This is a review of the life path that got me where I am. This dislocated shoulder, the maniac politics, the aging-unto-death of many of my key people, and stuff like computer business that claims to be renewing while it becomes more and more pointlessly complex -- I need to locate my compass.
You remember the almost overconfident little bruiser I was until there were two brothers aligned to resist me. You remember my terror of school and my fear that my family would abandon me. I was such a "good girl" until, as one counselor explained rather late in life, that I "flooded" with too much information to compute but didn't know I could say, "Hey, give me a few minutes, guys. I've gotta sort this out" There was so much tension beneath the surface and it was so powerful and subconscious that I couldn't do it.
High school saved me in several ways: dramatics, single female teachers born in the Edwardian Era, and a humanistic stable world. Even so, I've always been haunted by the WWII images -- not the patriotism of thrilling dogfights in the sky, but the starved and broken people on the ground. Why was I so privileged?
Barry Lopez didn't come to my consciousness until the Seventies when I bought "Of Men and Wolves" to give my brother. It was another attempt to create a link, but though he liked the book, it didn't work. Lopez lived just over on the coast and I thought of visiting him but people told me he was was difficult and didn't want intruders. Those were the years after Browning when I was doing animal control and reading the NA Renaissance novels, and it turned me back away from writing to DOING SOMETHING to improve the world. Which led to seminary, which was disappointing. Most were avoiding the world.
One of the nose-bumps I got at the U of Chicago Div School was their obsession with what I called "pyrex and stainless steel thinking." No emotion. No feeling. I was off-topic. But I found ways around that, most markedly Richard Stern and his concern for narrativity. This is the beginning of my -- and possibly the world's -- rediscovery of "felt meaning" -- which is now sometimes called "embodiment thinking." I'll post a bib at some point.
Reading this stream of work -- along with the research on Deep Time and Thick History which have not contradicted Western Thought but simply jumped over it as minor -- has separated me from teaching, universities, denominations, conventional compliance, and my relations -- even my friends. One old friend suggested that if I had just learned to write like James Michener, I might have been a success by now. So James Michener, whom I have never read, has become the symbolic rep of the 19th anthropological sexist white man's way of thinking. The empire loves cruise ships.
I do remember when I thought that way. Most of the kid books in our house were those of my parents, who valued and kept them. My father's were about adventures and partners, two boys. Everyone knows Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books. Fewer know Booth Tarkington's Penrod and Sam, diluted versions of Twain. But my fave was "Two Little Savages". When my father was older, he acquired books like Halliburton's "Royal Road to Romance," to which I added H. Rider Haggard, since the movies brought him up at that time. ("King Solomon's Mine".)
My mother's books were standard: "Pollyana", "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," and naturally -- since I had red hair -- "Anne of Green Gables." I loved the books and read Lucy Maude's journals when I was in Canada. The same facts, very different in real life. (I loved the recent contemporary "Anne with an E," but have contempt for the reduction to pinafore tales in the series.) Most of these books urged adventure and nonconformity, but pretended that there actually was a world to which most conformed and which was much safer. (I don't think there is.)
Barry Lopez' most recent book is "Horizon," in which he gathers up his many expeditions into remote and quite different places. At the beginning he does not print "Sliver of Sky," a short essay that has been widely reprinted, but he makes it available through a footnote and internet access so it won't trigger rejection. <https://harpers.org/archive/2013/01/sliver-of-sky/> We are still not accustomed to people talking about the sexual abuse that shaped and drove them. It is everywhere in different degrees.
Lopez describes how painful and mysterious his version was and how he both assumed it was somehow deservedly his fault (partly because of the way his parents reacted and then how law enforcement quietly dropped the issue) but also felt that there was some answer in the world, that he should search for it, and that it was a lonesome quest. All his wanderings and challenges were guarded by having that same homebase on the coast as well as marriage to noninterfering women.
I see Lopez' book as a continuation of the stream of books that lead from the pasts of my parents and teachers, across the stage, onto the high prairie, to seminary, and beyond to this twenty-year seclusion for the purpose of thought -- make that "felt meaning." The narrow seam of coal in Lopez' basic self is also present in me, though not so explicit or illegal. I'm surprised that my family and friends deny any such feature. They feel denial protects them, but I feel it dooms them.
When I began writing, I expected to compose natural history essays; people who knew me expected more adventures on the rez. No one I knew has even heard of people like Porges, much less his idea of polyvagal function. Yet today I get a note from a "third cousin," great-granddaughter of one of five Welch sisters who emigrated from Scotland to marry. Her ancestor made a good choice but mine chose the most problematic man. Somehow this cousin is the member of my family most like me, full of exploration and ideas. She easily picked up on all this stuff. Somehow, years after my family had left NE15th in Portland, her family moved into a house on the same street. It's a gift to have found her.
I'd say "truth is stranger than fiction" except that I don't believe there is anything more than provisional truths. But they are deep and thick.