The Slam… and Lulu

OK so the whole “I’m going to write every day” is becoming a bit tedious now hahaha. But the truth is I have way too many thoughts than is healthy, so it’s good to write them down and even I can look back upon it then with interest.

When I was in year 12, I decided to take the highest level of English I could. That was because I loved reading. My teacher, Mrs Evans, who had a formidable bun and a very scary way of raising her voice when she was being critical, ensuring it was loud enough for all the other conscientious big-eared girls to spread the comments in the playground. She told me my writing appears neat from the first view, but that it actually was like deciphering Chinese hieroglyphics. I didn’t bother to continue the conversation with my actual first thought “did the Chinese DO hieroglypics, or do you mean Egyptian?” Had I gone there, my funeral would have been the next day.

Mrs Evans selected ‘Feminist Literature’ for this group of sixteen/seventeen year old Australian girls to study. I’m pretty sure the Board of Study were unclear as to what Feminism was – they stuck a group of books together (with one Virginia Woolf commentary) and I still have no idea of the connection. This may be why I failed to join the ranks of those in my school who posed for the local paper because they were so smart. (Well there is the bit where Isak Dinesen was a masculine moniker for a lady writer who probably wouldn’t be allowed to write the masterpiece “Out of Africa” if the literary world knew… oh well, nonetheless).

The thing I love about the book “Out of Africa” most is a small couple of pages, about a gazelle they found injured, and took home. The sound of her little hoofs on the polished floorboards made an enchanting sound, and she was a princess and a half:

Lulu was the pride of the house even when she behaved like a real shameless young coquette; but we did not make her happy.

 

Not only did Lulu live inside the house, which is strange enough, but she began to order around the household staff, who would cater to her demands for attention, food… and as she grew her strength grew too, until the gazelle felt out of kilter with the English safari world of piano, painting and earl grey tea on the terrace. Something was missing, but she didn’t know what – she had spent her whole life inside the walls of the station. And there is this passage that I just cannot shift from my spirit, which “Isak Dinesen” writes:

“Oh Lulu”, I thought, “I know that you are marvelously strong and that you can leap higher than your own height. You are furious with us now, you wish that we were all dead, and indeed we should be so if you could be bothered to kill us. But the trouble is not as you think now, that we have put up obstacles too high for you to jump, and how could we possibly do that you great leaper? It is that we have put up no obstacles at all. The great strength is in you, Lulu and the obstacles are within you as well, and the thing is, that the fullness of time has not yet come.

And so, my heart hit the floor when I read the words:

One evening Lulu did not come home and we looked out for her in vain for a week. This was a hard blow to us all…

But later in the month, Kamante, the fierce African servant says (in his round about manner, which I have shortened):

“Lulu”, said Kamante, “is not dead. But she is married…. She lives in the forest with her bwana, her husband or master. But she has not forgotten the people; most mornings she is coming back to the house.”

 

The story of the wild gazelle stirs my spirit somehow… it is that resonant echo of something that we all long for – to be free, and to see those around us free also. I had a conversation with an academic yesterday, and it reminded me of this passage. The barriers WITHIN us are so much greater than the barriers OUTSIDE us… Lulu had all the strength she needed to jump the small gate at the top of the station, or to run through the wind-swept fields to her freedom. But I think the beauty of it all is that, even when free we are bound together in love.

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