study for Ice Queen: Jane Eaton Hamilton
I have to work in perfect silence but for the chirping of the fridge the songs of the birds, because it lets my subconscious rise. I was working on a painting this morning where I’d worked a study, and without conscious thought, or really even without realizing that I’d done it, I bounded up to the computer and started writing a pandemic meets factory farm short story.
Literally, the two have nothing to do with each other.
The art is about the arcane but nevertheless still sometimes practiced habit of leaving babies out in the snow and sleet. I’d lately read a BC Back-to-School guide, where it advised parents to dress their children warmly as the windows would all be open, and I thought back to a time in my childhood.
I’d come home from half-day kindergarten during a snow and wind storm. I kept tugging my own hat out from my face to shield the wind. My mittens were covered with pills of snow turned to ice. I found my baby sister’s squeaky, big-wheeled pram on the back porch. She just stared up at me, expressionless, her big brown eyes registering nothing, her cheeks flushed, her lips shaded blue. I remember begging my mother to bring her inside, where I was then shucking off my coat and boots so I could melt in front of a heat register, but was sternly told that taking “air” was good for her and that it happened to all babies.
That made me wonder where the tradition came from. We didn’t put babies out in 100 degree heat, did we? So was it disease-related? Had it in fact come about during the 1918 flu epidemic and was never dropped (or from an earlier plague time)?
The short story, though, flows back to a tweet I read where a writer kept walking into the same spider web every morning, and the spider would just rebuild it. I wondered whether a spider could feel ennui or have an existential crisis. “I work and I work and I work and just seems to get nowhere. And why do I never catch a fly? I’m losing so much weight?” Something like that. It triggered work on the short story that anthropomorphizes animals. The story, so far called Mom and Pop, is part of a larger project of short fiction from factory-farmed animals’ perspectives.