Meanwhile, I've been doing a lot of reading because while the pain isn't crippling, it is constant and it makes it hard to work on focusey things like art or school work.
As you know, I recently finished reading The Land of Painted Caves, the final book in the Earth's Children series. I was less than impressed with it although in some respects it did contain a little of the magic that made me persist with the series even after it stretched beyond the realms of my capacious power to suspend disbelief. And that was enough to make me want to go back and read the books that made me feel that way, to remind myself of why I bothered.
I have a copy of Clan of the Cave Bear that has been kicking around for a few years and I read that, then came to the second book in the series, called The Valley of Horses. In it, our Stone Age heroine wanders around the late Ice Age steppes after having been death cursed out of the clan of neanderthals that raised her. She's looking for people like herself but there aren't many around and she needs to get herself sorted for winter so she stops in a valley and the book details her life by herself there, until she finds an injured man who's wandered there with his brother and been attacked by a lion. Etc. Here's the cover of the copy I have:
It's well chosen. I bought this book aged 14. I had to spend a night in hospital - can't even remember why - and I bought this to read because it had horses in the title and sounded interesting. Also, I was 14. When you're a 14 year old girl and a horse lover that Really.Doesn't.Fit the mould you're supposed to be going into, struggling to form an identity, and mostly just want to run away into a fantasy world full of wide open spaces and solitude and horses, it's really easy to project yourself onto Ayla. Note that they didn't put a face on her. Most of the covers in this particular version of the series don't - she's a faceless woman who existed for girls like me to identify with*.
She was also one of the first female protagonists I read. She's intelligent and competent and self-determined, even if she doesn't realise it. In this book, the majority of her time is spent doing the things she needs to do to live her life, and her discovery that she can do this, and put her thoughts into action without needing the approval of others, was new to me and an inspiration. I identified with her and I'd be lying if I said that Ayla didn't influence at least some of the decisions I made as a teenager about where I wanted my life to go and the things I wanted to be able to do. It was partly because of her that I spent time living in the boonies being self sufficient. I can kill and dress meat and cure hides because of her. I know enough about food plants and making shelter to have a reasonable chance of surviving in the bush because of her. More importantly, I went off and did my own thing and stuck to my guns over not being the person my small town thought I should be, at least in part because of her.
It might be a bit embarrassing to admit, but Ayla was one of the more important influences in the formation of my identity. I'm not hugely proud of that** but I'm kind of proud of where it led me.
Also, the book had sex. Again with the 14 - omg explicit sex scenes in an innocent looking book that I could take to school! So I did. It did the rounds of all my friends, as such things are wont to do. I still have that copy of the book, it's somewhat worse for wear but given it's 28 years old and what it's been through, it's looking ok:
When I tried to demonstrate to Dr Wheel that it doesn't just automatically fall open to the sex scenes, it automatically fell open to the sex scenes.
Next to it is my Kobo, on which I'm currently reading The Mammoth Hunters. I like that in the time since I first discovered "Jondalar man, Noria woman" as a hormonal teenager, it's become possible to replace my worn-out copies of teenage porn with digital shiny!
Although, I'm curious if, in 28 years' time, I'll be able to pick up the Kobo and read The Mammoth Hunters the way I can with Valley of Horses. I bought Dr Wheel a Kindle for Christmas, and next to that my Kobo looks pretty Stone Age already. What will reading look like in 28 years from now, I wonder?
* I've since found out through gene mapping that my maternal ancestral line hails originally from more or less the same part of the world that these books were set. I am literally Caucasian.
** I know that after the second book the story started to deteriorate, and by the fourth one Ayla had invented the internet and killed Voldemort while also being a porn star, interspersed with endless detailed descriptions of glaciers and rocks. This is part of why I'm not proud. Frankly I reckon if the author had made the series four books instead of six and crammed the last three into one, it'd have been way better. But she didn't, I can't fix that, and it doesn't detract from what the abstract concept of Ayla did for me as a young woman.
That was a nice long weekend. In between mammoths and bonking, I:
Made a skirt, repaired a broken one, prepared to make another tutu/hair costume combo, made a flamenco hairpiece out of tubular crin and fake roses, cleaned the house, went to the gym twice, did the shopping, ate an easter egg, made soup for the first time in my life, watched 3 episodes of Gossip Girl, finished painting my balls, Downloaded All the Zero Cult, went skating and gave myself a blister in a weird place on my leg, baked some cookies, cleaned the inside of the car, shouted my two favourite men brunch in the middle of the afternoon, pruned all my plants, gave away a suitcase*, and slept in every day.
There should be more long holidays.
* I put it in Cuba Mall with a sign on it saying "Free suitcase, retro as, also magic." It was gone in less than 10 minutes.