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Here he lies where he longed to be; 

Spoilers for Firefly "Safe" (longishly)

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Robert Louis Stevenson

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
Robert Frost
 

Halfway through the journey of our lives, I came to myself in a dark wood and found the true way was lost.
Dante Aligheri

All other quotes are mere wisps of memory.

Home and hunters and sailors. Wanderers on a journey between locations. Wilderness dark and bright. The space between safety and freefall. Space, the Final Frontier. No wait. Different show. Just Frontier then.

Thereís a captain, some fighters, a pilot (to steer), a mechanic (to make the thing go), for some reason a preacher (a Shepherd, who are themselves wanderers), a Companion, and a Doctor and his sister. All on a transport ship, the would be voyage of the Beagle(s) and cows who forget to be when not under a sheltering sky.

And under that sky, trees. Their roots holding to the earth. Their branches yearning towards the sun. Balls of mud spinning and dancing in the dark/light round gaseous balls of fire. Fire. Post hole diggers for digging holes for flaming posts, fences, walls, post and lintel homes (a style used in early pioneer communities because nails were expensive and hard to come by. Think pioneer IKEA). Iíd say cattle corals, but in this instance, Iíd say not. Fire bad. Fire pretty. Light, life and some of the most artfully arranged cow piles that I have ever seen. Earth waiting to be.

I donít know if anyone here (ah, the ephemeral here of net space) has ever danced a polka. Itís one of my favorite dances. Itís kind of hard to explain without a demonstration. Basically, you gallop two steps in one direction (your partner doing the opposite). Then you gallop two steps in the other direction. As you gallop, you spin. Here is where science makes it cool. Since your partner is providing an equal and opposite counterbalance and because youíre spending half your time in the air in mid leap, centrifugal force makes you spin faster than the amount of energy either of you is putting into it. Or at least it feels that way. Pseudo science then.

Now just for precession, the music in the Safe dance scene is a reel, not a polka. However, the couples are wearing boots, so I couldnít really tell if they were doing polka steps (a running step - toe heel) or reel steps (a walking step - heel toe). However, I stand by my metaphor.

BTW - in ballroom dancing, to dance at home is when two dancers dance in the home/starting position, either by dancing around each other or by dancing short forward or backwards steps. When you dance out of the starting position, you leave home behind.

From a dusty frontier town street, Simon follows his sister down a dark confusing alley/tunnel, to emerge into an idyllic meadow. A tree is decorated with a white and yellow sun shaped canopy and strung with wicker rings and balls. The dance floor is decorated with gold foil shaped into sun beams, which divide the dance space. Now Iíll admit, I prefer the new Firefly Intro a bit better, however, in this instance the original metaphor of millions of planets in a solar system works better. Dancers moving both below (the canopy) and above (the floor decoration) the sun. Spinning and jigging amid the wicker spheres and circles, planets.

The dance is an interesting contrast to last weekís slower set dances and waltzing. The dancers spin in what appears to be joyous chaos, couples forming and parting. Moving to their own steps. Joining into new couples. Although, at a guess there are set patterns, you just have to know them to quantify them.

No matter, the flavor of the dancing was very different and if I may say, it was very prescient of Simon to provide his sister with tap pants for those high kicks. Then again, he has been caring for her for months now.

Months of following her around like a frantic mother hen with one chick. Dress her like a doll. Make sure sheís fed. Try to find out whatís wrong. Fail. Try to keep her away from sharp objects and dirt and safe and well. Running towards nowhere.

Until I saw this episode, I hadnít really grasped what he has given up. Yeah, yeah, fancy life style, comfort, etc. Parents whoíd always supported him in his dream to be a doctor. Now, he is a surgeon with a very limited client base. Sure they keep call him the Doctor, but I hadnít really thought about what that meant. Years of Star Trek, teaching me that of course a ship has a doctor, had inured me to the fact that Serenity has a very small crew. Okay, they get injured quite a bit, but for Simon to go from a fast track surgeon at a large hospital, helping and healing, to a man with basically one patient, his sister, is not just a loss of career. Itís a loss of calling. That his one patient is the one that he canít heal despite a lifetime, eleven years at least, of study, can only add to the loss.

So, young Simon follows his faery touched/tortured sister down the tunnel. Birth order is now reversed. Into the light of the sun. Into a festival celebrating the sun. Whirling dancing celebrating life intercut with a battle decorated with flung lead. River swings into the steps and Simon smiles and relaxes. Is it just me, or do we only get that smile from Simon when his sister is happy? Is it just me, or did anyone else think that River would fall into the tree and violate some sort of taboo? I said I watched Star Trek.

But Shepherd is shot and River stops and the dance goes on around her. When the men threw the bag over Simonís head, I thought oh, it isnít STNG, Wesley walks on grass, itís the Wicker Man. Simonís going to be sacrificed to insure a good harvest.

No neither.

Itís a walk in the woods. However, this is not a story of travelers mislead by willow wisps and unearthly music who emerge into strange and mystic lands where Alliance troops ride dinosaurs and cattle are fed milk and grain by beautiful women. A place where Angels magically cure mute little girls within the space of minutes. Itís just a small hill town. A hill town that needs a doctor.

Now, okay they kidnapped Simon, etc., but for a moment itís possible to think that the teacher is right. Theoretically it is the sort of place that they should be seeking. Small community. Unlikely to have Alliance visitors. Simon and his sister will have a house. Again theoretically, the townsfolk are close knit. Will look after their own. Will be able to help look after River. Simon has a valuable service to provide. A calling that he will be able to fulfill in a town. More valuable than mere money. His coin is life. Pull back the window shades, roll up his sleeves, let the light in.

Good place for a home. The place where you have roots. The place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Riley said it. Buffy said. Technically Robert Frost said it. Home. A word that comes around and turns.

Shepherd says itís good to be home when he gets back to the Serenity. The teacher insists that a journey ends in a home. Simon denies that the hill town can be his home, but canít say where his home is. River says that daddy will be coming to take them home. Father Tam speaks of home when drawing a line in the sand with Simon. Sister or home? Simonís choice. Father wonít come back for him. Wonít take him in.

Was anyone else surprise that Simon and Riverís parents are alive? While on one hand, they join the legion of bad parents in the Jossverse, (throw in Rubyís mother for good measure) their presence is necessary. Showing rather than telling. Young Simon is to be a brilliant doctor. To that end mom and dad want him to have the best. Riverís question about when sheíll get a dedicated box gets brushed aside. ďMany years.Ē Dad looks at Simon, ďYouíre worth it.Ē then glances briefly at River. I wonder just what their parents know.

The body language in this episode was fascinating. If Simon and River were a touch more, it would be incest. As it is, they are closer than twins. Twinning, following, circling for support. I wonder that Kaylee canít see that Simon only has eyes for his prone to wandering trouble sister. Then again, perhaps Kaylee is so filled with longing to see a swan that she cannot see the duck.

Then again Simon or for that matter none of the crew appear to have quite grasped (in that they donít seem to talk about it) that River isnít just disturbed. Sheís reading minds. Perhaps, the fact that she is broken obscures that she is unquantifiable. Simon at least has the excuse that he sees with the eyeballs of love.

The scene with the berries, shift and River moves into dancing lead position. As her brother works, River takes on the role of the caretaker by picking berries, i.e. food, for her brother. The reversal is further emphasized by Simon kneeling in front of River as she pours the berries from her skirt into the bowl. At which point, River fairly lucidly expresses her emotional and intellectual understanding of what has happened. He comforts her. She feeds him another berry. Itís a comfortable enough moment for her to play a practical joke.

ďEat, sleep and eat.Ē We eat to live. As River so rightly points out, she and Simon will have to resort to cannibalism to survive now that theyíve been cut off by Alliance forces. We also eat for other reasons, since Kaylee finds handsome Simon worth devouring. Skinning rabbits, tender beef cows fed on milk and hay three times a day, processed meat, father called away from the dinner table, berries, chow is in 10 minutes. Perhaps the writer was hungry. Perhaps the writer cut him/herself (?) while cooking. Bleeding ears, blood draining from the body, sanguine, Shepherd.

Perhaps itís the caffeine seeing things. Then again, when River says that their ďdaddyĒ is coming for them, I donít think sheís talking about their father by blood.

Then we come to the scene with the post, that once I suppose was a rooted reaching tree.

River tied and at the highest level. Simon climbing the steps to stand next to her. He turns into her and closes his eyes. She looks up and closes hers. Simon appears to have given up. This isnít a, ďCurse the heavens, if she dies youíll have to go through me first.Ē Itís a very quiet, ďLight it.Ē River is more sanguine, itís time to go.

Mom and dad, who are Big Damn Heroes, show up to take them home. With Jayne in the role of either God (on high, glowing, smites people) or oh, I donít know Jayne gets all the best lines, letís leave it at that. Again, consider the body language here. Mal and Zoe walk through the crowd, which parts, climb up while Simon climbs down. Some chit chat. Zoe and Mal turn to face the crowd. Jayne hovering (he really likes that harness doesnít he) from the bright, rumbling, looming mass that is their ship.

Serenity. A state of mind. ďSheís our witch.Ē ďYouíre on my crew.Ē Home, the word that Mal doesnít say, but Simon understands. Then itís time for dinner. Not a dinner of interrupted unwelcome calls, but of the group. Simon and River sit on opposite sides of the table, and not only is bread broken, but River steals Jayneís bread.

So, with apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson, because after all that is his epitaph, which would be a creepifying way to end,

Home is the wanderer, gathered to the feast.
and the dancer at home in mid-step.
 

 
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