Today Honor the Women

Women Singing the Earth by Mary Southard
Women Singing the Earth by Mary Southard

Today is International Women’s Day. 

The Goddess does have a sly sense of humor… it is lined up with a total Solar Eclipse!

Now is the perfect time to honor the women in your life – including yourself!

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Find out about IWD events in your area.

Or create your own private event; take a few moments today
to express your appreciation for all the feminine love, wisdom and tenderness
that helped get you to this place and time in your life.

Healing the Feminine

Treasures of the Mother
Treasures of the Mother

There is a sacred ground that is calling to us to heal now; it is the ground  of feminine energies that hold and nourish life. This feminine ground can be found in the dirt of mother earth that holds and nourishes a tiny plant seedling, and within the womb of each woman that holds and nourishes a human embryo. Both plant and human require the sacred ground of mother to sprout and grow new life.

I read of a young woman being brutally raped and left for dead on a bus in India. I turn the page and read of Mother Earth being raped and polluted in a search for oil in the tar sands of  Canada. And I feel the same energy in both acts; a hatred and a dishonoring of the feminine.  It is the male warrior energy run rampant, forgetting the sacredness of the feminine body.

The feminine body has been objectified and mistreated for generations. Both the female womb and the dirt of Mother Earth have been dishonored and defiled again and again.  Entire cultures and religions curse and blame the feminine for our human fall from grace. Those that don’t understand the gifts of the feminine have tried to stifle her wisdom and annihilate her power.

We fear what we do not understand. But how can we possibly kill what holds and nurtures each life?  If we kill the mother, we kill ourselves. And even when we deny the sacredness of the feminine, the mother quietly continues to perform her sacred magic, holding ground for every new life.

Mother is so quiet, dark, mysterious and yet so nurturing; the feminine gifts look and act nothing like the male energies that are prized today. These feminine gifts are so misunderstood, and yet so necessary to heal this world. The power of the feminine lies within an expansive holding, supporting and nurturing energy that is difficult to pin down; visualize the warm safety of mama’s lap; feel into the quiet stability of the earthy ground and you will be on the right track. Knowing the feminine is best done on a visceral and emotional level.

It takes a quieting of the mind and a wondering heart to grasp the gifts of the feminine energies.  Watch a mother with her baby; sense her gentle nurturing and quiet loving presence. Or go outside and sit with Mother Nature; just sit and be still. Breathe, watch and listen to Nature. The wisdom of the feminine whispers in the ripples of the water and the gentle opening of a flower. It is there in the growing tree limbs that arch toward the sky and the roots that burrow into mother’s dirt. Our earth mother holds a quiet space of wisdom, always there beneath the surface of life. She is a mysterious, flowing and constant presence.

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The ground of mother whispers that it is time now to heal the feminine. The mother is quietly, yet insistently calling to us. She is demanding that we remember her gifts and honor her sacredness or perish. It is time to heal our relationship with the mother.

Moon Musings

Mother Moon

I bought a lunar calendar this year. It has the year divided into 13 moons instead of 12 months.  After years of looking at the year as the month of January followed by  February followed by March… it takes a bit of adjustment to track the year by moon cycles.  After all, I have been trained since Kindergarten to track what month it is!  But keeping track of which moon cycle we are in this year has opened my eyes to nature’s rhythms and cycles in a deeper way.  And it’s shown me yet another way of looking at my world that is filled with wisdom and truth.  And I have discovered that I can use and learn from both ways of looking at the world; I can follow the cycles of the moon and stars  AND I can honor 4th of July and celebrate Christmas on December 25th again this year. I do NOT have to choose and lock into only one way of looking at my world. Truth and wisdom can be found in many forms.

Tracking moon cycles has deepened my awareness of my own cycles.  I am female, which means my emotions ebb and flow and cycle like the moon. It is the way nature wired women to operate. Don’t believe me?  Well if you’re female, find a lunar calendar and start taking note of how your mood ebbs and flows during any given lunar cycle.  And if you’re male, track your wife or girlfriend’s moods.  Try it and you’ll see how lunar women truly are.  It is not just our menses that are tied to Mother Moon. And how cool is it to be intimately tied to Mother Moon.  I find it somehow comforting.

Every year on planet Earth contains 13 lunar cycles. That’s actually not just Native American folklore – it’s astronomy.  The length of our year is determined by how long it takes the Earth to go all the way around the Sun.  And Mother Moon cycles around the Earth 13 times in the time it takes the Earth to cycle around Father Sun, whether we believe in and honor pagan rituals or not.

For those of you who haven’t ever paid attention to the moon before, a new moon is the time every month when the moon is dark and cannot be seen in our night sky. A new moon lasts 2-3 nights and then a tiny sliver of the waxing (growing) moon shows herself again in the night sky. In many earth based traditions, each new moon marks the beginning of a cycle. Many ancient cultures who were more intimately tied to the natural cycles on Earth, believed that new moon energy marks the perfect time for renewal and / or beginning new projects.

We entered the 10th moon cycle last weekend.

Several years ago, I discovered a wonderful book that shares Native American wisdom and legends about each moon cycle on our Earth; it’s called  The 13 Original Clan Mothers  by Jamie Sams.  One Clan Mother or Grandmother is said to watch over us in each lunar cycle. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the idea of Grandmothers guiding and watching over me (some would label me a female chauvinist). And I also adore the magical names that Sams uses to describe the energy of what each Grandmother focuses on.

1st Moon:   Talks with Relations
2nd Moon:  Wisdom Keeper
3rd Moon:  Weighs the Truth
4th Moon:  Looks for Woman
5th Moon:  Listening Woman
6th Moon:  Storyteller
7th Moon:  Loves All Things
8th Moon:  She Who Heals
9th Moon:  Setting Sun Woman
10th Moon:  Weaves the Web    <== Our current lunar cycle
11th Moon:  Walks Tall Woman
12th Moon:  Gives Praise
13th Moon:  Becomes Her Vision

This past weekend, we entered the domain of Weaves the Web Grandmother. Weaves the Web is a favorite of mine, probably because I spend HOURS  exploring creativity and writing.  Here is a snippet of what Jamie writes about Clan Mother Weaves the Web:

“Weaves the Web represents the creative principle within all things…Working with the truth is her Cycle of Truth.  She teaches us how to use our hands to create beauty and truths in tangible forms… Weaves the Web is the Guardian of the Creative Force in all things. She helps us express our creativity in a positive manner and use the energy available to us. This Clan Mother is also the Keeper of Life Force and instructs us to create health, to manifest our dreams, to develop and use our talents, and to access our spiritual potentials…”

Several things light up and become more obvious to me when I read about and meditate on the energy of Weaves the Web; First, as a writer I’d like to remember that Creative juice flows through all of creation on Earth. And what I write and create with that juice is not really mine to “own” – it’s just my interpretation of the the magical creative juice that fuels our world. And that juice carries fundamental Truths that permeate every corner of our Universe.

Truth can take many forms. Every spiritual tradition contains gems and nuggets of truth and wisdom that are available to help me in this crazy, confusing cycle of days known as a lifetime.  If I decide that one teacher or one school of thought is the only source of truth for me, then I lock up and limit my world and my possibilities.

Finding and holding onto truth can be as elusive as trying to catch a fish as it flashes in the sun at the surface of a lake for just a brief instant. Wrapping words around the truth to explain it is a very tricky business;  no words ever completely catch the essence of a truth because truth is an energy, a sensation of lightness and expansion. My truth creates space and opens up a new view of the world to me.  Words never quite do justice to the energy that is truth.

When I search for truth, I can choose to put blinders on and follow only one teacher as though he or she holds all the keys that will unlock me and lead me to wisdom.  Many people prefer that way – it simplifies their search for truth and wisdom. But I can  refuse to wear blinders. I can choose to search out those flashes of truth from every teacher, every tradition, every corner of the Universe that catches my awareness and speaks to me. The second way takes more patience and goes against the norm, but I find it to be infinitely more rewarding.

In every moment of my search for that elusive flash of truth in my world, I have a choice. And I choose truth in whatever form it shows itself to me.

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Fading Away

Today’s blog entry is dedicated to my mom and to all the other families out there dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia…

Mom’s name is Eve and she was born in 1925. Even now in her 80’s, living in a ‘memory care unit’ and suffering from Alzheimer’s, even now my Mom is still feisty and opinionated and a bit of a rabble rouser. My mom may have been born in 1925, but she really resonated with the feminist ideals of the 1960’s. Even though her career was staying home and raising 4 kids, Mom instinctually understood the basic feminist message. Women need choices about how to live their lives, Women deserve choices. My mom understood that even as she allowed herself few of those same choices.

My mom’s name may be Eve, like the first woman in the Bible, but the name NEVER fit her. Mom never fit the mold of the “little woman” who is made from her husband’s rib and is subservient to her man and lives to serve him. No way! My mom complained about the silly rules that dictate proper female behavior from the very beginning; as a kid, she demanded to know why her 5 brothers never had to do housework while she and her sister were cooking and cleaning every week. And how come the boys got to swim in the creek, but she and her older sister couldn’t? Apparently it wasn’t proper in the 1930‘s for teenaged girls to swim in the creek, even when southern Illinois was 95 degrees in the shade. Can you imagine??!

Later on as an adult, my mom wondered aloud why men got to do all different kinds of work while women were expected to marry and become homemakers. And she thought it very sad that an intelligent and beautiful woman like her sister who never married was labelled a spinster and considered broken by this society!

No, my mom was NEVER a mild mannered ‘good little woman’. And I mean that as the highest compliment. Mom was actually more like Adam’s first wife, Lilith. You may not have ever heard of Adam’s first wive Lilith, but she appears in the Jewish Talmud and several other sacred texts. Most references to Lilith were stripped from the Bible. And what, pray tell, was Lilith’s crime? Well, Lilith refused to be subservient to Adam. She refused to “lie beneath him”. And when Adam balked at treating her as his equal, Lilith up and left Adam and went to live by herself. For refusing to cleave to Adam and do what he said, Lilith was condemned by her culture and turned into an evil demoness that ate newborn babies and sucked the virility right out of men. For “misbehaving” Lilith was rejected and labelled an uppity bitch. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I picture a mix of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan when I think of Lilith.

Lilith is the original feminist archetype; she’s a powerful female who KNOWS she is complete unto herself and she needs no man to define her or validate her existence. Lilith resonates with that same powerful anger that drives modern feminists like myself; we feminists look around and see how women allow themselves to be treated and we roar with rage.

Unlike Lilith, my mom never left her husband. She never left, but she roared with rage at the inequities of her married life on many occasions. She roared but she really never figured out how to make her own marriage less traditional. It took me years to realize that Mom was actually raging at herself and her own decisions as much as anyone else. I think Mom craved a small space of her own without the needs of a husband and kids drowning out her own desires. Like millions of women before her, my mom craved a space of her own, but never figured out how to take it for herself.

When I asked my mom in her late 60‘s what she had dreamed of being when she was a girl, she had difficulty even answering me. Is it any wonder? Didn’t 1920‘s society just assume that girls would want to grow up and be a wife and mommy? Give them dolls and teach them how to cook and clean, right? What a waste!

My mom must have felt such a conflict within herself for so long. She resonated with the feminist ideals of finding yourself and building a meaningful career and yet stayed in a traditional marriage and spent her days taking care of 4 kids and doing mind-numbing secretarial work.

Please don’t get me wrong; my mom adores my dad. She always did. But she dreamed of something more than marriage for herself and for her daughters. She cajoled and encouraged and pushed me to take a different path; to be more than a wife and mommy, to graduate from college and find work that I could make my own. I have her to thank for this career that I love.

So, after decades of denying any part of herself beyond wife and mommy, my Mom is slowly losing her mind. Is that just coincidence? I don’t think so. Ironically now as the Alzheimer’s progresses, she becomes a lot less like feisty Lilith and more like docile Eve with each passing month.

Today I watch my mom’s brilliant wit and intelligence fade away and I am sad. Sad for the loss of the outrageous woman who was my mother. I am sad that my opinionated mother cannot figure out how to hold onto herself and her opinions any longer. And I am very sad that my 11 year old daughter will never really know her grandmother’s strength or her powerful presence.

I am also sad because I look around the “memory care unit” where my mom lives and I see what the future holds for her. I do not understand why she clings to a life that consists of eating and sleeping and not much else. She is kept safe and fed as every week she fades a little further away, like an old photograph fading over time. And I wonder what the point of this slow fade to death is. Years as a healer have taught me that God always has a good reason for everything. But I really cannot figure out the point of Alzheimer’s.

I watched “You Don’t Know Jack” a few weeks ago on HBO; it’s a movie about Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia doctor that the press nicknamed Dr. Death. I watched that movie and I puzzled over how some people could condemn and despise Jack Kevorkian for helping suffering people to die. Granted, Jack is an opinionated old coot and he does not make it easy to like him. But his heart is huge and his intent seemed pure to me. I wonder if anyone who has watched a loved one suffer on the edge of living for months or years could condemn Kevorkian?

Is keeping my mom’s body fed and alive while her brain slowly dies a noble, caring act? Or would helping her to die quickly be more noble? At this point, I certainly don’t know what’s more right or more noble. Ironically, my mom was a big proponent of euthanasia before Alzheimer’s set in. She had a living will drawn up years before her illness became apparent. Yet today if you ask her, she will say emphatically that she wants to be resuscitated if her heart stops. Even as barren as her days seem to me, my mom still wants to be here.

Here she stays. I have trouble killing a bug, so there is no way I’m going turn into Kevorkian here. All I can do is watch her slow decline with sadness. I wish that I could somehow make it all better for her – and for me and my siblings. But all that I can really do is turn Mom over to God again and again and again. And try to remember that God has it handled.