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the window last night

September 25, 2012

BOOYAH:

(and I quote)

Methods of the class:

Educational research has shown that learning is primarily an act of construction of meaningfull  information.  It is through the act of inquiring, asking questions, pursuing avenues of interest that learning happens.  In this class, the construction of new learning takes place primarily by writing.  In writing we make sense of what we are learning and share it with others.

There are no test or exams.  The assignments are all based on research, reading, discussion and then the creation of meaning with what has been learned.  For each module you will be asked to create questions, research, use the text and translate the information into your own life.

I am

old gum

September 24, 2012

The building had moved. It was as real as the straw of the bed she slept on, musty and dank, and as nearly imperceptible as the moment when the sky changes from dark to light, or back again.

She caught her breath; it was far too quiet. She crawled out of bed, fear tearing at her. From morning till night the building was never without the sounds of command and acquiescence. Her fingers dug into her arms as she crept down the silent stairs, so steep and narrow that one could almost believe that all the people who had fallen down them had actually done so of their own account as the coroner’s report always stated. The hallways reeked of blood and urine and fear. The former had been scrubbed away with bleach but their essence lingered; the latter she knew was indelible. It was present from the moment of impact, like the ghostly stains of its fluid companions. She knew each of these stains intimately, had a special shudder for each as she passed it.

On each floor of the prison wing she found the same thing: empty beds, rotting into the floor, no personal belongings, no lamps. Even in the guards’ quarters there was nothing. No furniture, no books, no crisp uniforms hanging in the closets. The rooms were stark and cold, marked only with spiderwebs. Had everyone in the building gone off in the night and left her? Hope and dread welled through her in equal measure.

The kitchen was empty when she at last made her way to the bottom floor. Not only empty, but barren, all the food and pots and pans and even the floor mats missing. A dense layer of dust covered everything that remained.

A sudden drop of sweetness expanded within the pit of fear in her stomach. There had been a stray dog, and she had been feeding it through the fence each night after evening meal. Of course eventually The Bull had caught her and had the dog brought in to make stew of.

‘He’s too skinny to eat,’ she had growled as he tied the poor dog behind the stove, glaring at him too hotly. The Bull always went for your eyes, he always knew what you were thinking no matter how dispassionate you kept your face. He had thrown a potato at her, hard, and she had run away. Afterward Farber had found her and promised to let the dog go sometime when The Bull wasn’t looking, but then that night The Bull had smashed Farber’s head into the wall. She turned. The stain was still there next to the massive sink, but it was both faded and blackened. The fear gripped her again and she rushed round the corner of the big stove. The dog was not there. Either The Bull had made it into soup already or it had gone where everyone else had.

She opened the kitchen door and stepped outside into the compound. She stopped and her heart broke and bounded at what she saw. The compound was gone. The garden was gone. The stupid pile of rocks was gone. The fence was gone. All around there was nothing but a rippling sea of shoulder deep grass, and just the glimpse of dark treetops.

And suddenly she ran, screaming and leaping and twirling. Months of cold hard caution snapped within her and she laughed and cried and flung herself toward the sky.

At last her arms had dropped, her breath had caught, she had sat down hard into the springy arms of the tall grass. Lying there, contemplating one small patch of bright blue sky beyond the thicket of grasses that towered above her, she pondered her predicament. The old life was gone, that much was clear. She was glad, glad as could be. And yet she wondered. How had it happened? Where had everything gone? She was inclined to blame some sort of magic.

Leaping to her feet, she ran through the thick grass back to the building. The kitchen was just as empty as it had been, the stairways as silent. She felt the fear sliding from her as she climbed. For the first time she saw the stains on the walls and forgot to shudder.

She climbed to the very top of the building, to the forbidden attic room that had been the guards’ special smoking room. They had cigarettes and coffee and played cards in this room, and no prisoner was allowed near it, not even to clean it. She was determined to see it for the first time. She opened the small wooden door and stepped into a large, low raftered room awash with daylight. It was a massive unbroken square with a triangle ceiling, and windows all along each wall. Trees whispered outside the windows, filtering the sunlight through bright green and yellow leaves. The floors were bare and unpainted; the room was empty save for dust and cobwebs, smelling not as she had expected of stale cigarettes and coffee, but of warm clean wood and dust. She loved it at once.

Back down the stairwell and outside she bounded, and tied together a broom of long grasses. She swept the attic room clean, brought up the nicest handful or so of straw from each bed in the building, and made a bed underneath a west facing window. She laid clean new grasses atop it and lay down in weary satisfaction. A friendly tree waved at her through the window and she waved back. Then she slept.

When she awoke it was late afternoon by the look of it, and she was hungry. She went to her old room and felt under her old bed for a secret treasure, the only one she had. Her heart was swollen with fear that like everything else it would be gone, but suddenly in the straw her fingers felt it: a small, knobby package.

In the building there had been one kind guard, a young man who cried unobtrusively into his sleeve whenever prisoners were killed. He had a habit of smuggling small gifts to the girls, mostly chewing gum. She would keep the wrapped stick inside her clothes all day, and at night she and Lina would huddle in their small bed and each chew half the stick for hours of sugary bliss. When all the taste was well and truly gone out of their gum they would stick the wad in a little tinfoil package that they kept under their mattress. Each night they would pull it quietly out in the cover of darkness and pass it back and forth, smelling it.

‘Which one is this?’ Lina would ask, her finger on a particular wad. Lu would smell it and respond,

‘Oh, that’s cinnamon. You can smell the red spiciness,’ or ‘that’s a kind of mint. It could be blue or green but it’s got that cold smell mint has.’

Now she carried it up to the attic room and tucked it beneath the soft green reeds of her new bed.

She explored the forest beyond the grass jungle’s edge, a dense sanctuary of warm wood and butter yellow shafts of sunlight. She found a rushing creek, she found a patch of tart red berries. Each day she explored the forest further, a growing confidence and hunger driving her on. She discovered fat birds’ nests and speckled eggs. She remembered that eggs were good to eat, and she remembered how to cook them.

The kitchen upon further exploration had turned out not to be completely empty. A dented metal frying pan was discovered wedged between the back of the stove and the wall, and a rusted spoon and a chipped coffee mug were found in their respective corners of the expansive cabinetry. She washed them in the creek with sand until they gleamed. Each morning and each night she fried an egg on the big black stove and she ate berries picked from along the creek bank all day long. She grew fat, and strong.

As her strength returned, her muscles hardened and her memories grew vague. She felt that she was safe now but she remembered as of someone else from long ago that she had used to be in grave consistent danger. She chose two of the strongest, prettiest sticks in the forest and spent several days rubbing them with stones of different textures until all the bark was stripped free and they were as smooth as satin. One was straight and long, and she whittled one end of it down to a fine point. The other was curved and dense, and she left its tip blunt. She tied up the handles with strips of cloth from the bottom of her dress. Each day she swung the curved in her left and jabbed with the straight in her right. She cut the grass all around the building waist high with her curved stick. She took the bark off the bottoms of trees with her straight stick. With one in each hand she worried the muddy banks of the creek.

She was happier than she could ever remember being.

Sometimes at night though she would snuggle down in her warm bed and the waving of her special tree would seem forlorn. She missed Lina with an explosive chest wide ache. One day she made a doll out of objects scavenged from the forest. From then on they smelled the package of gum together every night. She was happier than she could ever remember being.

And then the building moved again.

She knew it before she even opened her eyes, by the change in the air and the sudden, unfamiliar hum of sound. With Lina clutched to her in fear she slipped through the rooms as softly as a whisper, the conviction already within her solidifying into fact. The building had changed again, the rotting straw beds were gone and some of the walls had strange letters painted on. The paint was not like any she remembered, except in some places where it dripped a little down the wall. She walked like a dreamer through the empty rooms, their drifts of cobweb larger, the stains even more faded, the smells of cruelty gone. Everything that had been was replaced by a pervasive mustiness.

She made her way at last to the kitchen. It too had had its walls painted with the strange writing. She did not bother trying to read it. She went slowly to check for her dishes, although she knew that like the dog before they would not be there.

The pan was not on the stovetop. Her mug and spoon were gone from their cubby, likewise the berries and egg she had gathered yesterday for this morning’s breakfast. Sudden anger shook her like a strong wind and resentment clawed her hands into fists. She flung open the kitchen door violently, and stood staring in awe. The field of grass was gone, the forest was gone. With a stab of pain she realized that her tree friend had not waved at her that morning through the window. All around her as far as she could see there were buildings, buildings just like the one in which she stood, tall and gray. The air was electric with nearly inaudible distant sound and she knew that these other buildings were not empty like her own. Suddenly terrified, she slammed the door shut and ran upstairs to her attic room, hot tears of dread and rage in her eyes. The stains had begun to sing to her again, faded beyond belief but no whit less malignant. She came to the stairwell with one set of stairs that went back down although you still went up and the fascination of it dried her tears. It did not happen all the time, in fact it happened very rarely. According to Lina it never happened at all. She and Lina had argued about that, nearly every day while they were climbing them. Lina insisted that they were still walking up even when Lu knew that they were walking down. She opened the door of her attic room, her mind abuzz with the thrill of it. She was sure that it had something to do with the magic that made the building move. She walked to her bed, unsure of what she would do but certain that she would need her treasures before she did anything. Her heart leapt once more into her throat. There was someone in her bed.

His hair was dark and the circles under his eyes were dark and from the look of him she knew he was a prisoner. Her fear fell away like stripped eggshell. Slowly like the head of a snake her hand moved toward the bed. Her fingertips found the handle of her straight fight stick and closed around it. She pointed its tip at his throat and spoke.

‘Who are you?’ she asked, ‘and what are you doing in my bed?’

He sat up and his eyes were dark too, and wild. The stared at each other, and after a time their faces changed. The danger faded from his eyes, she felt a stillness coming over her. She lowered the fight stick.

‘I’m nobody,’ he said, ‘and I was just sleeping. This is the only nice room in the place. Also the only bed.’

He stood and reached for two black bags she had not noticed before. From their shape she knew that they were instruments; her father had had a box shaped like that for his viola.

‘Violas?’ she asked.

He looked startled. ‘No, guitars.’

‘Guitars.’ The word enchanted her. It sounded like something that ran through grass.

‘Where are you going?’ she asked.

‘I don’t know. My family kicked me out. I’m looking for my baby.’

‘Oh. What baby?’

‘A baby I had with a meth head. That’s why my family kicked me out.’

His words were as strange as the words painted on the walls. She did not attempt to understand them.

‘You could stay here,’ she said, ‘there are eggs and berries. At least there used to be. I can’t be sure since the house has moved again.’

He shook his head. ‘There won’t be any eggs or berries. And I’ve got to keep moving. I’ve got to find my baby.’

He pulled his guitars onto his shoulders and turned to go. She followed him down the stairs, desperation clawing at her. This was the first person she had seen in a very long time. She needed him to tell her things.

‘What is this world out there?’ she asked him.

‘What do you mean this world out there?’ he responded, not bothering to turn his head, ‘it’s pretty much the same old world it’s always been.’

This was a disappointment but it was also a relief. If it was the same old world out there The Bull might find her, but she might just as likely find her old home, the one before the compound. The one with a whole family. Maybe Lina was already there.

He stopped in the kitchen and looked at her.

‘Will you be ok?’ he asked, ‘what are you doing here? Where are you going?’

She drew herself up tall.

‘I will be fine. I live here. I will find eggs and berries and I will stay here until I am ready to leave.’

He shook his head. ‘I told you, there won’t be any eggs and berries. You can’t stay here without any food. You could come with me.’

She considered it. She liked him, she liked his sad tired kindness and his guitars. Still she was uncertain. Movement through the kitchen window caught her eye. A man stood looking in. Shock coursed through her.

‘A guard!’ she hissed, hitting the floor so hard that her ribs rang. The boy just stood there, looking at her awkwardly, puzzled.

‘Get down!’ she growled through clenched teeth, ‘it’s a guard. We can’t let him see us.’

‘That’s not a guard,’ he replied, looking at her strangely. ‘And he’s already seen us.’

She longed to kick him in the head, but she merely stood up and turned back toward the window. The man was still standing there, looking in. She met his eyes and was chilled to the bone; he was a guard, there was no doubt of it. The coldness inside him was palpable even from outside the building. She turned and ran blindly up the stairs but she could not make the down stairs take her up. From behind her she heard voices: command and acquiescence. She turned toward them, sick inside with the familiarity of it. She did not want the guard to hurt the boy.

They were standing in the kitchen, waiting for her. The guard looked at her with the eyes of a dead thing as she entered. The boy drooped like a wilted vine beneath his two guitars.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said to her, and turned away. The door to the outside was open, sunlight coming through. The guard stood holding it for the boy, glaring him down, willing him to obey. The boy slunk through the door and in the hangdog way he turned to look at her one last time she understood.

The bitterness of it wracked her; so it would be again as it had before. Except…except that something had changed. The guard was not The Bull but he might just as well be; it was herself. She was different. She turned and ran like a squirrel for her attic room. This time the down stairs carried her up as they always had, and reaching her bed she fell to her knees, fumbling beneath it. Each hand grasped its fight stick, skillful and secure. She stood and knew that the battle for which she had prepared in the summer of her deep forest was upon her. With her deadly wings behind her she prowled down the stairwell, thankful for once for its cramped darkness. Within it she had the advantage of prior experience and a smaller, swifter wingspan.

She could hear his footsteps and his labored breathing long before she saw him. In the dark she smelt his stink of superiority and the hot stench of his thick assurance in his own power. She flattened herself against the stain where Mata had been found, crumpled at the foot of the third landing. He hove into view and she leapt, cutting with her left and stabbing with her right.

The guard lay at the bottom of the steep dark stairwell like so many others before him, twisted strangely. She knew he would be dead. The exultation of it nearly choked her. Wherever The Bull had gone, she had driven the fear of him from her. If she ever met him again he would look into her eyes and he would be the one to tremble. She walked slowly back into her precious attic room. Tears filled her eyes as she waved to the tree that was not there. She strapped her fight sticks to her back. She hugged Lina in her arms, and slipped the package of gum into her pocket. She walked down the stairways, the echoes on the walls barely brushing her as she passed. She opened the door to the outside, and walked through it.

this silk road

September 21, 2012

I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the pale light of a gray morning blended with the stale yellow light of an all night lamp. There’s something so gently shameful about it, something that rebukes an inability to spartan out the crawling shadow night.

I’ve been feeling suddenly for several days as though I’ve arrived at another stage of life. All of the things that have happened to me, the experiences that have gone behind, are suddenly arranging themselves exactly where they should be in my chronicle and fading into the background of me, they’re diminishing and going into the west, remaining galadriel. Their significance has patterned into the foundation on which I stand as myself, and for the first time there is enough of it and it has every piece of it a place and every piece has come into its own. Now I have something to kickstart off of, build upon. Now I can fly, and castle.
I have never felt so happy to be myself. A spark of genuine liquid life hit me from the center all the way out the other night while I was telling a friend that he can’t just wait to see what someone else wants, it’s ok to make the decision himself based on what he wants. All of a sudden I was just like, my goodness, I am full of alka seltzer fizz and damn if that doesn’t apply directly to my fabulous self as well!
I feel like the tallest and strongest and lithest of warriors.
I feel like my feet are finally on solid ground and that all of my arrows will land if not dead center then at least somewhere fascinating and generally nearby. I don’t have any more arrows marked for the realms of fuckit or good enough. I know where I’m going and I know what I want and I’m getting better and better at making it happen. There is so much in life I want to do, want passionately and decidedly. I do not have enough time to be doing things I don’t want to do, that are of questionable benefit and significance anyhow.
Onward.

 I am

echoes

September 20, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am

the great gig in the sky

September 19, 2012

He looked at them and realized they were all he had ever needed, how odd to have had them all along, his very own homegrown ruby damned slippers. The mechanics so fluid, the space between so very exact. He extended them slowly; they fit the world perfectly.

 

I am