Notes of a Sportswriter's Daughter
by Donna Haraway
© Donna Haraway
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(from "Notes of a Sports Writer's Daughter: Training in the Contact Zone"
April 2, 2006
In practice a couple of weeks ago with Rob near Watsonville, Cayenne and I had an interesting experience that I suspect you can relate to. The class is at night, 8-9:30, and has 13-14 teams in it; in short, the class is too big and often a bit chaotic and many of us are bone tired by then anyway. Many nights, my concentration is iffy, but that night both Cayenne and I were glued to each other's souls and did not make a mistake over several runs with difficult sequences & discriminations. Then at 9:25, we had our last run, one with only 10 obstacles, albeit with a couple of challenging discriminations, one of the themes of the night. None of these had given us any trouble. We did fine until the last discrimination in the last run. In a nanosecond, we came apart, literally, and each went a different way. We each stopped instantly, no longer on the same course, and looked at each other with a blatantly confused look on her dog and my human face, eyes questioning, each body/mind bereft of its partner. I swear I heard a sound like velcro ripping when we came apart. We were no longer "whole." I turned on time, in the right spot, and had all my parts technically correct; Cayenne turned well and correctly too. Then, we just lost each other. Period. It was not a 'technical' mistake for either of us, I swear. Rob saw nothing wrong and did not know what happened. I swear Cayenne and I both heard the velcro ripping when our cross-species conjoined mind/body, which we are when we run well, came apart. I've experienced losing her mentally before, of course, as she has me. Almost always, the actual literal error of a course-usually a tiny but fatal glitch in timing -- is a symptom of such a loss of each other. But this was different-much more intense-maybe because we were both tired and we had been unconsciously but strongly linked all night. She looked abandoned, and I felt abandoned. I experienced the confused look we gave each other to be full of loss and yearning, and I truly think that was what her expressive canine being was screaming too. I think the communication between us was as unambiguous as a play bow would be in its context. Just as a play bow binds responding partners in play, somehow we unbound each other from the game. Something severed us. All of this happened in less than a second.
Have you read the Philip Pullman series, Golden Compass, Subtle Knife, and Amber Spyglass, in which a human/daemon link is a main part of the fictional world? The daemon is an animal familiar essential to the human, and vice versa, and the link is so strong & necessary to being whole that its deliberate severing is the violent crime driving the plot. At one point, the narrator says, "Will, too, felt the pain where his daemon had been, a scalded place of acute tenderness that each breath tore at with cold hooks" (Amber Spyglass, p, 384). Earlier, the narrator described the crime of severing daemon and human, "While there is a connection, of course, the link remains. Then the blade is brought down between them, severing the link at once. They are then separate entities" (Golden Compass, p. 273).
Surely, I am dramatizing the rip between Cayenne and me over a little agility discrimination-tire or jump?-late on a Wednesday night in March in a central California horse arena. Yet, this tiny tear in the fabric of being told me something precious about the weave of the whole-selves commitment that can bind companion species in a game of conjoined living, in which each is more than one but less than two. We trained hard -- for years, actually -- to develop this kind of link; but both its coming into being and its coming apart are only made possible by that discipline, not made by it.
Does all that make any sense?
Coming apart in Sonoma County,
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