My friend Melinda Johnson has a fabulous gift for bringing people together for mutually upbuilding creative projects. When I saw her challenge to #bloginstead for three days, I sensed an adventure worth joining. This Wednesday through Friday, a group of other bloggers and I are going old[ish] school. Instead of posting to social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we’re going to blog conversationally. (Think of how we used to all blog to each other in the Oughts.) Yes, some of you might be reading this now through a Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn feed, but please comment here if you want me to see it this week. I’m strictly blogging.
I have to admit I find this project a huge relief. I had to unpublish my old mommy blogs out of courtesy to my kids several years ago – and rightly so!- but I miss the real personalities that come through the blogging platform when you don’t have to worry about posting “evergreen content” in order to help your site show up on search engines. I cherish lifelong friends I made from those days. I miss being able to talk with people about my actual days instead of condensing everything into something sharable. For the next three days, I’m going to lay aside my essay writing pen and tell you what I’m pondering. I might repeat myself, because pondering works that way.
A Beginning: Illuminating the Graeae Cavern
This project is also a serendipitous antidote to a growing cynicism that snuck up on me as I watched in alarm the creeping extremism in social interactions online. I found myself fascinated today, while we watched and discussed a documentary on the Greek myth of Perseus, with the portrayal of Medusa’s less-fearsome sisters, the Graeaes.
The Graeaes were three sister-minor deity-witches who were born already old to some minor sea gods. They had heavily wrinkled skin, an apparently repugnant lair, and the distinctive trait of having only one eye and one tooth between them. They passed the eye and tooth amongst themselves, the eye to see and the tooth to devour their visitors. Now, besides being truly mythical bastions of Sharing Culture, these three were also sisters to the Gorgons, another set of three sisters, that included Medusa. They come into Perseus’ story when he, grossed out at how old they are, tricks them by stealing their eye and tooth so he can force them to tell him what he needs to find Medusa.
I know I’m supposed to mock them and praise Perseus, but today, I was amazed by the Graeaes. Here were three wise women hated at first sight by an arrogant young punk who everyone knows is just going to wind up killing his grandpa anyhow, and all because they are: old, have a weird cave, and share an eye and a tooth.
I couldn’t help but think of the way women writers are treated like the Graeaes, deliberately misunderstood by other (often male) writers who ignore them until they want something. Here, ladies with thoughts in their heads and insights to share: One eye and one tooth between you. Take turns. Only one of you is allowed to be visible at a time, only one allowed to be perceived as having teeth – or, a tooth. Unless you’re one of the sycophant courtesans at the king’s table, destined to be turned into stone, and unless you are a goddess lofty and removed except for the occasional distribution of preternaturally strong weapons at critical moments in the story, you are a Graeae, bound to spend most of your time with neither tooth nor eye.
I started thinking about all the wise old women I have known, of the beauty in their wrinkles, of the wonders they have produced from cupboards and closets and storied memories. If you wanted something from them and were in a hurry, wouldn’t their beautiful homes and winding stories filled with wisdom seem like clutter and disarray? If you were trying to reduce them into a task list, wouldn’t their rich joint attention and improvisational group stories and sound advice seem like a faded Kindergarten certificate for Sharing, a tooth passed like a talisman to be pitied rather than feared? If all you wanted was a shiny shield and an impervious sickle, wouldn’t books look useless? Wouldn’t hospitality? Community?
I just couldn’t let Perseus’ point of view be the only one I took today. I mentioned some of my thoughts in front of the kids. They took my discomfort literally. We play acted passing that eye to check the soup and see if there was a beetle in anyone’s hair. We laughed at someone willing to face a Gorgon fearing the potential in one Graeae tooth. We wondered what was maybe in their cave after all.