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Two sounds and a thought

I am having trouble posting--not technical trouble; inside-my-head trouble. Nothing is in my Goldilocks zone. It's either too one-thing or too another-thing. WELL GOLDILOCKS, I'M ALL OUT OF LUKEWARM PORRIDGE SO YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO ACCEPT THIS.

Sound One is the dawn chorus of fishes, which ann_leckie reblogged on Tumblr. How about that! Fishes sing to greet the day, just like birds. I am sure there are places where people set out in boats before dawn to hear those songs.

Sound Two is the woodcock. He's doing his mating call (peeent, peeent) and his mating dance (a twittering, spiraling flight up into the air) already, earliest I've ever noticed. One of my favorite memories is going out with the healing angel to witness the dance. The woodcock is such a sweet, shy, dorky-looking bird; I'm glad his mating ritual is such a grand display.

The thought has to do with law-breaking and hypocrisy. I wrote a whole entry on this and then deleted it. Here's the executive summary: There is not a driver I know (including myself) who doesn't sometimes drive faster than the speed limit. This is, however, a crime. People's excuses for their behavior fall into the everybody-does-it category, the the-posted-speed-in-this-area-is-ridiculous category, and the I-normally-don't-but-today-I-was-late/it-was-urgent category. Whatever. The point is, people are willing to break that law for, essentially, no good reason whatsoever. It's not like exceeding the speed limit offers the possibility of freedom from a life of hardship and deprivation. Nope. People just... do it. And yet speeding--especially if you go considerably above the speed limit (which, admittedly, not everyone who speeds does) makes you an actual threat to people--like, your likelihood of killing someone goes up. You know what doesn't increase your likelihood of killing someone? Crossing a border without papers in hopes of gaining work. So. No one who speeds should ever use "but they're breaking the law" as a way to condemn undocumented immigrants.

How's that for mood shift! Goldilocks has her head in her hands. Sorry, kid.

Five Colleges Student Film Festival

A friend of mine was featured in a film that was shown at a student film festival this past Friday. The film she was in was really moving--it talked about her experience being separated from her kids while she was incarcerated** But that film wasn't the only good one--all of them were excellent, and some of them I really loved. Most of them are available for viewing on Vimeo, so I can link to them. Some are very serious, others are more lighthearted.

The first one that really struck me was called "Molly," by Arabia Simeon. I loved the poetry of this. Regarding the double frames, the creator wrote that they "[show] two different sides to her experience in the world. The left is her external and the right is her internal." (TW: topic is partner violence though the imagery is not disturbing.) (3.15 minutes)

The next is "10 Little Things," by Helena Burgueño, an affectionate look at the quirks that make the creator's mother unique and special. We saw the mother in the audience--dressed much like she is in the film. Note that Mama likes Anne McCaffery! (3.24 minutes)

The third was a simple and poetic animated short, "Stargazing," by Leticia Santos, but although the creator has a website, the film doesn't appear to be posted. I've emailed her, and if she does post, I'll link.

The fourth is "A Poem of Theirs," by Yiwen Gong, an understated look at the loneliness that comes from being a student in a foreign land. This film also made me *hungry* (you'll see why), and it features a quote from Ijeoma Umebinyuo at the end. (4.07 minutes)

The fifth was "Lemonade," by Eric Tang, an animated adaptation of a short story of the same name by Aimee Bender (I haven't read the story). I loved the art so much! It reminded me of the ninja girl's style. (11.10 minutes)

The sixth was "Every 21 Days," by Robyn Farley. This one is made from voice mail recordings and found footage, and it's moving. The draft posted on Vimeo still has watermarks on some of the footage, but the version I saw on Friday didn't. (4.01 minutes)

Every 21 Days from Robyn Farley on Vimeo.

And last is the video my friend was in: "Sonia," by Aisha Amin (5.18 min)

**She's not someone I know from the jail; she and I are on the board of an organization that does creative writing workshops in the jail--that's how we got to know each other.

I got an email request to sign a petition

Last night I got an email asking me to sign a petition (if you sign one petition, you will forever be sent these emails asking you to sign others) This one had the subject line "biggest petition for bees EVER," and my mind went in an odd direction:

Many are petitioning for bees, but our petition is surely the biggest. We really, really, really want some bees. We've petitioned three times before unsuccessfully, but this time, we collected signatures all winter. There is no one in a 50 mile radius who hasn't signed our petition. Even babies have signed. Even the newly deceased. We will be delivering our petition to the keeper of the bees tomorrow. It is our sincerest hope that this time, at last, we will be granted bees.


confessions fifteen minutes after the day

The day just finished, some kind of anger-cloud settled over me and just waited for things to attach to. First I was angry at a stupid story on NPR in the morning (the second in a series of scaremongering stories about bats and viruses). Then I was angry at a client of mine that hasn't paid me. Then I was angry at my state (not US) senator.

My mind this day past has been a sterile place. Walking in my own thoughts has been like walking down a road lined with restrictive signs and people barking orders.

It's now a wood-between-the-worlds time between one day and the next. ("Yes Asakiyume, we have a word for that: nighttime.") Yes, okay. But it's the middlest, stillest part of the night. I'm going to walk widdershins around the block under the stars and go to bed, and tomorrow maybe I won't be haunted by anger.


So I've been spending a little time volunteering with some high school students who are doing intensive online learning to collect the credits they need to graduate. They do get some facetime with teachers, though, and I'm there to help with writing and reading. For the state proficiency exam, you need to be able to talk about something you've read (you know the sorts of questions).

For a serious read, we've started working on Peas and Carrots, a really excellent book by Tanita Davis about two high school girls: one is a foster kid (a girl) and the other is the same-age daughter in the family she's come to stay with. The characters are really likable and the situation is really real without being awesomely depressing. (Short review here.)

But for fun, they're reading the Spanish-language edition of Ann Aguirre's best-selling Enclave, the first novel in a dystopian YA trilogy, and I'm reading along in English. (Many big thanks to Ann Aguirre, who **sent me** multiple copies of all three novels, in Spanish. The kids in this program are almost entirely Puerto Rican, and so it's fun to have something to read that's not as much of a struggle as an English-langauge book can be.)

I haven't actually read much dystopian YA (I read Nicole Kornher-Stace's Archivist Wasp, which I loved, but I can't think of other titles), and I have to say, I'm really enjoying this. At the beginning, the main character, Deuce, has only just been given her name--and her role: huntress. There are three things you can be in her underground community: hunter, builder, or breeder.

Last time I was in, only one of the girls I've been working with was there, but we talked a little about the book. I asked her which of the three roles she'd like to have, and, unsurprisingly, she said huntress. I asked her why, and she said because you get to go places and see more things--a great reason, and actually one of the things Deuce likes about being a huntress. We talked a little about what qualities you'd need to be a good huntress, and then I asked her what she'd want to be if she couldn't be a hunter.

"Definitely not a breeder," she said, with feeling.

"Oh yeah? Why not?" I asked.

"Because you have to give birth!" she said.

"Which is bad because it's ... painful?" I asked. I know she has a two-year-old, so she knows what it's like to give birth, but I didn't want to assume that was what she was meaning.

She looked at me with mild astonishment.

"Miss, do you have kids?" she asked.

"Yes I do! Guess how many."

"Two," she said.







At which point I relented and told her it was four, and agreed that giving birth was painful.

"Do you think you'd ever like to have another kid?" I asked.

She most decidedly did not want to have another, not even when she was older, she said. That makes sense as a reaction, though it's definitely not the reaction that all the teen mothers have. But for sure it's easier to finish school, go on for more education, and/or get a job if you don't have a tiny baby to take care of.

birch-seed birds

For some reason, birch trees like to drop their seeds in winter, and their seeds look like tiny sharp-winged birds.

Here's a birch-seed bird:

And here is a catkin, with the birds clinging to it in neat interleaved stacks--maybe fibonacci spirals; I'll have to look closer. Some of these get eaten by chickadees, but others take flight and then dive into the snow.

The life and times of Bessie Stringfield came to my attention via wakanomori, via the owner of Small Dog Electronics, who is a motorcycle aficionado, but the text and photos below come from the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame page on her. The article there is written by Ann Ferrar, adapted from the book Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and the Rapture of the Road.

The life and times of African-American motorcycling pioneer Bessie B. Stringfield seem like the stuff of which legends are made ...

In the 1930s and 1940s, Bessie took eight long-distance, solo rides across the United States. Speaking to a reporter, she dismissed the notion that "nice girls didn’t go around riding motorcycles in those days." Further, she was apparently fearless at riding through the Deep South when racial prejudice was a tangible threat. Was Bessie consciously championing the rights of women and African-Americans? Bessie would most likely have said she was simply living her life in her own way ...

Early on, Bessie had to steel herself against life’s disappointments. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1911, as a child she was brought to Boston but was orphaned by age 5.

"An Irish lady raised me," she recalled. "I’m not allowed to use her name. She gave me whatever I wanted. When I was in high school I wanted a motorcycle. And even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles, I got one." ...

At 19, she began tossing a penny over a map and riding to wherever it landed. Bessie covered the 48 lower states. Using her natural skills and can-do attitude, she did hill climbing and trick riding in carnival stunt shows. But it was her faith that got her through many nights.

"If you had black skin you couldn’t get a place to stay," she said. "I knew the Lord would take care of me and He did. If I found black folks, I’d stay with them. If not, I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle." She laid her jacket on the handlebars as a pillow and rested her feet on the rear fender.

In between her travels, Bessie wed and divorced six times, declaring, "If you kissed, you got married." After she and her first husband were deeply saddened by the loss of three babies, Bessie had no more children. Upon divorcing her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, she said, "He asked me to keep his name because I’d made it famous!"

During World War II, Bessie worked for the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. The only woman in her unit, she completed rigorous training maneuvers. She learned how to weave a makeshift bridge from rope and tree limbs to cross swamps, though she never had to do so in the line of duty. With a military crest on the front of her own blue Harley, a "61," she carried documents between domestic bases.

Bessie encountered racial prejudice on the road. One time she was followed by a man in a pickup truck who ran her off the road, knocking her off her bike. She downplayed her courage in coping with such incidents. "I had my ups and downs," she shrugged.

In the 1950s, Bessie bought a house in a Miami, Florida suburb. She became a licensed practical nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. Disguised as a man, Bessie won a flat track race but was denied the prize money when she took off her helmet. Her other antics – such as riding while standing in the saddle of her Harley – attracted the local press. Reporters called her the "Negro Motorcycle Queen" and later the "Motorcycle Queen of Miami." In the absence of children, Bessie found joy in her pet dogs, some of whom paraded with her on her motorcycle.

Late in life, Bessie suffered from symptoms caused by an enlarged heart. "Years ago the doctor wanted to stop me from riding," she recalled. "I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit."
--Ann Ferrar

I mean, wow. She deserves her own comic book and movie. (She has a YouTube video which features photos of her, here.)

osprey_archer, who is reading The Hunger Games for the first time, remarked that President Snow wasn't living up to his despotic potential. Based on her knowledge of dictators, particularly Soviet ones, she had some words of advice.

Verdict: Needs Improvement


It just so happens that osprey_archer is also be offering fics in return for donations to the ACLU. She agreed to expand on her advice to dictators in exchange for a donation, and now the first entry in the series is live--take a look here!

Pictures from a snowstorm

It's snowing at a rate of about three inches an hour--a ruler we have on our porch just topped 14 inches.

Our road isn't plowed yet:

Can you make out the mail truck?

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep

Pickup truck driver clears his windshield

In the time I've taken writing this, it's now at 15 inches.

ETA: 16 inches and still falling:

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