I want every blog I write to connect with my life in some way. At times the text is a kind of wonderment with literacy lilt. Other times the ideas are more straightforward in an analytical essay style. I do not have children, no daughter to be speaking to or of, but it seemed that a post in the week of my niece’s birthday should return to that topic.
I stared at the verse “obedient” found in "Audacity", a novel I recommended in a separate blog post months ago. A poorly made copy of page 143 and 144 was folded in that same notebook next to my note. I contemplated if I might use the verse written across those two pages. Or what other books I could find that would make me feel like “Audacity” had. For this post I could share a few more titles out of the many lists of books meant to empower girls. I wanted something with heart, something connected to family, something for a girl with an already strong image of woman who struggled to keep up with that horizon.
The short list read as follows:
Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren
Moon Runner by Carolyn Marsden
Be Light like a Bird by Monika Schroder
The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
The result? I struggled. I struggled so much that I came to the conclusion that the writing would not be about reading, nor suggesting what to read, much less a conclusion. The writing would be about the struggle itself around the word I wrote down next to my niece’s name in a notebook months ago. The word was fearless. Fearless.
I lingered over "Diamond Willow" by Helen Frost. I read fearless, a human accessible fearlessness. As ever caught between natural world and progress, girl and woman, rural and urban, family generations, responsibility and helplessness, holding close and letting go.
The next day, I sat in the low backed chair and leaned my head back at the hairdresser’s. I was still relatively new to the concept that a long term relationship with a haircut was actually a productive give and take relationship. The shampoo was an unexpected perk. As her curved nails worked in the conditioner, I requested for the motions of her fingers to unlock my writer’s block.
Where was the character I sought? For Ofir. For myself. In the low lamplight of winter, the only character that came to mind was through the stories of my grandfather who climbed up the silo with nothing to hold. He could stretch fence by himself, fence untethered that could rip your face off. A character willing to dip bare hands and scrape knuckles. But how does this help me? He was not a woman.
As I laid there, the thought entered my mind again that the struggle around the idea of fearless was more important. Wet and dripping I stared at myself in the mirror and remembered the days when I thought that to be tough meant manly, like my grandfather’s character. In those days, I always denied myself the joy of shining myself into another kind of beauty. Helen Frost chose a similar metaphor in the diamond willow. A diamond willow is technically defined by its deformity, cankers formed in result to a fungus. The “diamond” occurs where the branch grows away from the attack.
At the gym, I won a session of Reflex Performance Reset (RPR). I hesitated to use the session, because I won a raffle into which no one else submitted their name. The definition online read, "You are under constant stress, which is interpreted as survival mode by your body. When in survival mode your body utilizes harmful compensation patterns which can lead to injury. RPR® resets the body out of survival mode and into performance mode." I realized the problem with fearless was not that my grandfather, nor my father were not women, but that I worried I could not define myself as woman.
My trainer reminded me when the session ended of the following: “For adults it is harder for the changes made to persist after the session than children.” That made sense. This was fearless defined by release. The exhale of everything to waver in thin air again with the hope that new practices will take shape.
I want every blog I write to wade through daily conversations, the common of in common. Always. Often this “common” has been cast in my exploration of what I know I don’t know about womanhood, because of what I know I don’t know about my own mother. I return to the verse on pages 143-144. This blog post ends where it began, with the final words of Melanie Crowder’s poem.
“I have never been
In this world
where I am made to be
something I am not,
inside of me.”
Diamond willow sticks once sanded bring out the beauty of the color variation in the wood. In the novel, this type of branch is the metaphor for character arc in Frost’s novel, and my own. It was fearless defined by constant smoothed over roughness. We could be sanded down again in places that hurt or were not what we had originally dreamed them to be. That is our fight. Ofir. That is our fearless.