(back to part 2, VOYAGE)
PART 3: BACK
Half the village crowds into Great Hall to see our discoveries. Or maybe just us. Girls too stingy and ugly to die!
We sit on the red round rug and show our finds: lost city, blue genes, alien cress, contraceptive bug. I purr with pride as we present the Elders with the ritual samples of THREE new species. Just finding the legendary ruins is a huge coup, but those three species... it's lemon on our oysters! Sweet vindication, after they swore we'd sink an hour from shore.
Atoll and I overhear two fans of her music whispering "Why'd she get involved with THEM?" I feel a sudden surprise, realizing that all along, she may have played down her popularity, for our sake: but the truth is, she, like me, could've dumped her friends and had another life.
The judges glare skeptically, as I present our finds. When I explain that the blue bowl, with, apparently, plain brackish water in it, is a sample of a contraceptive bug that we can breed and give to all, they order the ritual halted!
This is unprecedented. The ritual is our time, not theirs to interrupt!
But they do it. The three confer, in low growls and mutters, for a long time...
Behind me, I can hear the debate-storm rising, already...
"Will they punish us for it?"
"Can we hide it?"
But as family groups start taking sides, the argument is cut off.
The oldest of the Three Judges stands and howls for silence. Slowly, the arguments subside as he glares at us all. Only when the silence is absolute does he declare the Elders' Decision.
"These three, who have made themselves barren, and would spread their illness among us, are soiled, diseased, neuter, not real women, unfit for any mate...
"Therefore, we, the elders, cast them out.
"They are banished forever."
I wish I'd run off with the dragon in his shining clam. I'd be a savage out there, maybe just a pet--but I'd have learned a lot, and maybe, eventually, won their respect. At least their minds were open. Instead, I'm stuck here, cheated by the Elders.
Shall I sail meekly off into exile? No.
This isn't for me alone. Other girls need this. I'll tell them all! Even the ones who make my bristles rise? The rotten mango girls? Yes, even them.
I'm fighting back--and I won't be alone.
We stay that night in Leaf's house, for her father welcomes her back (her mom is dead). He's always supported her; I've always envied her a bit, having been raised by Aunt Ragged and her mate, who hardly seem to know my name. Leaf's dad cheerfully defies the ban, saying half the village disagrees with it, and it'll take time for the pot to boil over. He suggests we move into the old stilthouse just around the point--technically outside the village, but within an easy paddle.
Compared to the real issues, I suppose it's just a waterbug by a barge, but I have to admit I look forward to having all our village beauties coming to me in their moonday best--feather crests and fringed sashes and shell bracelets I made but couldn't afford to keep--all coming to US, who they ignored--to pet me and lick me all over and nurse at my breast and sleep in my arms--to catch my shame, my unfemininity.
And maybe more than that is catching.
Is pleasing yourself a disease?
Oh, I'll have fun. Maybe not as much fun as sailing the stars with a crazy dragon in a silver clam, but here in exile, I'll make what fun I can.
It'll be civil war, I expect. The women and the men, or more likely the young and old. But the elders chose this. They could have just accepted us.
They bred us to obey. That's why I came back, you know--I was a good little fisher girl. I brought back my catch to share.
Now they'll have to learn to live with it.
Plain, outcast = I was the school pariah: a child prodigy, younger smaller geeky shy and laughed at. Gray may seem insecure to you, if you had a normal childhood--but she's far bolder than I was.
Skip parties and save up money for voyage = I was sick a lot and not invited to parties. I hated working for a boss, so I saved up my money and quit working a day job. Now I just draw and write and sing my dreams. Dreams like this.
Leaf and Atoll = Intelligence and creativity, Mind and art. Helped me all the way! Loyalty to them kept me from flying off in the dragon's saucer, though. Alone, I think I would've. Is that bad? Good?
I long silently for my two friends = I keep dreaming two girls and I are a married trio. Till now, I've dismissed that as ridiculous...
Yet why did my friends follow me? Might they share my feelings? Awake, I'm single and shy, unsure who or what I seek. Group marriage? Animal spirits? Lost parts of my own soul? Can I name my sexual orientation in OUR tribal tongue? We too lack words, and "our grammar won't say it."
Reef-maze, ruins = 1) The Dragon's Run, in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books. 2) Shirley Rousseau Murphy's Nightpool has just such a drowned city and pond and a monster feeding on fears... and a loving dragon.
Overgrown pond = the crowded social swim! The singles scene scares me--all groups do--since all I know of belonging is the role of target. The one to throw bad mangoes at.
Tasty pondweed = Is everyone out there pond scum? As mean as my classmates were... the dream says no! I'll find nourishment and good taste out there... So, eat lots of greens? Date lots of Greens? (The Green Party's big here, and I am one.)
Cress = in Ann McCaffrey's DRAGONSONG, Menolly runs off rather than conform to her backward village's restrictions. She finds a sea-cave near a stream with watercress. Trapped on a suburban mudflat, I longed for such a refuge; it called to me like Yeats's Lake Isle of Innisfree.
Water-walking fish-wizard = Jesus! Was the city human, then? Is this our future? I told my friend Xanthe today "I'm still mad at Christians. They preach love, but beat me up for being a shaman! I nearly threw out all spirituality, like my folks." Xanthe said "My folks did too--they call it superstition, ignore all the big questions. That generation were all born-again materialists who just tough it out--cut off, silent."
Porpoise = 1) A new purpose! To change my obedience training, hold out for lovers who'll let me be me. 2) Dauphin's a key word in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem The Windhover which I read yesterday.
Y-shaped Jeans/genes = the Y chromosome! My boy body. Hard for me to be male. I love being a girl in my shaman-travels. When I wake and have to be a guy again, I feel plain and sad, exiled among dragons; men, with their size and violence and brute ambition. But the Y-gene's ubiquitous--evolution, life, Gaia values masculinity! Can't I?
The lurker I fear = Some monster in my murky heart. Is it hatred for you humans, who cast me out? Not sure.
Saucer dragon = my soul, flying among shamanic worlds. I gave up money and social life for freedom.
Hitch a ride to the stars, or return and help my village? = 1) A book on Japanese Buddhism I've been reading compared the two main branches like this: "Hinayana leads to a selfish quest for personal salvation, but Mahayana encourages helping others." Oh? Is it so simple? Is helping the only giving? Lonely quests can bring back treasures. 2) Flying happily away with my dragon (soul?) may be death! I'm often tempted--this world gets tedious, and soul-flight's so much fun. Only my love for my friends held me back. Did I pass up a ticket to paradise, or save my life? Or... BOTH?
The disease-gift = chronic illness forced me into shamanism, soul-flight! Awareness, humility, empathy, choice--thrust into poor poor me by illness. Who knows what I'd be today, if I'd stayed well?
Avoid bright sun = social exposure! The price of shamanism (that extra sense) is extra sensitivity. Vulnerable to over-exposure, I must socialize very selectively, or I'll get burned! (It's also a reminder to use sunblock--vital for me. My mom got skin cancer twice!)
Contraceptive choice = freedom to be me with a lover. I was raised to think "I don't deserve love, so I better serve my lovers, keep them happy, be who they want." The dream says this is as serious as being forced to have kids you don't want! My happiness and integrity are as VITAL as the reproductive rights of 3rd world women (or talking sea-lemurs.)
Hmmm. So Gray starts a contraceptive clinic to help her people--but also for revenge, sexual satisfaction, vindication, and personal gain. Has she invented prostitution? And...is she wrong to? Is publishing my dreams prostitution? I think sex for fun and profit (even gentle revenge) is okay--you're spreading freedom, rebellion, subversion as well as your hind legs. Even in plague times, you can spread wellness as well as illness.
I drew her voyage during a long lonely year when I was single and not even dating. I poured all my frustrated sensuality into the art. It helped, too: I'm less apologetic about my need for love, sex, touch, and play. And respect. And freedom. Don't you apologize either--no matter how much our fundamentalist elders hiss!
For this Web edition: I had no scanner, so I photographed them with a friend's borrowed digital camera, corrected any distortion in Photoshop 3, then sharpened, increased their contrast, and tinted them using the airbrush tool set on "color", so it couldn't darken or lighten, only tint things 10% or so (more looked lurid).
Also: Li Gardiner (builder of Artist Resource, the webguide for artists) lent me Thomas Easley's book THE FIGURE IN MOTION. Unlike most figure-drawing books, its models are wild nude dancers caught with a flash in mid-air. Drawing them as lemur people was a challenge, but great fun.
This book is dedicated to dreamers and sexually uncertain teens everywhere, straight or gay. To find things out, you have to set sail. Just keep your sense of affection and humor, and use contraceptives: "Enjoy the warmth, but don't get burned."
And to Easley's models--all anonymous, in this sex-scorning, body-hating age. May the wheel turn!
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