We toured the La Brea Tar Pits, marveling at the very old black muck that is still being excavated. We went through the museum with its hundreds of wolf skulls in a case on the wall, and through the garden where turtles sunned on logs. We saw the models of mastodons and lions that once roamed in California, and, to get a sense of how thick tar is, I tried out a model, lifting a handle with most of my strength to pull it from that thick, sticky tar.
But I think what I most took away was the sight and sound of a little girl with many braids and a well-pressed dress who’d spotted two orange dragonflies flitting over the tar. She kept calling: “Look!” I did, through a lot of sky and over ground and tar. The dragonflies were gorgeous, but her parents and brothers didn’t seem to look. Maybe she’s always calling out. Maybe they rdidn’t care about dragonflies. Maybe… well, there are all kinds of reasons they didn’t seem to look. I thought this touched me because I liked the girl, and I did, but she’s come back to me as I’m writing about another girl from thousands of years ago. And it just struck me that the theme of not being heard is embedded in my manuscript and that small memory.
That little girl is now helping to bring out what I didn’t entirely know I was writing. I wish she could know how much I thank her.
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