Wednesday, October 08, 2008

SITS-IN-THE-BRUSH

Scribble shouldn’t really be called “Scribble” or “The Merry Scribbler” -- she began as a newspaper column -- though it was more appropriate in those days of pens and legal pads. Now, since everything goes on the computer, her name ought to be something more like “Pocketa-Pocketa” or “Glow in the Night”.

But there are more people in here. You already know Prairie Mary, who was born on RezNet over a decade ago. Hello, Sits-in-the-Brush! Tell folks who you are.

“Rather not.”

I’m the Author and I say you do.

“Some years ago Mary Scriver and Darrell Kipp, two authors, were talking about the Blackfeet concept of ranking wives by importance within the lodge. The most important wife, who might be the oldest but not necessarily the first but certainly the favorite, was the “Sits-Beside” wife and she was just to the south side across the space reserved for Sacred Objects which was directly at the back-- the west side. The head of the lodge sat just to the north side. Then the wives were in order around the inner southern arc until there was “Sits-by-the-Door,” who was the Least-of-These which is a role that one sees again and again in many cultures. The Least-of-These is the one who does the hardest and most unpleasant work. She goes for the wood, she goes for the water, she goes out to see what the dogs are fighting about. She is most likely to be risked or even sacrificed. But she is also the one pushed out to the edge of the circle, so very often the supernatural world over that boundary speaks to her. She finds the Buffalo Stone. She goes off with the Morning Star. She visits the Beaver. The Sits-Beside stays at the center.”

"Then what’s this “Sits-in-the-Brush?”

“Darrell doesn’t like that moldy old idea that indigenous people of all kinds willingly loaned out their wives for the comfort of visitors. White men use it as an excuse for rape, telling themselves that no one minds loaning a squaw and never thinking that women might belong to themselves. Darrell said, ‘Even if they ever did loan a woman, she was probably some old Sits-in-the-Brush that no one wants. Probably infected.’”

So Author thought, “If this woman isn’t even in the lodge (like a divorced white woman of no status on a reservation) she must be even leaster than the least of these and therefore gifted. She must sit in the brush watching, not even asked to go for water, and therefore she sees everything. She knows who slips under the edge of the lodge, she knows when the moon slides behind a cloud, she knows when a coyote comes to the top of a bluff to watch and then vanishes. I’ll be her. I’ll watch.”

Here’s something Author read in a book (“Livia” by Lawrence Durrell, Penguin pbk, p. 53). Durrell is notorious for writing books full of alter egos who talk to each other. “The poet does not think of renown, for even the voices which carry the furthest are only the echoes of an anterior, half-forgotten past. The poetic reality of which I speak and which Sutcliffe might have deployed in his unwritten books, is rather like the schoolchild’s definition of a fishing-net as a ‘lot of holes tied together with string.’ Just as impalpable, yet just as true of our work. Art is only to remind.

“... I must add in all honesty that Sutcliffe is somewhat scared of the idea. When I outlined it he said: ‘But Aubrey, this could lead anywhere.’ I said, ‘Of course. I have freed us both.’ The notion of an absolute freedom in the non-deterministic sense alarmed him. As he said, ‘What would you give me if I wrote a book to prove that the great Blanford is simply the fiction of one of his fictions? Eh? You know the answer as well as I do, but I could not not resist saying it out loud. ‘The top prize, Robin Sutcliffe, immortality in the here and now. How would that suit you?’ This left him very thoughtful in a somewhat rueful way. He is lazy, he doesn’t want to co-operate one little bit. He lacks my driving ambition.’”


Author said, “Of course, I’m pretty lazy, too. It’s Scribble who is endlessly ambitious, enough to keep the keyboard smoking with passion. Sits-in-the-Brush watches even Scribble. And Author.

“So Sits-in-the-Brush is not some phony Blackfeet name? Are you sure you aren’t going to pretend you’re an Indian for the sake of financial gain?”

“No, Sits-in-the-Brush is a sort of meta-role, a consciousness of what’s going on in the big picture. I suppose that does include Blackfeet stuff, Indian politics and all that. But anyway, even the real Indians are finding that the enthusiasm for the old Wounded Knee trope has moved over to Iraq now. Someone should write about the child of an Iraqi teenaged girl and a lonesome Nebraska Sioux soldier.”

“Would they have to die?”

“They’re only virtual anyway.”

“Did you come by this split personality of yours through sexual trauma? Are you a personification of ‘The Three Faces of Eve?’”

“Funny you mention that. Netflix just sent me the movie in today’s mail. I’ll tell you tomorrow. In the meantime, I have to say I don’t remember any ghastly trauma in my childhood. There was sex play in our neighborhood and I felt guilty about that, because it was sort of bait-and-switch. I mean my father believed that the flesh was innocent and beautiful and he might have liked to be a nudist, but my mother felt that women especially were seething pits of sexuality and had to be watched carefully. So it was “sure, fine” alternating with “shame on you!” It was ambiguous enough to be preoccupying.”

“Is this why there’s a sort of sexual implication to Sits-in-the-Brush?”

“Maybe. But the real point of Sits-in-the-Brush is her freedom. Since she’s virtual she needs no food, no heat, no clothing, she goes where she wants to.”

“Sounds to me like that dead woman who lived on top of the mastodon bone paleolithic house! What was the name of that book?”

“Hmmm. Have to think about it. Sorta like “The Lovely Bones” where the narrator is dead. "The Animal Wife?"

“Are you infected?”

“Yah. With writing.”

(I watched “The Three Faces of Eve.” The trauma wasn’t sexual. It was death.)

1 comment:

Alethea said...

"Someone should write about the child of an Iraqi teenaged girl and a lonesome Nebraska Sioux soldier.”

Priceless.