FIRST PRESENCE (from “The Lady Orangutan and Other Stories”)
“In the beginning, I was alone and there was the wind brushing the buffalo grasses and jerking creosote bushes around. I was content.
But then, some several creosote bushes over, I saw a lumpy darkness lumbering slowly through the buffalo grasses.
I rose to my feet. I’m not sure what I thought it was at first but when I walked toward it tentatively, I soon deciphered it – it was a desert tortoise of considerable size.
I moved very slowly. I tried to project a kindly image, gentle vibrations. The tortoise was huge, bigger by far than a man’s head – perhaps the size of a steering wheel in circumference but then the thickness raised the top of it about a foot above the ground.
I got quite close and the tortoise seemed to stop moving in confusion. “Hey now, there now,” I said, as I crouched to get down to his level.
And the eyes looked at me in a sort of horror. The claws seemed clumsy, ineffective; they didn’t grasp the ground but only scrabbled and shoved him along. The shell was grand – sinfully, I wanted it for a salad bowl or a guitar. The desert tortoise is an endangered species and I had all the salad bowls and guitars I needed.
The eyes looked at me and I saw that it was I that was exotic.
He was primordial and he looked at me out of the days before our days and I found myself now kneeling at his side in some kind of penance.”
— by Jane Wodening
BIO BY JANE WODENING
I was brought up in a prudish little suburb of Chicago until I was eleven then my parents and my brother and I moved to Fraser, Colorado which was at that time a copper-mining town sinking into oblivion. The change was startling to me and I found friendships easier with dogs than with people. They seemed to understand me better than people did. There were a few years of annual travels within Colorado and finally we made a house out of our summer cabin outside of Boulder and I went to Boulder High School.
I tried college but when my brother wanted a ride to New York City, I dropped out and spent a few months getting an education of sorts in New York City.
A couple of years later, I married film artist Stan Brakhage and we traveled back and forth across America for seven years then settled in Lump Gulch at nine thousand feet altitude where we lived for twenty-three years with five children and a yard full of animals, my sanity and my delight.
When he left me, my five children were grown and on their own. I sold my house and the animals and drove back and forth across America for nearly three years, looking for a life, finding that the world is big, finally settling in a tiny cabin with no amenities at ten thousand feet altitude where I lived alone for ten years. During this time I played and thought and hiked, enjoyed amateur radio, chopped wood and carried water, wrote a book which seems to be unpublishable, and pulled together and published seven books of short stories.
Now I’m living in a little house in Denver with a couple of cats and a few chickens and a garden of vegetables and fruits from which I make soup and wine. I’m getting old. My eyes find it hard to read anymore so I’m pulling together all the writings I can find that might be worth looking at and will make them presentable for publication as soon as I can. In the notes for the travel book I find a brief fantasy of going on writing even if I go blind. Well, I don’t think I’ll go quite blind, but I here present the five books that have been sitting around for a quarter of a century, and I believe there are at least two more I’d like to make, maybe more.
– Jane Wodening, February 22, 2015
(Jane’s ham radio call is AAØZR)