New post on the origin of this Easter Bunny is on the Medium — click HERE to read it.
This is a revised version of one I did a few years ago because I honestly forgot all the weird stuff I learned. And I just wanted to think about something other than…you know…a certain virus we all know.
It’s that time of year again when I get completely confused by traditions we think are totally normal! The tradition this time of year? The muthah-friggin Easter Bunny. I mean, what? We are a weird people, people.
I went to a club with some girlfriends when I was home for the holidays. Let me include the following facts to pepper the rarity of this occurrence: I’m 40, have 2 small kids, and get amped by a trip to Homegoods for pillow shams. So, yeah, this was rare and according to this photo, I had a lovely time at the Wild Cat:
Sure, going to the Wild Cat was something to write home about, but I’d rather write home about what happened as we left.
We lost one of our friends (the big-haired one on the right – love you!), so another friend, Emily who was also part of my Leche!!! piece, and I decided to search for her. Since there are two doors to get into the Wild Cat, we divided in order to conquer. You KNOW we were ’bout to conquer.
I went to Door #1 and explained the situation to the bouncer, who was shockingly uninterested in my plight.
“It’s a $5 cover, no exceptions,” he said.
I pushed back with a: “Really? Just to run in and look for my friend? It’ll be 5 minutes!”
“Sorry, no exceptions,” and he moved on to the babyface behind me wearing acid-washed jorts with pockets hanging out 4 inches minimum. (To whom I thought, I wore that exact outfit! When I was 13. Ooo, 40-year-old burn).
I walked back to my friends, peeved about my lack of conquer, just in time to watch Emily head to Door #2. I couldn’t hear what she said but it was a short sentence and the other bouncer waved her in. No discussion, no $5 exchange.
“GAWD DAMMMMMMMIT!!!!!” I believe were my exact words.
Of course Emily got in, Emily always gets in the door. She has always wielded her power well. I, on the other hand/at the other door, hear what sounds like a denial, get peeved, but walk away.
But not this new me. This fully woked me does not walk away because sometimes you have to push your way through the door.
I obviously thought immediately about Eleanor Roosevelt (I’ll explain later) and knew this was the Universe challenging the reality of this new me. Challenge accepted, I thought and marched back to Door #1.
I’ve learned that I can’t pretend to be anyone I’m not so I did not pretend to be Emily. My power is different than hers. My doors open differently. I simply channeled myself, the me that is more me than me. Does that make any sense? It does to me and me.
I said: “Here’s my ID, please hold it and I’ll get it when I come out. Thanks!”
Do you know what that bouncer said? “OK,” as he grabbed my ID and moved on to the next baby face with a real deal — I kid you not — scrunchie in her hair. (To whom I thought, I also had that outfit…when I was 11. Burn!)
I walked through that door like the Queen of Sheba. I am powerful but it’s in my own way. I am not an Emily, I am a me. Yes, I like pillow shams but I also like opening doors. I refuse to walk away peeved anymore. I am stepping into the arena, which is when I thought about Teddy Roosevelt. Hmm, it appears I’m a fan of the Roosevelts?? I mean, read this quote and try NOT to get off your ass to conquer your life:
Leave it to me to pontificate over the Roosevelts when I’m supposed to be clubbing. Sometimes the arenas are small — like getting into a club for free when you’re not even wearing jorts — and sometimes they’re huge — like going fully after your scariest goal. It’s not the size that matters, just the courage behind the action.
Later that night, I sent a text about an unrelated subject to my friend — the big-haired one (really love you!) who we were looking for and who we found — and it was this:
“The moral of my 2019 story is I don’t take any bullshit without previous consent.”
When I read it the next day, I cringed a little but was in full concurrence. That really is the moral of my 2019 story. And this is where Eleanor comes in:
It’s all about consent. Life isn’t happening TO you unless you let go of the reigns and stay out of the arena. Doors are closed because you let them be closed. The bullshit exists only if I accept it; most of it comes from my own self and that’s the stuff I’m most over. That and acid-washed jorts but hey, I’m 40 so what do I know?
THINGS THEY FORGOT TO MENTION:
Life is full of Door #1 and Door #2 scenarios. Sometimes the choice is not in the door you choose, but if you dare to open them and in how you approach what you find on the other side. They also forgot to mention that some Roosevelts are my spirit animals.
It’s that time of year again! The time when I get completely confused by the traditions we think are totally normal! The tradition this time of year? The muthah-friggin Easter Bunny. I mean, what? We are a weird people, people.
What does a creepy bunny who somehow lays eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? There is no mention of an Easter celebration, Easter eggs, or the Easter bunny anywhere in the Bible, so where did it come from? I did the research to get to the bottom of this trippy bunny trail (Epic pun! Virtual high five!).
I admit the research was unfulfilling because it’s not clear where our Easter traditions come from. What is clear is most of our Easter traditions have nothing to do with Jesus at all, and most are truly pagan (egad, the heathens strike again!).
The return of spring has always been a time for celebration because back in the day making it through winter was a pretty big deal. Almost every ancestral culture celebrated the return of light and life, usually kicked off by the Vernal Equinox on March 21. The Vernal Equinox is the day when the amount of day and night are equal, which means from that day on there will be more light and less dark. Sayonara Snowmaggedon, bienvenidos margaritas!
Spring is a time for life, birth, and fertility. Ancient traditions honored common symbols of spring such as rabbits — due to their stellar reputations as prolific baby-makers (a female rabbit can get pregnant while already pregnant. Dang, rabbit girls), and eggs — long-held, pretty obvious symbols of fertility and birth.
The most widely accepted theory on the origin of the word “Easter” is that it was derived from Eostre (Ostara), the Germanic goddess of dawn, spring, and fertility. The Anglo-Saxons would celebrate Eostre’s return every spring, honoring her symbols — the rabbit and the egg — and coloring eggs to express appreciation for Eostre’s gift of abundance.
There is suspiciously little written about this goddess, however. In fact, she is only officially mentioned once by one English monk and historian, St. Bede, in an 8th-century book. He wrote that Ēosturmōnaþ (‘Month of Ēostre’ in Old English), was a time to celebrate a goddess of spring and fertility he called Eostre. And that’s pretty much it. No one else talks about her in any other book, before or contemporary to Bede. Because of this, some theorize Bede simply made Eostre up, which makes part of me really happy because that means this entire megaholiday came from a few flippant lines written by one dude.
Over time, the legend of Eostre evolved. There are many different versions, but essentially one year Eostre arrived late for spring and to make up for it she saved a bird who was partially frozen by snow. The bird could no longer fly so Eostre turned it into a rabbit (her earthly symbol) but retained its ability to lay colored eggs (her other earthly symbol) that it gave to children. And here we have one theory on the origin of the Easter Bunny. To be continued later…
What is amazing to me is that this whole thing — the origins of the word Easter, the existence of the goddess Eostre, her turning a bird into a bunny, and possibly the Easter Bunny himself — may have been completely fabricated by single individuals with sweet imaginations.
I love this stuff!
What Came First: the Rabbit or the Egg?
The tradition of dyeing Easter eggs and giving candy eggs has a few origin theories:
To honor the mysterious Eostre’s bird-turned rabbit that laid brightly colored eggs that were given to children.
As mentioned before, eggs were widespread symbols of new life and fertility found in pre-Christian cultures. Many old customs involve decorating eggs and giving them as gifts around the Vernal Equinox. Eggs were boiled with flowers and other materials to change their color to bring spring color into the home.
Decorating eggs are seen by many Christians as a symbol of Jesus’ empty tomb and thus His resurrection, and some dyed eggs red to symbolize Jesus’ spilled blood.
So what came first, the rabbit or the egg? My opinion is since so many cultures, including as old as the Egyptians, Persians, and Romans, all used eggs as symbols of spring, this pagan rabbit came before the Christian egg. Research shows that the association between Easter, eggs, and Jesus’ empty tomb came in the 15th century when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany. It seems very likely, and very natural, that the tradition merged with already ingrained pagan traditions.
Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat
Regardless of whether Eostre was a fabricated goddess or not, rabbits were always associated with spring festivals and what came to be Easter.
At some point, the Germans took the pagan fertility rabbit, probably smashed with the legend of Eostre, and turned it into Oschter Haws (“Easter Hare”), a hare that lay colored eggs for good children. The first mention of Oschter Haws was in the 1600s, and when the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in America in the 1700s, they brought the hare with them. Over time, Oschter Haws evolved into the Easter Bunny and now he’s in a mall near you! (Or at least he would be if we weren’t all quarantined)
Just like they did with Santa Claus, the Germans took a pagan character to the next level (what were the Germans smoking back then? Impressive imaginations). Same as the history of Santa in the United States, the Puritans rejected this pagan character for a long time and it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that it was widely adopted and incorporated into Christian traditions. And just like Santa Claus, the original purpose of the bunny was to incentivize children into good behavior with the promise of candy since — news flash: candy is somewhat important to children.
The Resurrection of Easter
After all this research, it is clear that the Easter Bunny and Jesus’ resurrection are totally unrelated. They were two separate celebrations. So while we can’t thank Jesus for Cadbury Eggs, we can still thank God or Eostre or the Vernal Equinox or promiscuous bunnies or whatever you honor for the start of spring.
For me, the fact that Easter is the amalgamation of pagan traditions, Christian traditions, and maybe even certain individuals’ complete fabrications doesn’t do it any disservice. I think it gives it even more depth. Celebrating the beginning of spring is reason enough for feasting, pastel party dresses, and jelly beans.
And that makes me so very — don’t do it, Sunna — egg-cited. *groan* For Peeps sake!
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Our traditions are much stranger and mishmashed than they appear. They began rooted in nature, hobnobbed with religion, and ended covered in chocolate.
I was recently told a secret. Oh man, it was a good one. Once it was told to me, it became my secret, my burden. Instantaneously, I was faced with the tortuous challenge of holding the secret in. It became mine to keep or mine to tell. Stupid, tortuous secret.
Secrets take up space inside you and once you have one, something has to be done with it. The secret is like the alien creature, Edgar the Bug, from Men In Black that stuffs itself inside a human host but never quite fits. You try to play it off like everything’s cool and normal, but the whole time the secret is trying to burst its way out. You have to conquer it before it conquers you.
Let’s be honest, 99.9999% of people tell at least one person another person’s secret. If you have a significant other, it’s a given that you get to tell them (unless specifically forbidden by the secret blabber at the time of the secret blab). It’s like our “get out of jail free” card!
There are a few secrets we know not to share with anyone, and these we guard easily. But these are rare. The bulk of secrets are just gossip and bound to come out eventually anyways. You know why they’re bound to come out? Because everyone tells at least one other person, that’s why. Duh.
As I’ve been consumed by thoughts about secrets, I now hear the same phrases everywhere: “I just HAD to tell someone,” “I couldn’t hold it in,” “I feel soooo much better after telling someone.” It’s like we instinctively have to let the cat out of the bag. That cat does NOT want to stay in that bag.
It always starts out the same: “I have to tell you something but you have to swear not to tell anyone…” We hear those words and start salivating. We lean in, cross our hearts and hope to die, ready for the sweet, sweet juice. The good times really start when you’re around people that don’t know the secret and you get to exchange sneaky eye glances with those that know. Deliciously secret eye glances.
Telling someone a secret forms a trust between you — even though it’s a break of trust with the source of the secret, but somehow we overlook that. A bond forms by sharing something you shouldn’t share.
I find it interesting that feelings get hurt if you don’t tell someone your secret. I’ve been hurt myself by being left out of a secret. “Why didn’t you tell me?” we whine, obligating the person to feel guilty and apologize for not spilling precious beans. But that’s forgetting the basic tenet of a secret — it’s supposed to be kept, you know, secret.
Acknowledging this human need, the internet has provided. Places to anonymously divulge secrets are everywhere and PostSecret is a fantastic example of this. PostSecret is an ongoing project where people mail their secrets anonymously on a postcard, then some are posted on the PostSecret website, published in books, or displayed in art exhibits. Frank Warren, who started the project, has received more than a million from around the world.
“I see this secret every time I go to my mailbox. I always see it expressed a different way,” Warren said in an interview withBuzzFeed. “It’s basically a story about trying to find that one person who you can tell all your secrets to. There’s that common thread, that search for intimacy, that search for the one person we can be our whole and true selves with.”
As I struggle with this secret I know, I’ve been thinking about what we get out of sharing secrets. Spreading a secret seems to fulfill an almost biological need, but what is that need? Is it societal connection? Is it a social rank thing to know something others don’t? Is holding something in contrary to our nature?
I think we need to divulge, we need to take the weight of the secret and pass it on. It’s like the more people that know, the more the weight is dispersed, the more shoulders carry its burden. I’ve known people to tell strangers a secret simply because the weight was too much.
Long, long ago when our crusty but big brained ancestors ventured out of the jungles and onto the savannas, many traits allowed them to evolve and thrive. One of these was the ability to form speech, the ability to communicate verbally. As human relationships became more involved and important, human societies became more complex and connected. “We moved from a primitive ‘live fast and die young’ strategy to a ‘live slow and grow old’ strategy and that has helped make humans one of the most successful organisms on the planet,” said Tanya Smith, Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology.
This is where I think our need to divulge secrets comes from. Being all up in each other’s business was good for survival. A tight group meant that when things got hard and the mammoth pickins’ were slim, we stuck together and helped each other.
So here I sat, isolated under the weight of my secret and reading about the catharsis of passing my secret along. I decided to mail my secret into PostSecret. I HAD to tell someone, right? Might as well anonymously tell the world. Don’t ask me what it is, I already told my one person (aka the world…I also told my husband but that’s allowed). Shhhh…
To end today, here are some juicy secrets I found on PostSecret worthy of further spreading:
Things They Forgot to Mention:
We all think we have secrets. In reality, the secrets have us.
I’m pretty sure I can communicate with animals and one night while visiting my parents, I came across two cats in a kitchen stand-off. The air felt like a gas stove had been left on; anything could have ignited it. As a result, movements were slow and movements were calculated.
The two cats were seated stiffly on the counter with tails clearly fluffier than normal, signifying the presence of an imminent threat. Low growls rolled like thunderstorms between them, as if each cat was saying “Make the first move, you pussy.” I quickly calculated that it was up to me, and me alone, to mediate this cold war. I knew because of my animal communication skills that I could fix this; it was my duty. I was like the United Nations called to action. Suit me up. Sergeant. These cats were on the brink of very serious escalation and I couldn’t let them spiral to the nuclear option. Not on my watch.
Let me describe the warring parties:
Sally, aka “Ding Dong”:
Defending her home territory and weighing in at ten incredibly flabby lbs. is Sally. She is a black calico and the runt of her litter, but now she’s nine years old and completely in love with my dad. Her nickname is Ding Dong because sometimes you wonder if anyone’s home at all. Here are photos that capture Sally:
The photo on the left is typical sweet, petite Sally while the photo in the center shows Sally’s preferred sleeping position. The photo on the right with Luigi (our more regal cat) shows Sally in the background gazing with embarrassing devotion at my dad. Here is a close-up of that shot because it’s just so ridiculous:Oh Sally Ding Dong….
Sally enjoys meowing at the attic for hours until my parents take down the ladder for her to climb up. She also enjoys sitting by the faucet for hours waiting for fresh spring water to appear. Sally has never gone past the mailbox, often miscalculates jump distances, and has a muscle tone I describe as “sea cucumber-like”. Regardless of this, she is ruthless. Sally is a serial killer and leaves regurgitated evidence of her massacres as a reminder to all: this is Sally’s house.
Tibet, aka “Miss Buffet”:
The visiting invader from the Bay Area, the “de-clawed? no problem!” Tibet. She is my brother/sister-in-law’s cat and her nickname is Miss Buffet since her trips to my parents’ house inevitably involve vomit due to her inability to control her eating in the “All You Can Eat (Cat Food) Buffet”. Tibet is incapable of understanding consequences. It makes no sense how bold she is — she doesn’t have claws, yet she is utterly fearless. As a visitor, she is the territorial intruder, but she struts past Ivan, our 100-lb. German Shepherd (R.I.P. Big Boy) and Luigi, our 17-lb. cat who can only be compared to a majestic jaguar (shown irritated in the photo with Sally above). Here are photos that capture Tibet’s “whatevs” attitude:
Look how chillaxed she is. Mowin’ on a catnip “pick-me-up,” rockin’ the Santa look, and yawnin’ like you’re boring her. She embodies the self-confidence we all strive for, but it comes with a lack of social awareness where she doesn’t see she’s in danger or being rude by not following the pecking order (inadvertent shout out to The Pecking Orders!).
Back to the cold war. It was clear that both kitties were just looking to feel accepted, respected, and seen by the other… the cause of most wars, right? Sally wanted Tibet to respect her home and her status as head wife. Tibet wanted Sally to welcome her as a family member. I decided it was my job to show them this since I am way wiser. First I had to establish rapport…
Starting with Sally, I pet her small head and said nice things like she has a really great rainbow of colors and I like when she timidly touches people with her paws. To Tibet I said I admire her courage and although her meows sometimes last too long, I like that she expresses herself. Both cats relaxed, gave me their trust, and a temporary ceasefire was reached.
Now that we had a suspension of aggression, I moved the negotiations forward. I went back and forth between them, now gently telling each cat what they could do to help diffuse the situation.
“Sally, you could be a little more welcoming to Tibet. She’s our guest and yes, sometimes a little intrusive and noisy, but she’s family.”
“Tibetsy, Sally feels you don’t respect her and her home. Have a little more consideration and be more courteous to your hosts.”
The cats listened. They protested at first with sullen meows to defend their actions, but I pushed on. Soon enough, I saw Tibet steal a glance at Sally and I knew we were ready to proceed to the next phase.
I took a deep breath, sent calm waves through the kitchen, and pulled out the big guns: I pet both cats at the same time. They immediately froze as if they could feel each other through my hands. They were rigid and Siberian. I continued talking, now addressing both Sally and Tibet as if we were all in a conversation. I soothed and they slowly relaxed. The meows started again but now they were playful. The cats defrosted, their tails unfluffed, and they even made eye contact.
The final phase was risky, but I knew it would work. I poured two bowls of crunchies and set them side-by-side. Tibet and Sally didn’t even hesitate and happily ate within swatting distance of the other. The war was over! I was proud of myself, and of Sally and Tibet. I knew I had the way to find peace and was proud of my mediation. I left them so I could do research on how to join the United Nations. The world needed my skills.
An hour later, I went to the kitchen and my heart sank. There was Sally and Tibet seated in the same spots as before. Low growls, tails fluffy, back on “imminent threat” alert status. I had accomplished nothing. We did not have peace. They were still on the brink of a terrible war and there was nothing I could do.
I saw in that instant that I did them a disservice by trying to fight their war for them. I saw that this wasn’t a war at all. This was just Tibet finding her place and I couldn’t force her into a place, she had to find one on her own. She had to find it with Sally. I could tell them over and over again what they should do, but nothing would resolve this struggle until they both stood up for themselves, until they decided where they fit. Real growth happens when you fight your own battles.
The next morning I woke to find Tibet engaged in another stand-off, this time with Luigi, the black panther of all panthers. Oh Tibet, you naive daredevil you, will you ever learn? I knew that as long as I tried to save her, the answer was no. This was her conflict, not mine. Luigi was going to crush her, but that was OK. That’s what cat fights are for. I didn’t intervene this time, I left them to figure it out for themselves.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Sometimes being saved doesn’t mean you were saved at all. Being left to fight your own battles is when you learn to save yourself. That’s when who you are really shows up.
Also, cats are the rulers of the internet. All hail to your rulers.
I am not good with saran wrap. I know I’m supposed to capitalize saran wrap, but I do not care to give it the respect of a proper noun. There is nothing proper about it. I also know that I should call it by the generic phrase “plastic wrap”, but I just can’t. It is saran wrap to me and saran wrap sucks. I can’t control it, I don’t understand it, and I don’t trust it. How can I control something I can’t see?! Nope, saran wrap is no good.
Cutting it is a challenge for me. One section always refuses to sever and instead stretches, resulting in an irritating salt water taffy scenario. I know about applying pressure while cutting. I know about the nifty side tab thing that is supposed to facilitate in the roll out. I know all the tricks, and yet cutting saran wrap continues to suck for me.
When I do manage to cut a piece, the situation unravels from there. The saran wrap will fold in on itself, most likely as a means of self-defense, making it impossible to recreate a flat and useful structure. Or worse, the saran wrap starts to attack. It wraps itself around my hand like a boa constrictor, cutting off air and rendering my fingers inoperable. I end up balling up my failure in a tantrum and starting over.
A few months ago, I started taking pictures of my ongoing war and here is a sampling of my strife:
Things They Forgot to Mention:
I may win the battle, but saran wrap always wins the war.
One time I went to Costa Rica with some girlfriends. We arrived late in the capital, San Jose, but were excited to be out of the U.S., so Emily, Ellen and I did not go to sleep. We went out to grab a late night snack and some tequila (items not necessarily listed in order of importance).
We wandered our way into a maze of local establishments, soon finding a restaurant that could almost literally be defined as a hole in the wall. Inside, two locals were eating good looking things and these good looking things told us to come in.
There was no menu so we ordered our food by pointing at what the two other people were eating and adding the words “más queso”(“more cheese”).
Sitting on the counter was a large vat of something that looked like pickled cabbage. Emily is our foodiest friend and she felt this cabbage would compliment our mystery meal perfectly. She piled a healthy portion onto our communal plate and we all gave a thumbs up.
This was our first mistake. I remember seeing the locals as she did this. There was fear, hesitation, and silence. But we ignored them, and this was our second mistake.
We sat at a table facing the street, whispering that it was unsettling and possibly rude how much everyone was staring at us. We chalked it up to being super sexy and moved on.
Emily created the first bite. It was a fabulous bite that included a large ratio of the cabbage concoction. I did the same and we placed it in our mouths.
The fire hit Emily first and I knew I was in trouble when I saw her eyes. She wasn’t looking at me, she was somewhere else. Then the fire hit me and I went somewhere else too. The place I went was a bad, bad place.
The cabbage was not cabbage, it was thinly sliced, light green, massively hot peppers. As gringas, we should not have eaten even one sliver, but Emily and I had eaten what only professionals should attempt. This is what the locals considered telling us but did not.
The spice was on a level that I feel should be illegal without written consent and an educational video. The heat is hard to describe but it was on the level of demons. It was like my tongue had been replaced by a burning coal that clawed down my throat. The demon was a grow-er as well as a show-er, and as it matured, my face and entire body turned vivid red. I wanted to rip out my tongue and call it a day. I considered knocking myself unconscious rather than deal with these repercussions.
Emily, who is typically more intelligent than me, leapt into action. She stood up, banged her fist on the table, and screamed “LECHE!!!”(“MILK!!!”) through the tiny restaurant. Like, loudly. We were battling demons and everyone, including Ellen, started laughing at us. They were laughing at us, you guys!
Emily and I were served a glass of room temperature milk — the only glass of thick, room temperature milk I’ve ever desired — and we desperately chugged it down.
The minutes crept along and we fought for survival. We were animal, we were instinct, we did what we had to do. I had an ineffective hand fan thing going and Emily was gasping. When we could speak, we could only say: “Oh my God…holy sh*t…that is sofa-king hot…oh my GOD…I’m going to die…”. Soon we stopped speaking because the burn had evolved and any air entering or leaving our oral cavities now felt very bad indeed.
Emily stepped outside to dry heave for a while and I went into catatonic meditation. Emily remembers a big full moon shining down on her as she writhed. I only remember red.
The whole ordeal lasted about ten minutes, but those were some loooong minutes. When we were capable of conversation again, the locals explained what we had eaten and used the phrases “muy malo”(“very bad”) and “muy caliente”(“very hot”) a lot. Yeah, no sh*t Sherlocks, very much muy malo.
I don’t think I need to describe the exorcising of the demons the next day. The below image adequately portrays the experience:
Pain, after all, is relative mis amigos. But, the madness found in the comment section of a news story is a topic for another post.
In the end, I can confidently state that when eating a mystery meal that makes locals give questionable glances, I will NOT take a bite until someone else has completed one first. I can also confidently state that I will NEVER eat from a vat of cabbage again. Fool me once, shame on you, cabbage; fool me twice, shame on me, cabbage.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
If the locals look concerned for your safety, YOU should be concerned for your safety because they know that demons can hide in cabbage.
When I was 23, I spent a year at the Biosphere 2 Center outside Tucson, Arizona getting my masters. The Biosphere is a huge greenhouse meant to simulate the Earth, think Pauly Shore in 1996‘s Biodome. For cliff notes of our year there, just watch the first 25 seconds of this excerpt from the film. I advise you to not watch more than that though, as it may cause brain damage:
Yup, it was pretty much exactly like that. Life at the Biosphere deserves a story all its own, but that’s for another day. Today I would like to discuss one particular person from that year. Her name, as it came to be, was Javalina Girl.
Throughout the summer, groups of high school students stayed at the Biosphere for a month to do science things. In one of these groups was a pretty, petite, loner girl with pigtails and a stuffed animal backpack. She carried a notebook in which she scribbled aggressively. By this time, us grad school students had already morphed into weird desert people, so we were intrigued by this girl. We heard rumors about her and we sought them out. We heard she had uncivilized breakdowns. We heard she threw herself out of a moving van. We heard she stole her housemate’s ice cream. We were very intrigued indeed.
This girl would wander off alone into the remote desert surrounding the Biosphere. She would carry her notebook and be gone for hours, oblivious to the panic her wandering caused the program counselors. It was on one of these walks that she came across the javalina.
For those that don’t know, javalinas are boar-like animals found in Arizona. They can be vicious with inch-long canines, and roam in territorial packs at night. Here are some photos I stole from the internet:
We had all come across javalinas at some point and quickly learned to show them respect.
Lucky for her, the girl came across a recently dead one and this is how she became Javalina Girl. No one knows what thoughts went through her wild mind, but something convinced her to drag that sizable javalina over a mile back to her group house. Once at the house, she proceeded to construct an outdoor cage for the carcass. (This is where it gets a little graphic, so ladies, cover your eyes.) Javalina Girl then took a small knife from her communal kitchen, carefully removed all of the javalina’s skin, and returned the knife to the utensil drawer.
Naturally, one of her housemates was a little freaked out by this, so the counselors were called to intervene. They found Javalina Girl with the javalina, which was now fully skinned and enclosed in the chicken-wire chamber. She was wearing her usual pigtails and stuffed animal backpack. They asked her what she was doing and she explained she was conducting an experiment to see how long it took for a corpse to decompose, and the chicken-wire was to protect it from large scavengers. She was going to record the observations in her notebook.
The counselors were stumped by this one. Technically, Javalina Girl had done nothing wrong. All she had done was take the initiative to create something her fellow students could learn from and “enjoy.” As scientists themselves, the counselors felt maybe they should encourage independent scientific experiments. But then again, there was bloody carcass in the front yard and they just could not let her get away with this behavior. Just like that, Javalina Girl was sent home.
One thing the counselors were particularly confused by was where the javalina’s skin went. Javalina Girl reported she threw it out, but they never found a trace. A week or so later, us grad students began to notice the sweet smell of death in our classroom — you can see where this is going. The odor started as faint, almost pleasant whiffs, but it matured into the overwhelming perfume of rot. Maintenance came to find the source, and they found — drum roll, please — the javalina’s skin. The skin, along with a few bones, was sealed in a cardboard box hidden in our classroom closet. Javalina Girl’s name was handwritten on the box.
Needless to say, we were obsessed and dissected all we knew of Javalina Girl. We constructed a cage around her made of assumptions and talked about her like she belonged in an institution. We all agreed she had many screws loose. The skin and bones, however, we could not come to consensus on. It could be explained by multiple theories: (1) a mean gift because she hated our guts, (2) a nice gift because we were kindred explorers, or (3) left temporarily to get later for further analysis.
We never found out and we never heard of Javalina Girl again. We talked about her all the time though, and I even dressed up as her for Halloween. To this day, she remains one of my favorite stories to tell. Something about Javalina Girl shook me up.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I don’t think Javalina Girl belonged in an institution at all. I think she belonged in the desert. I like to believe she was a brilliant, artistic mind. I believe she was just curious about what happens in life…and in death. She was a thinker, a pioneer, a lone wolf who wandered the desert. She was also possibly batshit crazy but that isn’t always a bad thing. Many of the biggest minds in history could have been called batshit crazy too and I think Javalina Girl walked among giants.
I hope I find her one day, to see who she turned into. I hope her spark hasn’t been snuffed out by how she’s supposed to go about life. I hope she still wanders and carries a notebook. I will tell her that she changed my perception of batshit crazy and she taught me that being divergent can be preferred. I know now that we all have some Javalina Girl in us and we should let it glow through. Maybe not through a bloody carcass, but you know what I mean.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Not all who are crazy belong in an institution, because many times crazy is an asset and possibly a compliment.
(To the Biospherians, if you know of corrections/missing facts from this story, let me know in the comments below)