Camp NaNo day 13: WE NEED A BREAK 

Camp NaNoWriMo word count: 18,116 as of 5:40am on Saturday, 13 April 2019

EMD word count has two more “resting” days at 74,883

I found my grandmother’s gravestone. There is, naturally, a website devoted to finding graves called, naturally, FindaGrave. My father adored his grandmother Rosetha was a markswoman, under 5 feet tall and strong-willed. She is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. (My mother never met her and seemed impatient hearing about her virtues—while I was enchanted.)  She was born Rosetha Alma Stiles, the first of at least four children both to Eliza Catherine Salsbury Stiles and Asa Butler Stiles. and her mother died in Minnesota when Rosetha was still a teenager. Her father would remarry and have three more children. One died in her third year. The other six surviving children, like my great grandmother, lived well into the 20th century. My dad liked to say she rode in covered wagons and in jet planes. But I must misremember that since commercial jet travel had not begun in her lifetime. On the other hand, my dad worked for Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles before joining the Army during World War Two. 

Fridays I drive to Seaside to share work with another writer. Our meeting yesterday was reassuring. It was the best sort of feedback since it told me clearly what some part of me hoped and feared was true. The prose poem worked. Only the first stanza of the three-stanza poem worked. And the final paragraph on the essay was misplaced. I moved it and sent it off into the world. She also set me on the track of a novel with a situation very like the one I am struggling with in “Butterfly Fontanel” though George R. Stewart’s story is not otherwise like mine. My post-apocalyptic world resolves itself quite differently. My main character is Latina, the secondary character is lesbian and Black. A third, whom I have only told about and not brought onstage, is also Latina. I have dithered about names, but I think I will use family names. They are mine.

I hope I was as helpful in my comments to my writer-friend. 

I think my Rosa might measure the passage of seasons the way we do, by the position of the setting (or rising) sun in relation to some natural monument.

There are stories on the news about reparations for slave labor. Clearly it is not enough to send thoughts and prayers or even apologies. The racism crippling opportunities for people of color will not be resolved merely by good intentions. Still. I wonder when we will talk about reparations for repression of women? After all, women had almost no legal standing for most of our history. To a great degree, women were property as surely as slaves. If they were wealthy, they ate well, but in many places they could not be raped by their husband only because whatever a husband did to his wife was within his legal rights. For most of the history of this nation, women were denied the right to vote, to control property, sign contracts, serve on juries and participate fully in the economic, political, and social life of our nation. Our nation’s playing field is anything but level, but too many girls are still raised to smile on the sidelines rather than strive for their place at the table. We consistently and violently ignored the honorable intentions and specific directives of our own Constitution. White people placed bounties on the lives of Native peoples. U.S. policies failed utterly to respect promises in treaties. I would not presume to know what the answer is to resolve our deplorable racial, cultural, and sexual history.

And the president has promised a pardon to a man he insists should break the law. He seems to believe that he is allowed to do whatever he wants, regardless of the law, that he is immune and above the law. He advocates what members of his own party, what any law-abiding decent human being would recognize is a cruel policy regarding immigrants fleeing danger from the south, a policy which has been proven an absolute failure since historically falling levels of immigrants have now exploded in numbers. 

I hardly recognize my country these days. Though having two meticulous researchers for parents has always made me skeptical of historical accounts, I am an unlikely pragmatist and at heart an idealist. I want my country to be heroic and honorable. We are increasingly revealed as the bullies of the world.

Getting back to my great-grandmother Rosetha, the woman who does not resemble her theoretical English forebears: she was shorter than the rest of her family and slender in her bridal gown. Black hair and eyes and dark skin. I have always wondered if she were not a Native person, stolen or adopted from her people. I proposed this to my father many years ago, but he denied it vehemently. The story of six tall, red-headed coursins is not born out by the relatives listed on the FindaGrave site, but then again only my great aunt Vera is listed as her offspring. My father’s mother Elsie is not shown at all. Ancestry has not entranced me as it has others in our family. I have made no serious effort to locate relatives, constructed no family tree. I am more interested in where were are going than from whence we came, I suppose. 

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