Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A quiet, grey, rainy, windy morning

The house is so quiet.

After the last month - and, especially the last week - of people and activities in the flurry of the last hurrah of the Summer Season, everyone has left.

It's a grey, rainy morning here on Rehoboth Bay. There's a fairly strong wind coming up from the southeast. Indeed, I just heard an unusually loud thump on the roof - louder than the sound of the seagulls who often drop a clam shell or crab on the roof to break it open for their feast - so I went out to check to see what it might be.

Imagine my surprise when I found the umbrella from our deck table up on the roof. I'll wait till there's a bit of a lull in the rain before I fetch the ladder from the shed to bring it down.

Theo has retreated to his little bed by my chair. He's all curled up and snuggled in for a late morning nap. Sounds like a good idea. I just may follow his lead.

Except, I just downloaded "Caleb's Crossing" on my Kindle - the latest book by Geraldine Brooks. I read and loved "Year of Wonders" a few years ago and find Brooks an intelligent, compelling and imaginative writer.

Caleb’s Crossing is inspired by the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665. Brooks first learned about him during her time as a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard in 2006.

Caleb was from the Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans who lived on Martha’s Vineyard. In May, 2011, Tiffany Smalley became the second Vineyard Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard.

There is little official information on Caleb’s life and Brooks’s novel is an informed imagining of what he might have gone through.

However, she uses the voice of Bethia Mayfield, a 17th century woman who thirsted for education and for a voice in a society that demanded their silence. 

As a child growing up in Massachusetts, my education was occasionally seasoned with hearing stories about the women of this time period who were often dragged to the meeting house to confess their “sins” or defend their unconventional views in court.

I've often mused about the idea that it's really only an accident of time or I might have been one of those very women who had to confess my "perverse desire" for education and a voice - indeed, a life and love - of my own.

I wonder if there will be outraged expressed by what some are calling the "White, liberal feminist cognoscenti" because the voice of a Caucasian woman is being used to give voice to a Native American. Perhaps, when the book is made into a movie, there will be calls to boycott it the way there was for the movie "The Help". I hope not.

Brooks uses Berthia's voice to narrate the story because, she says,
"I wanted the novel to be about crossings between cultures. So as Caleb is drawn into the English world, I wanted to create an English character who would be equally drawn to and compelled by his world. I prefer to write with a female narrator when I can, and I wanted to explore issues of marginalization in gender as well as race."
I don't know how you can talk about gender without talking about race or heterosexism or homophobia or any other prejudice - or, vise versa.

Lately, I've become even more intrigued by the intersection of these prejudices as they collide at the intersections of the various cultures that are more and more an integral and important, contributing part of the landscape of this country.

I suppose I feel it most acutely in Sussex County, which - other than my last residence - is, perhaps, one of the Whitest places I've ever lived. However, there seems to be an influx of people from India and Asia who have taken up residence here the past year or so.

When combined with the African-American / Native American folk (and various combinations of the two with Caucasians) who have lived here for generations, it's become, well, a lot more "colorful" than it was eight years ago when we first bought this wee cottage on the Bay.

When I say, "White," however, I'm not referring simply to skin color. I'm talking about an attitude which is informed by a particular perspective about how the world works. Ultimately, it's about power and authority - who has it and who doesn't - and whose voices are the ones that are listened to and heard. This is revealed in a variety of places like educational, health care and transportation systems and all the politics of decision-making therein.

I'm discovering that, in some situations, a momentary, considered silence accompanied by the question, "Really?" or a reticent, "Huh!" in response to a statement that is Very White is a very effective form of communication.

Which is to say that there is a consciousness and an awareness about this attitude which seeks to find prominence simply by its assertion. 

I'm amazed at how quickly Very White melts - at least for the moment - in the presence of the voice of quiet confidence from one who might otherwise be marginalized.

Quiet confidence. Considered silence. Reticence. These may be the very tools that serve me well in this part of the State that is my new home.

These tools may assist me as I navigate the cultural crossings I have learned so well in New England and the Northeast Corridor and now adapt to life in the very different cultural climate of Lower, Slower Delaware.

Sort of the way a quiet, grey, rainy windy morning can settle down the flurry of one season before entering the next.


susankay said...

Flaring nostrils and raised eyebrows works pretty well too.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

In the NE Corridor, yes. On LSD? Not so much.

Brother David said...

I would trade you a quiet, grey, rainy, windy day with gladness. We have had 38° to 42° for months now.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brother David - Oh, that we could.