Letter from the Editor :
Since we saw you last, our staff rested up from joining and covering the Bernie Sanders campaign in West Virginia, springtime pollen and the rainy season has dissipated, and we are on to new subjects to intrigue you for this June’s issue. (Don’t be surprised if by August there will be more about Mr. Sanders and what went down in July with his heroic struggle against the establishment to be the nominee). The 17 year cicadas are out in the region marking some new beginnings, there has been no news of Nefertiti’s chamber exploration yet, but we have heard that a dagger belonging to “King Tut” is made of iron from a “meteorite.” (Remember when there were rumors that the Ancient Egyptians were really from “outer space!”).
Sadly, after informing the public on the latest “Female Genital Mutilation” statistics in our April issue, the death of a girl in Egypt from that banned procedure done in a hospital has made worldwide news and shows us we need to keep vigilant in this subject.
This month’s highlight on art is an up close look at 19th century French “Orientalist” vases by Peccatte. There are also some shopping links and vintage dance images to inspire you. I’m the cover model for this month.
Thank you for reading, Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”
“Nymph Stage” : Memories of the Cicadas of 1982
By Aziza Al-Tawil
I will never forget that Spring in 1982, when my grandmother was still living, and my mother and I moved to Charleston, WV to be near her. I was a young woman going through “puberty” who was leaving the life of a child performer in NYC to try and make a transition to regular kid for a while. The NYC school board had hounded us mercilessly over “home schooling” in a time that going to school was becoming more and more dangerous in the “Big Apple,” then my mother got sick with “Narcolepsy” from all the pressure, and finally we saw the proverbial “Handwriting on the wall.” We arrived on the “Amtrak” and my life would never be the same.
My dreams of Broadway stardom were dashed at this time but having the spirit of one who never says “die” I entered school and “The National Forensics and Drama League” at “Stonewall Jackson High School” with every intent of blossoming as an actress and a human being.
Grudgingly, I was going through several life passages and upheavals at once. I also wanted to once and for all kiss a boy the way they did in the “old movies.” I wanted our lips to engage tenderly, softly, moistly, for hours on end until, drunk on each other’s “nectar,” we lay collapsed in each other’s arms in the dark. (Alas, this fantasy would not come to be until I was sixteen!)
All of my longings were still churning within me and at this point had reached fever pitch. Therefore, it was interesting at this time for the whole world to become cacophonous with the sounds of a bug. A bug once told in a Greek folk tale to hop on the neck of a “Cithara” and take the place of a broken string thereby helping “Eunomos” (Mr. Goodtune) the player of the instrument to win a competition.
Socrates believed these bugs to actually have once been men. Men who were so mesmerized by the “Muses” and their “Music” they forgot to eat or drink and then withered away only to return free from the earth in a “resurrection” 17 years later. The Greeks also tended to think that the moist looking creature that first emerges and basically lives on the “dew” or “sap” represented man becoming free through an ability to “love.” The tearing up of our eyes when we see the object of our affection, our other juices flowing when feeling this kind of passion when we behold our beloved. Through this kind of physical experience we gain immortality.
The Ancient Chinese also had a fascination with cicadas – to them they represented such broad themes as “resurrection,” “fertility,” “longevity and eternal youth,” and they used the bugs in Chinese medicine formulas. The bugs were also popular and prominent in jewelry including renderings in jade, not as much as the “Scarab” in Ancient Egypt but quite a bit “widespread” nonetheless. Carved cicadas have been used as part of clothing “toggle closures” in Chinese clothing.
There are 2500 or so species of Cicadas (“Homoptera”). It is interesting to note that many times these bugs are confused with “locusts”- the difference being that locusts are “Grasshoppers” and “Cicadas” are more like a type of “fly.” Ironically, that February of 1982, what would become a bit of a “cult classic” horror film was released and “The Beast Within” was indeed a “17 year Cicada.” Why exactly a virtually harmless creature like a “cicada” was chosen to be “The Bad Guy” is somewhat puzzling. It calls to mind the confusion once more between “Cicada” and the more ravenous, potentially destructive “Locust.” The movie has a host of fine actors like Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, and Don Gordon. It is rumored that some of the plot points were lost to the “cutting room floor.” Perhaps, therein, lies an explanation of the “Cicada” metamorphosis of the teenage boy-if not there than in the book which it is based on which I have not read.
In 1999, I was not near an “emergence” of the cicadas. So now that I am back in Charleston, WV for a while I find myself wanting to take note of this event and reminisce about 1982. This week, right before the magazine “went to press,” I went out to take a few pictures of our strange visitors.
As for me, if I have the good fortune to be alive in another 17 years, who knows where my “Gypsy” (not “Gypsy Moth!”) self will be. So for now, I will treat this year as something special which may not come again. In fact, living each day to the fullest is not a bad idea during any time or season of life.
Orientalist Art by V. Peccatte
by Aziza Al-Tawil
Two stunning vases by 19th Century French artist Peccatte. About 15 years ago, two larger vases with similar artwork of the the two women were auctioned off for sixty thousand dollars at “Christie’s.”