I am looking out the window over to my view. The giant dill and marigolds by the tomatoes across the street. Midday sun hot on the bright orange caution cone behind the little garden that is my ponder gaze place. Pallets and broken wood piled high hedge the garden. Like a jazz ensemble with its fractured sound, the reclaimed wood awaits hauling to the Rebuilding Center next door.
"Why the piles?" I mean, I enjoy the arrangements, the variety of thrown not placed configurations as it smothers the one green plastic chair that no one ever sits in. I finally realize that the forklifts and trucks that come and go are not only dumping but lifting. Giving and taking. The homeowners share this space. The man who carefully tends the plants in the 1/8 plot so lovingly grows his flowers and produce amidst the mayhem.
Recently I have noticed electrical lines, power stations, telephone poles with a new sight. Many people have drawn attention to them in paintings, art, ...but only recently have I begun to catch myself tracing the negative space and twisted cables to their furthest reaches. Crossing the mountains and trees, houses, and streets. When I was working at a 50th wedding anniversary recently, there was an absence of lines. A presence of expansive golden land arriving at trees and sky. I could feel the disentangled landscape and found the vast vast vast.
In contrast, I turn to last Friday, September, 5th. I went to the Slug Queen Coronation in Eugene. Where the eternal limitless lineless land was now crisscrossed with slimy glitter trails. It was "Old Queen Radia," 2002, who invited me. She owns A Natural Burial Company (www.naturalburialcompany.com) here in Portland. When we met, we first spoke about natural burials (surprise), but then we slipped to talks of garden mollusks and I mentioned a slug thug. Voila! Unbeknownst to me, I was speaking to a S.L.U.G. Queen!! The Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod. (www.slugqueeneugene.com) For about 25 years this event has been going on. Once a queen, always a queen. It has aspects mirroring beauty pageants of old, but embraces diversity, equality, and hilarity.
I drove out to Eugene with my little love bucket, Plum, (he is a dog). My caddy full of handmade objects gave the impression that I was loaded with bribes (bribes are encouraged in this contest), and people were sure that I was a contender. No, I only learned about the event 2 days before. No, this is my life. I am not acting. Although I think I should take some of those comedy classes with last year's Queen, "Glorious Gastropause," because funny needs to stay.
At times I crawl into my shell when someone is talking to me about me. It strikes me that now, yes, now, I better be at ease. And nothing makes life better than being able to breathe and relax. Laughter is the key. So back to the Coronation. One of the Queens has made it to the last 17 coronations without a slip. The costumes, titles, talents and concepts are unique to each contestant. Not a lot of similar styles which makes for an imaginative sojourn into deep and shallow waters of creativity. This year Slugtoinette and her grand court won the crown. A true fashion designer, with all that precision regal refinery. Impressive pomp and circumstance!
Before I hauled out to Eugene, I called Tim Pearce in Pittsburgh to ask some slug questions. I really wanted to make a day of it in every way! We spoke about the hollowed foot of the slug versus the meaty mass of the snail's foot. And the acrid tasting bit within the slug tail tip. It was one of those calls that adds bioluminescence a la luciferase or aequorin to my life. Enough glow to light up the next few hours or so as I stood at the event with my caddy pulling heavily on my neck and my red hair tightly tugging on my forehead. I was in a surreal set-up and yet agriculture, food routes, science, so serious were on my mind. I needed to laugh. And that is why the comedy of the old queens was so divine.
As Plum and I awaited some snacks at The Dough Co. after the coronation, I had the opportunity to congratulate Queen Slugtoinette and her posse as they waltzed by. And a true MSP gift arrived as Plum and I stood in silence by the door to The Dough Co. Well, for Plum the gift was the chicken handed to him by the guy working inside, but for me, it was the threesome who just had to know. Had to know what I was and why. They were people who consider slugs, might eat them, care about farming, care about resources, actually had garden mollusk problems to such an extent that we exchanged contacts and spoke of a Slow Food Convivium. How great! Pamela said she'd try eating the irritating slugs by the fistfuls that congeal around the pipes at her farm. I can't wait to hear how it goes...One last thought, mating.
Someone I work with at the Alberta St. Grocery Cooperative said he saw slugs mating the other day. He described in great accurate detail what I opened to on page 91 of Battle of the Sexes: The Natural History of Sex, by John Sparks. While looking for sculptural inspiration, I found myself in the biology section. Was it the lions on the cover or the title, who knows, but I grabbed the book and poignantly opened to page 91. Two slugs entwined like a corkscrew dangled from a shiny thread of slime. A translucent parachute-like umbrella of their genitalia quite massive below. Very different from copulating snails. Just because they are similar hermaphrodites, doesn't mean they like the same positions.