But it turned out that Joan was really, uncannily good at leading an army. She had skills that no female person who’d spent her life tending house — the thing she was best at, she later told a room full of men, was sewing — had any reason to possess. “She was quite innocent, unless it be in warfare,” says the former roommate. “She rode on horseback and handled the lance like the best of the knights, and the soldiers marveled.” Uh, yeah: I’ll bet they did.
So it turned out she was good, and you all know this part of the story. She was very good at it, despite the fact that she was initially excluded from the important meetings, and despite the fact that she had no training, and despite the fact that she was a woman and people weren’t supposed to listen to those — “harlot,” was a common theory among the English at the time, because what would a woman be doing in the army unless was sleeping with all of the soldiers; one English soldier straight-up laughed at the idea of “surrendering to a woman” — and despite the fact that her whole authority was based on telling people that she had magic powers. She took an arrow in the neck, in the middle of a battle, and kept fighting. If you want to get a sense of what actually made it possible for her to get from a kitchen in the middle of nowhere, to standing in front of the King and making her case, to a leadership position in the military, to leading this one particular hopeless lost cause of a battle, the Siege of Orleans, and winning it, this is instructive. If you want to get a sense of the sheer willpower driving this woman, think about being just a little female teenager from nowhere with no military training, whose biggest talent was sewing, shoved into chaotic, close-range, hugely violent battle, and about what it would take for you not to freak the fuck out at this point, what it would take to keep fighting with an arrow in your neck.
Running Towards The Gunshots: A Few Words About Joan of Arc
The perennial sadness of a girl who is both death and the maiden.
I am more and more unable to think, to observe, to determine the truth of things, to remember, to speak, to share an experience; I am turning to stone, this is the truth… If I can’t take refuge in some work, I am lost.
Get scared. It will do you good. Smoke a bit, stare blankly at some ceilings, beat your head against some walls, refuse to see some people, paint and write. Get scared some more. Allow your little mind to do nothing but function. Stay inside, go out - I don’t care what you’ll do; but stay scared as hell. You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.
Albert Camus, Notebooks, 1951-1959
The moon likes secrets. And secret things. She lets mysteries bleed into her shadows and leaves us to ask whether they originated from otherworlds, or from our own imaginations.
The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.