Day 17: Camouflage

I had a friend, an old woman who lived nearby, who was born injured. Her hip was paralyzed. My friend was very small and when I hugged her I folded myself far, far down. She liked wearing leopard slacks around me because she knew I admired her leopard slacks.

She lived her whole life injured.

“She’s crippled,” I said in surprise when I saw her, facing someone else who had known her many, many years.

“No, no, no,” came a scoffing reply.

Scoffing-reply-person was wrong and she was also un-wrong. You’d never know my elderly friend was crippled. She danced, she walked, she worked all her life, she barely spoke of her injury. She never slowed down.

I’m seeing her in my mind now, alongside people like her, and animals like her.

A wee golden house near me holds a woman, a man, and a small feline companion missing one leg.

“Look! She’s missing a leg,” said my young companions when we saw her.

Small feline dashes from house, yard, alley, hopping gracefully, landing as if on springs. Does she ever slow down? No.

I know people who are in pain, people who are suffering, people who hide sorrow, hold sorrow inside, wrap arms around hidden pain so our world sees only a smile, a bend of head, eyes masking anguish and always, somehow, kind and loving.

I admire such people. Much of our human world is alike in such ways, I figure. Many of us –all of us?– camouflage pain, hide our inadequacies, walk and hop and dash along missing a leg, or dancing gracefully, masking a paralyzed hip. We choose courage, a good face, over despair, and we choose courage again and again and again. Choose courage enough and courage becomes one of our senses, always here, rarely acknowledged.

Much we lack, maybe all, can be made up for. Can be camouflaged. I wish so much I’d had a “t” available, for example, as I worked here in dawn silence, hunched over my keyboard. I never made myself go t-less before.

Hard, you know? Very, very challenging.

And possible.


  1. Karen · August 3, 2012

    You know, I really, really love this. I read it over the weekend (got behind after a week without internet) and keep returning to it in my mind. Beautiful touching thoughts, beautifully executed. Thank you.


  2. alison · August 4, 2012

    Thank you, Karen, so much.


  3. Lucy · August 7, 2012

    That’s astonishing, what did you do, actually stick something over the it, or think about every word as you went, or write it with them in then go through and eliminate and replace every word that contained them?

    It makes the writing really interesting even without knowing what you’ve done, kind of oblique and imaginative. And you’re so modest and discreet about it, I don’t think I could do that without shouting about how I’d achieved it!


  4. Janice · August 7, 2012

    I love this. (I found you through Karen’s blog.) It’s completely fascinating. I just love it.


  5. alison · August 9, 2012

    Janice and Lucy, thank you! I’m surprised and happy that you both liked this post so much.

    Lucy, your speculations on how I wrote it have given me more ideas for future practice writes. I never would’ve thought of putting something over the “t” on the keyboard, although I love that idea. I was thinking about the ways I disguise aspects of writing I’m not good at by emphasizing the other things that I’m better at, and I decided to force myself to do the same thing, but on the level of the word, and make it especially hard by leaving out a very common letter. So I held that rule in my mind as I began to write, going over every word choice in my mind as I went along. Even so, at the end, I did a search for the letter “t” and was shocked to see that I’d left in something like five or six of them, all of which needed to replaced with other words.

    The very cool thing about the exercise (as you pointed out, Lucy) is that it makes the writing mysterious, but in a way that’s hard to pin down. It exercises parts of your writing brain that don’t get used much.

    If you try it or something similar, let me know how it goes. I’m interested.


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