In case you don’t know: tam_nonlinear is dead.
The last tumblr post she made, very characteristically, was an effort to make sure her cats were taken care of. The second to last was a request for someone to take over Tam Lin Balladry, the website she had maintained for as long as I’ve known her. I believe both cats and website are being cared for. Elizabeth Bear and Seanan McGuire are - were - friends of hers and seem to be taking care of it, which…thank you. There will also be a memorial gathering in Boston. I wish I were on the right coast to go.
This was one of those internet friendships that are hard to describe when people at work ask you if you’re okay. I never met Abigail. I never heard her voice. I hadn’t heard as much from her since the slow attrition of LiveJournal. But we were online friends for probably a decade. She was one of the most singular people I ever met. Well - we all know that online lives are curated. I’m sure there are hundreds of facets of her personality that I never knew. But I want to tell you about the Abigail that I knew online.
I am a better parent for having known her, and the way she wrote, so simply and beautifully, all about the slow, painstaking, patient work of loving wild things. I never knew anyone else whose love was so strongly given to the nonhuman world. To trees. To her garden. To wrens. To ferns. She noticed these tiny birds, these tiny leaves. Tiny changes in the park she took her walks in. And of course how she loved her cats. They were all ferals. It takes a lot of time and work and patience to earn the trust of a feral cat. It elevates respecting boundaries to an art form. I’ll never be as good at it as she was, but I’m better at it for having spent years reading regular updates on how patient, respectful, undemanding, constantly offered kindness opens up a space for trust and love. And about the responsibility that you take on when you get a wild thing to trust you. I remember when she had to take Portia to the vet to be put down. After years of slowly developing a relationship. The last gift she could give her was an easy death. And how she missed that cat. A cat that would rarely even come inside her house. She knew that Portia would never be able to come to her; so she went to Portia, she built their friendship on Portia’s turf. She held her so lightly. She knew how to love wild things. I often wondered how she learned it.
You know me, my view of life as a phenomenon is more or less that it’s a way for matter to have found a way to experience fear and suffering. Not a super great idea, in other words. But sometimes - I remember being in a planetarium once, and watching a show about all the different things in the galaxy, and all the galaxies in the universe, and how there is no life anywhere there, and it made me so sad, that there is so much beauty in the universe that will never be seen, by anyone. I wish it could be seen by someone like her. Someone who had the gift of really seeing. Someone who was a way for the universe to see itself, and know that it was beautiful.
And do you know what else she did? She did abortion clinic escorting. She fed possums, and she cared for wild cats, and she went to protests and Black Lives Matter rallies, and regularly, she went out and put herself between vulnerable women and people who want to scare and hurt them. She helped people. I admired her so much. I think I told her that. I hope I did.
She got laid off a couple of years ago, and she never was able to get another similar job after that. She was unemployed for a long time, and she had some retail and other part-time work, but I’m pretty sure it was nothing with insurance. And she had some serious long-term health issues. And then the election.
And she killed herself. I can’t even deal right now with people saying that we will survive Trump because ABBY IS ALREADY DEAD.
Tam Lin Balladry is her website of research, analysis, variations, and music for the ballad of Tam Lin. She maintained it for almost twenty years. It’s a complicated little story, that you can’t smooth a simple message out of. You have to contend with the rapey bit. There are so many ways to look at Janet. Is it a story about a girl looking for adventure? about women competing? Beauty and the Beast? making the best of what you’ve got? I’ve thought it about far more than I ever would have if I hadn’t known Abigail, and I’ll never know what exactly it was about that story that called to her so much, and motivated her to put so much work and care into it. But tonight I’m thinking about how hellishly seductive the idea is that we can save the things we love if we just hold on to them hard enough. I know it’s just a fairy tale, Abby. I will never blame you for letting go.