As Modern as Modern Bride

I’ve been finding out about King Arthur. He’s a very big deal in European culture, you know.

His knights of the round table and their quest for the Holy Grail gave a new model for how kings and warriors should handle themselves in times of peace. Impossible quests have their purpose, it seems.

And he is very associated with chivalry. The knights were all male, and that left a whole bunch of women who had to be dealt with.

Chivalry, as it happened, has very specific roles for men and women.

All of which was a very very very very very long time ago. Right?

What does any of this have to do with our lives?

As I was hearing how the chivalric thought leaders had lined out the roles for men and women, I was staggered at how modern these roles are—as modern as the pages of Modern Bride.

One of the things that surprised me was how women were expected to love men.

They weren’t.

The men were the lovers. The women were the beloved—a wretchedly passive role. The women were supposed to verbally and rhetorically parry the advances of the male lovers.

Once again, the passive role. Acquiesce, not definitively. A lot of “maybe” and “Maybe later.”

How familiar I am with this dance! To be trilly and silly. To always appear to be fond of the man who is pressing his attentions on me, to say, “I like you as a friend.”

I had thought this kind of absurd femininity came from the Victorian period, but it seems to come from much deeper in the past.

There was a special hell for women who would not permit themselves to be loved. They had to sit on a chair of thorns, and the earth beneath their feet was red hot. Also, men were assigned to rotate the chairs of thorns so that the uncooperative women would be scratched and never rest.

What a strange role assigned to women! Never ever say no. Never assert yourself.

For the sake of what? To be called the fairest in the land?

Chivalry is not dead. But I wish it were. A better partnership between men and women is certainly desirable.

Silver School

Since my daughter was born we’ve been planning to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Chris and I had one of our very first dates there and enjoyed it a lot. So, the romantic memory and the joy we expected to see when we showed our little girl all the fished and let her pet the Manta Rays was something to look forward to.

We made some plans and invited my parents. Some grandparent time along with the octopus. It felt very complicated, but all the more of an adventure to pull all the people together to make this excursion.

Naturally, the day of the visit, I was therefore exhausted and spread out. Different people had different ideas of where to go, and the place was dark and where was everyone and when would I get a chance to see the things I wanted.

In one big room, while all the other people were pressed against the glass, I sat against the wall. This tank was huge, and I could see all the sea life above the heads of the gawkers.

There were big fish, one enormous turtle, and a swirling school of silver fish. The motion of the silver fish, so many individual fish swimming so gracefully in a curved circle.

Sometimes one of those fish would swim a different direction. At any given time, a few of the fish would be swimming totally against all the others. And some were stragglers to one side or another.

But taken on the whole, the wiggling sparking fish swam in a beautiful cohesion. They made patterns, shifting slightly and waving the broken circle into an oval, or the beginning of a spiral.

Mesmerizingly beautiful, they made an undulating fabric of individuals.



I had just because to believe I must move on and look for the rest of my family, to tear myself away from the peaceful blue fish


The flow was disturbed. I couldn’t see why but all the fish changed direction, leaping in one direction all together.

What happened? How jarring! and how synchronized even still.

The murmur said, Oh, the predator fish swam towards them.

Whatever it was, these fish all jumped away from that enemy fish. What told them to jump? One fish must have decided to get away and all the others followed, not even know why, just having a sense of danger and unease.

These fish were swimming peacefully, like quiet thoughts, round and round. The fish like thoughts, followed one another, next to each other, understanding the mood and the dance. This energy of together and safety was so evident.

Then, like an alarming thought, ONE fish leapt away and all the fish followed without even understanding.


The fish resumed their circle quickly. They settled into peace and grace so fast.

My thoughts don’t have that skill. If I start down a path, my fear thoughts could take a long time to settle down. And if I don’t remember the peace again, I could start a whole new pattern of fear and danger.

So fast. Without even thinking. Like the fish I could just away and start a habit of alarm.

The peace of the fabric of the graceful fish haunts me. It could be that easy. I could ride in harmony. I would love to learn.


It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Los Vegas. It’s not very far away and some people drive there all the time. It’s called the playpen in the desert, full of fun for grownups.

The first time I went with a friend, and saw a show. The second time I went, I went with the man who is now my husband. We hadn’t known each other very long, and his idea was to go spend the day hiking nearby in the desert and then have a nice dinner.

At the time, we lived in northern California, near the coast and definitely not in the desert. I grew up in very wet country, with a very green forest and swamps everywhere I turned.

He drove me out to Red Rocks, which is a nice place for a hike. He kept talking about how important it was to hydrate. Every time he talked about how important it was to drink water I felt very thirsty.

It wasn’t even summer. This was early spring, and not very hot at all. But I looked around and saw all the desert plants and knew I was far from home.

“Look at these plants. Look at how they have to struggle to life here. There is no water here. These plants aren’t doing well. I don’t think people would do well here either.”
He laughed at me, and said it was fine because he had a lot of water and would make sure everything was ok.

That only reminded me that things were NOT ok.

The desert is stark and beautiful. I live on the edges of the desert now. I’m more used to it now, and I trust it more.

Then, I was sure that this was not a safe place.

The plants in the desert learned exactly how to live there. The way the handle water, and how they defend themselves is a thing to behold.

Realistically, I never thought about how hard the plants in my Alaskan home had to deal with the long months of cold.

We can adapt. I understand now how to live in the desert. And I pack a lot of water with me all the time.

We are all so much stronger than we think we are. The day I hiked the desert canyon I was so worried that I would dry out like a Skeleton and never return, that we didn’t go as far as we might have.

What a beautiful memory, of Chris taking care of me, and sharing the beautiful desert!
I still feel shame that I wimped out and didn’t keep going. He didn’t push me, and we had a lovely fancy dinner that night.

As I drove to Los Vegas this week, I watched the desert fly past the windows of my car and I remembered that time. I remembered all the ways that beauty and adventure can show up, and how the plants and animals and people can adapt.

We are all so much stronger than we realize.


Getting Things Done

The year starts, and the workday starts. There is a ton of stuff to do, and by all means do not let it get ahead of you. There’s the urgent, the less urgent but still vital and the emergencies.

I got some books on how to work hard and how to work smarter. I can think about them and the systems of efficiency and order and accomplishments they preach. And yet I can barely get past my emergencies.

There is so much to do! How on earth am I supposed to find time to do it better?

I’m so sick of it all. I want to just stop.

Sit on something soft, and pet a cat.

Cats know.

Take your ease. And if a toy bounces by, wap at it. Life’s a game!

Cats play it well. A string does not get past them. Quick paw darts and pins the string. No opportunity to play is missed.

Don’t stress. Stay loose and flexible. Those chances for playing should not be missed.

Cats know.

It’s all about playing. Because for a cat, the difference between playing and work is invisible. It is a string…maybe. Or maybe it’s a mouse. Which is work? The string? The mouse?

All of it is fun. And all of it is work.

There is a better way. Not my best-selling books for getting it right and keeping it that way.

Cats know.

If I play it right, I’m working. And if I’m working right, I’m playing. All the elegance of a perfectly timed attack is in the joy. And all the inconsequence of a failed pounce is in the play.

All of it is practice. All of it can be as hard as I can make it, which is the fun of it. The fun of knowing this one is not so tight and stressful.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat get frustrated.

Cats know.