The other morning at a far too early 5 a.m., a thunderstorm broke out directly over my house. Although the rain was a soothing sound, reminiscent of the weather of my motherland, the thunder wasn't. And then, to make matters worse, a raven started cawing outside my window. My first thought, I'll be honest, was not the brightest--do birds get wet when it rains? floated through my sleep-deprived brain before I was filled with a sickening sense of doom. Oh God. I thought. Things are not looking up.
Why? you might ask. RAVEN MOCKERS, I would respond. Here's the thing: first of all, there are a lot more ravens on campus than I remember, which is never a good sign. I both fear and admire these shiny feathered harbingers of bad news, but I do not trust them. Not for one second. Yesterday I was cutting through a lawn and all these ravens were looking at me and not flying away like they should, and I almost shouted, You don't know me! but thought that might cross the crazy line. I don't know. I'm still feeling it out. Second, I'm taking a class on Southern Literature, which started with Pocahontas. Found out the hard way that the Disney version isn't real. Pocahontas was a ten-year-old who was traded to the English in exchange for a copper kettle. No talking willow tree, no cute raccoon, no painting with the colors of the wind, no interracial love story. Thanks a lot, Rebecca Mark, for ruining a beloved childhood classic. Apparently the legend was concocted by a bunch of Southern plantation owners looking to make all kinds of fortune on that fertile southern ground, but who needed to cover up the fierce genocide that was happening here in the good old U.S. of A in order to convince investors and potential settlers to hop on board. Great. Then we went on to study the trail of tears--less a matter of Southern Lit and more a matter of a professor on a crusade to bring light all the terrible things white people have done to non-white people ever.
So now I have terrible, inescapable white guilt--I tried to get out of it, as feeling guilty is something I make a point not to do, but then Professor Mark started ranting about how nearly every person, even Indians, had slaves if they had a little bit of money, so no such luck. I might still be safe, I'm pretty sure that none of my ancestors were rolling in it, but still. Outlook not so good. So then we start reading this book called Pushing the Bear, a multiple perspective narrative of the Trail of Tears, which is even more of a downer than anything thus far. That's where the Raven Mockers come in. They are evil beings in Cherokee mythology, and without delving into too much detail, suffice it to say that they feed on the dying and consume souls, causing all kinds of bad things to happen, none of which are pretty. The sound of a cawing raven then means that someone will soon die. Needless to say, there were a lot of Raven Mockers on the trail of tears.
Hence my terror a few mornings ago--and why I no longer read Pushing the Bear before I go to bed at night. Far too vivid dreams for comfort.
The only good thing that has come out of my Lit class so far is that in our last class this aforementioned Professor gave an inspiring speech about story-telling and how it is the food of the soul. How did women in the Holocaust survive? They told each other recipes. How did the Cherokee survive the trail? They recited their legends and stories. It is the only thing no one can ever take away from you! she said emphatically. Never let anyone take your story, it is all you have when you have nothing! It will remind you who you are! When you have lost that, you are done for--you might live in body but your spirit will be gone. Your story validates you, you are writers! You know this better than anyone!
It was perhaps overly dramatic but I think, to some degree, true--I know, especially when I was abroad and even sometimes here, telling my friends or even other people stories from my life made me, in some ways, feel validated. Better. I was still someone even if no one else knew it. Maybe that's why I write so much. But who knows. That's a psychoanalysis for another day.
In other news, I'm taking a class on the poetry of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, best friends until the end. But that's not what's important here--I took it because of the delightful professor, a pedantic older gentlemen who looks and acts just like Mr. Rogers, until he opens his mouth. The other day he came into class wearing a bright yellow sweater and a girl commented, I like your sweater, it makes me happy! And he responded, well it makes me warm.