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HERSTORY

When I was in college, for one of my classes in world history, I was assigned a textbook called “Herstory – the underside of History”.   The premise is that human history has been written by the victors, reinforced by denying literacy to women, and that what we are taught in school – tales of geopolitical conquest, tales of religious wars, that these chapters are actually not that important.  Not to our evolution as a species.  Cultural and scientific breakthroughs, changes in the definition of family, the fall of matriarchies and the rise of patriarchies – these are the truly historical events.  Lines drawn on a map, borders and country names changing as soldiers and warriors bled to crest a hill for the right to rename it – what we celebrate – it is all decidedly one-sided, and perhaps progress towards this goal of complete subjugation of the natural world is actually taking the human race backwards.  The so-called Renaissance was the Dark Ages for woman’s rights – the Napoleonic Code and the blithe assumption that women are chattel was the opposite of a giant step forward for mankind.          

      Conflicted left and right brain working at full capacity in a society willing to accept only one per gender.  Logic reason, intellect, numbers, analytical thinking – not expected from one who pines to take brush to paper and paint EVERY branch of those stark trees silhouetted by the sunset.  Turning a phrase like a lump on the potter’s wheel.  Only I don’t know what shape it is going to take.  How many half-uttered thoughts died aborning because some pitiful pre-programmed inadequacy department determined that no-one wanted to hear them?         

     So I take much of what has been written with a grain of salt.  There was a female Pharaoh named Hatshepsut who ruled one of most peaceful and abundant periods in Egyptian history.  Her name was literally erased from history – the hieroglyphics were chiseled out of the stone monuments and tablets, her name was not included in the lists of rulers.  I always picture that chisel and the chunks of stone where once there was wisdom whenever I read an account of the period I’ve been researching for the book.  Important contributions, I assume, will have been left out if those contributions were made by women.

The Legend of Kapo

May 1, 1850

Dearest Sister Annie,

I am writing to you from Kona Hawaii on my third week as governess to her Highness Emma Rooke, whom most people call Emmalani.

She walks timidly on the land, almost on tip toes hips swaying gently.   I have never seen Emmalani run, at least not on land.  She skims from her beach chair to the ocean water, slides in, and then she is simply grace incarnate.  Clean even strokes, and at last in the waves, without hesitation she covers miles swiftly and surely.  As governess, I remain on the beach, where the thought the idea of me rescuing my ward is laughable at best.  I leave heavy footprints, each toe discernable in the concave shallows, but in spite of walking right behind her, I see no trace of Emmalani’s passing.  To my thinking, the Mermaids are a Western invention akin to Centaurs of Greek myth.  Lost fishermen and missing sailors gave rise to half human creatures and sea goddesses.  Here in Hawaii, each family honors simpatico creatures, their aumakua.  These beings are not half human, half animal, stuck in between species.  They know they can transform.  I myself have witnessed the elders standing in the waves close to shore and CALLING to their aumakua, chanting in their musical way, raising their arms, an outstretched welcome, and Annie, I tell you, the sharks COME.  I do apologize for the capital letters, but pray you understand that I use them only for emphasis.  You have often inquired as to the native peoples here, especially as regards their traditional beliefs.

As I write this, I have not spotted my ward for quite some time, and am starting to worry.  It is hard to convey how at home Emmalani is in the ocean.  Annie, the water is warm here, bathwater warm, that temperature after the kettle has been emptied, and it is the second child’s turn to bathe.  Neither England nor New England have anything like it.

Thanks be to God, Emmalani is appearing in the distance and moving closer.  Her gait belies her reluctance to be back on land, and once again, she tip toes, dripping ocean water to her waiting servant, holding out a dry wrap.

There is a small church here in Kona made entirely of coral.  Emmalani’s family dwells near Waipio Valley which can only be reached on horseback through rivers and mud and sliding rock.  Her retinue are seen joyfully fording the streams loving the challenge of the journey, almost as though the rough passage makes the destination that much more enjoyable.  These Hawaiians are great athletes, though their sports would terrify our polo players.  Years ago, a great slide or Lua was built down the slopes of Mauna Loa (the Long Mountain) all the way to sea.  Daring boys and girls lay down upon heavy boards and rode many kilometers, picking up speed and once in the ocean, they take to riding the waves. 

Honestly, Annie, mermaids are a pale and fragile myth compared to these ocean loving natives.

After a brief delay in writing this letter, I am sitting at a proper writing desk, and intend finishing this letter in time for the next post.  Here it depends entirely upon the seafaring merchant class and the vagaries of tropical weather.  

To continue the adventure, after a blessedly uneventful journey home, we are back at Aina Hau, one of the family residences in Honolulu.  While in Waipio, a few of us gathered around the cooling fire to “talk story” with the elders and they told the most shocking tale!  As I have written before, there are numerous gods and goddesses honored here.  Though many in the royal class have accepted our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, some still practice the old pagan ways.  Once the widowed Ka’a Hu Manu embraced the true God, all the ali’i were put under the tutelage of Protestant clergy.  It is a long and complicated story, but suffice to say, this evening was one of myth and legend, thrilling in its way.

On the island of Hawai’i, there is an active volcano which one can visit and see molten lava up close.  It is like seeing God at his most awe inspiring to witness the creation of new land, Annie, reminiscent of those days when we saw God in the clouds as we laid on the grass in our favorite meadow.  Like when we saw the face of God in the tornado, for is He not gentle and good, and angry and powerful?  But here, the Hawaiians, in their oral traditions and chants credit the goddess Pele with bringing the heat and energy of the Earth’s very core to the surface.  Remember in history class, where we learned of the terrible fate of Pompeii?  How Mount Vesuvius showed no mercy those thousands of years ago?  We have always been able to love the God of the Old Testament, and to accept the love of Jesus as true gospel, while treating some of the stories as parables.

At the Talk Story, I learned that their goddess Pele had sisters, one of whom was called Kapo. This goddess had a most unusual talent.  I am struggling to convey what I heard at that meeting in Waipio for it involves a woman’s’ private parts.  I shall forge ahead and relay that in this story, Kapo’s lady parts were, shall we say, detachable.  There are wild boars in the island, another animal that transforms between human and beast.  They call this the Pig God.  This Pig god is possessed of an insatiable lust, and Kapo, tiring of the constant pursuit, and declaring “is this what you want?”, detaches her lady part, throws it up into a tree, goes about her visits and errands, only to retrieve it later when the Pig God has finished his business.

I know you must be blushing fiercely, and I tell you Annie, it was all I could do to keep from covering my ears.

I believe the story arose from the sight of a lava tube, near the volcano, of the red rusty remains of the molten lava passing through – folding redly outward like, well there is no other word for it – labia – such as a midwife would see while assisting in the miracle of birth.  The medical word.  I mean, a perfect likeness, appearing on the floor of this one tunnel along the volcano coast.

Now I must close and beg you my dear sister to speak no more of this.  I give you permission to burn this letter lest I die of embarrassment upon the revealing of it to any but you.

Affectionately,

Your sister Margaret

Dream Threads

In the morning,

the world came rushing in through my ears,

a taste of something toasting in the kitchen invaded my mouth,

sunlight from the hallway accosted my eyes

and the dream shredded

But I want to hang on,

so I tease out the threads

I was walking in a bubble

Everyone else was walking in a bubble

some in pairs

The shimmering bubble lifting magically

off the sidewalk

with each step

Germ bubbles

or snow globes?

Is that how we cope

or is that how we give up hope?

Hey Hey Hee Hee get offa my cloud

Are they permeable?

Are they peaceable?

Are they permanent?

Without the flakes or glitter

Is it a flight of fancy

or a glimpse of our socially distanced future?

I’d rather sleep

than take a peep

at this dystopian dreamscape

where everyone is allowed to be self-involved,

encouraged even

by their seldom shared shimmering enclosures.

Listening to Amy

Aloha Blog Buddies! You can continue to find rants and musings on my Writer’s Website, CGTripp Enterprises. As part of my ongoing effort to own my material, I think it’s best they all be found there. Soon, this will be gone, so be sure to check out http://www.cgtrippenterprises.com for future blog entries.

Here is an excerpt from my poem that just got accepted to Drunken Monkeys (yes, I know, perefect venue for me lol). Will supply link in a few months when it’s posted – Woot!

…Brandishing belly she pours her frail brute strength down inside your head like Alambic Brandy, and you smack your lips, ah…

Mom

Mom

just a good listener

STRONG

I can drink of my mother’s contentment, sometimes

And cry for her and for her mother that Life rewarded their efforts with a deeper understanding of hardship

Love shouts from her eyes

Finally I’m beginning to see her as much like me

Fiercely protective of her kin

An admirable adversary

With a steel spine

But her love is golden

Refreshing, essential, everlasting

Batting off flies with wings made of words

The bottom line is Scary Smart Chicks (SSC) should not be expected to go through life sober.  I try doing a data dump in the hopes of allaying the inability to sleep.  Maybe if I write down all the random thoughts pinging around in my brain, I shall thus conquer insomnia.  So, here are the rantings of a mad woman. 

Nights like this I need Brain Caulk – vodka, Valium, wine, Xanax – at the end of your tether, you reach for the end of the alphabet.  Gaslighted and ridiculed for being right, I need chemical assistance to tamp down the inner homicidal maniac.  Goddess damned MS Word just capitalized Maniac for me – who the hell do they think they are?  How much did they pay for their poetic license and who was the corrupt issuing agency?  Is fear of normalcy treatable with an ineffectual writing career?  And who, if not me, can resist the call of vicissitude?

Just a couple of puffs of the swirling soothing smoke, a couple of sips of fine Alambic brandy and I won’t have to fight, I could let it win.  Then sleep, satiated for a time.

Damn eyelids keep popping open.  Thoughts rush ahead of pen – at least this old school approach – putting pen to paper – slows the words down.  Honestly, I can feel them, the words, crowding out the occasional cloud of calm as they collide in contradictory arguments.  I feel worn ruts in the grey matter of my brain where “you will never amount to anything” and other echoes from childhood go claptrapping along deeply incised wounds.  I try batting off flies with wings made of words.

         “I am loved”

         “I am strong” Flutter byes oft silently repeated, lessening the harmful old patterns, like sticker weeds they have no permanent solution.

What’s in a name?

Have you ever been asked:  “What’s your married name?  What’s your maiden name?  How can they be the same?”

This question seems so ludicrous.  It stems from a quaint custom, a rite-of-passage which is not, nor has it ever been, expected of men.  For women, however, a public pronouncement of love and commitment to a chosen mate is not enough.  A traditional band of precious metal worn on the left hand at all times is also not enough.  For, I have been told, it is expected that a woman must become an adjunct to her mate, to be put; like property, in his name.

            Let’s examine the common usage.  Take “Mrs. John Smith” for example.  Does anyone LIVE inside that name?  Could be a Rachel, could be an Angela, could be a nobody.  This appellation is Mr. John Smith’s portable label for his current spouse.  It is not truly a name.  Whose house is that?  John Smith’s.  Whose woman is that?  John Smith’s.

            I was born with my father’s name.  All of us children were.  My first name belonged to an Empress, and it is at the top of my resume, stating the necessary gender.  Prior to marriage, I lived twenty-seven years with this name, the one I have always used, the one I am using now.  It has been engraved on name plated, credit cards and business cards.  I can be found under this name in school yearbooks, personnel records, alumni listings and the phone book.  I have fleshed it out and made it ring with memories of a unique person.

            Consider, for a moment, the name:  “Mr. Jane Smith”.  Does it sound ludicrous?  Your first question may be:  “What’s his first name”?  But you won’t have to ask who he’s married to.

            But what last name will the children have?  Why not both?  If one last name must be chosen, why not the mother’s name?  And why is it assumed I will have children?  That leads to another essay altogether.

            I may decide to change my name someday – for convenience, or pure caprice.  But many women have fought long and hard for the right to choose where and when that change may take place.  In the not-too-distant past, it was illegal for a woman to keep her birth name.   Hopefully the change in legislation will lead to a change in attitude.  For the present, however, I will endeavor to gracefully field questions about the impossibility of having the same name after marriage as before.

The salt licks of remembered dreams

To see the author read this poem, here is the link to Poet’s Choice on YouTube:

Brilliant but crazy, creative but self-destructive.  You know her.  Her breath comes out like broken chess pieces, all their strategic importance gone, like the dust on an abandoned game board.  Sweat in crevices pooled in the matted hair behind her neck, soaked through, she is imagining the pillow stains – they are salt licks of remembered dreams.   Sleep is always hard to come by, searching for the owner’s manual.  There must be some instructions for nights like this.  Elusive Mr. Sandman, furtive, dispelled from the shadows by the light required to write.  This time for sure, when the light is extinguished, this time, he won’t be coy. 

Random thoughts swirl and spin in the eddies of your mind, Hard to catch, hard to ban They flit or hunker down, looping like audio tape.  Repeating like that scratch on your favorite record that jumps the needle, retracing the same lyric over and over.  Decades later you cannot sing that song without the skip.  Despair is like that scratched record.  You have to get up and lift the arm of the phonograph and place the needle past the crack.  You love that record, those songs of your youth.

Happiness was just there, skittering briefly through neural pathways like mercury without the poison.  You grasp it and work it into the defiant fur of her favorite cat, banking the glowing embers of a warm contentment.  Knowing that even in the land of endless summer, storms will come. 

In the morning you and she will dance to the tunes only you two hear.  She listens.  She lingers.  What a luxury to be heard!  Dancing in the rain, swinging on a lamp post, no longer relegated to the spry guy wearing sensible shoes.  Let go, love, she has put together a mix tape.  Locking in the light with a liberal sprinkling of libation, limbs akimbo they will morph into a mambo.  Enough of loss lessons, love wins by a landslide in this daintily possible tomorrow.

Aunt Mary’s Mask

My Aunt Mary and Dolly Parton had something in common; they never left home without their “war paint” on.  Pond’s cold cream and Oil of Olay – goop on, goop off.   Gluing on false eyelashes and curling the ones she had, applying foundations, powder for the shiny spots, rouge to add color to the cheeks she just painted beige, eyebrows plucked, eyeliner traced across lids, lips painted with a color to match the manicure.  Clairol’s honey blonde dyed hair wrapped like cotton candy, coiffed and sprayed.  Her neck was encircled with metal and stones, ears were pierced and hung with baubles, dangling and glittering like fishing lures.  

I would sit on the bed, she perched on the tufted stool at her vanity, lifting one then the other jar of unguents and potions. The makeup would leave Aunt Mary’s telephone surfaces smeared with the blues and tans of eye shadow and cover up. How would Aunt Mary cope now?  She was always the glamorous one, I expect her masks would be fashionable, another matching accessory.

I am exhausted, just remembering the elaborate war paint ritual.  

I realized recently that she selected from a complexion wheel with several shades of “natural” but only one shade of brown.  “Racism in the makeup aisle!”  Sometime in the 60’s Crayola changed the name of their pinkish tan shade from “flesh” to “peach”, because, like, it ISN’T flesh colored, not everyone’s flesh anyway. 

She also planted the idea in my head that since whale and bull sperm has been used in cosmetics for years, how about using the raw material?  So, if you’re giving a blow job, don’t spit it out, don’t swallow, but smear that jism around to tighten up those sagging corners.  Would that not save thousands of dollars wasted on plastic surgery, not to mention saving the whales?

I think about my face, this face that simply merges and replicates those features worn by my mother and father, it sports the Broeker nose, the Niedbalski chin, the blond wispy hair of Teutonic ancestors and the pasty complexion of the Celts and the Brits.  So pasty, even my hippy mom would wheedle: “Aw honey, you would be so much prettier with just a little mascara… 

I realize it shields me from the ingrained suspicion of dark faces, it shields me everywhere I go.  My whiteness pops out from the cloth edges of face coverings.  

Are we now putting on masks over masks?  Without the best cosmetics showing off our makeover skills, is the playing field levelled in an unintended way?  Will all of it get wiped off on the inside of our masks, where only our lovers can see what’s underneath?  Will we miss Tami Faye’s face melting when she cried?  Is that why Orange 45 won’t wear a mask?  Afraid of the smeared face underneath?  

I hope our men will take to decorating their eyes, to augment their expressions while masked.  I hope they embrace the eyebrow plucking concept or at least trim the wayward finger length hairs above their eyes, free of societal pressure to conform by gender.

Sometimes, outrage leaks out of my face.  My whole body goes into fight-to-the-death mode.  I got this thing against being hit.  I mean, If you hit me, I will take you down.  Did you know I was suspended from school three times (in three different Oakland public schools) for fighting?  Those three kids never hit me again.  This righteous warrior part of me is not a mask, it is full body armor.  I love my inner warrior.  She is the reason I survive.

This face can wear a beautiful mask, or when enraged, can wear a hideous mask, lips twisted, teeth exposed.  I can wash off the tears, I can moisturize their tracks, hide the traces of despair, place artfully the invisible mask of false contentment upon the surface, but the anger remains.