Moving the World Forward on the Spiral of Life by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee BoydThe wasp nest dwells at the edge of my vision waiting for me to notice what it has to show me. In my mind, I have come to this beloved circle of earth beneath the embracing branches of this tree to ponder because the need is urgent for all the world’s women to have lives of peace, safety, equality, opportunity, and enough prosperity to guarantee necessities, and to save our planet from ecological disaster. I seek new ways of thinking about my life and actions and those of the global community of women to inspire more effective means of progress.

wasps nestI finally spy the wasp nest. I follow its spiral shape, beginning at one point and then expanding in circles ever-outward and upward. I wonder, what if, in addition to perceiving my life as the more traditional journey or age-defined stages, I imagined it as a spiral like the galaxy, flowers, ancient sea creatures caught forever in fossils, swirling water, and so much else of nature? What if at my birth I was like a spiral’s central point, perhaps me at my most essential or as an infinite potential, and then, over time, I spiraled endlessly into the cosmos?

When I envision my life as a spiral, I experience myself expanding with every circling. No longer bound by my own or anyone’s notions of who I should be or what is appropriate for me to do, I am free to venture as far from my center as I choose to go, to explore every nook and cranny of human experience. I can move beyond where I am at any given moment by seeking new knowledge and pursuing new actions, friendships and family ties. I can dream for myself, for all women and our planet, goals and ways to reach them beyond what I had assumed was possible.

Courtesy of NASA

Courtesy of NASA

At the same time, spirals circle back to the vicinity of where they began. The center is not a starting point in which I will never again dwell, but rather a home that I keep rediscovering as I move ever-outward, but yet always come round to again. I may have expanded my focus beyond my ordinary life but who, where, and when I was born has meaning for what I can offer to these efforts for change. Whatever I do, I must remember the special gifts of my life history and bring its wisdom to bear on my actions. I must gain strength from drinking from the well of where I came from while also never forgetting that its waters are connected to the oceans that circle the whole globe.

Finally, I consider how spirals naturally encompass parts of other spirals as all expand in the same space, much like many circular lilies all arising from the same pond. I remember how this is true of so many of my relationships with women. Women don’t just cross paths, as lines do when they meet, but we take each other into our lives, become part of one another’s being. I am not simply touched by other women, but transformed by them as each one, even if we only meet once, becomes part of me.

The spiral image can help us envision what we will do to forward a more just, equal, peaceful, and sustainable world, but what does a spiral look like in action? Perhaps it resembles the Seven Summits Team of young women from Nepal who recently reached their goal of climbing the highest mountain on each continent. The seven young women come from backgrounds that include fleeing forced marriages, child labor, and extreme poverty. Through education and determination they became not just independent but renowned for their climbs and other achievements. In addition, they have used their global acclaim to further the education and empowerment of women in Nepal and globally and to promote environmentalism by visits to over 200 schools, community organizations, governmental agencies, and more, as well as a planned book for young people. They have gained worldwide media attention and met with world leaders.


From Seven Summits

These young women seem to have an expansive view, with their lives on a trajectory that goes far beyond what they might have anticipated as a goal for themselves or what their families and community would expect them to be doing at this stage of life. They move upwards, both physically and metaphorically, with no limits in sight. Yet, at the same time, by their social action work, they have not forgotten their pasts or lost their centering memories of why they are pushing themselves to accomplish so much. Finally, their lives touch each other and women all over the world. They are not just a mountain-climbing team, but close friends who depend on one another, and they feel a responsibility to all the world’s women.

Our lives are a succession of days spent doing what we can to make a life of meaning, joy, and love, and bring into being our vision of a better world than the one we were born into. When we awaken in the morning, we don’t know if we will lay our heads down again to sleep at night. When I look up and see the wasp nest and then up at the sky and know that I am traveling on our galaxy’s spiral, I see that I, too, am a spiral made of days instead of stars, of thoughts and ideas bound into bundles of time instead of wasps nest glue. I come to know that while my life may be finite and I may perceive of myself as alone, in reality I have elements as infinite as the universe itself as I rise and circle, that my spiral can move in rhythm with those of all other women around me, and that, together, we can eventually reach the top of whatever mountains we choose.


Carolyn Lee Boyd is a human services administrator, herb gardener, and writer whose work focuses on the sacred in the everyday lives of women. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews and more have been published in numerous print and online publications. You can read more of her work at her blog,

Categories: Earth-based spirituality, General, Interdependence of Life, Nature, Women's Spirituality, Women's Voices

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13 replies

  1. Thanks so much Carolyn. The spiral is one of the major symbols of ancient Crete, no doubt copied from nature’s spirals, and it never stood alone, the line of the artwork like the line of dancers spirals into the center and out again, in the never-ending flow of life, out from the Source, and back again.

    PS My title for my book that was published as Odyssey with the Goddess, was The Serpentine Path, as I had learned (but marketing had not) that life is not made up of straight lines of accomplishments, but rather the serpentine path and as part of it, the spiral dance, are the point.


    • Thank you so much for mentioning both the importance of the spiral as a symbol in Crete as well as the spiral dance. I once participated in a spiral dance with about 120 other women and the power it generated within and between us was immense. The serpentine path – what a wonderful, flowing, dynamic way to describe life.


    • The serpent also represents rebirth, so even if the title was refused, the book remains “The Serpentine Path,” simply by shedding its name and re-birthing itself with the new name.


  2. I agree with the following statement: “Women don’t just cross paths, as lines do when they meet, but we take each other into our lives, become part of one another’s being.” In my experience, I find this true. Thank you for a lovely, poetic post.


  3. Thanks, Carolyn. Fascinating the wasp nest and galaxy together, and remembering those same spiral forms at work in the garden, as you mention, or in an eddy of a stream. But also I love the beauty and harmony and even mystery in all geometric patterns — they can be so simple, yet totally wondrous.


  4. And thank you for letting us know about the seven summit women!


    • You’re welcome! There does seem to be a strong connection between women and mountains. I know a woman who climbed Kilimanjaro with her 20 year old daughter and, for them, it was a journey all about deepening their mother-daughter relationship before the daughter went off to make her own life. It seemed as if the mountain and the beauty of the landscape they saw wasn’t just an opportunity for this, but an active force in their bonding.


  5. This is one of the most beautifully written, thoughtful, and profound posts I have ever read. Brava!

    There’s a man who’s been getting a lot of attention for running marathons on all seven continents. But the seven summit women have not been in the papers or on TV (as far as I know). More power to them!


    • Thank you! You’re right – the Seven Summits Women have not been getting anywhere near the press they should be, and they should be getting it for not only their accomplishment of climbing the mountains, but especially for the educational and empowerment work they are doing on behalf of women and the environment.


  6. Reminded me of my favorite t-shirt: “Die gerade Linie ist Gottlos” (The straight line is godless)- Friedensreich Hundertwasser. From his manifesto “On the Paradise destroyed by the straight line”.


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