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6/4/2012

ENGLISH 523 MYTHS

HEALING EDEN

AND

LEGENDS

By | Danielle Cadigan


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HEALING EDEN By: Danielle Cadigan June 4, 2012


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Dedicated to two women with huge hearts, even bigger brains and the fearlessness to share both with the world – my mom and my sister. I love you both, this one is for you! -Danielle


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Table of Contents Table of Contents .......................................................................................................................................... 3 The World is a Bitter, Lonely Place ........................................................................................................... 4 Myth versus Reason .................................................................................................................................. 5 The Comfort of Science ............................................................................................................................. 7 Personal Sacrifices .................................................................................................................................... 9 Love Transcends...................................................................................................................................... 11 Science Transforms ................................................................................................................................. 12 Power of Community .............................................................................................................................. 14 Myth and Science Equal Magic ............................................................................................................... 16 Healing Eden ........................................................................................................................................... 18 About the Author .................................................................................................................................... 20


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The World is a Bitter, Lonely Place “Yeah, No Whatever. K. Bye.” Eden jabbed her finger down and disconnected Skype. She threw the dishcloth into the central laundry chute in the far kitchen wall. “Great. Just fabulous.” Simi and Asha, her best friends waited silently for any potential outbursts. “How can I complete this family history project if my mom not only refuses to visit but she won’t even talk to me for more than 30 seconds!!? And my dad hasn’t been back to Iran for a bajillion years?” She pressed the start button on the rice cooker, then harvested some sweet peas, chives, garlic and a sweet onion from her garden wall between the kitchen and sun porch. Her dad had started the wall with two small pots years ago after Eden’s mom moved back to West Virginia. Asha’s perfectly sleek black hair whooshed quietly as she took the veggies and herbs and both she and Simi silently chopped and diced. “Good riddance,” she thought as she snipped a few basil leaves into the rice cooker. “I didn’t expect my mom here anyway, but a freaking 5 minute conversation now is too much to ask?” Dinner was started, the dishes were done, kitchen and den tidied up and the girls along with some snacks headed down the curving hall to Eden’s bedroom. The lighting magically illuminated their walk and quietly dimmed itself after they passed by.


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Myth versus Reason “Let’s take a break from the project then. We’re at a good place where we can stop now. We’ve got both Asha’s project drafted and mine completed,” said Simi as she popped a jalapeno popper into her mouth. “I’ve got some great news-b-t-w. It is finally my year to play Esther!” “Stupid Purim,” said Eden. “Stupid freakin religion. More horrors have been forced on humanity as a result of organized religions and manipulative myths than by just about any other thing in our world. I mean look at my mother? A bunch of snake handling inbreds who cook meth on the side to deal to the world’s school children. God knows what the heck is up with my dad’s family, but seriously the Middle East? The cradle of civilization? More like the deathbed of everything but intolerance.” Asha put a restraining hand on Simi’s arm. “And the Jews! You have the market cornered on guilt and sad tales.” Simi shook off Asha’s hand and spun around in Eden’s direction. The jalapeno poppers went flying off the plate she was holding. Eden picked up the rest of the scattered snacks. “I just don’t see why the pomp and circumstance.” “Purim is important for me Ede. And you and Asha need to be there to support me and not be bitchy. I know it isn’t real, but somehow the pageantry connects me to my past and makes me understand my family, its history and the sacrifices made so that I can live in the here and now. You need to back off. Asha’s helping and she has not criticized once. Goodness knows there isn’t a lot of similarity between Hinduism and Judaism, but we accept each other’s faith


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and damn it Eden! It connects us all somehow and it helps us overcome our own crap when we hear and act out the old stories. We know it’s not reality.” They could hear chimes from the kitchen so they gathered the snack items and retraced their steps down the gently curving hallway. Three tones sounded from the fridge door. Eden palmed the start button and the inset monitor came to life. The tired face of her father appeared. “Hey Edie. Talk to your mom?” “Yes. And no, I do not want to talk about it. I’m late for work. I’ll talk to you later. Oh, forgot to tell you –after work I’m swinging by Simi’s to help her with some project. I’ll be home by 11.” She clicked the off button and disconnected before her dad could respond and the girls ran out the back door. As Asha and Simi veered down the path towards their homes Eden raced through the winding, wooded path connecting the home she shared with her father and the other residences of the town. She tripped a couple of times, veered to miss a couple of second shift workers on their Segues and a couple of kids free styling flip tricks on their hover boards.


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The Comfort of Science She got to Dr. Weiss’ labs just as both doctors were pouring green tea. “Hi! Sorry I’m late,” Eden gasped as she jetted into the employee galley. “Hey, no worries Eden. David’s staying late to babysit his famine-resistant project and I’ll be here for a while. I’ve got an interesting study due on the impact of oxytocin on human compassion.” Dr. Francie Weiss had layered blonde hair and a sharply angled face with green eyes. She was the town’s OB/GYN and her lab space was filled with fetus models and healthy prenatal posters. “Oxytocin?” Eden asked. “Yes. The hormone released during breast feeding. Women seem to have an ample supply of it, but it looks like men manufacture it as well. My study is in conjunction with a couple of other labs and we’re tracing the impact of oxytocin, its connection to love, harmony and peaceful resolution. So I’ll be here tonight as well.” David finished his tea and mumbled something as he went into his own lab. Eden followed him and began gathering his dirty lab equipment for cleaning and autoclaving. She watched him turn up the full spectrum lights over the aeroponic gardens filled with gray, dusty sand and not much else. “How are your babies David?”


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He called her over and held a magnifying class over the raised garden beds. She could just make out teeny green sprouts. “These are going to help with hunger and famine?” She said this skeptically. “One of the problems with famine is that the soil is in the most at-risk zones in the world does not have the proper minerals. Even with crops that can grow in these frigid and arid places the nutrient level is greatly diminished and the crops produced most often don’t satisfy daily requirements.” She squinted at the measly little sprouts and was fairly certain they’d not survive the safe lab environment let alone being sown into some of the harshest regions of the world. She filled up her tub with test tubes and equipment and cut through Francie’s lab on her way to the cleaning area. Francie was absorbed in a video showing the peaceful impact of nursing infants. Some of these babies were screaming their heads off, then when placed at their mother’s breast to feed their entire posture changed. “Hmm. Maybe there’s something to do with this oxytocin thing after all.” Eden finished her clinic duties and swung by Simi’s house on her way home.


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Personal Sacrifices Asha was pinning the hem on Simi’s gorgeous Esther costume. “Don’t bother coming in here if you are going to criticize,” warned Asha around a mouthful of pins. “I’m not. I’m sorry for before. I was just frustrated. I was mad at my mom and mad at my dad. I feel invisible sometimes. You’re both gorgeous and on top of things and I don’t want to do badly on the family history project. I just got mouthy,” it all came out at once. As she said it, Eden realized she actually meant it too. “Sweetie, I’m sorry. But we’re not perfect either,” Simi said as she looked at Eden out of the corner of her eye. “I do have some not so good news for you, so do not freak.” “Is it school related?” Eden pushed her hair back. She’d broken a bit of a sweat cleaning up the Weiss’ labs and her hair started frizzing and escaping its ponytail. “No. It is Purim related. I want you there, but the only remaining female part is Vashti.” “Who’s that? A slave or something?” “No. Vashti was Esther’s husband’s first wife. He rejected her, dumped her basically and chose Esther instead.” “Ugh. Whatever. That’s just perfect. I’m a reject playing a reject.” Eden grabbed some pins and sullenly helped Asha finish the hem of Simi’s gown. They finished Simi’s gown then started on Asha’s. They were done with that by 10:30.


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“What do I wear?” Eden was afraid to even ask. She eyed the gorgeous costume of Esther and her hand maid. The gowns fit Simi’s curves and Asha’s petite body so well. She knew that she would do justice to neither of them, but just once she longed to be the center of attention. “We have to figure that out. Vashti is kicked to the curb and out of the picture so quickly, it’s hard to know what she’ll be…you’ll be wearing,” Simi waited for Eden to respond. “Ok. This is your thing and I’m doing this because I love you. So. Whatever you suggest. I need to get home and make some sort of draft before school tomorrow.”


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Love Transcends It was 11 by the time Eden got home. Her dad was in bed. As she readied for bed she thought over what had been the longest afternoon of her life. Her mother hated living in Dharma and had never felt comfortable in North Dakota at all. Her dad who came to school in the states from Iran never returned home. He seemed so at ease here, but that was because the town was filled with brilliant scientists like him. He and her mother had met at Stonybrook when they were in college and got pregnant with Eden before they really had a chance to think through their options. Eden’s mom was from the hollers of West Virginia and her family tree was filled with outlaws and criminals. She’d fled the hollers for college, but missed her weirdo family and finally returned. Eden finished washing her face and headed into her room. She found a small book on her pillow with a note from her dad…signed with a “heart” and a flourished Z—short for Zartosht—her dad’s name, Zartosht Kazerooni. The book was old, the pages yellowed. The title said “Shush” and nothing more. Her dad’s family still resided in Shush, Iran, but she had never seen this volume in the shelves hermetically sealed behind the curving walls in the hall. She ran her hand over the headboard of her bed and the lights dimmed, the ceiling becoming a fantastic swirl of technical art from the eye of a microscope morphing into vast galaxies seen through the eye of a telescope. A small reading light centered over the book and she began to read the history of her father’s family.


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Science Transforms The lights came up and music rhythmically awakened her. Eden fell asleep about 5 AM and had read through the entire book. She moved as though in a fog as she got ready for school. She set the mists and lights over her wall garden and slipped out the back heading to the labs for a quick stop before school. She tidied up the small messes both doctors had left after working on their projects late into the night. She watched entranced as Francie’s presentation played on a loop on one wall of her lab. The doctor’s gentle voice narrated each section of the video. “Oxytocin is present in the tears a woman weeps when she is truly grieving and has a distinct biochemical and healing effect on her with the release of the tears.” Eden moved throughout the OB/GYN lab righting pregnancy models and text books. She left the doctor’s research papers, books and other stuff alone. The doctor’s voice continued, “Babies that breastfeed are healthier and better nourished then those that are bottle fed and fed formula made from the milk of other creatures.” Eden felt such a connection with the history of her father’s people. She kept hearing the words from the book play over and over in her head as she moved into David’s lab. “Shush, Iran is the home of many ancient and proud people. Warriors, kings and many historical figures come from this region.” The book of Shush had a voice of its own. “Oxytocin is being proven to have not just a calming effect on people, even those in wartorn and high risk areas, but studies suggest that humanity experiences a magnanimous impact from increased oxytocin in the blood level.”


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The book of Shush continued to speak quietly to Eden. She moved through the famine lab picking up a few discarded items. Something caught her eye. In the midst of the arid plantings she thought she saw movement. Was it an optical illusion? She moved closer. Nope it was really something. One little seedling was decidedly less measly looking then it had been last night. For some reason this brought a sense of profound hopefulness to Eden. Her normal, rational selfbecame emotional. She felt tears welling up‌and a few splashed over onto the sandy, dead soil. Francie’s video completed the loop and restarted as Eden closed the door to the labs and walked off to school.


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Power of Community She was calm, her breathe slow and paced, not racing like usual. She felt less mean and hateful. She knew her family presentation was today, even though it was not nearly as fancy as the others-she felt prepared. Most of the other kids would have their grandparents attending, trifold displays, and video and audio demonstrations, but for once Eden felt confident. She felt herself grow taller as she straightened her posture out as she entered the school. She wandered through the displays and congratulated everyone graciously as she viewed each. She introduced herself to each family member and thanked them for contributing to the projects and to the human race. She felt herself wishing them all well and for the first time she wondered if this was what a prayer felt like. On her way to her station, she saw Simi and Asha and their large, loud colorful extended families. She smiled as she thought about the history of Esther and what it meant to Simi and now—to her. She entered the school’s auditorium where those students who did not have grandparents attending or displays of some sort would present their verbal presentations. Just a handful of kids were in there. Eden joined them and felt for once in her life as if she belonged even to this tribe—what the rest of the school called “the rejects.” The lights dimmed as the first student presented his family history project. Eden reached up and ran her hand through her hair, it felt lush and smooth and flowed down her back. When it was her turn she straightened herself even taller and glimpsed her profile as she passed the glass in the fire suppressant system. She was proud and what had seemed so invisible about her


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yesterday looked tremendously powerful today. As she went up the stage stairs she saw her dad and the doctors arrive and settle in. Her dad gave a quick wave and both doctors grinned.


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Myth and Science Equal Magic Eden began her story at the end. She described how she felt alone and disconnected. She mentioned her call with her mother yesterday and how orphaned she felt when her mother gave her regrets that she would not be attending today’s event. She touched on Asha’s huge family and its rich mythology steeped in poetry, color and history. She described the envy she felt that Simi would be the center of attention as Esther later this weekend as her family celebrated: Purim. Then she reached into the pocket of her sweatshirt and brought forth the small book of Shush. She set it down reverently on the podium. “Many famous warriors and kings come from my dad’s hometown of Shush, Iran— otherwise known as Persia. But the most famous person of all is Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus, Esther’s husband. You see this year, I am Vashti. And I find out that I am, in fact Vashti.” The crowd’s murmurs became louder. “I thought Vashti was a reject, a throw away. I thought the king dumped her for the beautiful Esther. And we hear that in a lot of Purim tales. But my family history tells us that Vashti was not dumped. She made the choice, the first strong female choice in that part of the world. When her husband in a drunken fit suggested she do whatever he commanded including inappropriate relationships with his friends. She declined. She stood up for herself. She walked away when the relationship was too bad, too controlling. Too horrible. I am Vashti. I am Vashti this year for Purim and as her offspring I carry that strong will to do what is right in me. Vashti lived a long life after she left her husband. She created a strong line of independent thinkers, both male and female. All of us descended from her have a part of Vashti in us.”


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The audience was silent for a moment and then leapt to its feet with a thunderous ovation. Eden was mobbed by people and took a full 5 minutes before she could hug her dad and the doctors. Everyone congratulated her and she was tall and confident and proud. “Dad thanks. Really.” “Oh Edie, I should have given the book to you years ago. I don’t know why I didn’t. You look different; did you cut your hair?” Suddenly Asha and Simi smothered Eden with hugs, chattering wildly about how this year’s Purim event and every Hindu, Jewish and all other celebrations Dharma embraced would be different with Vashti in attendance. “Hey you guys, excuse me a sec.” Eden saw David and Francie waving her over to them. David caught her up in a big bear hug then said, “Did you swing by the labs before school?” “Yeah, why? Everything ok?” She didn’t feel the least bit defensive or anxious oddly enough. She felt confident that any minor or major tragedy could be handled.


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Healing Eden Francie held up her small tablet. “Eden! Look!” She squealed. At first glance Eden saw what looked like a big green smear. As she focused she realized that the barren, arid soil in David’s lab was bursting with fertile plants with strong shoots and tendrils crawling up the walls and over the side of the raised garden beds. “What? I tidied up both labs and came to school like always?” Francie scrolled backwards. It was a little unnerving to watch the green plants cave in on themselves and finally back into hard crust of the sandy, gray soil. “Look closely Ede. Watch what happens.” Eden watched herself walk backwards and out of the lab. Then with a deft scroll the video unrolled in normal time, going forward. She watched herself gather lab equipment for the autoclave. She remembered how “present” she felt after staying up all night reading about her family history. She watched herself do a double take and then move slowly; blinking a few times to make sure she was seeing something real. The video captured the one teeny little shoot looking slightly less measly then the other seedlings. The video captured as well Eden’s tears welling up with emotion and spilling over onto the garden bed. As one security camera captured Eden’s departure for school the first camera watched one of the world’s few amazing miracles. The tears splashed on the garden had an amazing effect and the plants began to grow. First the original plant that caught Eden’s eye, then those next to it until the entire bed was a riotous chaos of sprouting greenery. Eden was shocked.


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“Eden? Sweetie? You may have saved the world. We’re pretty certain that we can treat the mineral rich, drought resistant crops with oxytocin along with other easily gathered nutrients. What were you thinking of when your tears fell on to that little guy?” Her answer was one word, “Vashti.”


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About the Author Danielle Cadigan is a senior at Jackson High School. She works full time, has two pugs and a wonderfully creative spontaneous family that loves math and science. She plans to study pediatric neuropsychiatry at the University of Washington after high school.


Healing Eden