[This is an excerpt from my new meta novel, Missing Reels, currently looking for a home:]

Egret, she starts to write on a new blank page.

(Lozen knows the basics: red-tailed hawk, swallowtail, sagebrush, cottonwood, eucalyptus. Sometimes, hidden and sheltered under her favorite willow, she will say these words aloud. She will practice speaking.)

But as she crosses that T her hand—she’s left handed—cramps. Again. Why? And she’d so much wanted to write about that wading, elegant, snowy creature today!

That’s not quite it. What she’d wanted to write about is how she’s noticed she only writes about the Reserve flora and fauna she knows the names of.

(And she sees herself—Lenore back then—at ten, at twelve, in khaki shorts and a madras, short-sleeved shirt and white sneakers, a New England field guide and jacknife in her pocket, roaming the woods and shoreline of Walden Pond. Alone. Content.)

But, most important, she’d wanted to write about how this name-knowing confuses her. About how she would much prefer to watch and listen and be patient and curious and reverent and when she sees something, she will name it. Based on her observations. White, stalking-fish bird.

But also about how insulting language like that is like the cowboys-and-Indians movies she’d grown up with; Tonto and the rest of them, those Hollywood versions of indigenous peoples, how they spoke the same pidgin language she might employ for a creature she’s noticed but can’t name: Tiny bird never alone.

(It’s called a bushtit. Psaltriparus minimus. Had Lozen known where to look, she might have also added something like . . and builds a nest that looks like a sock.)

She wonders if naming something is asserting dominion over it. She wonders if knowing the name of something gives her power over it; that naming might be simply another version of oppression. And why then, perhaps, she doesn’t just go ahead and steal a California field guide from the library; learn the damned names?

But even in the heat, this dry, dry LA heat, her hand refuses to uncoil. So, drowsy and, yes, content, she watches how that egret lifts one leg, then the other; how it wades. How it fishes. How it survives.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *