A long time ago, Old Woman of the River got very tired. She was tired of always rushing her children down the river, all the fish and all the silt, tree branches and pieces of gold. She decided to stop. Her water froze, the froth of the rapids became little white stars hanging in the air, sun sparks stopped twinkling, and there was only quiet in the forest. The birds stopped flying because they thought the sound of the pounding river was what held their wings in the air. Bear sat heavily on the ground confused. All the weeds and bushes leaned over straining to listen for the mother’s voice. Never had such silence fell upon the forest. Old Woman of the River fell asleep in the quiet day. One by one the fish vanished. Each spark held by the air and water snapped out. Bear’s body slowly dissolved into sunlight. Birds put their heads under their wings because even the sun began to dim. Hanla’chu sat on her hill and watched the world disappearing. She cupped her hands and made a huge cry over the land. “Wake up, Old Woman of the River!” A startled woodpecker cried out, flew from her tree, and vanished. Hanla’chu saw this happen. She stomped on the ground and caused an earthquake. The mountains rumbled. Panther, who still prowled the forest, growled. “Wake up, Old Woman of the River!” Hanla-chu yelled. Old Woman kept sleeping, but she turned over and the water of the river rolled with her. One by one the stars where beginning to shine in the sky. Night was coming forever. A wind rushed over the sleeping body of Old Woman. “Wake up, Old Woman of the River!” Hanla-chu yelled. Hanla-chu took in a deep breath of dark night. She filled her lungs and blew it out with as much force as she could. Deep in her dreams, Old Woman felt cold and began to shiver. One eye opened and she saw it was night. She called for the birds to make the morning but there were no birds to hear her. Old Woman slowly rose and saw what her sleeping had done. “But I was so tired,” she said, and waved her hand. The river began to move again, but there were no fish or pieces of gold or life of any sort within its banks. Panther let out a loud angry growl for he saw that the Earth was dying, and he knew that he too must die. Hanla’chu also cried and her body began to break apart. It became fish and bird and the sparkle of the sun on water. Her head began to burn and slowly lifted to the sky. Her skin became plants and deer and from her breasts all the birds of the forest were reborn. Old Woman of the River thanked Hanla-chu. She flowed on and on forever after this. And no matter how tired she gets, she keeps flowing to the ocean.
Posts tagged ‘spectacle mpg’
a small dog’s face,
loyalty to what she carries,
a cluster in the sky.
She is a new constellation,
lead by nebula light
and a galaxy brain. ‘
Shy girl hiding her face beneath stars, exposed with her large naval,
all the dark matter of her belly, the crook of her arm, womanly hips.
I am in love. I believe she would carry me to the dimensions of dreams,
through the night as minutes pass. Call her Midnight and be done.
The winged insects flew
in from another world.
My stomach churns diamond shards
but my tears only drop red paint.
I step into the desert half crazed and wary.
I was a dandy but now I am old
and heavy with stars, scars on my skin.
I look for the palo verde and hope for healing.
My tears become little men
who pick the palms. I’m leaving the wild ocean
for temptations of rocks and yellow sand.
I am blessed to wear elephant shoes,
but I grieve the water wings
I leave behind. Cacti rattle hymns
for the predetermined God, the One who lives
in arid spaces. I’ve gone to listen for him.
The ocean was too noisy. My birth jungle brims
with confusing myth. My tears speak of the wild gifts
buried within my heart.
I pray erosion will uncover them,
the crazed animals, dear unformed art,
the unknown blessings.
I’m breaking the rules. With Intuitive Painting, or the Zero Point Painting, sharing work is discouraged because the practice is more about process than product. My teachers say that comments, either positive or negative, may have an impact on what wants to arise from within. If someone says they like an image, it might stop the painter from modifying it. Up to this point, though, I don’t feel for me that’s the case. Now with writing . . . watch out! But I’m freer with painting. What is powerful for me is to watch my own judgments and feelings about the work. There’s a tide that I experience as I paint. I may loathe an object, be disturbed by another, fret over my ability to paint something inside me that wants birth. Michelle Cassou says we need to stay with our discomfort.
It’s a powerful lesson because that discomfort does transform if I let it be. I’ve done this enough to know that images or “mistakes” I absolutely hate when they first appear end up what I treasure most.
Being connected with the brush means being connected with myself. As I worked yesterday, I was obsessing over her face. I still do not like the nose. I wanted both eyes bright, but no matter what I did the right stayed dark. During the last-minute of class I applied the coat on the two lighter triangles and now, at least at this moment, I don’t want the eye the same shade as the other .
My teacher observed my spending a lot of time dabbing the paper with my brush. See the line from where the Mama Angel is emerging? She suggested I make strokes, feeling the paint, feeling the movement. This line was the first stroke I did. Speaking of tides, I immediately felt my bottled emotions come up. As I drew the Jehovah Angel in the left corner, I started having an anxiety attack. More emotions, and they emerged through moving my hand, the color of paint, and because I was beginning to breathe.
I’m working on a novel I put away years ago about the nature of Hell, which I really should pluralized . . . literal ones on Earth, the fantasy hell my characters fashion for the afterlife, demons, redemption, angels. Hell was very a literal place for my quasi-Southern Baptist parents, and I worry that my more traditional friends make judgments about the state of my soul. In the past this has kept me quiet about my less than fundamentalist beliefs.
So, being seen, being judged, the dis-ease of being worried about, a track record of feeling I don’t express myself well when I speak and am confronted, and BAM! Panic, anxiety, a wonderful demon Jehovah God is born, but one whose heart shows my real feelings about the Divine. The source of Love who we have made into our own vindictive, angry, jealous projections. Here’s a judgment: the panic is actually a good thing because it shows my need to feel. I have a very hard time crying. The tears almost came as I painted. They’re all suppressed as I write once again. But that’s the path I need to open in me. To allow feelings to blossom, to be okay with being afraid of their power because that is where I am. Stay with the discomfort, eh?
There’s the fairy angel, the enigma angel, and the Mama Angel, the last to appear. The flowers in her hair came late as well. I worked on her for about three hours, and when time was up I groaned because I was in a place where I was feeling and alive. She is not done. I’ll take her back next month.
One of the questions I am often asked about Heron’s Path is how the Nanchuti, the indigenous tribal group I created for the novel, evolved. As I mentioned in my last post, a trip to the Klamath River while I read In the Land of the Grasshopper Song hit me at such a sensory level that it compelled me to write. My husband Bill and I camped on a sandy bank of the Klamath in one of those weeks in July where the temperatures hovered around 100 degrees. I remember listening to the river, feeling the consciousness of the forest around us, and felt so removed from the modern world. This experience is about as visionary as I get, and I had to make something out of how the river was affecting my body, imagination, and emotions.
I naïvely went about reading about the Karuk tribe. I purchased a couple of books I don’t remember now and read as much as I could find by Alfred Kroeber on the Karuk and Yurok ethnic groups. So, a few years passed, and I finally finished a draft of the novel that I thought worth sharing. (For such a short book, it took almost two decades to write, tucking it away for years in between until I worked out various problems. I learned to write with the novel, and I needed a long apprenticeship.)
I contacted a professor at Humboldt State, whose name I apologize for not remembering (this was in the 90s!). She was Yurok and invited me to her house to discuss the novel where she very kindly let me know I had no business writing about her culture, telling me that I really could not understand it. So, another year or two passed with fretting about what to do. I wrestled with the idea of creating my own people, how could I meld it with the historical aspects that I did want to portray? Would an alternative California work?
The elements I did keep from my original manuscript were the ideas of the doctors, medicine people, and sacred dancing that, to the best of my understanding, the Karuk did to create balance with nature. Again, apologies if this is not correct. I confess I stole the idea of the Baby Growl straight from In the Land of the Grasshopper Song.
Last spring I read from Heron’s Path on a public radio station. The only response I got was from an angry woman (who said she was not Native American) upset that I would dare to write about Native Americans. I had already hung up and couldn’t respond that the point of my creating a mythic tribe was because I did not want to do any washee (Nanchuti for “white people”) misguided writing about aspects of a culture I do not belong to. All I can say is that I fell in love with the stories and information I read about the Yurok, and though their culture is the seed from which the Nanchuti grew, they are MY creation.
One last thought: Kroeber’s daughter, Ursula Le Guin, was a very strong influence on me as a young writer. I devoured her work long before I ever heard of her famous parents. Her mother, Theodora Kroeber wrote Ishi: the Last of His Tribe, which chronicled the life of the last member of the Yahi tribe. So, a large part of the spirit of Heron’s Path is in debt to her, especially the book Always Coming Home. It gave me the courage to create a language for the tribe, a process that I really enjoyed.
Review of In the Land of the Grasshopper Song: Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country 1908-1909
In the Land of the Grasshopper Song is, hands down, my favorite book, and I have often wished the authors had written more. I found it in a bookstore in Eureka over twenty years ago on a trip that took me through the Klamath River area. At that time I was beginning work on a novel. The power, quiet wisdom, and tolerance of In the Land of the Grasshopper Song inspired my manuscript and, I believe, it became a richer book for reading this fascinating tale.
Two women from the east coast venture in the wilderness of northern California riding on rugged trails to the heart of Karuk culture. Their job was “Indian Field Matrons” and to “educate” the tribe. What happens, though, is that their world opens and they are the ones who receive the education. The writing, taken from journals they wrote during their tenure in the woods, is so fresh that the reader easily falls into a world, not so remote in time, but one that is different in every other aspect from today.
My novel, Heron’s Path, was born because I was so deeply immersed in the adventures of Ms. Arnold and Ms. Reed. They inspired an important character in the novel, and I feel in debt to these two remarkable women.
Stars Falling in August
Daddy, the stars fell when you died, skidding across the night
Like chips pealed from chrome, carried by burnished wind across the sky.
The creosote was drunk in the dry desert air.
And though I wasn’t there, I’ve imagined how you flew from your soul,
Leaving your daughters like thistles blown over the chaparral,
Our breath thin as the stems of the palo verde that grew stunted in the yard.
The house filled up with uncles. My boyfriend and I slept on a cot out back,
As we made love, the stars became silver nighthawks,
Fish tails swimming through the blinding air.
I was numb like the space between stars that are too stable,
Refusing to stray from the safety of their paths. I didn’t feel the meteors
Of broken glass falling to earth in silent breaths.
Daddy, thousands of stars have tumbled since then,
Streaking through the heat of a hundred nights. Each second
They have been in the sky, these variegated strands of burning air
Have burned open the portion in me that closed
More than twenty years ago.
Now nights stay sober save for the drink of starlight,
And the odor of yarrow and summer grass.
But the sky will never be shorn of star flakes,
Nor the earth of burning sand. The stars fell
When you died, carried by the wind luminous across the sky.
Jeff Sharlet‘s book THE FAMILY: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power is a frightening examination of how conservative “Christianity” has made inroads into the American Political System in the last seventy or so years. This is not a conspiracy book. Sharlet is a legitimate journalist, writing for the New York Times. If interested in why the conservative agenda has gained so much power, how closely related to fascism it has become, and why so many “average” Americans are under its thrall, this book is a necessary read. I think the message deserves five stars, however the book is slow reading and it’s easy to get lost in all the details and personalities. For history buffs, the first part of The Family that examines why America is still influenced by Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening, how this chapter in history set a default state in our national consciousness, making us vulnerable to born again rhetoric to this day, is worth reading for its own sake.
This review first appeared at www.bookpleasurs.com
Jasmine Nights, by Julia Gregson, is a historical romance set during World War Two, which immerses the reader in richly crafted details of the life of a traveling ensemble who perform for British troops in North Africa.
Saba Tarcan, a young talented singer, half-Turkish/half-Welsh, leaves her home in Tiger Bay, Wales, risking estrangement from her family, to join ENSA, the entertainment arm of the British Armed Services. Gregson’s fine portrayal of the working class neighborhood of Tiger Bay, and Saba’s close but combative family, creates an authentic atmosphere for Saba to both cherish and want to transcend, to be able to live her own life and develop her musical gifts.
She sings at a hospital for injured RAF pilots where Dom Benson, recovering from burns and suffering from survivor’s guilt, falls in love with her. The novel expands to the war itself, following both Saba and Dom as chance interferes with their relationship and intrigue and danger mounts.
The entertainment troop Saba joins is sent to Cairo, travels to remote military stations in the Sahara, until Saba is recruited as a spy, under the cover of being a protégée of a Turkish entrepreneur, a job she naïvely accepts. Saba travels to Alexandria, and then Turkey, where her ability to mesmerize audiences with her voice is used in a plot against the Nazis. Dom’s love of flying, the transcendence of his experience as a pilot, his commitment, bravery, and the guilt he still feels for the death of a friend, parallels Saba’s story. Gregson’s use of historic details, both small and large, such as the hair dye used by Arleta, Saba’s best friend, the descriptions of period clothing, cacophony and scents of the streets of 1942 Cairo and Alexandria, and the boredom and tension of war, create an engrossing world for the reader.
The arc of the love story is predictable, but Saba and Dom are complex characters who keep the reader caring for the outcome. To Gregson’s credit, Saba sees her career as a performer is as important as her relationship to Dom, and there is friction over this issue.
A fairly quick read, Jasmine Nights is perfect for vacations or weekends, transporting the reader to exotic locations and a dangerous time few people alive still remember.
Julia Gregson is the author of East of the Sun and Band of Angels and is the winner of the Le Prince Maurice Prize and the Romantic Author of the Year Award.
My faith has been my shadow all of my life. I find it hard to reach my heart sometimes . . . a lot of the time. Faith for me has been a debate. I’m a Christian in the Annie Lamott school of faith. I simply love Jesus. God, however, I’m not so sure about. Never felt too cozy with him. Doctor Bob at Central Baptist in Anaheim had a lot to do with this, I’m sure.
I loved Bible stories in Sunday school and the songs we sang. I loved the alliteration of “I’ve got the faith that baffled the best of the Buddhist, down in my heart, down in my heart . ..” I didn’t know what a Buddhist was, but all those bs made me giddy. Then occasionally Mom would take me to church, and I’d listen about hell and how I was probably going there because how could I believe enough, be good enough, and what was this thing about Jesus in my heart? I’d pray so much and never felt that rush of assurance or peace I heard people talking about, despite crazy Dr. Bob.
I was a worrier by nature, came by it honestly from two Virgo parents. Since my dad yelled a lot, somehow I think I got him, God, and maybe Fred Flintstone (who reminded me of my dad) all mixed up together. I do have to give Mom credit. When I was really little . . . four? . . . she stormed out of the adult Sunday school after listening to how voting for Kennedy was a bad thing because he was Catholic. She voted for Nixon anyway, but she didn’t like being told what to do by a church. I’ve wondered why she let me continue going there.
I never knew there was another kind of religion until I was much older, a kinder Christianity. I knew there were Jews because my mom’s cousin Juanita married one. Mom was impressed by his manners because when he came to visit once, he made his bed. And we were practically Catholic. My dad was a retired cop from Detroit. Every three months the retired cops who moved to California and Arizona would meet in Garden Grove for the Sunshiner’s Club. This can’t be true, but it seems as though we were the only non-Catholics in the bunch.
When the Sunshiners got together, and during the heyday there might have been sixty retired cops and their wives who came, after the meeting . . . I’m not sure what they did for official business during the meeting . . . the real business came down. Lots of poker and drinking. We lived in Anaheim, so the party always ended at our house. I was a “late” child, a surprise. My dad had a vasectomy, and then my mom found out she was pregnant two weeks later. He was almost fifty when I was born. I loved the police parties because I was spoiled rotten at them in the middle of the smoking and drinking and cussing and the quieter talk of the women in the living room. Everyone smoked except my Mom. I sat on laps and took sips of beer.
My parent’s best friends were the McCauleys, an Irish/Italian couple, and the Buyaks, Polish and Mexican. My dad had been a sergeant, Mr. Buyak, a patrolman, and Mr. McCauley, a lieutenant. We rarely ate meat on Fridays because we shared meals so often with them. As mediocre Baptist (and never official ones), we didn’t do grace. But when they came over, they did. “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.” I heard this prayer more than any other while I grew up.
There were lots of shadows here, as well. I last saw Mr. and Mrs. McCauley, whom I called Aunt Jean and Uncle Gerald when I was sipping from beer cans, a week after Bill and I married. We were in southern California . . . my honeymoon to Mom’s house. Mrs. McCauley was dying. Always a small woman, she had shrunk to the size of a child, trying to breathe. The walls in their house were yellow from tobacco. A true believer in Purgatory, she was terrified to face what she thought was before her.