Chapter 1

Sand Publications, Garden Grove, CA

Copyright 1996 by Jane Stilwell
Printed in the United States of America
All Rights Reserved

There is a Woman come unto the planet, conceived in Willamina, born in Salem, raised in Portland at first (a green and wet and Baptist place), and later in the San Fernando Valley, quite the opposite.

The Woman learns of this planet from her Mother, Irene, and her Father, Gerald, and her Aunts, Irma, Violet, and Lynn, her Grandma Amanda, and her Grandpa Clarence, her Uncles, Walter and Carl, her cousin, Bob, her younger brother, Richard, and when she is five, a new Uncle, Merle.

The Woman learns also from public and private schools and churches in Portland, San Fernando, Reseda, North Hollywood, Taft, and Irvine.

From the beginning she learns the language exceptionally well, to hear it, see it, describe it, and write it.

But, she does it playfully, occasionally misspelling or misusing a word to see if anyone is listening, and who they are.

The Woman learns from other lands and worlds and futures and pasts and dreams. She learns from being away from Gerald and Irene, and then from going with them to the San Fernando Valley in California, away from the Aunts and Uncles and Cousins (there come many more cousins) and Grandparents. And there comes one more brother, Al (Arnold), and three more sisters, Cissie (Dixie), Judy and Little Birdie (aka Jennifer).

She learns that it can be beneficial to be neglected, for she finds quiet places and shelves full of grown-up's books. Gerald and Irene also give her many comic books and Polly Pepper, the Bobbsey Twins, Little Women and Maida's Little Shop, fairy tales, and the Whiteoaks of Jalna (which is a whole set of books).

The Woman runs up and down Shadow Hills, and picks purple lupines from fields at the top. Gerald takes them on picnics in Little Tujunga Canyon with potato salad and jello and chicken. They (she and Richard and Gerald and Irene) have a half-hour ride on the first TWA Constellation.

She hears about old Carl, a man who works for Mr. Ensign. He had one ear bitten off by a horse when he was a child, and after that his parents and sisters would not let him live in the house. She hears that he knows how to tell time by the sun. Running up Shadow Hills from school one day, she spots him hoeing weeds, and runs over to ask him what time it is. "Why don't you go ask your mother?" he growls.

But she is determined to see him do it, and says she is afraid she is late home from school. He shades his eyes, looks up at the sun and growls at her again: "It's 4:45." He does it! The spark of seeing him do it is all she needs. She runs on up the hill to check on him, and after that she learns how to tell time by the sun.

She learns some of the properties of light, and she hears Gerald's voice change from authoritative to wonder one day when she tells him what she observes. He is fascinated by light, and makes his own clock radios and stuff.

The Woman learns that she can think; when someone says "Who are you to think," she laughs. And when someone asks her to believe what they believe without knowing what it is, she says "No."

The Woman asks Irene one day why she never sent her to ballet lessons and stuff. Irene says, "I want you to have time to lie in the grass and watch the clouds go by." And that is good.

The Woman's childhood is good, but she does not know that for a long time. She thinks that she can change herself and change things that she perceives. But she remains silent for a long time, because she does not know exactly how to do that.

She has children, the Light Daughter and the Star Son, and sometimes semiadopted children (Kris and Lisa) who need her for a while. And they are better than good. They are miraculous and wonderful.

The Woman learns that life is not something to learn about from the Ladies Home Journal.

She learns that the Saturday Evening Post is much closer to reality, because reality is polarized. One way it polarizes is into comedy and tragedy, or humor and the lack thereof. The Post has humor that sticks to your ribs. Her children also have humor and that is good.

She remains silent a while longer, trying various exciting jobs: file clerk, records clerk, clerk-typist, library clerk, clerk, clerk, and clerk. All of them have a learning curve of about 2 weeks, mostly involving locating things, learning names, and figuring out the system. Oh, and keeping quiet in the presence of authority. It is a lot like school.

(School: a special note because I have finally realized that I would have done well in P.E. if I had gotten my mother to go to school and insist that I be allowed to pick my own sport, like track. Most of my experience in P.E. was like watching a Ping-Pong game, with my head bobbing back and forth, listening to one team captain and then the other say: "I don't want her on MY team." Then "I don't want her on MY team either." If there are people out there with the same problem today, try this. After a year of getting a chance to do your best instead of being left in a corner and they will be begging you to be on their teams. Keep doing your best without them.)

Some jobs are more interesting than others. The Woman's first job is in the North Hollywood Public Library while she in high school. Mrs. Murman is the Head Librarian.

One day the Woman comes to work and finds she has to work an extra evening. She is already tired, and breaks out in tears.

Mrs. Murman takes her into her office. She invites the Woman to sit down with her, and Mrs. Murman, without a word, but with a smile, let's her blubber and talk herself into working that extra evening. It is probably an education for both of them.

She knows she is not interested in selling widgets, moving up the corporate ladder, multilevel marketing, real estate, or writing romance novels.

One year, however, while still in Taft, she takes a class at Taft college from Mr. Jason. He is a terrible teacher. He is a terrible person. Terribly temperamental. Mean. Capricious. He has brain cancer and is getting cobalt treatments.

Mr. Jason changes her whole life. She decides she will not take the second semester from him, no matter what (even though it is a required class). She takes it by correspondence from U.C. Berkeley. She has to sit home and read Coleridge and Wordsworth alone. Yawwwn. Got to get through this somehow. Hmmm. You cannot go to sleep if you read aloud. Heh-heh. Reading poetry aloud hits the ON button. Poetry is a spoken form. She starts writing. And writing is an incurable disease. You do not get over it.

Mr. Jason is a catalyst. He does not change. He does not have to. The Woman changes. And it is good.

The Woman discovers immediately something strange and wonderful about pencils. Not everyone knows this. Hardly anyone knows it. And even those who do know it sometimes forget because they worry about writer's block, fat, and money.

Pencils are magic. If you hold a pencil in your hand (or teeth or whatever you have handy, heh-heh, a little pun), touch the pencil to paper, and move it the least little bit, or if you haven't exercised it much, encourage it by just writing any old stupid words. Pretty soon it will start writing things you did not know you knew.

It writes such wonderful things, you will have to admit they must come partly from inside the pencil, because up to that moment you probably did not know those words were possible.

The Woman knows that people want to write, but they do not want to have magic explained to them. So she does not talk about it as much as she did at first. But it works every time. It's working now. And it is good.

The Woman finds jobs slightly more interesting, perhaps because she is writing more, learning to speak. She decides to learn mime and stand-up comedy, and it is good.

But comedy can be written, as well as performed, and she does not like nightclubs as a way of life. Writing has a learning curve that never has to stop. Besides, many comedians(iennes) tend to stay with the same routine. Her comedy heroes are Jack Benny, Red Skelton, and Steve Allen. Where would any of them have gone with just one routine? (And, of course, Steve Allen is still very much with us, and very, very funny.)

The Woman meets people who have, or just think they have, bad childhoods, some like hers, some worse, some better. But some of them never get a chance to laugh, and say "No," and learn to do something cool while beating Mr. Jason out of a second semester, explain something about light to their father, and learn to tell time by the sun from a gruff old man with only one ear.

They do not have anything like the Saturday Evening Post. They do not know yet that there is an ON button to toggle, or how or why to turn it on.

The Woman thinks about the fields of wildflowers. Lupines, dandelions, poppies. Picture them. How do they look? How would they smell if you could smell them?

How would they feel if you could brush your hand across them? If you could hear the wind sigh across them like thousands of tiny temple bells?

Breathe in their seduction, the perfume that tells their catalyst, their Mr. Jason, the bees, "Here I am. I am here because what I do works. I may be bigger and better, or smaller, or crippled, or stepped on, but I am a field of wild flowers."

"I may even get mowed down, but if I am small and crippled, I'll get missed, and I will be back. I make a statement, toggle ON buttons, I have a sense of humor. So, Mr. Jason, with your help, let's make more flowers."

The Woman then laughs about the potlucks she has been to where the food never seemed to come out right. One night too many people brought dessert, and those few who brought sensible casseroles became self-righteous and lectured on the sins of poor planning and lemon meringue pie.

The Woman brought something sensible, I suppose, but she listened to the tones in the voices, and saw the expressions on the faces of the condemned and misfit.

And she said, "If everyone brings lemon meringue pie, that must be what they want to eat. So let it be." And it was good. She potlucked less and less often after that.

The Woman thought then about a man who gave her a really wonderful gift: he told her, "You are like a giant redwood tree." What a wonderful feeling! She knows she can never be too old.

Who would dare tell a giant redwood that it needs fake nails, a new hair-do and color, more/less weight, an electrologist, a face lift, an MBA, or a BMW? Who, indeed? Who would dare?

Who would have cheek enough to tell it that if it really believed in itself, all goals could be accomplished by tomorrow noon? Or yesterday.

A giant redwood does not have to be told how beautiful, how smart, how creative, how rich, how thin, how successful, and how popular it is.

A giant redwood stands alone. It exists, it hears the sound the wind makes in its branches and the wind listens back. It feels the earth with its toe-roots and the earth feels back. It does what it does in the natural order and time of things. It grows a foot in the time it takes to grow a foot.

A giant redwood stands up for itself.

A giant redwood sees the fields of wildflowers, the mowing machines, the potlucks on the picnic benches, the magic of pencils. It hears the cool silent spaces, and the laughing tourists.

It feels the wind hold it and move against it like a dance partner. Even Mr. Jason is not mean to a giant redwood. He looks and listens in awe, and forgets to feel his pain for a while.

And so, the Woman, in the natural order and time of things, knows that she has always stood up for herself.

She is a Giant Redwood Tree, a field of wildflowers, an old man with one ear missing ... she is her mother and her father ... she her aunts and uncles, and Mrs. Murman ... she is magic.

And the Woman knows that she will always honor anyone who brings lemon meringue pie, and knows how to do magic, or wants to learn.

The Woman changed, she changes things that she perceives, and she performs in many places for many people with her magic pencils.

They smile and sometimes laugh, learn to say "No," and ask outrageous questions and explain interesting things they know. Sometimes someone asks to learn how to do magic.

And the Woman sees that it is good. It is better than good. It is miraculous and wonderful.