Don’t forget, 6/30, Thursday, 7:30 PM PST, I’ll be chatting it up with Lara Zielinsky on “Reading in Lesbian and Bisexual Fiction.” http://www.blogtalkradio.com/readingslab/2011/07/01/baxter-clare.
Between her dogs in the background and mine we’ll be lucky to get a word in between them! Join us. Call in at (646) 929-1909. It’ll be fun!
I live on this hill. This really STEEP hill. And as said hill is in California I have to weed whack this hill every $%#^% year. I used to to go out and whack it all in a couple days but after I heat stroked myself on it a couple years ago I tend to drag it out a few hours at a time, weekend after weekend. After weekend. But this morning I’d had it. I taped up my wrists, took a handful of Advil, and said, “Honey, I’ll be back when there’s not a weed standing!” For six hours I slid up and down the hill, cursing, changing line, letting sweat burn my eyes – no sense wiping it, there’s only more – bristling like a humongous hedgehog with all the foxtails stuck in my shirt, face, arms, gloves. I stopped only for more gas. And you know what? It’s done!! For another year, it’s done. My thumb is still numb. I can’t flex my right wrist and am typing with a brace on, but by god, it was worth it. The nice thing about 50 is I’ve learned to trust my timing. Years ago I would have struggled to get all the weed whacking done in two days, heatstroke and all, because I was afraid I would never have enough time to do it. Now I’ve learned to relax and trust that the right time will present itself. This morning it did. We were supposed to have the grandbaby this weekend but that got canceled, so there I was with a whole Sunday in my lap. The day was warm but not hot, nothing hurt, and no crisis needed my attention. So the damn hill got done. And the best part? Instead of raging and crying and hating the hill, I actually had a good time on it. Well, okay, maybe not when I slid into the poison oak, but for the most part, I enjoyed the steady challenge of it. Fifty has taught me to trust my timing. It helps me work smarter, not harder. I did work hard today, but not out of fear. I worked hard because I wanted to. Because the time was right.
I knew there had to be a lesbian novel out there that was more than a mystery/romance/paranormal fantasy. And I found it. Thank you, Susan Stinson.
“Venus of Chalk”’s heroine is a lesbian. She is fat. But this isn’t a novel about lesbians or fat girls. It’s a brave paean to how we all feel different.
Carline is fat. She lives in terror of the teenage boys that hang out on the corner and call her names. When she tries to take the garbage out they throw lit cigarettes at her, forcing her to flee to her apartment. Worse, they release Carline’s own demons. To stifle them, Carline lights a match and holds it to her arm, “the physical pain…a focus, almost a relief.”
In the morning, ashamed and remorseful, she takes a call from her beloved Aunt Frankie in Chalk,Texas. Frankie is distraught over her best friend’s death and though she sounds brave enough, it isn’t until Carline catches her regular bus to work that she realizes how devastated her aunt must be. When her driver announces he is taking the bus to Dallas in the morning, for auction, Carline casually suggests he take along some passengers for company. Thus begins the simple, innocuous unraveling of Carline’s meticulously stitched life.
Stinson’s characters reveal unexpected complexities. Indeed the novel rests on the tender intimacies shared between these most unlikely of strangers on their trip to and subsequent arrival in Chalk. Stinson’s descriptions are visceral and immediate, her gift for metaphor lush and effective.
Though it was joy reading “Venus of Chalk”, I often had to put it down. Stinson made me think about uncomfortable things I did as a young woman, to protect myself as Carline did, from feelings of otherness, of being different. Too different. Most importantly “Venus of Chalk” reminded me of a simple but profound truth: the best way to affect change outside, is to change inside.
The horror of putting yourself out to the rest of the world, of exposing yourself, is that you run the risk of rejection from all quarters. Every time I see a new review written about one of my babies, I start shaking. I get all trembly. A girl at a Justin Bieber concert. It’s disgusting. If I checked a mirror I’d probably be pale. Half of me wants to read it right away in the hope it is good. The other half wants to wait a while, so that if it’s bad, I’m ready. I’m steeled. I won’t throw the TV again. Usually my sober self wins. Too bad for the impulsive me, as Salem West’s review was a knockout. Phew. No broken TV. See for yourself: http://rainbowreader.blogspot.com/2011/06/river-within-by-baxter-clare-trautman.html
Months ago I bought a deck of tarot cards. I couldn’t justify why; I wasn’t drawn to the images on the box nor the idea of a pack of goddesses. I like a couple of the old gals, Hecate, Diana, but wasn’t interested in ancient Celtic or eastern women. In fact had almost an aversion to them. Still, I bought the deck. I put it in a box that holds a bunch of other tarot cards. There the deck sat. For months. Occasionally I’d think to take the deck out and open it but the thought was always random and fleeting. Until today.
I was doing important, completely unrelated things when I felt an urge to go to my tarot box. A couple new, unopened decks rest inside but without hesitation I reached for The Goddess Tarot. I pulled it out knowing today was the day to open the deck, take off the shrink-wrap, and make the cards my own. And me theirs.
It’s a whole ritual, meeting a deck, not something as simple as tearing off the plastic and shuffling. First I carefully removed the box from it’s plastic and set it on a clean table. I laid out candle and incense and filled a vase with flowers from the yard. I offered a chocolate bon-bon and glass of water. Then I sat and welcomed the cards. And waited. This isn’t an intellectual exercise. Obviously, it defies logic. I’m a busy woman. There are many things I should do today. Yet I sat. Until the cards were ready. Until I felt they wanted to come into the world and meet me. To begin our relationship.
I took the cards from the box. They were wrapped, too, and I delicately peeled way their plastic. They were naked. Exposed. Born fresh into the world. One by one I drew them through the incense, blessing each card. I was careful to keep them face down, averting my eyes from their images as they passed through the smoke. Finished, I squared the deck and thanked the gods I believe in. Again I waited. Respecting the cards. Letting them settle into me. We are entering into a long-term relationship. It has to be mutually giving and rewarding. I ate some of the chocolate. Watching the candle burn and melt, I sipped from the glass of water. Incense waved around us. I sat, in a still, quiet place, until the cards were ready. One by one, I turned them over.
I was stunned, almost to tears. Each card is a gift, a painting, a story, a portrait. Each inexplicably lovely to me. How did this happen? How to explain the random purchase of a tarot deck I had less than minimal interest in? Why would I do that, unless my hand was moved by something a hell of a lot smarter than I am, a benevolent Other greater than myself, that urges upon me what I need most when I myself don’t know what that is?
So often I discount my instincts, ridicule and mock them. Yet I’ve learned to pay attention to them – I bought the deck, right? And I also knew I wasn’t ready for it. Or maybe it for me. So we waited. Together we waited. Until today, until the time of the world was perfect for us. Now we begin our journey together. A long and bountiful one. There is abundance in the world. If we just listen for it. And wait.
Check it out, mis amigos. On Thursday, June 30th, 7:30 local time (10:30 Eastern, Sissie!) I’ll be talking to Lara Zielinsky at “Readings in Lesbian & Bisexual Women’s Fiction”. Call in live! Her show’s a crack up and I think we’ll have a great time. If you can’t make it at that time you can download the show and listen at your convenience. Hope to hear you there!