August 12, 2022

No News From Doodlebug Island…by William F Jordan


Exactly how a discussion of an ideal political system morphed—perhaps it should be more properly be said ‘descended’– -into individual descriptions of belief regarding totems was impossible to say, The Doodlebug Island Philosophy club had been well on its way toward solving the world’s problems when it was sidetracked by a sudden penchant of members to provide detailed explanations of attachments to those physical or imaginative symbols of which each seemed to be possessed The diversion was afterward lain at the feet of Herb Collins, a pharmacist by training; a mystic by nature. He announced that on the night prior to the recent election he had experienced another of his recurring dreams in which he found himself lolling beneath the canopy of a much loved sycamore that, to him, symbolizes tranquility, peace, and abundance, when, without warning, the tree dropped its leaves and stood stark against a threatening sky.

He said that in that moment he knew what news people would confirm the next morning. Ignorance and arrogance had triumphed. Several others affirmed that one tree or another symbolized their view of life, as well. Sophia Hapsburg said her totem was an Italian Cypress because it pointed steadfastly toward heaven and was not given to the rather bushy showing of other trees. Other members, because they knew Sophia’s mindset, nodded in agreement. Inside, many were thinking that the symbol was apt for another reason, principally because a Cypress suggests the narrow, opinionated view with which she is credited.

Max Middleton announced that he holds the Ash to be his totem because of its usefulness in making cabinets and furniture. “We were born to be helpful to one another,” he summarized, and everyone at the meeting mentally concurred. Max is everyone’s ideal handyman. Joy Lippman said her totem was the Dogwood; Nancy Gibson’s the Flowering Rhododendron—apt in both cases because of their artistic talents.

Fern Wheately ended the discussion of trees as suitable totems when she shyly confessed to a different totem, the moon. “Just as that body waxes and wanes, going from light to dark, I contend with a bipolar disorder that leaves me either euphoric or manically depressed, someone you might like to have around or someone you might want to avoid.” Her husband Bruce put his arms around her and said, “She’s right. In her ‘mania’ phase, she’s funny and congenial; but it’s during her ‘manic’ phase she needs me to just smooth out the bumps and love her through it.”

Most of us had never heard the expression ‘love her through it,’ but it was the perfect sentiment, and it said nice things about the two of them and their relationship. Silence followed during which each of us swore to be more tolerant and understanding. We were still feeling the effects of the mood when Bruce spoke again. “Just so you know, my totem is a haystack in which I live and from which I peer out at the world. It’s meant to give me concealment, keep me hidden except on those occasions I feel safe to come out.”

This came as a shock, for of all the people on the Island Bruce has been thought to be the most balanced, self confident individual among us. Who knew he carried a devil inside? Afterward, a few others revealed their totems, those symbols that somehow encapsulate their images of themselves. For one or two an arrow was the item thought to describe them, while Julia Whitcomb was convinced that she and her musical talents were best represented by a harp. Fortunately, the evening drew to a close before someone thought to ask me about mine.

I was glad for reasons that I reviewed for myself when I was alone and on my way home. I thought of the bronze ram that stands prominently on my desk, a beautifully sculpted mountain sheep who mirrors my philosophical interests, my desire to live on some elevated plane from which I can view any and all actions carried out on the fields below, my total willingness to do battle with rams of other ideas.

“You were right not to acknowledge your totem,” said the blithe scold to whom I’m married.” Let people go on thinking of you as an intellectual maverick with a slight hint of sensibility.”

Ten minutes later I had worked out a snappy comeback, but by then she’d gone shopping. That’s the trouble with people whose totem is the eagle; they’re off soaring when you want them around to butt heads with.

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