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The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.
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"Mary Hamilton," Joan Baez, from Joan Baez (1960)
This was one of my favorite songs growing up (muse on that one, fuckers); I hadn’t listened to it in maybe ten years, but I did now and it is still great. Listen to it, so that you too can appreciate the masterpiece of six-minute storytelling that is this sad, creepy song.
On another, related note, Oh little did my mother think/ When first she cradled me/The lands I was to travel in/ And the death I was to dee, always struck me as the most fantastic and beautiful thing I had ever heard when I was young. I wanted it to be the opening to some story or other, though I never decided which, that I would write.
OUTLANDER (2014) 103 #2 Claire & The Woman of Balnain, in “The Way Out”
Jamie translates Gwyllyn the Bard’s Gàidhlig song into English:
This one is about a man out late, on a fairy hill, on the eve of Samhain, who hears the sound of a woman, singing sad & plaintive, from the very rocks of Hell…
I am a woman of Balnain
The Folk have stolen me over again
(The stones seem to say)
I stood upon the hill and the wind did rise
And the sound of thunder rolled across the land
I placed my hands upon the tallest stone
And traveled to a far distant land
Where I lived for a time among strangers
Who became lovers and friends
But one day, I saw the moon came out
And the wind rose once more
So I touched the stones
And traveled back to my own land
And took up again with the man
I had left behind
There’s no point to a guy yelling, “Hey sexy baby” at me out of the passenger window of a car as it speeds past. Even if I was into creepy misogynists and wanted to give him my number, I couldn’t. The car didn’t even slow down. But that’s okay, because he wasn’t actually hitting on me. The point wasn’t to proposition me or chat me up. The only point was to remind me, and all women, that our bodies are his to stare at, assess, comment on, even touch. “Hey sexy baby” is the first part of a sentence that finishes, “this is your daily message from the patriarchy, reminding you that your body is public property”.
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