we took to the woods

U has pneumonia. The delicate slender curve of her ribs and clavicle in the X-ray, the pear-shaped shadow of her heart, made me sad. When we got home, Harpreet called her family near Amritsar and prepared two cures: a blend of honey, dried pounded cloves, and the sulfurous tips of kitchen matches ground to a powder; and a necklace of peeled garlic. Alongside the antibiotics, expectorants, and cough syrups, these will, I hope, do the trick.

This afternoon Mrs. Chan from the fruit stall came to show me the dead body of sweet Cocoa, her tabby, who seems to have been tortured to death in the parking lot two nights ago. I spent the afternoon making flyers I’m not allowed to hang and calls to report the case, but of course there is not much to be done. I am fired up to do battle but there’s no one to fight.

To balance the rarefied entertainments of the Wonder Tales, we’ve been trying the heartier fare of Angela Carter’s Fairy Tales:

“Long ago women got their children by digging around in the earth. They would pry the children loose from the very ground itself. They would not have to travel far to find little girls, but boys were more difficult to locate — often they would have to dig extremely deep in the earth to get at the boys. Thus it was that strong women had many children and lazy women very few children or none at all.”    (from “Kakuarshuk”; image below from among Corinne Sargood’s wonderful illustrations)

Later in the same story, the heroine is slapped with a live seal by a Scourge-Troll.

I have decided that once in the Swedish woods, I am going to try to write some fairy tales, too. I think one of the keys is to narrate from the perspective of someone old: as Virginia Woolf points out in Mrs. Dalloway, after many years, one doesn’t take the world personally anymore. My very favorite authors managed that kind of knowing distance: Isak Dinesen, Marguerite Yourcenar. Perhaps one must be a grande dame first.