. "A poem?" Lois asked.
"No, a -- I guess you might call it a weaving" Myra grinned. She looked at her watch and said "I better see what Ginny's up to. I want to buy a basket, though. Maybe the one you just finished, would that be too brutal to ask of you?"
"Brutal" mused Lois. "Come back for it tomorrow, all right? I like to say a few words over them."
"Tomorrow is Christmas Eve" said Myra.
"In the morning" said Lois. "I live close and my family will gather later, but I like to come here every day, if I can."
When Myra stepped out of the alcove, the cold struck her. She hurried inside. Chris and Edwina were at a game table in the main room of the lodge, sitting in front of the new laptop they'd all given Chris for solstice, loaded with language software chosen by Edwina. They were arguing gently over how to convey the pronunciation of a verb shift in a particular term. Chris saw her approaching and said "You must be frozen."
"Not really." Myra told them about her breakthrough.
"What tribe is she?" Chris asked.
"I didn't ask specifically, but she mentioned Chehalis technique a lot" ventured Myra. "I'll find out tomorrow. Where's the others?"
"Allie's taking a nap, Sima is over there under a lamp working on a piece of jewelry, and Ginny, well, guess" said Edwina.
"I'll go say hi and bring my own laptop back down to join you, if that's all right" said Myra.
Ginny didn't really seem to take in Myra's story of watching a weaver, not then or the next morning when Myra returned with a basket and put it on their dresser. The six of them quickly settled into a routine. Ginny painted, interrupted only by two meals a day ordered from room service by Myra and a mid-morning walk into the forest demanded by Sima. Chris, Edwina and Allie got up at dawn and fished until 9 a.m. The Mercantile would take their catch, clean it and freeze it for a fee, and the three of them immediately began a competition to see who could catch the most pounds of steelhead, salmon and "other" during their week. Sima worked on jewelry in the afternoons, while Myra wrote and the fisher-folk took long naps before emerging into the main room to do their various arts and research. But mornings, after breakfast, Myra spent observing Lois. She began calling it basket meditation.
After dinner, the five not in Painterland borrowed one of the lodge's Scrabble boards and played Cunning Linguist until bedtime, attracting some attention but resisting the advice of confused onlookers. This was briefly interrupted on Christmas Day, when a clarinet and guitar duo led carols in the main room. Chris entertained her friends by loudly singing the occasional wrong word -- usually, scatologically wrong -- which none of the tourists had the nerve to correct.
Ginny's canvas was the biggest yet, and Myra wasn't sure it was going to fit in the wet carrier Ginny had brought, the largest she owned. Myra kept the maids out, Ginny's orange juice refreshed in a bucket of ice. Their third night at the lodge, Lois appeared after dinner to tell a story to the small number of children present. Chris eavesdropped and commented "She didn't dumb it down or clean it up. It was all right."
When Lois was done, she came to their table and watched silently, in the same manner Myra watched her weaving, for over half an hour. Finally Myra said "You ready to join in? You think you got it now?"
Lois took the empty chair beside her and reached to the board, removing two dozen tiles and replacing them, plus a fresh seven, with a new configuration that included two words in a language Myra didn't recognize plus "babymama". They all roared, and she was in. She became their regular sixth.
Myra's book took off like a skylark, the clicking on her laptop a steady staccato all afternoon. The hotel staff finally realized her pleas for a pitcher of Coke on her work table were nothing sinister, and they kept her replenished in a way Ginny would have objected to in no uncertain terms. The pile of baskets on their dresser upstairs grew by two or three a day. Myra was appointed "keeper of the tally" for the fishing competition, and she devoted the last page of her pocket notebook to this running total.
On the morning of their fifth day there, Ginny finished her painting. Myra found her sound asleep when she came back up after breakfast. She went to watch Lois weave after stopping by Sima's chair to tell her that Ginny was out for the count until late afternoon, she guessed.
When people began streaming into the dining room, Myra closed her laptop with a sense of accomplishment and went upstairs to wake Ginny. She persuaded her to shower before going to dinner -- she really needed it. Their friends greeted Ginny with cheers and questions about her painting. "We'll look at it later" she said, opening the menu. In a minute she turned to Myra and said "Can we get the cedar planked salmon for two, will you share with me?"
"Sure" said Myra. The waitress appeared with a pitcher of Coke and set it down beside Myra with a wink. Ginny's eyes widened. Myra glibly covered by asking the waitress "What's tonight's soup?"
Ginny returned to the menu. "I want to start with the Caesar salad with smoked salmon, I think" she said.
"Two courses of salmon?" argued Myra. "Look, you can get the same salad with fried Hood Canal oysters." Myra ordered wild mushroom ragout as well as the soup, knowing Ginny would eat half of both.
Ginny switched her order happily. "Keep the rolls coming" she asked the waitress as she left with their ticket.
They all caught her up on their weeks' activities. When Myra told her she thought she had the introduction to her book written, Ginny goggled.
"But how -- was it getting away helped clear your head?" she asked.
"Nope, it was watching Lois" said Myra. Ginny looked blank, and Myra said "The weaver I told you about."
"Is that where those baskets are from?" asked Ginny.
Myra shook her head ruefully at the others. "I do tell her things, I swear."
Sima said "Listen, I was snugged in over by the fire in that comfy chair an hour ago, reading a magazine, and I distinctly felt someone touch my hair. I whirled around, but there was no one there. I had the sense of someone walking by, though, you know how the draft changes?"
"Beverly!" said Edwina and Myra in unison.
"Who's Beverly?" asked Ginny.
"She's the ghost of the lodge. She died in a fire here in 1921. We've been hoping all week to get a glimpse of her" said Myra. "Lois told us about her the second night."
"Or maybe the same draft you felt simply blew your hair" said Allie dryly.
At the end of dinner, as Ginny was literally scraping the last crispy bits of salmon from the cedar plank, Lois appeared beside Myra and said "I've saved us a long game table in the main room, look for my jacket over a chair."
"We need an extra chair tonight" said Myra, putting her arm over Ginny's shoulders. "This is the painter, who finished her latest today. Ginny, this is Lois the basket weaver."
Ginny looked Lois up and down. Myra followed her perusal and realized Lois was actually very good-looking. Chris cut through the sudden silence by asking "Aren't you telling a story tonight?"
"No, they've got that duo back to sing folk songs" said Lois. "The clarinet player is the owner's cousin."
"That explains how they get bookings" said Chris, and Lois laughed deliciously. "I'll go add a chair, see you soon" she said, heading toward the other end of the lodge.
Ginny leveled her eyes on Myra. "Is she a dyke?"
As Chris began laughing, Myra said "I never asked, but I'm pretty sure not."
"She's not" said Sima. "She and I took a walk yesterday afternoon over to the Mercantile."
Ginny glared at Sima now. "Am I the only one who can see she has a crush on Myra?"
Before Myra could argue, Allie said calmly "Myra's always been the kind of gal who straight women feel safe getting crushes on, because she'll never reciprocate. Kinda like Ellen Degeneres."
"Our connection is absolutely not on that level" protested Myra. The waitress appeared then and said "Do you want me to refill your pitcher and transfer it to the game room for you?"
"Ah, no, I'm done for the night" said Myra. Ginny stood up coldly and said "Well, we mustn't keep our new connection waiting."
Myra yanked all the defensiveness from her system with the walk to the main room. She strode to the end of their table and sat next to Lois with a smile. Chris slid into the chair on Myra's other side. Ginny claimed the opposite end, where she could strafe with her eyes.
But all their friends ignored Ginny's drama as well, treating Lois with the same affection and ease they had all grown into over the last several nights. To Ginny's credit, within ten minutes she was whistling appreciatively at a word Lois had laid down with the rest of them. By the end of the night, Lois said a little shyly "I've read an article about you. If there's any way I could see the painting you just finished -- "
"Come up with us" said Ginny generously. They trooped to Myra and Ginny's bedroom, which Myra thought had a definite pong but she hoped the altar of baskets on the dresser made up for it. After a long conversation about this new work, Lois left, shaking Ginny's hand with more thanks. Once they were alone in the room, Ginny walked over to the baskets and picked them up one by one. Finally she said "She's truly gifted."
"Yep. And I don't know why watching a pattern emerge did the same thing inside my head, I mean, it's such a corny analogy, but by yiminy it sure worked" said Myra.
"You were looking to find it" said Ginny. "You only needed an artist to give you the gateway. Are you coming straight to bed?"
"I'd rather work another hour" said Myra. "I've got a lot of caffeine in my bloodstream still."
Ginny kissed her and said "You're crush material wherever you go, addictions and all."
The next morning, Ginny woke her at 7:00 and said "I can't wait to eat, my system still feels down on nutrition. I'll either see you at breakfast or after my walk with Sima, okay?"
Myra said yes blearily and tried to go back to sleep, but could not. After getting up, she bathed and dressed slowly. Ginny and Sima were just standing up from the table as Myra appeared.
"Try not to have Coke right off the bat" said Ginny solicitously, "You're getting darker circles around your eyes."
Myra got biscuits and gravy with tomato juice, startling their waitress. Before her food arrived, the fisher-folk joined her, giving her their latest pound-and-ounce update. "Tomorrow's the last day for you to catch up with me" Chris taunted Allie.
"You're not ahead, I've been keeping track and I'm half a pound ahead of you" retorted Allie. Myra refused to show them what her notebook said until the final accounting, so this was a daily argument.
"Look, Lois has set up her weaving station over in the corner by that window" pointed out Edwina. They all turned and waved. "The lake was frozen halfway out the pier, I don't blame her for choosing indoors today, even with all the touristy bother she'll get."
After eating, Myra still felt ragged from her short night. She pulled an easy chair across from Lois's table and said "How's it going?"
"One more pair of jam-sticky little hands reaches for my work, I'm brandishing the reed knife" Lois said quietly. Myra chuckled and melted into her chair, her eyes on the basket slowly appearing from thin air, it seemed to her.
The next thing she remembered, Ginny's weight was leaning against her from the side arm of the chair and Ginny's amused voice was saying "It's like that most of the night, soft but steady. I find it comforting."
She opened her eyes to see Lois and Ginny both grinning at her. Her mouth felt dry, and she licked her lips. Ginny put her hand to Myra's cheek and said "Are you feeling all right? You're extremely hot."
"Your hands are like icicyles, Ginny" said Myra, "Anything warmer than a corpse is going to feel hot to you right now."
"We walked all the way to the waterfall" said Ginny with satisfaction. "Listen, why don't you go grab a little nap?"
"I don't want to" said Myra stubbornly. This was her last day to watch the weaving.
"Okay" said Ginny, pulling Myra against her. Myra closed her eyes and rapidly drifted back into sleep as Ginny asked keen questions about Lois's technique. When Ginny woke Myra up for lunch, she had four more baskets to add to their dresser top.
Myra decided she didn't feel ready to go back home yet. She wrote at a breakneck pace all afternoon and actually considered skipping dinner to continue. She thought, instead, she'd stay up all night working, she didn't have to drive them home the next day. But once they put away the Scrabble board that last night and she followed Ginny to their room, she couldn't resist lying down for half an hour, to hold Ginny as she dropped off.
Ginny shook her awake at 7:00, saying "Myra, do you have a screwdriver? My wet carrier isn't long enough to hold the painting." Her voice was frantic.
Myra sat up, trying to figure out why she still had on her sweats and a T-shirt. "Uh...look in the toilet bag, I think there's a Swiss army knife in there."
With much swearing and nearly stripping screws, Ginny managed to undo the hinges on the horizontal lid of the wooden carrier. She could insert her painting -- it was barely wide enough -- but one vertical end stuck out two inches. "I'll have to guard it with my life" said Ginny, "But I think I can get it home safely in the car this way."
Myra had begun packing. "I don't know how to transport the baskets" she said to Ginny.
"What? Oh, stack them as best you can, they're not fragile" said Ginny distractedly. "Listen, nobody carries this except me, understood? I don't want anybody up here to get our luggage until after breakfast when I'm back in the room."
Myra handed her a sheet of paper and said "Put a Do Not Touch note on it, just in case." She dressed while Ginny labeled her carrier and stood it on a chair in the corner. "Let's go eat."
Lois joined them and Sima for breakfast. As they were finishing, the fisher-folk came in loudly trumpeting their respective victories. They jostled around Myra to declare their haul for the day, trying to look at her notebook. Myra hid the page with her hands and said to Ginny "I'm too fried to do math this early, will you tot this up?"
Ginny ran the column twice. Clearing her throat, she said "And the winnah of the Lake Quinault Smells Like Fish Tournament, by three ounces, is: Edwina Priscilla Coy!"
"What the fuck!" yelled Chris, lunging for the notebook. "Lemme see that."
Allie had doubled over in laughter and was trying to give Edwina a high-five in the midst of her mirth. Ginny tore the page from Myra's notebook and handed it to Chris.
Myra said "Oh my god, Ginny, I cannot believe you just did that." She felt sick inside. She said to Lois in a pathetic voice "I never remove pages from my notebooks, they're all intact going back decades."
Her cell phone rang at that moment. She looked at the display and said "Shit. It's the security company." Everyone froze as she answered.
"What's up?...Where?...How far did they get?...We can head back right now, we'll be there -- No shit, you did? Who is it?...I don't know that name, is it that teenager?......Is someone going to stay there with her?...What about Beebo? The cat, that's the cat....So do we go to the police station or -- okay, then I'll call you when we're back home...Thanks, Aaron. This is a resolution, right? Okay, later."
Ginny was holding her hand, tight. Myra took and breath and told them "Someone tried to break in last night. They took a reciprocating saw to the fence by the carport, under the overhang, and actually got through, the fence has to be replaced there. But the new front camera picked up abnormal shadow movement and whoever was watching the monitor called the cops. They showed up in time to arrest him as he went inside the fence."
She looked at Ginny. "It's a neighbor of ours, the house with the telescope. Which, as it turns out, is not where the teenaged boy you thought lived. This guy is high up in management of some IT company, he's got money and, as they say, ties to the community. But his wife left him a year ago, wonder why, and took the kids, and he's having to sell the house. So coming after the neighborhood dykes must have seemed like a way to restore his manhood."
"What about the housesitter?" said Ginny.
"She's been sick for a couple of days with some crud and holed up in the upstairs bedroom with the kitchenette, has been living off ramen and juice. Didn't go downstairs at all for at least a day, so the house stayed dark and nobody was moving around. They figure he thought it was empty. Beebo was mostly staying close to her and the pet door was closed, she had a litterbox set up for him in the bathroom. The alarm didn't trip because he went between the wires on the fence, which means he really studied how to do this. Anyhow, he's in jail and they'll press the charges, it's not up to us. We don't have to do a thing." Myra gave a huge sigh.
"That's it, then?" asked Ginny. "The threat we've been living under is over?"
"That particular one, yes" said Myra.
"As long as you can pay for protection" said Chris cryptically. Myra looked at her with challenge. Allie said "Well, let's get our bags downstairs and check out, so we can get you two home."
"I can't carry any luggage" said Ginny, "I'll have my hands full."
Myra asked at the desk for help. She wound up putting all the baskets into a plastic bag and carried them carefully to the car. Chris and Allie were putting hard-sided luggage on the top while Edwina walked to the Mercantile and got their fish. When she brought it back, three big clear plastic bags full of packages wrapped in butcher paper, there was a heated discussion about where best to transport the fish. They finally agreed it was cold enough that the fish could be tucked in between bags on the cartop, it wouldn't thaw much on the way home.
Ginny and Myra were again in the far back seat, which faced backward, because it made Sima queasy to ride backward. Ginny crawled over the middle seat into the back and commanded Myra to hand her the wet carrier, issuing a stream of "Carefuls" to her. She tucked it between the two seats, the open wet end on her side, and sat taking up more than half the back seat to keep her hand on the carrier protectively. Ropes had already been lashed to the back bumper, making the rear door unusable. Myra faced having to crawl over the middle seat as well.
She turned instead to Lois and gave her a card with her contact information on it, then grabbed her in a long hug. Sima said "What're you doing with these baskets, you want to put them up top, too?"
"No!" said Myra. "I'll carry them in my lap, I guess." She began trying to decide how to get over one seat into the back where Ginny was hunched over her carrier. Ginny barked at her "Oh, hurry up, Myra, it's not rocket science." As Chris giggled, Myra tried to come at it sideways without kicking Ginny. She lost her balance and slid down into the back seat, slamming her knees against the inside of the rear door.
"Ow, ow, ow!" she yelled, as Ginny cried "You jostled the seat against the carrier, dammit, Myra, keep still."
Sima handed her baskets back and, her eyes blurry with pain, Myra took them silently. Sima went to sit up front with Allie, while Edwina got in the middle seat with Chris. Lois waved them off.
The atmosphere in the far back of the car was thick with unspoken accusation. Edwina said "Are you okay, Myra?"
"Not actually, but I really fucking appreciate somebody caring" said Myra. Ginny's jaw was rigid, and she stared straight ahead, watching the wake of the Cherokee as it pushed through fresh snow on the narrow road.
After half an hour, the scenery itself, the pristine snow and wilderness around them, worked its magic on Myra's mood. When Ginny said "Look over there, My, that windrow in that clearing -- see the two different colors of reflected light?", Myra followed Ginny's finger and said "What's doing that?"
Ginny craned her neck around to the side. "The green is coming from reflection of that small tree-covered hill, I think. And the red-gold is maybe sunlight banking off a low cloud."
"You oughta paint that" said Myra.
"I'll try" said Ginny. Then "Are your knees still hurting?"
"Yeah, some. I think I bruised 'em."
"Do we need to stop and get some ice for them?"
"No, it's cold enough back here as it is. But Ginny, I need to shift position often, I don't have enough room for my legs even if they weren't banged up."
"Okay, give me two seconds notice beforehand and I'll brace the carrier while you get comfortable" said Ginny. After a long pause, she said "I'm sorry."
"I care about your work as much as you do, you dimwit."
"I know, Myra. I got nutty, didn't I?"
Ginny crooked her finger toward Myra and said "Pax?"
Myra hooked her finger around Ginny's and said "Pax."
© 2008 Maggie Jochild.