How I found adventure

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How I Found Adventure

By Beatrice Grimshaw (1871 – 1953)

I am a Victorian.

I was born in the ‘Seventies, in a big lonely country house five miles–a whole hour’s journey–from Belfast.

I was governessed and schooled and colleged. I was taught to ride and play games. I was taught to behave. To write notes for Mamma. To do the flowers. To be polite but not too polite, to Young Gentlemen. To accept flowers, sweets and books from them, but no more. To rise swiftly with the rest of the six daughters and sons when Papa came into the breakfast-room, to kiss him ceremoniously, and rush to wait upon him. He liked it, and we liked it.

I went to dances, and waltzed to “The Blue Danube,” “Sweethearts,” and “Estudiantina.” I went to afternoon parties. I was chaperoned. My three sisters were good girls, and content.

But I was the Revolting Daughter–as they called them then. I bought a bicycle, with difficulty. I rode it unchaperoned, mile and miles beyond the limits possible to the soberly trotting horses. The world opened before me. And as soon as my twenty-first birthday dawned, I went away from home, to see what the world might to give to daughters who revolted. What it gave me first was the offer of a journalistic post.

There were maps of far-away places, maps with tantalizing blanks in them; maps of the huge Pacific, colored an entrancing blue. I swore that I would go there.

I made a London newspaper commission me; I went. Long ago, when travel was travel, and the South Sea unknown to tourists; when the charm of the island world was still unbroken. I went to all the chief island groups, and lived in most; I saw the inner New Hebrides, Solomons and New Guinea, at their rawest and fiercest; I roamed all over the East beyond the East, before anyone had begun to think of Java, or the Bali kings had prophetically committed suicide on their coral reefs.

I had so many adventures that they cease to seem adventures. In the New Hebrides, I was caught in a forest fire, and barely escaped into a valley where bones of a recent cannibal feast lay blackening in the smoke. I stood on the shores of Tanna, and watched a recruiting schooner creep cautiously in, afraid to land her boats, while the men of the mountains, fighters and cannibals all, waited with loaded guns beside me, ready to attack the blackbirding crew who had taken away their best. I was present at a dance of murderers and man-eaters, up in the Tanna hills, where no man went. There and elsewhere, I managed to make friends with the wild men of the woods.

In the Solomons, of recent years, I cam in contact with the amazing native magic of the sorcerer, and lived in a house that was haunted by ghostly birds.

I saw–still in the Solomons–men who declared they had solved the secret of a happy life; they said they knew how to project themselves into another man’s personality, provided he were agreed, and that such mutual changes often took place–wives, houses, names, habits, even faces, being transferred from one to another. They said they did this through their magic. Certainly the practice was fairly common, however it was brought about, and it seemed to please everybody.

I was given, by a chief, a charm as a safe-pass for a day and night among the wildest tribes. It was carved from a beautiful orange shell, and represented the circle of the sun caught in the curve of the crescent moon, I don’t know how much or little it had to do with the fact that I never got into any trouble, although I was told by the men of one tribe (Malaita, of course) that they might killed me or any white any day, just for fun, if they happened to feel like it.

I went to New Caledonia, famous, infamous French penal island, slept in one of a row of former convict cells, and saw the church where the celebrated mass marriages took place, a couple of hundred male convicts being married all at once to as many female convicts specially imported.

I was received by the natives of Dutch New Guinea with a curious ceremony, staged as well as Hollywood could have done it–knives and spears threateningly held up by some of the younger men, while older men raised high above them a burning brand and a branch of palms, signifying homes and hearths and peace. They did not allow women to see the interior of men’s temples; but I had bought my way in– with a gift of bread and butter!–and the ceremony that was afterward stages outside the men’s sacred house was meant to be interpreted as follows: “You have deserved death for entering the sacred house. But you have been forgiven. You may enter our homes, and it is peace between us.”

I was friends with the old Queen of the Cook Islands, the late Makea Takau, a real monarch, six feet three in height, who ruled her islands with an iron scepter. He Prince Consort, Ngamaru, was less civilized than she; it was his way to threaten people who offended him, by making the “cannibal sign” at them–rapidly drawing his clenched fist across his teeth; the significance being: “I will tear you with my teeth!” As for Makea Takau, she used most courteously to tell an enemy, “I do not expect to see you after Wednesday;” and she enemy walked away, and obediently died on Wednesday, of nothing at all.

The beautiful Princess Tuera (of whom I afterward wrote many stories entitled “Queen Vaiti”) was a friend of mine in the old days. She was Raratongan, extremely lovely, and fiery as a female dragon. She had captained her father’s recruiting schooner, often, and ran it like a bucko mate of whaling days. I never knew her to be beaten by anything or anybody, male or female, alive or dead. Thirty years later, I found that she had defeated even Time, and was beautiful still. She lives in Raratonga, today. Read more : http://www.grimshaworigin.org/WebPages/BeatGrim1.htm#VaitiOfTheIslands

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Sorrow’s Home

There is a sorrow
that grows
as we open
to Life.

Not the dark web
of sticky unmet matters
hiding in the hips,
holding
to the ribs
of our life-force.
Not the secret loneliness
of shallow breath
and fancy thoughts.
Not even the blatant ache
of longing
to be held
in the deepest, safest waters
of true love.

No, this Sorrow
of which I write,
to which I bow
with humble palms together,
is open
like wisdom is generous,
is clear-seeing and kind.
It has no want
for its own resolution.
It has no want
to be tamed or fixed or freed.

It’s been born
of what has broken us.
It is our death
coming now
slowly or quickly
to claim us
and everyone we love.
It is the grief that learns
to live with us,
in this place called Life.
There is no other place
for it to go, so finally
we are gracious: we say,
“Please, it’s fine. Stay awhile.”

There is a Sorrow
that grows us
as we open to Life,
as we open to love and beloved;
as we give
our singing hearts
to song, our sweat
to prayer, as we touch
the tender pulse of loss,
upon loss, upon loss.

Life is not for keeping.
No wish and no bone
will last. But to make a good
home for this Sorrow
while walking and washing,
waking and dreaming,
while laughing and lifting
the sun, one more day, for Love:
This is a true life loosened,
a true life learned,
a true life offered
to all that comes
and goes
and comes again.

My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”

I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
― Audre Lorde

What does it say about our society that when a man is “friend zoned” – it is somehow equated with him being less of a man?