I am reading historical fiction just now. The E key on my keyboard has warn down to a splotch—it’s happened before. I had trouble getting to sleep from dwelling on memories of attack. I am waiting for the light so that I can have my walk. I am trying not to make things worse on social media. I would like to have my say, to talk. But silence is safer. Most women have been taught to keep their heads down, to smile, to keep silent, and avoid stirring the pot.
Years ago, the mother of two students asked me whether I was a pot stirrer or oil on troubled waters. I admitted I was a stirrer. I laughed. She did too. “I thought so.” She handed me a packet. She had commissioned a pendant from an Alaska Native carver, carved wood with abalone eyes. It is a frog. I hold it often.
By Northwest Coast reckoning, it is the large animals—Bear, Wolf, Eagle—who quiet things down. They are the “peacemakers” and maintainers of the status quo.
But it is the small trouble-makers, like Raven, who created the world.
The smaller animals, often that black bird, who appear in stories to stir the pot. A Haida story explains how humanity came into being because of Raven’s mischief. It is Frog, not someone larger and stronger, who has the capacity to make change, merely by finding what is there hidden underneath the calm surface.
Maybe this is because the strongest ones want to keep things as they are? They are strong, after all, powerful and influential and capable of protecting their rank. Keep still, they warn, don’t make trouble. Let this go quietly and perhaps we will not eat you.
It is the small among us who stir the pot, looking to see what we might find underneath. There are people and place, ideas and movements, all begun by the little-small among us who will not rest, but must speak out.
When has silence ever kept us safe?