what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout
For those of you who already know me who read this journal, last week's Phonosnout cliffhanger is no great mystery. For those of you who know me well might be wondering how much I'm going to tell and how I'm going to tell it.
I'm not sure yet, I'm learning this much about myself as I type: I don't know exactly how public/private I'm going to be. But I see no point in hiding things, while I see plenty of points in being up front about this.
The easy part: one of the things that happened in those gaps of time is clear immediately when you read this week's Phonosnout section: I became a born-again Christian (until I was born-again pagan a few years afterward, but that was another far more gradual story). But the how isn't there at all.
Well, the how and the why. Part of that is the obvious, usual thing: I was brought up areligious. Not atheistic, not agnostic, just religion wasn't a major part of my family life. We went to church when I was little and then just stopped going. When I was young my major belief was in forests--really--that's where all the gods seemed to be to me. If you've ever walked in (or tried to walk in) one of the coastal rainforests you'll know why a child could believe that, especially a child absorbed in fairy and folk tales.
But then I went to school and was socialized and had the real western world burned into my head: families and jobs and responsibilities and careers and the whole big life ahead. Well, at 16, when that's what you see looming toward you it's scary, and it makes perfect psychological sense that you're particularly vulnerable then to looking for structures in the world to make sense of it for you. Coming across something that not only structures the world for you, but makes sense of most of the chaos and answers lots of those "why" questions is very alluring.
For me there was a weekend when everything happened at once--I had both a serious confrontation with the real world and its dangers and was exposed to a beautiful form of Christian belief, and I leapt for it to save me. And for a while it did.
Now for the story of it.
Summer weekend, May 1975. I'm 16, and in grade eleven. I've been chosen to attend a symposium for high school students from all over B.C. at UVic. It's basically some kind of recruiting thing. Some students are chosen to present their work and others simply to attend, and there are also various workshops including writing workshops. I attend one of these. I meet an interesting gang of kids, one of whom, Tim, always has his guitar with him and sings, mostly Christian-based youth-group type songs but also some of his own compositions. He's put portions of Chaucer's Parson's Tale from The Canterbury Tales to music and has done a pretty good job of it. It's very Christian-oriented and so is he and the gang around him. He's an interesting guy. I talk to him a lot, and get to know some of the other hangers-on. One of whom is Mark. Mark is very interested in me. I respond to this--I like this kind of attention, as the only teenage boyfriend I've ever really had doesn't live in Victoria and we hardly ever see each other, which is convenient for both of us in some ways, but it's not really a relationship.
We all hang around all weekend. They talk very Jesus-this, Jesus-that. I find that odd, but I'm used to it somewhat as my sister had been through a phase of it a few years before. And I like Tim and the rest, and Mark's attentions are flattering, but he doesn't know when to stop. I try to make clear to him that when to stop is when I tell him, but it usually entails physical force on my part. He's 6'5" or so--over a foot taller than I am and much stronger. He's not really a student--he's a couple of years older, and isn't in school like the rest of us. Tim had met him on the ferry on the way over and just invited him to come along, and he did, so when everyone else leaves town to go home, Mark stays.
Anyway, you can guess the rest. We're alone. I'm not wise enough to realize that he doesn't really understand that I do mean no when I say it, and the inevitable happens--he doesn't stop. I'm stunned--I actually kind of black out/go elsewhere while it's happening. I didn't believe that it could happen to me, not this way. Not that I expected losing my virginity to be any great shakes--my mom, my sister and I had been pretty open about sex--but I at least expected to have control over it. But I realized I didn't have control--over anything. So later on when Mark asks me if I want to become a Christian I think okay, this will make sense of the world, this is why this whole thing happened to me, and I say yes. And thus made the course of the next few years of my life very different.
And it was only later I realized that the word to describe what had happened to me was rape--this was years before the term "date rape" had been invented, but at least I was smart enough to realize that's what it had been, no matter that Mark tried to patch it all up under the guise of converting me to Christianity. Mark hung around for a confusing week longer, but I wrote to Tim and a Christian friend at my school took me under her wing and to church, and that was that, even after Mark had gone. I shortly thereafter got involved with a Christian drop-in centre for street teens, first just visiting, then as a volunteer. My friend Laura, a long-time church-goer, joined me there.
And now I had a reason to be an outsider, and a tribe to call myself part of, and elders to explain the world to me and tell me how to behave and what the world meant. And not only that, but I was a rebel to them, too, not being pure as good Christian girls were. That was very seductive, too. I could be a rebel everywhere.
We have some new discs but I've been too busy to listen to them properly, which all of them deserve serious listening: Yungchen Lhamo (my favourite guitarist, Henry Frayne of Lanterna, The Moon Seven Times, and Area, plays on this!), Beth Orton's Central Reservation, Snakefarm's Songs From my Funeral, and Garmarna's knockout Vengeance--a wow conjunction of traditional Swedish folk and contemporary music.
Also read the last two books of a series that I'd read the first one of a long time ago (but it took a while to locate these books), Sylvia Engdahl's Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains and The Doors of the Universe. These are extremely thoughtful, philosophical (but also exciting) novels about maturity of both individuals and races. Thought-provoking in the extreme.
The title is Blood Memory, which to me clearly implies the racial memory-type techniques that underscore the poems as a collection. The first draft of the ms had a prologue poem then five long sections, but a friend who was kind enough to read it this weekend pointed out that there were problems with reading some of the poems in this context and that the sections were simply too long, so with those five sections as the foundation I now also have a prologue and an epilogue section, as well as four small sections in between the foundation ones. I think it works. I hope it works.
Right now I'm very proud and happy with it. I can't believe I finished when I needed to. And I managed to do our taxes!
2. I only went out with Tom for about six weeks. I don't actually remember how long. I think I asked too many questions and was a little wild for him. Actually, those were both problems with a lot of the Christian guys I dated.
3A Christian drop-in centre for teens where I volunteered. It still exists as a storefront church, though the location and main function has changed.
4. Yikes I sounded like a little parrot, didn't i?
5. "Fricket", well it's obvious in context what it means. Another bit of private slang.
6. In case you've lost track this would be my 17th birthday.
last week's Phonosnout § next week's Phonosnout
Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week
Email comments, questions, and complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org § Neile's main page
4022 people have wandered through this week with me