Sunday 24 Feb 02 8:30 p.m.


Having posted something about why I keep a journal, I thought I'd post an entry from my journal. This one seemed like a good choice because it was written during the previous Winter Olympic Games. I've fixed a bit of idiocyncratic punctuation and clarified a few obscure references, but this is pretty much a typical journal entry. A bit of context: I was living in Arizona near my parents, marginally employed, trying to finish my book, and hunting for a job. I was downright miserable.

I am watching the closing ceremonies of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. I have found them really interesting and moving--there are all these great human dramas, like when Venetta Flowers, one of the bobsledders, became the first African American ever to win a gold medal at the winter games. And all kinds of drama and intrigue with figure skating.... It's been fun but after 17 days I am kind of Olympicked out. There was a pretty funny Saturday Night Live skit about the SLC games: this skier is racing down a hill, and two missionaries come up on either side of her and say, "Would you like a Book of Mormon?" But apparently the Mormons managed not to be complete jerks during the Olympics.

Friday I cried most of the day, discouraged by my prospects, upset about the way Mom is responding to my attempts to find a job, hurt by an insensitive email from a friend. And then there was Friday night--OK, this is a very old house, and I have gotten used to the idea that I will have to deal with mice, which are bad enough, but while I was watching the Olympics on Friday, I heard a trap snap but after that, a struggle ensued. Normally, mice are pretty thoroughly dead once a trap shuts on them. But here came this big rodent trailing blood across my carpet. I thought, "What is that? Is that a hamster? Because it's not a rat," and then I realized it was a gopher, a pissed-off, bleeding gopher. It ran behind this wicker trunk where I store fabric scraps, and my cat just sat there watching. I had to move all this stuff to get it out in the open, and I found so many droppings back behind the trunk that clearly the gopher had been in my house for a while. I had to sweep it out of the house--and it did not want to go--and I was just going to leave it alone to die in peace, and then I thought about all the damage gophers have done to my mulberry tree, and I fetched a shovel and beat it to death and buried it.

And that was just about the last straw as far as Friday was concerned.

So I went for a walk and saw a UFO and somehow that made me feel a little bit better.

I read a completely amazing book, Woman's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber, and it was one of the most intriguing and provocative books I have ever read. It never occurred to me that someone had to invent string, had to figure out that if you twisted shorter, weaker filaments together, plying in new strands as needed, you'd end up with a longer, stronger length of cord. Apparently 17,000-year-old string has been found imbedded in the walls of ancient caves dwellings in southern France. The theory is that some Paleolithic Ariadne figured out that by running a cord from cave to cave, the inhabitants could make their way from room to room.

And as is so often the case with insights, they seem mundane when you relate them later. But as I read Barber's discussion of practices of weaving and sewing among peasant cultures of Europe, it occurred to me that the US, having worked to eradicate most of its indigenous culture and having pushed assimilation as a virtue, has no peasant culture, just people who live in poverty. That seemed really important to me. Anyway, the book was one of the most interesting works of history I have ever read, because it focused so thoroughly on the mundane and it revealed really innovative approaches to research.

P.S. I eventually figured out how the gopher got in my house: it was something the cat dragged in. I learned this one night when I saw my cat emerge through her cat door with something in her mouth. As soon as she was in the living room, she let it go. It was a bat, and it ended up in the same corner as the gopher: wounded, cowering, and damn difficult to chase outside.


Eeuw Holly! Beating house gophers with shovels. Oh my!

I have gophs in my garden and my unwritten rule is that they can live there as long as they know not to poke their heads out of their holes when I'm hanging out there. Because then I will hate them and want to hurt them.

Most of them follow my rule. If the don't I start to throw small rocks at them and they figure out pretty fast who the rule-maker is.

It was definitely not my finest moment, and not one I care to repeat. I really don't recommend beating small animals to death with shovels. I'm not proud of what I did, but I also figure the point of my journal is to record my experience the way I experienced it, not present me as perfect. I once found a wounded baby bunny near the Van Allen Building (named for the UI faculty member who discovered the Van Allen belts) on the U of Iowa campus and tried to nurse it back to health, but wounded gophers--those, I kill.

Don't feel bad, Holly. If a rodent wanders into my house, my cat will usually maul it pretty badly. I don't waste much time tearing strips of cloth to make little mousie slings or tourniquets. I usually put it out of it's misery the old-school battle-axe way (with a broom).

Take care, dear,

Well, you see, Holly, it’s obvious to me now. If my journals were as vivid, clear-eyed and insightful as yours, I couldn’t possibly imagine building a fire anywhere near them.

What a wonderful entry. Mothers and daughters. Humans and rodents. The battles we wage daily. Which is mundane? Which is momentous?

“So I went for a walk and saw a UFO and somehow that made me feel a little bit better.”

Yes, even I feel a bit of relief at reading it!

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on February 17, 2006 8:08 AM.

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