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Les Semaines

99.04.11

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout

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Explaining Myself

Explaining myself to myself is a continual process--I am still frequently surprised by discoveries about myself and my view of the world, those moments when you say "Aha!" and how you saw things before suddenly shifts and everything subtly changes.

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.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

Thea Gilmore's Burning Dorothy still haunts the player--the more I hear this the more it gets stuck in my head or wanders in at unexpected times.

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.

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Angela Barrett's The Voyage of the Narwhal absorbed me for the early part of the week. It's a fascinating tale of a fictional small party that goes searching for remnants of the lost Franklin expedition in the Arctic in the 1850s. The world, the characters, and the setting are vividly written. You know them. You may not necessarily like them but they're presented with admirable clarity. A really delightful, unusual read.

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.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Wow. The manuscript (ms) is done--or so close to it that I'm just looking for typos and egregious ordering problems now.

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!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

Fall 1975

Note: if you haven't already, do reading this entry's first section, which will explain some things I don't go into here, and might help prepare the religiously squeamish, among whom I now count myself.

135. After 2-1/2 months, i

It's been 2-1/2 months and i'm here again. Sort of. It's a different me (i think) the old me® was killed in the translation. Maybe it's on the way back, but so much has happened...and i've noticed i've left so many stories unfinished--like Laura and Ron. That lasted at the most 2 weeks. They're only friends now and there was a long wait and now someone new. Only this is true love. Here's a really super guy and a friend of mine. I think--maybe it's just 'cause i'm Laura's chauffeur. Who can tell? Does it really matter anyway?

136. F'rout1

There have been so many short stories in my life lately. Vignettes of many things. F'rout! (Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised...) + <--Yup!

137. Pen-hiding

So much to say, and i don't even know if i want to say it. Just sitting listening; i'm hiding behind my pen. You think you see me? You don't--i'm not here. I guess that's the way it goes...

138. Laura say something (about Pete if you like)

If you don't quite being so specific about my friends someone might guess who I am (as if they don't already know). Do you realize it's been 138 chapters before she let me take a pen to her precious papers--I better stop before I start to like it.

139. Pickin'

Someone's picking on me, and it think it's Laura. It's not my fault you never asked!

140. Changes

As has been said before, it's changes now. So much discovered; so much forgotten.
This summer, discovered:
            Jesus
    gotta get the Lord in my life
            Tom2
    someone to care and share with
            Laura & Pete
    brothers and sister to love
            The Mustard Seed3
    a place to rest and grow
            love and
    the peace that passes understanding.4

141. New

New year, new semester, new me (Gnu me; who? me?) Whatever. Different people in my school (get out!) They've taken it over, they outnumber us. Old gang, let's lead a revolution! F'rout! Anyway (still my favourite word) so much is happening and so little. Kill boredom. Murder it dutifully. Guess what, today's my birthday. Neat, huh? Another year added onto the numbers. I wish i could get excited about it, like i did ten years ago (when i was just a fricket5; as if i'm not now.)

142. My birthday6

Morning! Dad comes down with a glass of orange juice. Happy birthday; breakfast in bed! (Orange juice?) Oh well. Laura didn't come to meet me this morning; she usually does. I felt neglected. Poor me; left alone because of a chem test. Pam met me when I came in the door to school. Gave me a card and a present. Thanks, Pam! Got another card in 1st block and one in home room. Thanks Chris (it's her birthday today too and I didn't get her one.) Thanks, Edina. I guess i don't have to sit in the garden and eat worms after all. ("Nobody loves me; everybody hates me, i'm going to go to the garden and eat worms.") I wonder what the rest of this fine (cloudy) day will hold.

143. Chapter for a song

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:1-4). Sometimes that's just exactly how i feel; like a tormentor is asking me to sing a song in a foreign land. Freaky.


NOTES

1. "F'rout" was my silly abbreviation of "far out".

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.

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