Thursday, January 28, 2010

Felt Impressions

I will have to confess that my tattoo was premeditated and there's no story of drunken mayhem to go along with it. Just another winter afternoon in 1991, Elyria, Ohio. The ice the snow the bare branches the deserted streets a loose piece of siding on a storefront downtown banging in a freezing wind. I'd had to leave Brazil unexpectedly because of new visa regulations, and the culture shock I felt was mayhem in itself. This might be why I don't have the impression that the tattoo process was painful - but it was definitely felt. The tattoo parlor (somewhat to my disappointment) made for a rather tame domestic scene, as homey and tranquil as the laundromat next door, business was slow...

My dear friend Margot who has made the drawings of Big Bed Land Animals on P-in-B, designed the tattoo for me-- it's her impression of my companion of 26 years now, Pablo, an Amazon parrot. She faxed her design - I had never seen a fax before and it was really somewhat disturbing. As were many things about that winter - if it hadn't been for Audrey who took me in to her house and heart out of the psychic and cultural storm I was feeling, it's hard to say how I would have gotten through it. I stayed with her, and she gave me a room to write in - need I say more?

Well, Bink, as he often does, came up to me with some questions about the tattoo as soon as I started thinking about it for Theme Thursday. Always questioning, is our Bink, kangaroo Animal and Pocket Philologist. The Animal Dictionary he's compiling reveals the profound differences between Animal and Monster language. In the process he often struggles with the Oxford English Dictionary - this is one reason his dictionary is pocket-sized for the convenience of Kangaroos and other Animals.

He's got all the Animals wondering about the taxonomy of the Pablo tattoo. Pablo is a Monster, but is the tattoo part Animal?

Yes, I respond, insofar as the Past is a kind of Animal. The same way that Time is a kind of Animal (which Monsters are always unsuccessfully trying to harness to their will, whereas in Big Bed Land it is allowed to wander in its purely wild state.) So it's a different kind of Animal from Rosie the Chinchilla who is part Animal and part furry Monster. And not like the fish on the coral reef dvd either, who are Animals but not three-dimensional, and not like the Animals in the Targ Forest which are insubstantial self-created spirits of Animals.

"It says here you can beat a tattoo?" he asks, and I can tell that he is worried.

Sometimes the best way to answer Bink is to give him more to think about. "Well, I said, tattoos are made on skin and drums have skin heads. But neither tattooes nor drums shave their heads." Bink scratches his own head rather sadly. "You know," he says, "some day you Monsters are going to get so tangled up in your own language that no one will be able to get you out."

"Except for the Great Big Bed Land Bard, Polar Knight," I say and he brightens up considerably.

"Of course!" Bink says. "Polar Knight could cut his way through the Gridiron Knot, if anyone can."

"Do you mean the Gordion Knot?" I ask Bink.

"Maybe," he hedges.

And Polar Knight- our hero!- comes to the rescue once again with a pome:

The Gridiron Knot
Is plumb full of tangles
And language it mangles and mars.
But left to itself
The universe spangles
and burns its words into stars.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Margot and the Sphinx

The readers (dear friends!) of P-in-B enjoyed Margot's drawing of the Animals' swimming adventure so much that we found another of her Animal drawings in the Big Bed Land Archives to share. This describes one of a number of Ancient Animal Riddles that have come down to us in the present that desert travelers were required to solve before continuing on their journeys...

Below are some pix of the Animals in Margot's drawing - some of whom you may already know. Like Piggles. Here is Chinabeary with her dear friend Bearly Bear at Margot's wedding, in company with our compatriot Elizabeth.

And here are Georgina and Debra (pronounced to rhyme with "Zebra") learning how to play the ukulele in Big Bed Land. Actually, these are a cool variation on the traditional uke design and are called Flukes! Monster J. is very patient with letting Animals and Monster E. try things out on his fascinating collection of stringed instruments. Debra is trying to figure out how these strings relate her (rather advanced) ideas on Cosmic String theory - but that will be another post!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marshmellow Bread, Hunting Season

Hunting Season can bring out the primal spirit in even the most confirmed city-dweller. In fact, the primal spirit can throb more wildly in urbanites than in country-dwellers. Men in bright camo driving fresh from their office jobs into the country, already feeling the thrill of their budding primality by exchanging their electric razors for rifles and their gas grills for campfires, cause as much fear among those watching them buy cases of beer at the grocery store as they do among the deer and elk.

These city hunters have been known to purchase marshmallows at the store as well (in a small town, grocery check-out people have a real window into the private lives of both neighbors and the city-hunters who buy supplies in town.) Speculation runs along the lines of S’Mores and boyhood memories-- because of the furtiveness accompanying the purchase of the marshmallows. Apparently these hunters feel that the primal spirit can proudly embrace Keystone Light, but not marshmallows.

This is perhaps because their primal spirits have not been honed by real country wilderness experiences. Like a 16-hour power failure in January when you set your camping stove up on the porch in a snowstorm to make coffee, having had to choose between using the scanty water for coffee or for flushing the toilet, and you eye your spouse warily, wondering which of you had said they would fill the emergency water-jugs…

The battles between humans can rage fiercer during hunting season than with their natural enemy the Fearsome Deer. Like a neighbor who set up a decoy deer near her house to catch an unwary hunter in the act of shooting out-of-bounds, or the contingent of angry citizens who stormed a county commissioners’ meeting with accusations that the dump-man was using county equipment to hang the carcass after he Got His Elk…

But that’s another story. When Platypuss saw the theme “Bread,” she immediately thought of the Marshmellow Bread that one band of hunters cleverly invented after their food supply ran out and they were up high, high in the mountains where the elusive Wild Petunia is known to bloom. This hunting expedition takes place every year, but has not been disclosed to the wider world until now.

Hunting season opens when the Wild Petunia first blooms in late January or February. The only way to know exactly when they are blooming is to know when the bears catch the first scent of this intoxicating fragrance that, alas, neither Man nor Monster can smell. In Big Bed Land, we know when they are blooming because the bears tell us.

Only bears go on this yearly expedition to hunt the Wild Petunia. Everyone else, including pigs and giraffes, stays home. Isabear always goes. Sukey always goes too because she is the only one who really knows the Targ Forest. To get to the Petunia Mountains, you must pass through this Forest, terrifying to those who do not understand the ways of targs – those mysterious creatures who do not mean to terrify, but their habit of appearing and disappearing while making their song which is somewhere between the whistle of a tea-kettle and the sob of a soul in torment has been known to disconcert the bravest Animal. Even Pirate Goat confesses to an inward trembling when thinking of this sound.

Boo Boo always goes too, because he is known to keep a level head in all circumstances. Otherwise, any Bear who decides that he or she can accept the peril and the glory of the Petunia Mountains simply puts on a baseball cap – and becomes thereby a member of the hunting expedition. Here's a snapshot of them resting in the glaciers above the Targ Forest.

Food supplies do sometimes run out. The first time this happened, the bears discovered that marshmallows grow wild on bushes low to the ground. They tell us that no one would ever guess, from the dried product offered in grocery stores, how delicious marshmallows are when plucked fresh from the bush. Or the gentle glow that budding marshmallows emit by the light of a campfire with no rations left. That is how, in fact, they discovered them. Led by hunger and this gentle but persistent light, they found food.

And they rejoiced – at least for the first few days. Then we’ll have to admit that they became extremely tired of marshmallows and no longer marveled at the glow. Their first attempt to alleviate the situation was Marshmellow Soup, in which the contrasting textures of smooth white marshmellow sauce and smoky bits of pit-roasted marshmellow create drama on the palate.

Marshmellow Bread, however, is perhaps their most inspired culinary experiment. Piggles actually provided the idea for this recipe by tucking a note under the last of the food rations. It read simply: “For Marshmellow Bread: find a hedgehog and politely offer the hedgehog a marshmellow. Choose a fresh marshmellow as large as possible, but still juicy from the budding stage.”

Even though the hunters were not yet suffering from lack of food, they were so curious about these instructions that they made the attempt. Everyone watched eagerly as the hedgehog delicately snuffed the marshmellow and then began to chew it with remarkable speed. Some expected the hedgehog to offer bread in return for this treat. Others thought the note was not from Piggles at all but from Lefty who was laughing himself off the edge of Big Bed Land imagining this scene…

But what happened was that the hedgehog spit out the pith of the marshmellow after extracting all the juice—and simply waddled onward. They looked at each other in dismay until they saw that Boo Boo was thinking. They waited. Finally Boo Boo began to speak:

Old Bones, he said, had just sent him a message. Old Bones lived for a while in Bolivia and remembered that in the mountains near Tarija, the farmers and herders made a powerful drink made from corn that had been chewed first. When the other bears continued to look at him blankly, he realized he would have to explain further.

Yeast, he explained both kindly and clearly, is made from the fermentation of the brewing process. Then the light began to dawn on the other Animals.

“If we brew a batch of marshmellow beer from this,” Boo Boo continued, holding up the chewed marshmellow, “we’ll have our marshmellow yeast! Then all we have to do is grind some marshmellow flour and we’ll have bread.” They gave three cheers for Piggles, and set to work with a will.

All the Hunting Bears, we notice, have kept a profound silence on the subject of what happened the night they brewed the marshmellow beer, as have the deer who joined them on that long night of starlight and campfirelight dancing on the snow. But a couple of days later they continued the hunt – with enough bread to last them through the journey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Zuzulalulation of the Bees

Platypuss here. I'll tell you that I was a little worried yesterday when I made my heartfelt scan of the Animals in Big Bed Land and everything seemed out of focus. Strange, I thought. I listened closely and let myself become absorbed in Animal-Consciousness... and I heard the faintest murmuring, the sound that gently vibrates in a dormant hive, the zuzulalulation of the bees, bees, bees, bees, the zuzulalulation of the bees.

I realized that the Animals had gone into the quasi-dormant state they assume when they are pretending to be stuffed animals (this takes almost all of their energy) and that they were doing this because some Monsters were at the House tearing out drywall and other loud things. Even though the construction Monsters are friends of Monsters J. and E., the Animals felt it wise to adopt stuffed animal consciousness temporarily.

Well. One thing I never knew before was that while they do this, the Animals commune with the Bees. Bees are neither Animal nor Monster. They are Bees. Essentially mysterious. We have known them for a long time, but they appear only when they wish. Once when Monster J. and E. were driving on the highway passing a logging truck, the bees spoke in their ethereal yet troll-like and ominous voices: Please please please said the bees: PUT BACK THOSE TREES.

We tend to collect bees that we find in the Wilderness of Monster objects. Only free things live in the Wilderness - things you buy live in the Land of Things (we call that place Boise.) The pictures I've posted today are of some of these Wild Things.

The artwork below is by Annalu (the talented and lovely companion of Speedy) called "Bee Hula," part of a series of phrases invented under the laughing spell of the Bees (this is one of the hazards of communicating with them and we were both helpless with laughter at the time): Bee Good, Bee Mad, Bee Dog, Bee Hula.

Amanda Every Otter has revealed herself lately as keenly interested in drawing. The character of Bee Girl showed up one day and is on this sticker. She has also sketched out the characters of Bee Maiden and Bee Matron - from whom we expect to hear in the future.

Friday, January 15, 2010

After Goat Told the Animals About Swimming...

After Goat told the Animals about swimming, some were very curious about the idea and had some thoughts about trying it out- even though Bearly Bear was not at all sure this was a good idea as far as her very dear friend Chinabeary was concerned. From our very dear friend Margot (hostess of Summer Island, Mouse Tulip our Beloved Queen, as well as artiste extraordinaire and exotique) we have this exquisite rendition of what happened that day...

(I'd never have such good
adventures without you...)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Return of the Moon

We continue with Goat's Log and get an extraordinary look at how Goat saw the performance of the Lament of the Ladybugs as compared with how the Monsters saw it! Who ever would have guessed at the rare and enchanting vision of Goat!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Goat At Night

Here we are with the next installment of Goat's Log. Goat was the First Animal Ever to keep a written record of an adventure (and writing is not Goat's favorite thing to do, either, since Goat decided early on in life not to go on in school - after the first day, actually.) We really have our Summer Island friends, especially Iris, to thank for this remarkable development. Thank you Mouse Fairies! Thank you Iris! from all of us at Big Bed Land.

At Big Bed Land there is
a remarkable turtle who
casts stars all around. Goat
loves to sit in the light of
these stars and remember
Summer Island.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Ladybug's Lament

Big Bed Land tends to be a busy place in January, the month of frozen fog and snow, and most of the Animals who are not working on the Wedding Scrapbook have been drawn back into the summer eddies of Goat's Island Adventure. Did the ladybugs really cause the young Monsters to dress up as ladybugs and recite a poem? Polar Knight asks Willabear, who was there. Oh yes, said Willabear, that is exactly what happened. Lefty (who was also there) added: You never what ladybugs can make someone do. ESPECIALLY when the ladybugs are the invisible kind.

Polar Knight was quite interested in reading the poem, being unfamiliar with ladybug literature, especially invisible ladybug literature and thought you might be interested too. Bink points out that when reading this poem, it is traditional to pronounce "Ladybug" with the drawl of the Ancient West, that is to say: "Lay-ee-dee-boog." And you must imagine the sounds of distant yodeling by the ladybug girls: "Yo-de-lay-dee-bug!"

The Ladybug’s Lament
The ladybugs of Sugarbush
Will set you down and tell their tale
As the dragon flies and Jewel Weeds
And the lone loon lorns its wail

The woman they call Pioneer
Can wrassle even slimy slugs
She sweeps the floors and beats the rugs
And herds the fearsome Ladybugs

She rides between the mighty oaks
Her lasso in her hand
But she never ventures out without
Her brave mouse fairy band

Valiant Violet and Goldenrod
They also hunt the ladybug
They dry the meat for winter feed
And shred it fer terbaccer plug

Pioneer Woman leads the band
She battles the Bumble-Bugs hand to hand
She’s also called beloved Queen
Her two-lips is sweet, but her rifle’s mean

She beats the rugs and sweeps the floors
And tames the fiery bright S’mores
And when she’s hunting in the wood
The ladybugs say: “Not Good.”

She feeds those bugs on banana smush
That’s why they stay at Sugarbush
And leave their wings for fairy clothes
And NEVER fly into your nose

Her fairies feed on Ladybug willows
And when they’re tucked in bed so snug
Pioneer Woman comes to their pillows
To tell them of the ladybug

Of ladybug wiles, their changing spots
More dangerous than polka dots
She teaches those mousefairy mugs
To track the tricksy ladybugs

With their permanent smiles they raid the land
Over seas and over sand
With Pirate Goat to lead their band
They like to eat their spiders canned

The mouse fairies love to go skinny-dipping
As the waves go slipping slipping
Into sea and into sky
Only the Ladybugs know why

Grandmother Ladybug flies to the moon
And on the way she meets a loon
Bow and arrow in her hand
Soon the loon will dive for land

Grandmother Ladybug gets to the moon
And there she finds the spirit of the loon
Together they live in Cave Zak
And then they decide they will never go back

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Return To Summer Island

The editorial we, aka Platypuss-in-Boots, took Goat's fantasy of a Giant Goat abducting the bridal giraffe as an expression of feeling that perhaps the wedding stories had gone on long enough. So, the Animals formed a Wedding Book committee (this just means the Animals who want to work on the Wedding Book at any given moment) and we can get back to the thrilling tale of Goat's pirate adventures on Summer Island. As you may recall, Goat had just made history as the first Big Bed Land Animal to swim with the Monsters, and Goat thought that the mysterious and possibly sinister Ladybugs had disappeared (although Goat didn't seem to notice that they had found their way into Goat's Log...)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pinky's Extraordinary Adventure in Etiquette

The Wedding Gazebo continues to yield up its secrets! Today I discovered that Pinky had her own thrilling experience there. She had gone to sit there for a moment alone, still rather anxious about whether she had fulfilled her hostess duties adequately, and also rather sad. She came out of this reverie to find, beside her, a beautiful blue book. Letters in gold adorned the cover and she could just make them out by the unearthly light of the gazebo: “Emily Post’s Etiquette” were the words she found there. Also, a date from misty antiquity: 1955.

She opened the book to find a message from Emily herself! With her pink heart beating quickly she read: “With BEST wishes! Emily Post.”

She felt certain suddenly, that she would be able to achieve success as hostess of P-in-B, an honor she had never really felt she deserved. She continued to feel this happy certainty in herself even after reading Emily’s rules of wedding etiquette, many of which didn’t seem to apply to Big Bed Land at all. But that didn’t matter somehow. Pinky now sleeps with the signature of her patroness under her pillow and no longer has those terrible dreams about having put the place-cards for the Wedding Supper in the wrong place or having forgotten to set out the Wedding Guest Book so that everyone could sign it.

Here’s a passage that especially cheered her (she loves the image of Emily in a garden of language, pulling a word out by the roots):

“It is hard to say why the word “etiquette” is so inevitably considered merely a synonym of the word “correct,” as though it were no more than the fixed answer to a sum in arithmetic. In fact, it might be well to pull the word “correct” out by the roots and substitute “common sense.” In short, I wish that those whose minds are focused on precise obedience to every precept would instead ask themselves: “What is the purpose of this rule? Does it help to make life pleasanter? Does it make the social machinery run more smoothly? Does it add beauty? Is it essential to the code of good taste of to ethics?” If it serves any of these purposes, it is a rule to be cherished; but if it serves no helpful purpose, it is certainly not worth taking seriously.”

A fine approach to any rule, in my opinion!

Some points of wedding etiquette, Pinky realized (using her common sense now that she had been encouraged to do so) would serve no useful purpose in BBL, but were interesting nonetheless:

Household linen, especially if very beautiful, is often displayed with the wedding presents, but in cities such as New York, Washington, or Boston, it has never been considered good taste to make a formal display of the bride’s personal trousseau. She may, of course, show intimate friends some of her things, but her trousseau is never spread out on exhibition.”

Goat’s P.S. to Wedding Etiquette: At a wedding, it is not advisable to take the form of a Giant Goat and sweep down to pluck the bride from the Wedding Gazebo and carry her up to the top of the nearest sky-scraper while hopefully she is screaming in a piercing manner. I asked Piggles, and she said it was not advisable, even as joke. Just so you know. But I'm really not so sure about etiquette having anything to do with common sense. If the Giant Goat was just meant as a JOKE...
Pinky to Goat: Here's what I'm thinking. What's common sense for a pirate might be different from what's common sense for a giraffe. If the bride were a pirate herself, this joke, I believe, would be perfectly appropriate. But then you'd better not complain when she unsheaths her sword and takes off one of Giant Goat's ears!
Goat to Pinky: Of course I wouldn't complain - such things are all in a day's work to a pirate. But I thank you for making it clear that pirates might have different rules of etiquette. I'm going to ask Bink to look for a manual.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What Will the Wedding Supper Be?

Now that some of the Animals have decided to put together a scrapbook of the wedding, it's less of a blur to us all.

This snapshot really caught my eye - at the time of the wedding celebration, I never noticed that Lambchoppie and Miss Mousie had wandered off together. They spent quite a time arm in arm in the gazebo with Miss Mousie reminiscing about her own weddings.

"You've been married?" asked Lambchoppie in surprise.

"Oh yes, many times," Miss Mousie said, "in a sense."

"But - when - how - but -" Lambchoppie couldn't seem to formulate a sentence.

"Focus," Miss Mousie suggested, firmly but kindly.

"My question is...What do you mean?" Lambchoppie finally asked.

"I really can't waste time explaining that," Miss Mousie said in her most definite tone of voice.

Lambchoppie sighed and leaned back happily. "You know, that is such a good philophosy."


"Yes," Lambchoppie agreed vigorously, "philophosy. Grown-ups can spend way too much time explaining things. Especially at school," she added rather sadly. "Just think of all that wasted time. Just gathering dust in all the schools of the Entire Universe. Horrible."

Miss Mousie got that look she has when she is going to tell you one of the Real Facts. "We compost it, actually," she said in a low thrilling voice. "Time is never wasted."

Lambchoppie heaved another happy sigh. "I just love you, Miss Mousie. Tell me a wedding story."

"I'll do better than that," Miss Mousie said. "I'll give you a wedding song. But we'll need the help of Johnny Jack Poetry for that..."