Weavers and Watchers of the Gods
For Susan Gossman and Eileen Gunn
Color danced between her fingers. Reds, blues, bright yellows and emeralds; rings of scarlet splashed across a broad field of white—the patterns of the Gossman tribe and of herself, the youngest Susan.
She looked up. The pattern would reflect on the final weaving. What happened in the veils, was mirrored beyond the veils,
this was how it had been and how it always would be. She took up the shuttle and wove it between the threads. This was the future, she thought. Bodies rose up from the threads, the shape of the future Timor’an, the Matriarch’s own elite.
Her fingers clacked against the frame. The future would unfold as it was meant to unfold, and she would remain faithful to the task laid out before her.
She was the Gossman of the gods. Her hands had been shaped to hold the shuttle and to resist the seduction of the loom. Her vision was a gift bestowed on her for she could see farther than even the keenest of the Nahipan.
Where the seers of the veils could see fold upon fold, her eye extended beyond that and each incident, each person’s destiny was a path in the weaving that could be unraveled or rewound as the gods willed it.
No easy task. The gossman thought.
But she would have it no other way. She had been born for this very purpose: to obey the command, to keep her eye on the movements of the world beyond, to catch the slack of the threads and wind them into the pattern harvested by the eye.
A disturbance in the weave told her of the arrival of the gunn. A farseer, this Gunn wielded the eye. Her wit was kin and her tongue was sharp. Blessed by the gods with strength and longevity, this Gunn had proven herself in countless battles and harvests. The Susan had met her during the trials when strength had been pitted against strength, and determination proven against determination. They were equally matched, and at the end they had exchanged true names. Of all the gossman, only she knew this Gunn’s true name.
She strode into the Gossman’s space now. Loose-limbed and confident, all sharp angles and shining surfaces. Her armor carved out of the smoothest and toughest wood that grew on the outskirts of Aliette.
“What news do you bring?” the Gossman asked.
“An uneasy peace,” the Gunn replied. “Aliette’s elders paved the way with their wisdom, but even as we speak, the foundations of that peace are undermined by things hidden to my eye.”
The gossman pondered the pattern, she traced the movement of scarlet. A bereaved heart set on a traitor’s path, one that brought bewilderment to the Timor’an and threatened the balance between Lower and Middle Ayudan.
“I cannot meddle,” the gossman said. “But the gods have granted you free movement.”
The Gunn looked up.
A smirk crossed her normally impassive face.
“An adventure,” she said.
There were four threads to capture within the weave. The gossman extended the clawed tip of her finger and pushed two colors onto a comb. A new pattern could be formed.
She folded her legs under her, the wings on her heels clapped together and a flutter of wind rose up. Gold dust layered the greens and the blues. The cartographer’s journey stretched out before her. A difficult path fraught with sacrifice and sorrow, for this the gossman felt a momentary regret.
Through the greens, she found a line of scarlet. This was the path the Gunn would have to tread if she was to join her fate to the Cartographer’s for a little while.
“Do not be carried away,” the gossman admonished.
Behind her, the Gunn sighed.
The Gossman cast a sidelong gaze at the farseer. There was strength in the Gunn’s profile, but there was passion there too.
“Have I ever lost sight of my mission?” the Gunn asked.
Susan’s eye caught the small movement in the Gunn’s right jaw. It betrayed irritation and something else.
“I know you have always been true,” she said.
The Gunn heaved another sigh and this time she dropped the mask of impassivity.
“Must I be tested at every turn?” she asked. “My word is my bond and I gave you mine when I gave you my true name years ago.”
Susan allowed serenity to flow from her as the wings along her arms fluttered open and shut.
“I know you as I know myself,” she said. “Be at peace. This is no test. Your path with the Cartographer will be short, but it must yield a good harvest if the unfolding pattern is to remain unsullied.”
The Gunn subsided. The planes of her face resolved into its usual mold.
She was truly marvelous, the Gossman thought.
She plucked the strings and moved her shuttle between them. The combs rose up, bringing the colored threads with them, a new path unfolded among the threads.
“Oh yes,” the Susan sighed.
It could be lovely. An inevitable grief, loss and sacrifice, and beyond that, beyond where the eye could see, her own vision opened up the folds of the weaving that was yet to come—there was a pattern waiting there, one that led to something more than ordinary joy.
She allowed the comb to descend and let the vision fade into eclipse. Soon the Gunn would see it too, but not before the eye was put to work and the harvest had been done.
She heard impatience in her partner’s voice, and she almost laughed at it. It was just like Eileen, she thought. Adventure lay ahead, and the course had been set. Not even Susan’s most seductive blandishments would keep the farseer here.
“Your passage has been cleared,” she said. “Go meet the Cartographer and return with a fruitful harvest for the looms.”
( I'm not sure if I'll continue this here of if you'll see the rest of this after I've finished writing the bigger work, but you will definitely see these characters again someday. ) :D :D :D
- Current Mood: thankful
My Write-a-thon page is here and thanks to the repeated rt's, we've achieved the goal of 200 participating writers and in so doing some very generous sponsors are giving a total of 2000 dollars to the workshop. Yay!!!
I'm doubly pleased then that just as the Write-a-thon is getting off the ground, my short story, Song of the Body Cartographer, has been published and is now available for everyone's reading pleasure at Philippine Genre Stories.
I thought I'd blog a bit about Song of the Body Cartographer, not only because this is the first story I sent out after my fallow year, but also because this story represents a number of things to me. It's also an extracted story from my wip--so yes, it's part of something bigger. Writing this wip is a real challenge for me. It's probably going to be my longest story yet.
On the PGS site, the illustration used is Remedios Varo's Creation of the Birds. This picture inspired me to write a previous flash piece which was published by Byzarium (it's still available here), and perhaps this image sunk so deep in my mind that when Kenneth Yu asked if I had an idea for an illustration of the piece, I couldn't help but think of this painting and how I imagined the Timor'an would look somewhat like this. The painting does play a crucial part in the big world story--and its significance comes out partially in the section where Siren thinks about Corazon's depiction of the Qa'ta. I was trying to imagine how an artist from Lower Ayudan would paint a transformation, and it's still me conversing with this piece of art which Varo created.
But at the heart of the inspiration for Song of the Body Cartographer and the larger wip, are the conversations on women's bodies that we conduct back and forth as we reclaim ourselves. It comes from reading history, reading commentaries, reading poetry, and discussing with other feminists. It also comes from a weariness with having to surrender the body to male approval or to the male gaze and it is born out of this place inside me that wants to turn a deaf ear to what society and convention dictates as being the one true way of seeing story or living life as a woman.
I look at the female body and think of the power of the spirit inside that vessel and I think of how this vessel is subjected to so much outside pressure in an attempt to suppress and subjugate that power. I believe in women and in the things that we can accomplish when we band together because I have seen it with my own eyes. When we shed ourselves of the imposed guilt at being woman, when we choose to embrace our own definition of the right way to go about being women and being with women, we reclaim our power. We return to that image that is true woman: pure and unsullied, full of strength and light.
If you liked Song of the Body Cartographer, please consider sponsoring me during the Clarion West Write-a-thon. :) Thank you for reading.
- Current Mood: creative
Bannawag -- one of the oldest magazines in the Ilocano language
One of the things that I became curious about while living in The Netherlands was the state of story in the indigenous languages. When I was growing up, I remember two magazines in circulation that were a source of secret entertainment for my sister and I. Bannawag was an Ilocano language publication and Liwayway was a Tagalog language publication. My mom considered the magazines as being slightly disreputable. Something my sister and I couldn’t understand at the time, but which I think I now do.
I had heard that Bannawag was no longer being published, so when I went back to Banaue, I was delighted to discover that it was still in publication and people were still buying it. While it wasn’t available in Banaue itself, one could obtain copies of the magazine down in Lagawe or Solano.
I was lucky enough that the eldest daughter of my first schoolteacher loved to read Bannawag. I made the short trek to her home and came back with four copies of the magazine. I was busy trekking about and talking to people while in Banaue, so didn’t have time to read the Bannawag while I was there, but once in Manila, I sat down and looked through it. Reading the magazine as a grown-up, I find the contents to be quite interesting. Celebrity gossip, a moral story for children, a serial story, a story for adult readers, comic pages as well as opinion columns on politics both local and international all published in the same pages.
My best friend’s husband who comes from Ilocos told me that Bannawag was otherwise known as the Bible of the Ilocanos. This magazine was the first thing people had in their hands in the morning, they read it whenever they had a bit of spare time and even carried the magazine with them to the comfort room. As a child, I remember seeing Biag ni Lam-ang serialized in comic form in the pages of this magazine. Biag ni Lam-ang (the life of Lam-ang) is probably the greatest as well as the most famous Ilocano epic and if we think of modern day genre, Biag would qualify as Sword and Sorcery.
I asked my best friend’s husband to read some of the stories out loud. He reads beautifully and poring over the stories together, I found myself thinking of how many writers we don’t know of simply because we don’t understand the language they are writing in. It also made me think of how language never loses its beauty and how there is something about a well-written story that will call to us no matter what language it is in.
Of course, the reading session resulted in a discussion concerning Ilocano language writers, Ilocano stories and advice to visit with the elderly manangs when I go to Ilocos.
What appeals to me about Bannawag and the stories in it is how they provide the reader insight into what appeals to the local reader. Fiction in Bannawag is told from the perspective of someone who lives in the region and stories are set in the region. The characters in the story are definitely Ilocano. While the serializations, in the copies I have, are mostly dramatic in nature, the short stories are interesting because they could be dramas or they could be fantastic in nature. One of the Bannawags in my possession contains a story about the sarimanok. ( My best friend’s hubby said: See that bit of illustration. That is truly Ilocano. This magazine is really by Ilocanos.)
Unfortunately, my grasp of Ilocano has faltered and while I understand bits and pieces, there are words that elude me. I am grateful for the willingness of friends to translate and tell me the bits I don’t understand. I think I’ll be raiding the stockpile of my schoolteacher’s daughter when I go back to Banaue. I’ve been gifted with a grammar/vocabulary book on Ilocano and hopefully when I go back, I can speak it a bit more confidently than I now do.
Anyway, this rediscovery of Bannawag has led me to think of translations and how much they contribute to our enjoyment of literature we would not have found otherwise. My best friend’s hubby has consented to do some readings and I thought it would be neat to post a recording of him reading a story in Ilocano with a written translation included. That will take some time to complete though, but watch for it.
State of writing: I have been working on short stories and writing out notes and observations for my novel. Since Banaue, I have completed work on two short stories. I am now in the process of writing a story tentatively titled: What really happened in Ficandula. This is a story inspired by an event during the American occupation of the Philippines and takes place in Ifugao. The events in this story are something that younger people might no longer know about. It’s a bit difficult to write and I have to think about it. The first half of this story is done, now onto the second half. It is not quite realist in nature. I don’t think I have a lot of fiction which is realist in nature. Somehow or other they all morph into something not quite realist.
These posts are part of my Clarion West write-a-thon commitment. To see my profile page, please go here. My next post will contain my thoughts and findings on the Ifugao state of story. I will be going back to Banaue because I really want to learn the hudhud. I want to have the words. Going back to Banaue is like reconnecting with a part of me that I lost when I left the place. In my heart, I am still a Banaue girl.
- Current Location:Philippines, Las Piñas
- Current Mood: busy
This write-a-thon is exciting for me as I will be writing and researching and will be on the go visiting places which are necessary to my work. I've started relearning the Ilocano language and am working on learning hapit (the Ifugao language).
We went up to Ifugao two days after I arrived in The Philippines. There was just enough time to recover from jetlag and then we were off again on the night trip to visit the mountains of my childhood. The bus trip took almost as long as it took for me to fly here from The Netherlands. It was cold in the bus, and I was glad for the warnings that made me take our coats with us as well as a couple of shawls. There was nothing to see in the dark, but when dawn arrived we could see mountains on every side of us. And that was only Nueva Vizcaya.
How long has it been since I've seen mountains? The one thing about living in the Netherlands is the absence of mountains. Everything over there is flat and while I find the Dutch landscape beautiful, I have to say there is nothing that can equal the beauty of Ifugao mountains, and when we were going up, I really felt like I was going home. We moved to Manila when we had to go to highschool, but my heart has never relinguished its connection to Banaue and in my heart that place is really where home is.
I had long ago decided to sign up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon and because my brother seemed to be able to update his facebook regularly, I took it for granted that I could get online and sign up in Banaue. Upon arrival, my brother told me that the internets were down and they were still waiting for the tech people to come up.
Well, I thought, I can always sign up when the internet comes back on. I didn't stop to think that this is Banaue where time flows differently from the rest of the world. I mean, the internet is a good thing, but where we were it wasn't a necessity. I can't help contrasting the way life is in The Philippines to life in The Netherlands. The day we returned to Manila, I thought to try and get online only to discover that the internet connection seemed to be disturbed by the rains and I kept getting disconnected or something happened that made signing up online just frustrating. In the end, I had to send an SOS to my Clarion West class which resulted in me getting signed up through the help of the Clarion West folks. Thank you so very much.
Anyway, today is the third day of the write-a-thon and I've been busy working on language retrieval as well as writing. Thanks to my Banaue visit I was able to complete work on two stories that have been chasing after me since forever. Next on my agenda is to visit Vigan as I want to complete work on a story that I've set in Ilocos. I'll be going back to Banaue again as I have more research to do.
I'll be posting regular updates here, my writing and research progress and pictures/films from the (imo) happiest place on earth.
- Current Location:Manila
- Current Mood: busy
This week is the final week for the Clarion West Write-a-thon. I've written quite a lot of words in this six weeks, and I am grateful as these weeks have helped me get back into the rhythm of writing everyday. Guest-blogging has helped me a lot too. This week, I wrote close to a thousand words on a new story. I am revising the story I wrote during the third week. I've submitted two stories, and written three thousand new words to the novel. It's a lot less than I hoped for, but that's because I got sidetracked by new stories. I've made a new goal though, which is to write five hundred words a day to the novel until I finish it. As aliettedb says: the important thing is to just go and write it through to the end.
This is me telling the inner nag to just shut up and let me write.
We are still a bit short of our goal of 200 sponsors for this year's Write-a-thon. If you feel moved to sponsor or to donate, there are still four days left. :)
- Current Mood: calm
I also did another rewrite on a short story that I wrote at Clarion West and submitted it as I promised. On my Clarion West Write-a-thon page, I did promise to rewrite two short stories and submit them. I don't know whether that story will come back or not, but I've done my part and sent it out.
To prove that my head is still inside the novel world, I've started work on a new short story which takes place in the same world my novel does except a different time frame. Oh lolz. Yes, when it rains it pours.
The littlest one is in bed and now it's time to unleash the muse. :)
- Current Mood: cheerful
I want to remember, the go-back, go-back. Back in the day. Back in the day when we were new. When we were our own. Back when we belonged to the land. Back in the day when we were beloved of Maknongan.
Go-back, go-back. Travel the spectrum. Engage the spirit. Not of this flat land. Not of this place where the wind carries the foul smell of decay, refuse, spoiled carcasses, discarded relics, opened and tossed onto the belt. Not of this broken landscape where all the eye sees are mountains of debris.
Go-back, go-back. Dance now. Let the wind take you away beyond the boundaries of this present place. Our brethren walk the in-between and are safe. They call to us from the shadows. They say: Come to us. Come with us.
But the net is closed. The lines are drawn. We are caught. Stayed. Anchored in this here, waiting for the return or for him who will draw us through the net into the stars, onto the belt of mountains that he took with him when he left the happy land of our dreaming.
I will sing, I will sing. I will dance now. I will speak a wisdom and tell a tale of the son of the mountains. I will tell of the man who shed mortal flesh so he could be as they who dwell in the Skyworld. I will sing, and I will tell of his journey. Of the seven arks and the valiant manun’o, the hunters who shackled themselves to their ships, all for the love of him. Balaycon.
That above is another excerpt from the WIP which I will be working on during the Clarion West Write-a-thon (there's another excerpt on my write-a-thon page). I'll be writing along together with a good number of brilliant writers, graduates and friends of Clarion West, all throughout the six weeks of the Clarion West workshop. My page is here and if you feel inclined to donate to the cause, please feel free to support me or any of the other writers listed on the Write-a-thon page.
- Current Location:the red chair
- Current Mood: calm