Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Friday, July 25, 2008

Recapturing childhood

Last night I dreamed, and woke with the taste of the Sodergreen Ranch on my tongue - the flavor of my childhood.

I grew up on the banks of the Laramie River where it slows out of the Snowy Range onto the Laramie Plain. From six to sixteen, I lived in log homes built by Swede settlers in the 1890's, uninsulated and so cold in winter that once a glass of water in my bedroom froze so hard it broke.

It is a harsh and beautiful landscape. To the northwest, the steep slope of Sheep Mountain, fringed with lodgepole pine along the top. The Snowy Range rears its peaks, shining white even in summer, west of the cottonwoods that line the river. South, gentler, wooded Jelm Mountain, with glints of gold from the aspens in fall, and beyond that the Neversummer Range and Bull Mountain in Colorado. And then the wide, flat arc of the prairie, from south to east and back to north, where the wind howls down from the mountains so hard that it blows semi-trucks off the Interstate, twenty-five miles away. Over all, the great blue bowl of the sky.

As the dreamweb broke in my mind, I traveled back in time and tried to recapture something special that I sensed in my childhood. The emotions that rose were helplessness, powerlessness, despair, and great love, and peace in the solace of nature and the large warm body of a black horse named, in a child's ignorance, Nig.

I have a deep sense of ambivalence about that time. The conflict with my father raged at its worst, and was most one-sided, from when I was about eight until we moved from there and I got big enough to defy him openly. With adolescence and puberty, my gender dysphoria became a defining reality that tortured my inner life until I started drinking and doing drugs, and buried my true self in denial. Confusion, loneliness, and ridicule filled my school days as I struggled to adjust to the role society assigned to me, even as I didn't understand it. I struggle with these feelings still; helplessness, rage, confusion, loneliness, despair.

At the same time, my childhood grips me with amazing power. The landscape etched itself into my soul. It is harsh, but beautiful beyond compare. I spent days fishing in the river and wandering across the prairie and foothills, and evenings listening to the eerie call of the coyotes and watching the nighthawks swoop overhead, or sitting on the side of a hill watching beavers mend their dam in the twilight. I rode my horse bareback across the plains, held my cheek warm against his neck. I explored the willows and cottonwoods along the river, watching for the big mule deer with their strange, bounding run. Once, on the side of Jelm Mountain, I saw a pair of bucks fight over a doe.

I long to recapture the intimate connection I had with that magical landscape; the way I fit into the palm of nature's hand, struggling only to meld myself with the mystery of river and prairie and sky. And I cannot recapture it, for it is lost in place and time, and intertwined with the social destitution I experienced, the awful confusion of being different and not knowing how or why. Even as I mourn the loss, I would be loath to surrender the self-knowledge, unity, and social connection I have now.

Yet I am grateful for my childhood, and would trade it for no other; perhaps because it feels good to have survived such suffering and overcome it, but more, I think, simply for the rare privilege of sinking roots into that thin and rocky soil.

3 comments:

anne said...

Hey girl,

I have a book (autobiography) called "Deafened by the Breath of God" which is about landscape and how it affects us, but also about the despair of childhood. I grew up on the mountain and didn't know what a straight road was until Sam's age. I can still hear the wind in the pines and the aspen.

It doesn't take away the pain to know that others felt it as well--we were so terrified of my mother that we never called her at night when we were sick or had nightmares--she was worse than the monsters.

I speak of the Never Summer Mountains and the Indian Peaks, of Arapahoe Glacier and the great flatlands to the east and few people understand my language.

We share that, the language of the wind and cold, of blizzards and weather so brutal it is the weather of the gods. Eugene is a garden, not a majestic, not as soulful, but the trees still speak to me.

Be at peace, that was yesterday, and let the wind strip away the pain of those years from the bison skeleton beneath.

hugs
me

ajandmac said...

Wow..

I love your description of your freeing moments with nature and the horse...I've never seen things like this in real-life [ranches, log homes, open ranch, etc.] but you took me there.

Do you think our dreams have significance? Or meaning?

Seda said...

Anne,
Thanks, girlfriend! I so enjoy your words. Yes, it's over, and I have mixed feelings about that, but mostly, I'm grateful. I just miss it, sometimes.

Ashes,
Of course our dreams have significance and meaning! at least, some of them do. For years I used to dream of violently attacking a strange man who threatened my existence, yet never lifted a finger to harm me. Had I analyzed those dreams earlier, I might have understood that I was trying to kill the male part of myself.

oh, well.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz