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LJI Week 11 : The Ostrich and the Daleks

This is my entry for this week on LJ Idol, Friends & Rivals (therealljidol). We got to choose from amongst a variety of topics, and I chose "Pourquoi story," which is an origin story.

Child, listen to me, and I will tell you the story of the ostrich and how she became the way she is.

Once there was an ostrich who realized she was different. She didn't like the rough clumsy ostriches, but preferred the small, gentle, egg-laying ostriches like herself. But she wanted to lay her own eggs, and she knew she needed one of the bigger ostriches to do that. She befriended a non-egg-laying ostrich, selecting one who was a bit less rough and clumsy; more gentle like her. She stowed her secret desires in her heart and vowed she would never pursue them. And that is how the ostrich lost the ability to fly.


"Why is it important not to lie?" my son asked me, after I praised him for telling me the truth about why he'd noisily knocked a sippy cup into the sink, and he's admitted he'd done it on purpose.

I reflected on recent events in my life and told him, "Because if you don't tell the truth, people won't know when you need help."

My mind swirled with the accumulated clutter of my mother's passing. The filthy floors, the cats skulking. Guilt, an ammonia stench that stays in my nostrils. If only we had known.


The ostrich laid three eggs, three little ostriches to lavish with love. She imbued them with her gentleness; she taught them to see the world's beauty. "Art is everywhere," she told them. Their love gave her the courage to be herself. She told her gentle spouse that she would always love him, as a friend. Her wings began to sprout again. And that is how the ostrich began to believe that perhaps she could fly again.


"Dr. Who" gives me solace. Taking trips around the universe in a blue box, visiting other planets. Through so many incarnations, the Doctor tries to be his best self; tries to save everyone; kicks himself when he cannot. I see myself in him.

Having devoured the modern reboots -- Christopher Eccleston through Peter Capaldi -- I am dipping into the classic series. This week, I watched the six-part series, "The Genesis of the Daleks," where the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, goes back in time to prevent his mortal enemies, the Daleks, from being created.

Before my introduction to the Doctor a few years ago -- watching Doctor 11, Matt Smith -- I knew little about the series except for the Daleks. Perpetually bent on destruction, they invade worlds, rolling in armored mobile units, chanting, "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Their robotic voices waver with hysterical anger.

I had always assumed that the Daleks originated from deep hatred, but the story goes deeper. As "The Genesis of the Daleks" relates, their creator, Davros, developed them partly because of fear. Living on a war-torn world, deformed from chemical warfare, he believed his entire race would soon die out. And so, to preserve his race -- and his legacy -- he fashioned these mutant abominations, stripping them of compassion. They would be armored, and have no emotions, and thus be incapable of being hurt.


The ostrich stretched her short wings and took buoyant bounces into a world she never realized existed: egg-laying ostriches who loved egg-layers, and the rough and tumble types who loved each other. They accepted her. She even revealed her true self to her ostrich children, grown nearly to adults, and they accepted her, too. Even the children's father told her that, really, he had always known.

After a couple brief relationships, which soured like eggs broken open, she met -- and loved -- an ostrich just like her. They were so much alike, it was almost as if they'd been grown in the same egg. But this ostrich's wings were still stunted, from fear of what the rest of ostrich-kind would say about them. "We will lose our jobs! They will hurt us!" she claimed. And the ostrich wanted only to protect her, so she matched her love's slower pace, hoping one day they could fly together.

Her love taught her a new trick: if you hide your head, you cannot see those who might be glaring at you. And that is how the ostrich learned to bury her head in the sand.


The Fourth Doctor believed in the essential goodness of people. He tried to work change naturally, by convincing scientists and military men alike of the dangers of unleashing a mutant, hate-filled race on the world. Sensible men and women heard him, and they gathered forces to stand up to Davros.

As a political meeting was being held, the Doctor and his companions visited the lab where the new race grew. Rigging up an ingenious invention, the Doctor prepared to destroy the Daleks entirely. Standing in the hallway, holding two wires apart, he hesitated to take the action that would destroy forever his long-time enemy. His companion urged him to continue:

Sarah Jane Smith: We're talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented; you must destroy them! You must complete your mission for the Time Lords!

Doctor Who: Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that's it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace, and never even know the word Dalek.

Sarah Jane Smith: Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn't hesitate.

Doctor Who: But if I kill, wipe out a whole intelligent lifeform, then I become like them. I'd be no better than the Daleks.


The ostrich and her love shared their lives together, living in the small space the ostrich had once shared with her children's father. The ostrich stopped spending time with her friends, the other like-minded ostriches, because her love worried about being seen with them.

Their children having grown into adults, the two ostriches fed and cared for a bevy of pets. Whatever woodland creature wandered near their nest, they fed. Soon, the nest was overwhelmed with fur and stink. The ostrich could not breathe. And that is how the ostrich grew a long neck.


The email makes me smile before I cry. Words born out of pain, accusing me and my siblings of bad intentions, of heartlessness at another's grief. No mention of the hours spent trying to help sort things out, to rehouse the many needy cats. No mention of the years of support and thoughtfulness. No acknowledgment of my own grief, these few months after my mom's sudden passing. Just angry words and an announcement of a sudden departure to a new life, thousands of miles away.

I smile because the level of misunderstanding strikes me as comical. Hysterical. I cry because of so many memories that will now be forever tainted: family gatherings, weddings, holidays. All those photos I've been tagging on my computer, the faces all identified, frozen in a smiling timeline that now feels like a lie. The work that has only begun of archiving my mother's artwork, sorting through her own photos, and the family history they represent.

The accusations make me want to respond in kind, to speak aloud the many unspoken words I am dying to say. "You -- you -- you..." every phrase ending in a new charge, a new form of righteous indignation.

This cannot be my legacy, I resolve. Instead, I write a level-headed response, apologizing for the times I may have unknowingly caused pain, sending wishes of healing.


The ostrich died suddenly, and both her love and her family mourned her. The ostrich passed into the afterlife, glowing with a deep sense of her true self. The wind carried her upwards. And that is how the ostrich learned to fly again.


In the closing scene of "The Genesis of the Daleks," the Fourth Doctor flies back through space and time with his companions, having failed to stop the Daleks completely. Instead, they have been locked into a bunker, imprisoned for at least a thousand years.

Referring back to his earlier conversation with his companions, where the Doctor mentioned the cultures that would later become allies in order to fight the Daleks, he reassures his companion.

Sarah Jane Smith: You don't seem too disappointed. We've failed. Haven't we?

Doctor Who: Failed? No, not really. You see, I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years, I know also that out of their evil must come something good.

Like the Doctor, I wing off into the universe, the rest of my life floating before me like stars. Out of the darkness, from the pain, there are lessons to be learned. There is beauty all around us, my child.



( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 27th, 2016 02:42 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry you've had to go through so much turmoil surrounding the death of your mother. People never really see the full picture before they are quick to accuse, don't they?

I liked the little stories of the ostrich's coming into being.
Feb. 27th, 2016 11:40 am (UTC)
Thank you. I was considering just presenting the ostrich story, as a sort of Rudyard Kipling-style "Just So" story. But watching that "Dr. Who" story gave me so many more ideas I felt I needed to incorporate.

Yes, it's been difficult, and the work has only just begun, but one chapter is nearly closed. We are relieved for that, at least.
Feb. 27th, 2016 02:03 pm (UTC)
'I wing off into the universe, the rest of my life floating before me like stars. Out of the darkness, from the pain, there are lessons to be learned. There is beauty all around us, my child.' - I loved these lines.
*Hugs* I enjoyed the ostrich story mixed with Dr.Who's and the philosophical twist to end it, was the icing. Good job!
Feb. 27th, 2016 02:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you. That last paragraph was my attempt to draw the different threads together. Glad to hear it worked for you.
Feb. 27th, 2016 03:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, A. This entry has so much pain. I'm really sorry. I know nothing about Dr. Who but I do know a few things about ostriches and I enjoyed your "origin" story!
Feb. 27th, 2016 05:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Yes, there is a lot of pain, but my siblings, my father and I are close. With each other's support, and the support of our respective spouses and significant others, we are taking care of both the estate business and each other.

I tried to make the Dr. Who story clear for people who don't know the series, but I'm glad the ostrich story worked for you.
Feb. 27th, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC)
You did a beautiful job of interweaving three very different stories here, each unique, and yet united. So sorry about your loss, and the surrounding pain, but like your ostrich you will fly again, in fact you already are though you might not know it yet.
Feb. 27th, 2016 05:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you. When I was thinking about this topic, I initially thought of each of those story lines as a separate way of approaching it, but none of them felt right to stand alone.

Thanks for the kind words. I do feel as if I am growing stronger through all of this.
Feb. 27th, 2016 05:38 pm (UTC)
Goodness. You didn't say what people are accusing you of, and I can't imagine, but, just yuck. I guess tragedies like this can sometimes bring out the worst in people, too... even families. Good for you for not letting it impact you the same way, Doctor.

Feb. 27th, 2016 06:31 pm (UTC)
Mainly accusing us of not including her in important plans, of "ripping everything away from her," despite the fact she has been alone in the house for months, packing her things unsupervised, and we told her she could stay as long as she wanted. Basically, if you are not secure in yourself, you read bad motives into everyone.
Feb. 27th, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you're dealing with even more hurt lately, but I'm grateful you chose to share it with us in this way.

The juxtaposition of Dr. Who and a just-so style story about an ostrich really made the personal story underneath everything jump out. Your personal writing is so powerful.
Feb. 28th, 2016 03:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad that you enjoyed the juxtaposition of those two elements. I wanted to combine all of these thoughs which have been running through my brain.

And thanks, again, for the kind words. It does help.
Feb. 28th, 2016 04:11 am (UTC)
We're doing collage essays in a workshop this week and it's neat to see yours! I like how in the piece you recognize that everyone gets their own humanity, even when it's painful to those around them, and that we can mourn the detachment without wishing away their self-determination.
Feb. 28th, 2016 03:48 pm (UTC)
What sort of workshop are you taking? That sounds interesting.

And that's right that I've been wrestling with acknowledging the feelings of all people involved, as well as trying to forgive myself for things in the past over which I have no control. The hardest part, I think, is to remind myself that Mom, ultimately, was happy. I wish I could have made things better for her, but I don't think she would have complained about her life.
(no subject) - whipchick - Feb. 29th, 2016 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Feb. 29th, 2016 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 28th, 2016 10:11 pm (UTC)
I love how you've woven the 3 disparate stories together, and kudos to you for taking the high road and simply saying sorry instead of throwing recriminations back. Good entry!
Mar. 1st, 2016 11:14 pm (UTC)
It was difficult to bite my tongue, but my conscience is clear. Glad you felt the three elements worked together.
Feb. 28th, 2016 11:42 pm (UTC)
From a purely artistic sense, this was wonderful with the weaving together of the stories, but I am so sorry about your mother.
Mar. 13th, 2016 01:47 am (UTC)
Thank you. Parts of me wanted to do each of these three portions as my entry for this topic, so I decided to interweave them instead.
Feb. 29th, 2016 02:27 am (UTC)
This piece spoke to me many ways. I, too, have had issues with family that I wish had been different. I try to tell myself that some good has come out of that senseless pain... but usually when I look back on the events in question and how people reacted, I don't think the pain was worth the "lesson learned". I hope you are more fortunate than I.

Thanks so much for sharing this!
Mar. 13th, 2016 01:50 am (UTC)
Sorry it took so long to get back to you about this. The pain never feels worth the lesson at the time, but once I gain perspective, I usually realize how much the hard times have helped me grow. I'm glad you were able to get something out of this. I'm reminded of progrock's piece about how sad songs help people to get perspective on their own pain, and I am glad to think I might have helped you do that, in even the smallest way.
Feb. 29th, 2016 02:52 am (UTC)
I love segmented non-fiction as a genre. Even though there is so much tension and sorrow here, all parts balance decently with each other.
Mar. 13th, 2016 01:55 am (UTC)
Thanks. It's a genre I haven't played with very much, but I thought it was worth trying out, given these three ideas were competing in my brain for that topic.
Feb. 29th, 2016 04:41 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry you've been hit with this reaction from your mother's partner. She may be angry at the world because she's lost her partner (so hard to cope with, but perhaps moreso for an elderly person), and is frustrated with all these things she cannot control. But it hurts to be the target of that kind of anger, especially when it is undeserved. :(
Mar. 13th, 2016 02:06 am (UTC)
Well, I keep telling myself that she's been hurt, too. I'm sure it does feel like her whole world was ripped apart, and we're swooping in to finish the job.

Interesting postscript: last week she sent me an e-mail with an article about grieving and forgiveness, along with a one-sentence message, saying she's sorry she hurt us. I thanked her for that. Made me feel much better about holding my tongue when I could have unleashed the ugly.
Feb. 29th, 2016 07:38 am (UTC)
I loved this very much. I am sorry about your mother .... never can enough be said about that. What caught me was the Ostrich story ...For so many reasons I could relate so well to her. I do not know the background of Dr Who ... But this piece stood alone for me nevertheless. Loved how you interwove all three ... Well Done.
Mar. 13th, 2016 02:14 am (UTC)
The ostrich story seems far and away the most popular of the three threads in this piece. I was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories," a book my mother gave me when I was young. I'd always wanted to write my own, so it seemed fitting to attempt to do so for this prompt.
Feb. 29th, 2016 02:33 pm (UTC)
Loss sure does bring out the "greatness" in people, doesn't it? A 'great' what is up to interpretation. LOL So sorry you have to deal with the negative drama on top of everything else. This is a beautifully woven-together story.


Mar. 13th, 2016 02:51 am (UTC)
Thank you. There has been bitterness on all sides, with us blaming ourselves and each other for not doing more. Eventually, I trust that we'll all be able to heal.
Feb. 29th, 2016 08:46 pm (UTC)
::Hugg:: This was so beautifully written, you pain for your mother bleeds through. Peace~~~D
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