Archive for the ‘I’m Trying to be a Feminist’ Category

Once upon a time, before the boy, I lived on a country road just outside a medium-sized town in Western Pennsylvania.  Our family lived on an acre of land–huge-seeming to a child–with two maples, a crabapple, a line of pines (with one fabulous Douglas fir), a few leftover plum and pear trees from an ancient orchard, and a huge garden between the pines and the woods.  The property to the north was flanked by a lovely apple orchard and the fence separating the two lots was braided with grape vines.  Our ranch house was bordered on every side with some kind of intentional vegetation, including a small plot on the south side I claimed for myself, without having to ask or anyone minding, for the purpose of nurturing perennials, to which I was partial over my parents’ annuals at the front of the house (my classmates smoked to rebel.  I planted perennials.).  From the time I was eight and a half until the day we drove out of the driveway in a moving truck when I was seventeen, this yard was where I spent most of my time out of school.  Sometimes I played basketball and football with the neighborhood kids, but mostly I spent that time alone outside, feeling at home, rooted.  We could see every kind of weather from the large picture window in the living room that looked to the west, and the mile of woods that separated our road from the development that marked the beginning of the town.   When I wasn’t in the yard, perched in my spot in the crabapple tree (where I wonder if J hearts R is still inscribed…) I was in those woods, walking the path that overlooked the ravine, redirecting water that filled up the channels made by logging trucks, mapping the clumps of trees with names and purposes, and breathing.  I managed to acquire an old camera at that time and started taking pictures of every place and every angle of light I loved.  I loved every sort of weather, especially the temperamental days when the wind would take my breath away or when the rain seemed to be desperate to wash our house down the hill (or mountain, as it would appear to an Iowan!).  The snow sparkled on a sunny day in that place, and if the wind got to be too much in winter there was always the hollowed-out shelter of the huge old pine tree made by removing a few dead branches.  There is no better shelter in this world than the base of an evergreen when a winter storm is moving in.

When I got to be a little older and the woods became smaller to my now-adolescent eyes, I started four-mile walks on the country roads further east of town, past farm houses and fields, and mainly on late spring days.

It was near the end of that time that I met a boy who loved the outdoors every bit as me, maybe more.  Somehow my passion for the incredible weight of the earth merged with my passion for this person that understood me even when I was saying nothing more than breathing.  We met in school but fell in love while sledding in the winter, hiking in the spring and fall, and canoeing in the summer.   This boy, a budding geologist, took me to the national forest and taught me about rock formations and river basins and about towns that had been washed away for not paying attention.  And the cliches are all true: colors were brighter and every rock, tree, and stream was richer, deeper.

Yesterday–or two days ago I see now, as the hour is getting late–it went off like a bomb: I forgot in that time to preserve my own private, spiritual connection with the earth.  I transferred it to my relationship, and when that relationship ended, I let it die.  Not all the way, but in a way that I couldn’t mourn without mourning the boy.  And now, even after all this time, I have been trying to live my life without that connection and rootedness that went so far beyond both the physical earth and my inner spiritual life.  No wonder I’ve felt depressed, rootless, and lonely, even as outwardly my life has become a success.

I don’t know how it could not have happened.  I learned early to let myself die to boys.  When I dated Robby, I loved saxaphone music; when I dated the boy, I listened to Mahler.  In my age I’ve learned to let Attic Man’s interestsinspire rather than overtake me, and I’ll be forever indebted to him for introducing me to live jam band music and rather black brand of humor.  But I need to recover the me that predates boys.  And the me I most want to return to is the me that sits in a crabapple tree at sunset, singing a hymn.

I’m no fool–I can’t erase that boy nor that time in my history, and I wouldn’t if I could–but it is possible to recover some of that rootedness in a way that will feed me now and allow me to be what I yearn to be for myself and for other people.  I’m not sure where to go with it, but I think I might start just by being outdoors as much as possible, giving up some housework for long walks (or as we did the other day, tree-communining in our lovely park) and shooting for a hike every weekend, when possible.  I also need to consider more seriously our more permanent home, when those jobs finally materialize, and where it would be best to live for my health.  I need mountains, baby, and TREES.

What should have happened, what the boy would have liked to have happened–because I know him that well–is for that time to have deepened what was already there, not forever wedded it only to him.  It took thirteen years, but it’s time.  Now.


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First of all, I hope you’re not reading this, because if you are it means that you Googled yourself and made it through too many pages of hurtful, scarring rumors and outrageous judgments about you, your family, and your choices.  I am sorry on behalf of all of us–Republican, Democrat, Independent, Blogger, and Pundit–that the very personal details of your life, particularly your sexual activities, are being discussed everywhere.

I am not going to discuss those details here, other than to say that as a pro-life person, I’m glad you’ve decided to raise your baby.  And as someone who is cheerleader for mothers and babies of all ages, you have it within you to do a great job.

But–and this is where my letter stops being personal and gets political–just because I like what I think you’ve done (because I didn’t get it from you, I got it from reporters who got it from a campaign who got it from your parents) doesn’t mean I’ve decided to ignore the real campaign issues and vote based on a candidate’s family situation.  It’s not fair that your mother and Sen. McCain are taking credit for something you have chosen in an effort to further their campaign.  I agree with Sen. Obama that families should be off-limits, aside from the photo-ops and professions of love.  It’s OK for candidates to let their children humanize them to the public.  It’s not OK for them to use the personal details of your life (and your brother’s) to make them look electable.  I don’t want to decide the election based on what kind of parent a person is–outside of extreme cases of abuse–but his or her platform and how he or she would be in office.

I’m sorry I let this get to me and I hope the next couple of years of your life don’t suck because people like me let it.

I hope your pregnancy is uneventful and returns to being private.


sster of boomerific

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I’ve always loved Bitch Ph.D, so I was a little skeptical about her decision to change her format to include a number of (female) voices aside from her own (would it go all newsy and lose its edge?).  I have been incredibly, pleasantly surprised.  So far M. Leblanc is my regular fave, but dig this from ding, writing about violence against women in the military, which makes the hair on my neck stand on end:

What is it that makes the military what it is, that allows it to do what it does? The military accepts violence as a suitable human, cultural and national response; it creates an environment that feeds on a sense of overweening Masculine privilege; and what makes all of this aggression and privilege acceptable and not merely psychotic is the body of a woman. Whether it is the feminized ‘body’ of the nation they invade or the bodies of assaulted female soldiers or civilians left in its wake, our military clearly requires the Othered, violated bodies of women to keep a grip on its GI Joe identity. The subjugation of a woman in order to retain the fiction of masculine ‘wholeness’ is, to me, a function of patriarchy.

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