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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

The gorgon and the princess

Love, Children, Mothers

My daughter, a fairy princessy-looking person by anyone’s standards (unless you happen to find tallness off-putting in fairy princesses) has flown into town on her gossamer wings, lighted for a moment, and is gathering sustenance to fly back to her beloved mountains and the one true love who awaits her there.

 Home. She is home, and with me, for a moment. 

 I imagine myself turning down covers, making warm beverages before bedtime, unobtrusively dispensing love and joy seasoned with dashes of charming and always well-received wisdom. I swell a little with contentment and the sense that things, again or finally, are right.

 Of course, reality is a little different. The dog, too excited, wakes us in the night. Visitors a little loud from Summerfest descend upon the house. One of us tosses; the other, bleary, wanders beneath the trees until the mosquitoes drive her back inside.

 This place is not the refuge either of us dreamed.

 A moment of getting-this-rock-off-my-chest turns into a long and hard discussion. One chest rock dislodges another as we try to understand each other. There is more rock thudding than heart relief. But there’s a little of that and I for one am grateful.

 Still in struggle, we stay together and we stack the rocks. They mark this, the place of a small burial. Pain and sadness, rest in peace, please.

 My daughter lived with monsters in her room, and then drawn on paper where she kept them safely pinned. I didn’t know that I was one of those monsters. Another artist who makes good use of monsters, Lynda Barry, writes of this:

We never need certain monsters more than when we are children and a furious woman with terrifying eyes and snakes for hair was the perfect monster for me. That I had a very gorgon-like mother never occurred to me, and if it had, I would have been lost. Did the gorgon help me love my mother? I think she helped me very much.

 Dreadful, “Gorgon” means. Dreadful I sometimes was. Not as often as they remember, but maybe only once would have been too much.  Shame, regret, sorrow: no words are strong enough for how I feel about having hurt my children.

 I pray that the monsters she imagined help my child to love her mother too. I hope she knows I am no longer one of them.

 Ranier Maria Rilke said:

Let us not forget the ancient myths at the outset of humanity’s journey, the myths about dragons that at the last moment transform into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act just once with beauty and with courage.

 Will my daughter ever know that I was a princess, too, before I became a dragon/gorgon? Or what made me change? Some terrible curse fell upon me for a time. My anger didn’t turn my child to stone, but surely that’s where the rocks came from.

 And she grew strong, tempered by that Gorgon heat and fury.

 That’s the happy ending part.

 Now there is an extraordinary young woman who might save the world, or some small part of it, and an ordinary aging one to watch in wonder. What small acts of beauty and courage I manage will go unseen, but that’s the price ex-Gorgons pay.

 Love. So simple and so complicated.

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