What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi


"Cornered by a banker whose false memory of having been in love with her since matriculation day might prove profitable, Lucy wavered between a sensible decision and a foolhardy one. Ever did foolhardiness hold the upper hand with Lucy; she found Safiye leaning against an oil lantern out in the garden and saw for herself that she wasn't the only foolish woman in the world, or even at the party, for Safiye had Lucy's highly polished bangle in her hand and was turning it this way and that in order to catch fireflies in the billowing, transparent left sleeve of her gown. All this at the risk of being set alight, but then from where Lucy stood Safiye looked as if she was formed of fire herself, particles of flame dancing the flesh of her arm into existence. That or she was returning to fire."  - Books and Roses

 * * *

"'Let me talk to her,' Tyche said. 

I wasn't allowed to listen to their conversation, but I know that it concerned the invocation of a goddess and Tyche was very well prepared for it, arrived at our house wearing an elegant black suit and carrying a portfolio full of images and diagrams that she and Aisha pored over at length.

'Just FYI, we decided on Hecate,' Tyche said on her way out. 

'Yeah? Who she?' 

'Oh, nobody you need to worry about . . .' 

'Come on, let me have the basics.' 

'Well . . . she keeps an eye on big journeys from the interior to exterior, or vice versa. She's there for the step that takes you from one state to another. She's someone you see at crossroads, for instance. Well, you sort of see her but don't register what you've seen until it's too late to go back. She holds three keys . . . some say they're keys to the underworld, others that they're access to the past, present, and future. And -- ah, you're zoning out on me . . .'

Tyche struck and held a warlike pose in the doorway. 

'Picture the image of me fixed in this doorway, and also in every other doorway you pass, sometimes three-dimensional and sometimes vaporous, whatever I feel like being at the moment you try to get past me,' she said. 'Imagine not being able to stop me from coming in, imagine not being able to cast me out because I own all thresholds. As an additional bonus, imagine me with three faces. That's who we're sending to have a little chat with Matyas Fust.'"   - 'Sorry' Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea

* * *  

"As for what you saw of me -- I think you saw a kid in a gray dress gawping at you like you were the meaning of life. You immediately began talking to me as if I were a child at your knee. You told me about how stories came to our aid in times of need. You'd recently been on a flight from Prague, you told me, and the plane had gone through a terrifyingly long tunnel of turbulence up there in the clouds. 'Everyone on the plane was freaking out, except the girl beside me,' you said. 'She was just reading her book -- maybe a little bit faster than usual, but otherwise untroubled. I said to her: "Have you noticed that we might be about to crash?" And she said: "Yes I did notice that actually, which makes it even more important for me to know how this ends."'   - Is Your Blood as Red as This?

* * * 

"She was carved of rowan wood, and she retained the opinions of tree: one of them being that it was best not to have anything to do with human folk. 'Firstly, they cut us down,' Rowan said. 'Secondly they're all insane, though I suppose they can't help that, being rooted in water instead of earth.'"   - Is Your Blood as Red as This?


Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us by David Niewert


… A study published in 2013 did test captive orcas for imitative learning and found they had exceptional capacities in this regard and that some of these skills might help account for the social behavior of killer whales in the wild, especially group-specific traditions that are handed down from one generation of orcas to another.

* * *

… Sagan once famously observed, “It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to 50 words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.”

* * *

Justin Gregg: “Most scientists, especially cognitive scientists, don’t think that dolphins have what linguists would define as language,” he said. “They have referential signalling, which a lot of animals do -- squirrels and chickens can actually do that, and monkeys -- and they have names for each other. But you can’t then say they have language because human words can do so much more.”

* * *

...It is in the realm of hearing that killer whales’ senses reach another dimension entirely. They not only can perceive the world by the simple reception of sound, as land mammals can, but they are also capable of making sounds that reflect back to them and that, thanks to huge brains capable of translating all this information, enable them to not only see the shape and nature and inhabitants of their world, but to see inside of them. That is a kind of intelligence that is simply beyond our ability to fully comprehend, let alone measure.

At some point, the breadth of a species’ perception (that is, how many different kinds of data it receives from varying sources) and its depth of perception, the level of penetration of reality that its senses provide, should both favor into our assessment of its intelligence. If those are our criteria, then killer whales are definitively, and undeniably, more intelligent than human beings, because their echolocation sense provides both greater breadth and superior depth.

 As Marino puts it: “Orcas may not be very intelligent humans, but humans are really stupid orcas.”

That, in fact, is the root of the problem. Even as we determinedly avoid anthropomorphizing these creatures, we almost reflexively apply a patently anthropocentric definition of intelligence, one involving language and its use. This is a definition that almost automatically places humans atop the heap, since our wired-in instinct for language is arguably one of our greatest evolutionary advantages.

Dolphin scientist Thomas White (along with others) has proposed an alternative approach to defining intelligence, one that is “species-specific”: “The challenges that need to be met simply to stay alive are significantly different on the land and in the water … We need to be careful in making straightforward comparisons between human and dolphin intelligence. It may be like comparing apples and oranges.”


The Waves by Virginia Woolf


Introduction to Woolf’s The Waves:

… she is also, more immediately, following the advice ‘to think back through our mothers’ that she gave in A Room of One’s Own.

… in Woolf’s first version, however, these waves of feeling were, right at the beginning of her draft, something else. They were linked, quite explicitly, to the rhythms of a woman’s body as she gives birth. ‘Many mothers, & before them many mothers, & again many mothers,’ she wrote:
    have groaned, & fallen. Like one wave, succeeding another.
    Wave after wave, endlessly sinking & falling as far as the
    eye can stretch. And all these waves have been the prostrate
    forms of mothers, in their nightgowns, with the tumbled
    sheets around them holding up, with a groan, as they sink
    back into the sea.

As Rachel Bowlby has noted, ‘throughout Woolf’s writing, artistic creation by women is figured as both a symbolic equivalent for mothering and something which is compatible with actual mothering.’ 

… the ideal creative mind must be androgynous, containing elements of both the female and the male …

... significantly, bearing the issue of maternity in mind, Woolf claimed, some months before starting work on the novel, that this was now a desire which she had put behind her:
    Children playing: yes & interrupting me; yes & I have no
    children of my own; & Nessa has; & yet I don’t want
    them any more, since my ideas so possess me; & I detest
    more & more interruption; & the slow heaviness of physi-
    cal life, & almost dislike peoples bodies, I think, as I grow
    older; & want always to cut that short, & get my utmost
    fill of the marrow, of the essence.

... Susan's mode of existence is merging with natural forms. 'I cannot be divided, or kept apart' from field, barn, trees, the seasons, the breeding, pollinating agricultural world. She fantasizes, as a child, of becoming a wold woman of the woods with matted hair, eating nuts, peering for eggs through the brambles, sleeping in hedges.


Bernard: She is making for the beech woods out of the light. She spreads her arms as she comes to them and takes to the shade like a swimmer. But she is bling after the light and trips and flings herself down on the roots under the trees, where the light seems to pant in and out, in and out. The branches heave up and down. There is agitation and trouble here. There is gloom. The light is fitful. There is anguish here. The roots make a skeleton on the ground, with dead leaves heaped in the angles. Susan has spread her anguish out. Her pocket-handkerchief is laid on the roots of the beech trees and she sobs, sitting crumpled where she has fallen.

'I saw her kiss him,' said Susan. 'I looked between the leaves and saw her. She danced in flecked with diamonds light as dust. And I am squat, Bernard, I am short. I have eyes that look close to the ground and see insects in the grass. The yellow warmth in my side turned to stone when I saw Jinny kiss Louis. I shall eat grass and die in a ditch in the brown water where dead leaves have rotted.'

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer


"The plant's purpose can be read through its place. I remember this when I'm tromping through the woods and mistakenly grab a vine of poison ivy to haul myself up a steep bank. I look immediately for its companion. Remarkable in its fidelity, jewelweed is growing in the same moist soil as the poison ivy. I crush the succulent stem between my palms with a satisfying crunch and a rush of juice, and wipe the antidote all over my hands. It detoxifies the poison ivy and prevents the rash from ever developing.

So, if plants show us their uses by where they live, what is the message from mosses? I think of where they live, in bogs, along streambanks, and in the spray of the waterfalls where salmon jump. And if this weren't sign enough, they reveal gifts every time it rains. Mosses have a natural affinity for water. Watch a moss, dry and crisp, swell with water after a thunderstorm. It's teaching its role, in language more direct and graceful that anything I've found in the library."

* * *

"It seems as if the entire forest is stitched together with threads of moss. Sometimes as a subtle background weave and sometimes with a striking ribbon of color, a brilliant fern green. The ferns which decorate the trunks and branches of the old-growth trees are never rooted in bare bark, always in moss. Ferns give thanks for mosses."