Final Essay Selection

The essay titles are at the beginning of each section, my comments are in italics.  I hope this is easy enough to read!

High Tide in Tucson:

Experiences of mother and daughter transcend space and time.

Pg 1 references her daughter “I had spent a seek in the Bahamas, and while I was there, wishing my daughter could see those sparking blue bays and sandy coves, I did exactly what she would have done: I collected shells.” brings her daughter’s experience directly into her own despite distance.

Pg 6 “I open my eyes on every new day expecting that a creek will run through my backyard under broad-leafed maples, and that my mother will be whistling in the kitchen.” brings her own childhood experience into the present despite time.

How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life:

She discusses parenting broadly in this chapter, while still relating it all back to her older adolescent experience in high school.

Page 50: “Our protectiveness is a deeply loving and deeply misguided effort to keep our kids inside the bounds of what we know is safe and right….unless I can invoke amnesia to blot out my own past, I have to see it’s impossible to keep her inside the world I came up in.  That world rolls on, and you can’t step in the same river twice.”  I was especially drawn to her discussion of the paradox we face as parents trying to keep our children safe while recalling how we were raised.  Often I find myself thinking I must have been remarkably lucky to have survived my childhood, but then, so must have been all of my friends, they survived too!

Pg 52: “We expect our kids to salvage a damaged earth, but in deference to the religious beliefs of a handful, we allow an entire generation of future scientists to germinate and grow in a vacuum.”  My mom doesn’t understand why I explain everything to my son and why I don’t often say “because I said so.”  If I require my son to live within my absolute authority, I will have let out the important lesson of how to think critically!

Civil Disobedience at Breakfast:

Page 87 “A land mine exploded in the back of my conscience.  My child was becoming gall I’d ever wanted.”

Page 88 “There had been a time when I’d reduced my own personal code to a button on my blue-jeans jacket that advised: QUESTION AUTHORITY.  A few decades later, the motto of my youth blazed resplendent on my breakfast table, the color of Florida sunshine.”

Page 89 “We are to cultivate carefully the fragile stem of self esteem.  We are to consider a thing called “tough love,” which combines militarist affection with house arrest, as remedy for adolescent misbehavior.”

Page 90 “I say, Good luck, it sounds like we’ll have men and women with the mental experience of toddlers running domestic and foreign policy.”

Page 90 “The most assiduous task of parenting is to divine the difference between boundaries and bondage.  In every case, bondage is quicker.  Boundaries, however carefully explained, can be reinterpreted creatively time and again.”

Every piece of this essay spoke to me.  She took her adolescent experience, brought it forward into her parenting style, and then applies it to the world and greater population in general.  How incredibly wonderful!

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Stone Soup

What stood out:

  • “I knit my days around my daughter’s survival and happiness” p. 136
  • “…single parents are failures.  That our children are at risk, and the whole arrangement is messy and embarrassing.” p. 137
  • “in Colonial days the average couple lived to be married less than twelve years.” p. 140
  • “Women my grandmother’s age were likely to live with a fluid assortment of elderly relatives, in-laws, siblings, and children.  In many cases they spend virtually every waking hour working in the company of other women–a companionable scenario…” p. 142
  • “Generosity, a resolve to turn bad luck into good, and respect for variety–these things will nourish a nation of children.  Name-calling and suspicion will not.” p. 145

What I think about it:

The first two lines that captured my attention contradict each other beautifully.  Some parents have kids and work the kids into their lives, but some parents, like our author, have a child and then work their lives around their kid as to provide them with the best possible foundation for life.  Rarely have I seen a couple able to do this equally, and while a lot of this may be due to the financial requirement of a dual-income household, I think some of it is our insistence that a nuclear family is the most acceptable form of family.  In previous essays we have heard about the birds originally thought to exemplify monogamy, but who in reality have babies in the same nest with different sires.

Witnessing my own parents divorcing after 38 years is taking a toll on my faith in marriage, it would be fair to say I have very little left at this point.  I do, however, have tremendous faith in change; and with that comes an understanding that people are growing constantly, and sometimes this means they grow apart, or in different directions, and that’s okay.  We used to live within a very different family structure, and I agree that there may have been a greater potential for companionship among the adults when we lived in a larger community of family.  But now that we are so separated, even to our immediate family members, we are having to piece together our own patchwork families of friends and neighbors who all support each other.  I have found myself at home with my son wondering if I’ll ever know the pleasure of an adult conversation again, or if perhaps my entire vocabulary has been wiped out and replaced with things like “mister dong dong head” and “poofie face says quack!” in a million different made up voices.

The last quote I noticed had the most impact.  I have been noticing a theme of greed among the human race over the last couple thousand years of history, and as we move further into the 21st century, I worry that we have forgotten how to give of ourselves and share with our neighbors.  Here and there I see hopeful signs of communities coming together and doing what is important.  Farmers markets, for example, where we all bring our excess and share it, willing to barter and haggle over prices so everyone has enough to feed their families, farmers and consumers alike.  Still, there are those who think the market is a waste of space, a gathering ground for liberal hippies who they are certain will ruin the perfectly good time they’re having in the local upper class.  I’ve overheard them in the grocery store, and every time I explain to my son that they simply don’t understand yet the joy of living local.  I hope he understands!

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Civil Disobedience at Breakfast

Again with the presumed double-page journal entry:

  • “earnest pursuit of languor…world-class dawdler.” p. 85
  • “Like any working stiff of a mother…” p. 85
  • “…watching my darling idle dangerously” p. 86
  • “A land mine exploded in the back of my conscience.  My child was becoming all I’d ever wanted.” p. 87
  • “I touched the ground in awe of her first solo steps, as if she alone among primates had devised bipedal locomotion.” p. 87
  • “…show the way to wakefulness…in magnificent pantomime, I demonstrate…” p. 88
  • “Children are adept at becoming what we expect them to be.  “Terrible” does not seem, by any stretch, to be a wise expectation.” p. 89
  • “the twos and teens–both involve a child’s formation of a sovereign identity.” p. 89
  • “Boundaries, however carefully explained, can be reinterpreted creatively time and again.”  p. 90
  • “Childish enterprises, since they aren’t my job, are in a sense my time off, my vacation.” p. 93
  • “…obedience is not an absolute value.” p. 97

Exploration (mostly a free-write)

My child can dawdle with the best of them.  He is a professional.  And while I can be plenty flighty when it comes to my interests and activities, as a widowed mom I have to schedule time to be flighty, while the rest of the time I’m going going going from one thing to the next, most often with him in tow.  We’ve been working on our flow for four years now, so most days I’m well prepared to offer him alternatives when all he wants is to sit in the car with his pamphlet of toy trains, or methodically reorganize the matchbox car display in the toy isle.  (Why any parent would visit the toy isle with a child in tow is still a mystery, yet I continue to do it myself.)

A lot of this essay pulled on my heart strings as a parent, especially as a single parent.  I was drawn her statements because she sounded like she was speaking from much deeper experience than only having one child of her own.  Most everything she writes about parenting is something I can relate to and agree with.  Our cultural expectation of obedience and conformity is damaging to everyone, most of all the children.

If we are to value children, we must learn to play like them again.  Teachers and class-aids in preschools come the closest to experiencing this kind of therapy every day where you break down your barriers of self consciousness and you play with the kids you’re with, bringing yourself back to the playful, stress-free mindset of a 4 year old.  I try to regularly take vacations from my adult life and lose myself momentarily in the wild abandon of play my son so easily exemplifies for me day in and day out.

While he is teaching me how to access my inner child, I find myself hoping that I am teaching him to access his inner wisdom, the part of him that will help guide his actions when I am not around, as those times are increasing rapidly as he ages.  Don’t talk to strangers but be nice to everyone so the world will be nice to you.  Give all you have but don’t forget to preserve enough for yourself that you don’t burn out.  Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom or you’ll get sick; don’t worry about dirt on the strawberry, it’ll build your immune system!  It’s a wonder we reach adulthood on our feet, instead of rocking back and forth steadily in lunacy as the demands of each social situation can vary so greatly one day to the next.

She says on page 94 “For any parent who needs to hear it today, I offer this: whatever it is, you can live through it, and it ends.”

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How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life

If this were a double page journal entry, the first page would have this list of quotesthat stood out from this particular essay:

  • “It’s well known though, that when humans reach a certain age, they identify precisely what it is their parents want for them and bolt in the opposite direction like lemmings for the cliff.” p. 50
  • “a deeply loving and deeply misguided effort to keep our kids inside the bounds of what we know is safe and right.” p. 50
  • “works of all other authors who’ve been banned at one time or another, the danger is generally that they will broaden our experience and blend us more deeply with our fellow humans.” p. 51
  • “the endurance and goodwill of librarians in an era that discourages reading in almost incomprehensible ways.  We’ve created for ourselves a culture that undervalues education (compared with the rest of the industrialized world, to say the least), undervalues breadth of experience (compared with our potential), downright discourages critical thinking (judging from what the majority of us watch and read), and distrusts foreign ideas.” p. 51-2
  • “…evolution is to their field what germ theory is to medicine.  We expect our kids to salvage a damaged earth, but in deference to the religious believes of a handful, we allow an entire generation of future scientists to germinate and grow in a vacuum.” p. 52
  • “Faith, by definition, is impervious to fact.” p. 53

The second page of exploration would have this on it, in rushed, scrawling print:

This essay had me wondering why America is so backwards in our priorities when it comes to education.  We assign a value to our culture that we presume is so much greater than most other developed nations, yet when closely examined we are failing our children miserably.  As a mother I’m terrified my son is going to inherit an inadequate eduction shaped by the misguided belief that money spent on our military to “protect our freedom” is more important than money spent educating the next generation.

I also am a woman of deep spiritual faith who believes wholeheartedly in evolution.  And I want my son to know the facts about how life came to be here on earth, and why it is that it’s so special, because this is the only place in the universe that can support life. This is incredible to me.  It’s seems like such a beautiful coincidence that the exact balance of particles and molecules and atoms came together to form life as we know it.  I chose to call that coincidence an act of universal willingness.  I want everyone to feel safe making their own conscious choice as to what they want to call it.

I hope there are more librarians like Miss Truman Richey that are patient enough to teach the Dewey Decimal system (or today’s modern equivalent) to some young pupils just looking for an excuse to rise above the less ambitious throngs of their peers.

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Making Peace

Things I Want to Talk About:

1) “earliest evidence of meat eating….comes from…sites that are less than two million years old…we have been walking upright and approximately human for more than twice that long, carnivory may have been an afterthought.” (p. 28)

2) “Our ancestors in the Fertile Cresent appear to have dropped Goddess Mother like a hot rock, and shifted their allegiance to God the Father, coincident with the rise of Man the Owner of the Flock.” (p. 30)

3)”This is their party, and I wasn’t exactly invited.” (p. 34)

Talking About Them Out of Order:

3)  Within a year, my parent’s home will be sold and their divorce will be final.  Kingsolver talks about moving into a home that was in the native creature’s territory.  I moved into a home that is the native territory of my parents, who since beginning their experience with the journey of divorce, have become incredible defenders and dictators of their territories, both physical and metaphorically.  This is their (divorce) party, and I wasn’t really invited either. As I look at my garden I see it as a place where I have asserted my domination over the land and to an extent, severely limited the access natural critters would have to the area.  Yet I also see it as this bountiful place that is somewhat full of good things to eat, things that will sustain me beautifully, for the relatively low price of tending to them maybe once or twice a day.  It’s a delicate balance, this nature/human thing.

1) This is not the first time I have read some well articulated thoughts about the origin of our meat-eating behaviours as a species.  I have been returning to a basic lifestyle of raw food and raw living.  Some people have described it as a paleolithic diet in that the only processing of food is that which is done by sun and water.  It makes so much sense to me that everyone would want to have this much energy and natural vigor throughout life; although I am simply not the kind of person to deliver a message of “you SHOULD do this, you SHOULD eat these and you SHOULD drink this.” If I delivered a message it would be much more complicated, but feeling driven and positive, optimistic.  “Eat beautiful raw foods, have a beautiful, raw life!” Meat was a secondary thought after we ate what we could find as we moved around in our part of the world.

2)  I heard something interesting recently about the origins of language as it developed in the fertile crescent area and how around the time we started organizing our thoughts linearly we stopped paying attention to the Goddess Mother and her subtle,  enveloping rhythms of life.  It is my goal to get back to that image-based, emotionally aware language of the divine feminine energy, I want to go back to that dropped hot rock, pick it back up and give it some love and attention, it’s petty cold by now.  Coincidentally or not, I see humankind doing this kind of thing more and more, if only by getting out into nature more and appreciating it, giving it room in their lives for meaning and sentiment.  Also coincidentally, we aren’t herding sheep much any more.  We are driving our cars to jobs in the city and back to homes in the suburbs.  We are starting to realize we need that rock.

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The Second Essay

“Creation Myths”

First thoughts: Female and male rains.  People who have lived on the land since before history was being written.  Statues and shrines to the Virgin Guadeloupe.  Wine made from native fruits, celebrations to bring on the rain.  A white woman driving through ethnic neighborhoods.

Reviewed thoughts: Eskimos have hundreds of different words for snow, yet we have to use supporting language to describe it.  For the last 22 years I have been learning that the Pacific Northwest has exactly 18million and forty-two words for rain.  Drizzle.  Mist.  Downpour.  Trickle, sprinkle, dribble.  Yet I have never heard them gendered before.  The notion of a soft, gentle, female rain falling in the late winter to the early spring is pleasant sounding, and the angry, heavy rains of the summer sound powerful and intense.

I wanted to hear more in this essay about how the different creation myths support or reject each other, and how it is that she, a transplant herself, finds it so agreeable to maneuver her way through them.


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The First Essay

High Tide in Tucson is quickly becoming one of my favourite books.  If I could learn to live with humor in my life the way Kingsolver does, I might survive a bit better.

“I find that millions of years of evolution have prepared me for one thing only: to follow internal rhythms.  To walk upgright, to protect my loved ones, to cooperate with my family group–however broadly I care to define in–to do whatever will help us thrive.” (p. 8)  And yet, “our culture attaches almost unequivocal shame to our animal nature.” (p. 9) We must trust our instincts, and yet we discredit our connection to the earthly rhythms around us.

“Possibly we will have the sense to begin a new century by renewing our membership in the Animal Kingdom.” (p. 10) Have we?  She wrote this over 20 years ago, as as that’s been the vast majority of my life, I am sitting here wondering if we have done this at all.
Needs,  from one day to the next, are few enough to fit in a bucket, with room enough left to rattle like brittlebush in a dry wind.” (p. 11) This resonates with me so much; I’ve had to leave my home, leave my possessions, leave my life as I had it planned, just to ensure I would live another day.  As long as there is room enough in my bucket for my baby, I’ll be okay.  Wait, don’t put the baby in the bucket.  Do I want or need my child?  I love him with all my heart, he is the human I birthed into this world and he is precious.  Could I survive without him?  Practically speaking, yes.  And probably a bit easier too.

“It’s completely usual for me to get up in the morning, take a look around, and laugh out loud.” (p. 14) I think many people could stand to benefit from making this a conscious practice each morning.  Wake up and laugh at the absurd complexities that allow our lives to be just as they are.  It’s incredible.

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High Tide in Tucson

This blog is for my Marylhurst writing course WR 221. We are reading Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson and although I’ve only read a few selections so far, I am absolutely loving it. This will be a place for me to journal about the readings and it will be read and reviewed by my professor, and possibly some classmates. Hopefully, this format will be easier for me to manage, plus the handy iPhone app will let me post whenever my heart desires. Yay!

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