Like everyone in the world with a small child this week, I am looking at mine a little differently, through red-rimmed eyes and yammering "there but for"s and a mountain of questions about how to proceed in life given the warning shots, given the status quos, given all the unacceptable impossible things which turn out to be unacceptable, yes, but in fact horrifically possible.
How we proceeded was to get on an airplane to come back east for the holidays. Seattle is at its rainiest, darkest, coldest, and wettest. It might get rainier, wetter, and colder, but because this is in fact as dark as it will get -- dark by 4:30 and until 8:30 the next morning with full rain clouds all the time -- it's the nadir emotionally. My parents live in Maryland where when I was a child winters were freezing and miserable, but now, with new and improved global warming, it was sunny and nearly 60 today. Perfect bike riding weather.
D's bike at home has training wheels. And she hasn't ridden it in months (see above re: rain, wet, wind, cold, dark). My folks got a bike-for-grandchildren on Craigslist but it doesn't have training wheels. Here's how this went...
D: I want to ride bikes.
Me: It doesn't have training wheels. You are only four. You don't know how to ride a two-wheeler.
D: Yuh huh.
Me: Nuh uh.
D: Help me get on it.
Me: Can you ask nicely?
D: Help me get on it please.
Then I held the back of the bike. She got on it. I let go. She rode away.
Now listen, I learned to ride a bike myself once upon a time. Post-training wheels it was hard, scary, painful, and time consuming. I remember my sister learning to ride a two-wheeler. Years passed. She cried, screamed, tore her hair, rent her clothes, threw things, and refused to go near the bike again roughly 40 billion times. I thought my parents were going to have to give her away. (She is now a triathlete, so it worked out eventually.)
I have also watched movies, television, and commercials and therefore know that running along bent double while holding onto the back of child's bike seat then letting go, watching her fall, kissing her scraped knees, and wiping her nose then helping her up to try again and again and again until finally she wobbles a few teetering feet on her own before collapsing in a fit of giggles, giddy relief, and a return to my arms is a) a metaphor for letting her go which I must do, however much it scares me and b) a metaphor for her finding her way in the world without me, though it be painful for her and sometimes bloody and c) a right of passage we will both experience as a mixture of triumph, release, pain, excitement, possibilities, and doors both closed and open.
But no, my kid gets the hang of it right away with no coaching, no drama, and no emotions, metaphor free, just glad to be able to go outside and get some exercise.
But here's the rub: there's no such thing as metaphor free. Not in my universe. It's a sign of something. I just have absolutely really no idea what.
I want love stories. This is what I want. I want books I read to be love stories. I want my movies and TV to be love stories. I want plays I go see to be love stories. If I played video games, I'd want them to be love stories.
My own story is a love story.
Which is maybe what I have found so can't-look-away miraculous and wonderful about all the photos of gay weddings this week in Seattle.
Marriage licenses became available to all last Wednesday night at midnight. Did Seattle open the offices where one procures marriage licenses at midnight? Of course they did.
There is a three day waiting period to get married in Washington after one has a license. Did Seattle open the courthouse at midnight Saturday night, and did judges come in all day Sunday, their day of rest and freedom, to perform gay weddings all day and all night? Again, yes they did. As same-sex marriage becomes slowly legal all across the country, there are going to be places like Seattle -- a very gay, very liberal city -- where most people are going to be enthusiastic and delighted.
And then there are going to be places where the celebrations will be less public, more muted, and more closeted. There will be people applying for marriage licenses from authorities who don't want to give them to them. There will be people getting married in towns where they have little public support, where however legal it is, they will still face prejudice and opposition.
But there will also be places simply less public and exuberant than Seattle where same sex marriage will become normalized -- just as celebrated as any other wedding but open only during regular business hours and not stopping downtown traffic in order to get it done. And that's nice too. It's going to be interesting to watch as these dominos fall all across the country.
I am very glad to see same sex marriage legalized in Washington. Because it's fair and right and time. Because the more families we acknowledge as such, the better the world is for everyone. But mostly because of the love.
And what I wonder is this: whether these pictures might be changing hearts and minds. This fight has not exactly been a fair one. The counterarguments have not always been truthful. Scare tactics have been employed. And I wonder whether people who are anti same-sex marriage, some of them, looked at these pictures this week and thought: Oh. No goats. No people trying to wed their pets. No lewdness. It doesn't, in fact, look like porn. It doesn't look anti child or anti family.
It's hard to look at these pictures and think they look unnatural. It's hard to look at these pictures and find them threatening. If you backburner the politics and the what a long time this has been coming, mostly it just looks like people getting married.
They look really happy. They smile a lot. They look at each other like love. They have families and friends in tow. They look a little uncomfortable because they're more dressed up than usual. They look a little uncomfortable because there are all these people looking at them. They look older than a lot of wedding photo couples because they've had to wait so long. They often have their children with them -- same reason. But overwhelmingly, more than anything, they just look normal. Like a love story -- extraordinary from the inside, typical from the outside. And seriously, who in their right mind objects to more love? It's not just what the world needs now. It's what the world needs always. Obviously.
Retreat is a word that always makes me giggle because, in my line of work, it means going off to the woods/sea/countryside for writing/reading/contemplation/quiet reflection/time to one's self/a room of one's own whereas I am always instead thinking of running away from marauding hordes. English is a funny language.
I spent last week at the first kind of retreat -- the kind in the woods with writing, reading, reflecting, and time and room of my own. It was my very first retreat of the non-running-away kind, and it was pretty of amazing.Hedgebrook is a retreat for women writers on Whidbey Island, WA. One can apply for residency and stay for between a couple of weeks and a couple of months. One can pay to attend workshops and salons. Or one can come teach, as I did. I'd have done so with joy and delight just for the pleasure of doing it and of working with and meeting such talented, committed writers, but when payment turns out to be a cabin to myself for four days with all meals gloriously prepared (and delicious)...I actually lack words to sufficiently describe this experience. The best one I have is generous.
It was also a week left to the imagination. There's no phone. Cell reception was essentially non-existent. No wifi in the cabins. So alone felt really alone, disconnected, isolated. Good for the imagination certainly, but good for the imagination is not itself always good for the soul. Hedgebrook is a safety-first sort of place. They warned me that the fire alarm in the cabin rings the fire department directly, so don't burn toast. There's a fire extinguisher, a total ban on candles, a battery-powered lantern, a panic button for instant police signaling, and air horns on both floors. But the provided flashlight is one of those small emergency crank things that sheds a tiny amount of light on only the half square foot immediately in front of you. The way back from dinner is woodsy, windy, and wet, branches blowing, rain spattering, noises noising...let's just say it was a long quarter-mile every night. It is perfectly, perfectly safe, but I imagine things for a living...and imagine I did.
My friend Tara, of the lovely blog Tea and Cookies, points out that being in a city is much more dangerous than being in the woods on a rural island. True enough. She says there is much more to fear from people than animals. But I was not worried about being attacked by a bear. I was worried about being attacked by a zombie.
Freaking Joss Whedon. I get it. I do. Really. But one wants to see a film and then move on with one's life whereas the memory of Cabin in the Woods prevented me from achieving the proper zen retreat state. I thought too much about the other kind of retreating -- the kind where you have to run away from a redneck zombie torture family who might be lurking just outside the beam (a charitable term in this case) of your so-called flashlight waiting to cut you open with a rusty saw. Thankfully, this did not harsh on my productivity -- only on my mellow and my willingness to leave my cabin for really any reason at all. Except food. Oh the food. There are times in one's life where someone else cooking is like the greatest thing you can imagine -- besides zombie survival -- and I am at one of those times apparently. Meantime, novel #3=underway. Not very underway. But underway nonetheless.
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.