Saturday, June 19, 2010

currently reading... Myths + A Mercy



this week, i read "A Mercy" by Toni Morrison - in this book, Morrison moves back to 1690, and revisits the time of colonization. the main characters are female: Florens - a slave, Lina - a Native American, and Rebekkah - an immigrated bride from England. as different as they are, the one element they all have in common is the loss of roots.

one of the passages that i kept returning to is the eagle tale, told repeatedly by Lina to Florens, a symbol both for the connection between them, and also for the loss of connection to their ancestors. the short version of the tale: an eagle built a nest far above, laid her eggs, guards them. a traveler crosses the region, and declares: "This is perfect. This is mine". the eagle swoops down, to claw away the traveler, but the traveler, under attack, strikes her wings, and she is carried away by the wind.

Then Florens would whisper, "Where is she now?"
"Still falling," Lina would answer, "she is falling forever."
Florens barely breathes. "And the eggs?" she asks.
"They hatch alone," says Lina
"Do they live?" Florens' whispering is urgent.
"We have," says Lina.


And some pages earlier, these lines:
"It was some time afterward that Lina decided to fortify herself by piecing together scraps of what her mother had taught her befor dying in agony. Relying on memory and her own resources, she cobbled together negelected rites, merged Europe medicine with native, scripture with lore, and recalled or invented the hidden meaning of things. Found, in other words, a way to be in the world."

the theme of myth and tales also is one of the surprise focus themes of the current BluePrintReview contributor roundabout, (here the roundabout classics, myths, fairytales). one of the links leads to "The Velvet Chamber" - the webpage for an anthology of revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale. i printed some of the texts to read, and arrived at the essay "On Myth" by Marina Warner, which included this line:

"Borges liked myth because he believed in the principle of ‘reasoned imagination’: that knowing old stories, and retrieving and reworking them, brought about illumination in a different way from rational inquiry."

reading this parallel to "A Mercy", it's like a second layer to the theme. it also made me think of the middle ages in Europe, and all the myths and knowledge lost there, in the time so many women were called witches, and were prosecuted and burnt.

that's what i thought about when i browsed my book shelf, looking for a book from Borges i once read. i couldn't locate it, yet looking for it, i came across a book that is all about myth: "Women Who Run With the Wolves" by Clairssa Pinkola Est├ęs. i just had to take that contrasting picture.

and typing this, i wished there were some words left by either of my grandmothers. a diary page. a book they read. a letter. anything.
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