On July 3rd, 2018

Before Books, There Was Belinda Bruner From Broken Bow

Before Books, there was Belinda Bruner from Broken Bow, singing from the tops of trees. The urge to narrate is pre-linguistic; we’ve listened and repeated stories with our bodies in dance, with our mouths in song, with pictures, gestures, and marks along trails.

I come from a long line of story-tellers who, in multiple languages, presented me with my history. Long before my conception under the chinaberry tree (just out of sight behind the lilac bush) my grandmothers fought wars, crossed rivers, drank dirty milk from a five-gallon bucket, and dragged themselves bloody over ice in order to ensure the safety of their offspring.

Signs in the sky have long been our guides and in 1910, during unrest in China and the sacrificing of virgins in Oklahoma, a gentle priest knelt in prayer outside of Mexico City as his group of villagers reached the summit of the cerro to worship and wait. Mark Twain, who had lived to see Halley’s Comet twice, died quietly. The priest, acknowledging his mistake, suggested the people return home. My great-grandmother was one of these villagers.

Like the comet, story returns, different with each rendering; touched by particles in the atmosphere, seen by millions of earth-dwellers, and pulling revisions into its orbit; the comet of 2061 will have the same brilliance observed by Marquis Cang and Tycho Brahe. Perhaps it will shine even brighter for having been seen, spoken of, photographed, marveled at, worshiped, fondled by jet forces and space debris, molded by outgassing and other sounds of silence.

What child can resist the taste of snow? Before books, taste and touch were all; we learned through our bodies. And again in the paradise of art. This is why I write.

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