I'm having a bit of an emotional time, lately.
I'm not that healthy. lol. maybe you picked up on that through a few of the posts here. I need to take better care of myself and I seem to have a (reluctant) career in it if I want to improve the quality of my life.
All well and good. I try to take care of myself.
But I really suck at it.
What I love to do -- what I have always done -- is listen to music, write, and read. Really, that's about it. I cook when I have to -- I clean house when I MUST; what used to be my salvation and escape from the heeps o' humiliations and stresses of my life has become my life. essentially.
It's rather odd to be ... so prominent on the forum.
I'm a background shadow IRL and I like it that way, but I got a PM from someone last night that kind of made me see I'm a major flavor of the boards over there -- and possibly intimidating to other members.
It was flattering and appalling at the same time.words in print... you never know who they're going to cut, prop up, shatter, or give hope to. I've always known words on a page....
My sister Kee taught me to read far before I was speaking in sentences. I was reading "Beginner Books" on my own at 3. I slept with books in my crib; not for me the risk of having a book crayoned in; I punched the neighbor kid in the nose for taking a red crayon to my copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Jerk
oh. By the way. I collect books; children's books in particular. I have all the Harold books.
There was one book I didn't go out of my way to find that had a major influence on my life as a kid. It was (as I realized down the road) a rather obscure work by a writer named Olivia Coolidge titled "The Trojan War". It came into our house in a carton of hand me downs from one of "The Aunts" -- most likely Aunt Bunny.
She and Uncle Bud raised 6 boys and they had an actual room in their house that was a Library
. Most of the stuff we received from Bud and Bunny were "guy things" but that didn't stop me from reading any of it.
My cousin Peter (their youngest) was a good friend of mine through most of my childhood: very gentle and quiet and kind. His best friend was their next door neighbor, Shaun: a beautiful blond blue eyed quiet kid who happened to be deaf. I'm sure the two of them raised hell like all boys do, but not around me. The three of us would walk on the beach (oh yeah, these relatives lived one street in from Milford beach on Long Island Sound)Peter and I would talk some, and laugh a lot... and I'd smile at the two of them talking.
Smiling, it should be noted, was a very rare occurence in my childhood.
Not surprisingly, music was never a subject with us.
back to this carton of books.
I'm not even sure it was from Aunt Bunny, but it was a box of books meant for my teenaged siblings and I got the dregs of it. How Green Was My Valley, Panther's Moon, The Wrath and the Wind, and a copy of The Trojan War... the only one with pictures in it, and pretty interesting pictures too. the first one that caught my eye was a bearded guy raising a sacrificial knife to the back of a girl on an altar, a ghostly fawn rising from her body.
written on the facing page was the name, "Iphigenia". I knew it was the girl's name, but I didn't have a clue on how to say it out loud. Almost all the names I'd never seen in print before.
This was COOL.
I was 5. Not quite 6.
I took the book to Kee and asked her how to pronounce "that name". She didn't know either, but pointed out there was a phonetic break down in the back of the book for Characters and Places; so I could look it up if I wanted to.
She was 16 and had other interests by this time. Not to mention she knew if I had a book in my hands I would be quiet and out of the way for the day.
I labored over the book. But the rewards were worth it.
"Iphigenia was lead out to the sacrifice. The knife of the slayer rose and fell. Only the gods knew that what seemed her lifeless body was really that of a fawn, since Artemis might demand but would not actually accept such an offering. The goddess snatched up Iphigenia in her arms and carried her off to the far distant land of Tauris to serve as a priestess there.
The corpse lay on the altar. men looked up from the sacrifice to see the changing of the wind. Instantly all was confusion as each hurried down to his ship, drowning the memory of the deed they had allowed in the thoughts of the glory to come. The fleet put out from Aulis, but by their crime the heroes had entered on a war that, though glorious, was to be grim. A little urn full of ashes was all that came back to many and many a home. Numbers fell fighting in battle, and the seas drowned countless more.
Ten years passed slowly. In Ithaca, Queen Penelope wept nightly for Odysseus, her lord. In the restless kingdom of the Myrmidons, the failing Peleus struggled vainly for order, longing for the help of his son. In Mycenae, Clytemnestra kept her husband's axe sharp and bright. Agamemnon's people looked eagerly for their king's return, and Clytemnestra waited too, that in the moment of her husband's triumph she might murder him."
~ from chapter 5, Iphigenia
, The Trojan War, by Olivia Coolidge.
I got through the whole thing while putting up with Kindergarten. I hated Kindergarten. I'd sit sullen and bored while the perky as hell teacher had us color in workbooks and learn the shapes of letters and numbers, my mind thinking about the chapters that were getting easier to read with each turn of the page. I'd read all night by the light of a flashlight... which just left me listless during the daytime anyway.
I don't know how this book took such a beating, but the binding split and the pages started getting spongey like pulp paper does. By the time I was in the 6th grade half the book was gone. Horrible child that I was, if I'd had found a copy at any library I would have stolen it from the stacks. Fortunately I was saved from heading down the path of a life of crime by the lack of good taste of my library aquisitons technician. I tossed the remains when I was 14.
I should have held a funeral.
I mentioned this book on the blog before (Tales of Brave Ulysses)and had a vague notion that I might look for it now that I was online. I'm pretty sure I saw Amazon had it -- but I didn't order it.
so imagine my surprise when I got a box from Amazon.com last week.
as I wrote to the friend who sent it to me...
“There is always the risk in turning over memories of childhood that something awful will crawl out from under a stone that was sunk into place for a purpose. This book literally was the first BOOK I'd ever read! In my memory it was poetic, honest, and more real to me than the Gaussian blur of what I was living through as a child in poverty and emotional neglect. I truly cared about these heroes, the gods and the men and women in this book. I didn't know about The Iliad or The Odyssey: this was MY introduction to mythology.
On a level I didn't want to look at, I was afraid to revisit that world.
It had meant SO much. I was able to talk about it on the blog in a small bite, describing the outline of it's form in my life. I even hit on a major truth when I said, "I think if you were to crack that, you'd understand the core of who I am."
Well I looked at it today. Reread the whole thing. I'm amazed at what I knew by heart at 6 and 7 years of age. It's an AMAZING book, rich in poetic metaphor, wondrously retold -- shocking to think that "I got it" back then; but with this book as the base of my reading comprehension -- my tastes and style of expression are what they are.
Thank you. This was my real home, my first school -- my favorite teachers.”
The metaphors that are strongest in our lives are the ones we carry from the stories we drank in when our minds were most impressionable. For most people early childhood is a blur of sweet afternoons that all seemed to take place in summer, and the stories that form the adult strip the child hide like the rind of a fruit, discarding it as a thing to be tossed away as no consequence. Moving into the peer world of adolescence (where fitting in is everything) the myths that rule our lives revolve around sex, "cool", and nerdhood... and they hold a powerful influence into and through adulthood.
For Most People.
I skipped that part.
Because of this book; where right and wrong was never black and white; where the gods cared about the lives of humans and intervened on a daily basis; where the monsters and the heroes were real... and the heroes usually won.
And the villians got their reward, as well.
Life as an adult should be more like that, don't you think?