My first “book” is a semi-autobiographical story that was, long long long ago, titled “Vast Chain of Dancers.” I dimly remember Aristotle describing humanity that way, as a “vast chain of dancers,” but my boyfriend at the time said he had a hard time imagining a “vast” chain, a chain being this long narrow thing and anything vast being more along the lines of the ocean, amorphous and all over the damned place.
The book fell into the darkness for many years, then I resurrected it and worked on it some more. It fell into oblivion again, for a long time, then not all that long after I moved here, without a project, and having found it in the move, I worked on it again. About two years ago I finally finished the book — no longer titled “A Vast Chain of Dancers,” but now Fledging. I printed two copies. One for me and one for the amazing woman who is kind of an adopted mom, mentor, hero.
Thinking of her returns me to the notion of a vast chain. My boyfriend was wrong, but he didn’t live long enough to understand what Aristotle meant. I might not know what Aristotle meant, either, but I get the metaphor at 68, two weeks shy of 69, as I didn’t at 27.
The woman I just mentioned, we’ll call her Bianca, is the mother of a man, Chris, who became my friend and with whom I worked in an online support group for families of addicts. We never met in real life. I met Chris through George, the husband of a Sarah, a wonderful woman with whom I had taught a decade or more earlier. George was an amazing man who “got” me, and was ally and guide for many years as I struggled to overcome life’s fardles and write well. Chris was killed in a very tragic accident. Not long before he died he hooked Bianca up with an iPad and a Facebook account. He linked her up with people he thought she should know, one of whom was me. Another was a woman named Flame. I knew flame from many years earlier as we both struggled toward and through hip resurfacing at the same time and discovered we had much in common other than fucked up joints. That was a bizarre coincidence, to me, but all of these people (except Bianca) were linked by a common faith. They were all practicing Hindus who had been part of the same ashram in the Bay Area. Flame, her husband, and Sarah had all lived for many years in India.
Monte Vista. I’m here because of a house that I saw online. I couldn’t buy it, but it’s only a block away. Since I walked my dogs almost every day, going down the alley to the golf course or high school if I didn’t head out somewhere “more” interesting (that’s a point of view thing) I passed a house. Two years ago a family moved in and the little boy, then 5 years old, said “Hi!” to me. And so, yesterday,
Yesterday — almost exactly two years after I met this little boy — Bear and I stopped by his house to take him and his sister for a walk. Since they hardly ever get to go anywhere, it was a big big big deal for them. We walked up to the high school, then I asked them if they wanted to go through a secret gate and, of course, they were all about it, so we “sneaked” in a back gate to the golf course. There were animal tracks in the snow so I taught the kids what creature made what tracks. Bear rolled in the snow where the scent was strong enough for her to smell (not me, thankfully). The kids ran and explored and felt they’d had an adventure. They climbed the great pile of snow that came from all of our town’s streets and then summited one of the golf course berms. I told them to plant their flag so I could take the summit photograph (featured photo).
Everything we did we did because I was once a little girl with a little brother, not because I know anything about kids. I don’t. I just remember what Kirk and I thought was great. So, though these kids don’t see the OTHER two kids running and climbing with them, they — we — are there.
And more…last night I did a video chat with the younger son of the Good-X with whom I’m close, his wife, S, and their kids. Their little girl has my mother’s name. She’s 7 and recently became very interested in American Indians. Her mom alerted me to this and told the little girl, “Oma Martha knows about Indians.” I haven’t met the kids in real life. It’s expensive for them and for me to make the trips involved. In a conference with S I decided to send H (the little girl) some of the Indian things I have including a bracelet made for me by one of my mom’s friends on the Crow Reservation where my mom taught in the 1940’s. I got it out of its safe place, repaired the snap that closes it and packed it up with a little pin from the Zuni Pueblo and a small black pot made by Maria Martinez. Last night I watched as H struggled to fasten the bracelet on her wrist (it was never easy). S stepped in to help her, and I thought, “Well, Mom, it found a home.” H is thrilled to have REAL Indian things and I am happy she has them. But what a journey for these small bits of life.
When I look around me at life, I see many of these “chains” forming a wide and timeless net. Maybe this is what Aristotle meant. We really do not know whose lives we will enter and touch.