Anyway, I'm home again, and glad to be. I arrived just in time for the Full Moon Festival four days ago, and have only just recovered from the feasting and singing and feasting and dancing and feasting. And in a very few days, I'm joining a fishing expedition up the coast, where the biggest salmon run. It's a sort of holiday for the warriors: they spend long lazy days catching the big fish, and long lazy evenings lying in the pools of the hot springs, where they boast about the big fish that they caught and gave back to Dea (lying is allowed) and their hosts ply them with delicious food and drink. At least, this is what I hear - I've never been before. There's almost no pretense that it's really a food-gathering expedition.
The truth is that the blondes do most of the food-gathering here, as everywhere. They catch most of the fish. The first big run is shortly after the spring equinox: the oolichan (a little oily fish that looks like a herring or a smelt) run so thick you can wade out into the sea and scoop them up in baskets. When the days get hot, the salmon return to the rivers that spawned them, and although some of them must get back to their spawning grounds to ensure future generations, there are so many that they are easily lifted from the water. The young brunettes make a sport of spearing them, but most are caught by nets strung across the River. The blondes clean them and hang them to dry in the Sun, just like laundry! They wear big sun shades for comfort, and they move slowly and hypnotically and sing the songs their grandmothers have sung since time began, and the shores of the River hum with their music. (The brunettes string and tend the nets, and bring the blondes baskets of fresh caught fish, and generally hang around and admire them.)
The rest of the year the blondes and all the children, gather the shellfish from the beaches, and the acorns from the forest. There are almost no fruiting trees here, Mary Margarete, but there are many different kinds of berry bushes, and the summer is marked off by their fruiting: salmonberry (they look like raspberries, only pinky-orange), strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, gooseberry, bogberry, cranberry, blackberry (that's where we are now) and then plum and apple. (Inland, in the hot valleys, they have wonderful orchards of every kind of plum and peach and pear and apple, and huge fields of grapes, but here food is so easily gathered that there is almost no cultivation at all.) Every family has their own gathering places, where the good bushes are, and these are something of a family secret!. From the time of the salmonberry to the blackberry we leave the shellfish alone; in the summer heat they can be dangerous to eat - not just a bad tummy, but paralysis and even death. The little girls are taught about that with a very sad story.
The reason why there was so much food at this Full Moon Feast is that this is the time of year when there is plenty of every kind of food: fresh salmon, smoked salmon, shellfish and dried oolichan, dried berries of every kind, and fresh blackberries, acorns and beans and all sorts of vegetables you don't have names for. You haven't lived until you've had fresh salmon stuffed with wild onions and roasted, dressed with a sauce of dried cranberries, with a side dish of scallops, oysters and pine nuts simmered with an herb that tastes something like tarragon, and a dessert of whipped soaproot, blackberries and honey!
At any rate, everyone is so busy gathering and smoking and drying food that there are hardly any raids at this time of year, so half of the warriors can go on this little fishing holiday. I'm so excited about it. I confess, as a lover of comfort I'm mostly looking forward to the part where we loaf about in the hot springs pools and tell lies about the big fish we caught.
Mary Margarete, thank you for your kind comments on my notes at the Academy. I considered the response of the Sagette most seriously, but it is still all a Mystery to me. But it might interest you (oh, I hope this is not too serious for the Cocktail Bar) that I was sharing some of these thoughts about the origin of language with one of the elders here, and she astonished me by saying that I had it all backwards: first there was reading, then writing, then speech. First (she said) people read the sky, for what it said about the weather to come, and they read the trees and the marks on the ground, about who had passed that way. And then they began writing, leaving signs for each other, signs that said "this is my place", or "I have been here and the fishing is good", and the last step was putting these thoughts and messages into sound, into words, and marrying them with music (which came first of all, she said, before even reading). Now, this is not the commonly accepted view of things here; this teacher is very eccentric and she likes to shake people up - but isn't that an interesting way of looking at language?
Well, now that I've delivered myself of all that babble, I can listen. Candice Amadea (what a lovely name: Amadea) come and sit by me, and tell this sympathetic brunette more. I, too, am much better at conversing with brunettes than blondes; I never seem to have that much to say to them - unless they are intellectual blondes, and then we can talk about ideas. Most of the time I am happy just talking to the brunettes - unless of course, there is some special blonde that I want to address... Is that the problem, my dear? Is there some special girl? Perhaps if we talk awhile we can figure something out... Oh, and thank you for your offer of a drink, but not tonight. It is the very pleasant custom of the Cocktail Bar to toast its brand-new guests in their choice of tipple, and I see the barpette is on her way with yours even as we speak.
You see, I've always been a little bit of a laughing-stock amoung the other brunettes in my town. There just seem to be so many great books to read, so many very important works not to be ignored that, well... it's not that I don't notice the blondes about. On, the contrary, I have ocassionally been driven to distraction by... what I really mean to say is that I'm not very good at Addressing the Fairer Sex.
It just seems that the gift of words abandons me when I'm face to face with a golden beauty. All of my pals at University say "come on, old girl, that one is looking at you," but I just can't imagine it's so! How could a blonde of gentle up-bringing find such a booklish brunette as myself interesting?
If there is a sympathetic brunette present, I'd gladly buy the next several rounds in exchange for a sypathetic ear.
Some one has described Aristasia as "one long conversation". Well, Aphrodite is rather like that. If you want to catch up on the conversation so far, the Archive is the place to do it.