On Her Birthday by Sara Wright

One of the aspects of feminism that really disturbs me is the SILENCE around aging. Reflections on our personal lives are a critical piece that can help women to deal with this inevitable process. Oh, we write about the “wisdom” of the crone, the powers of the “Old Ones”, but we don’t share the poignant, dark, or terrifying aspects of personal aging leaving women without female empathy and companionship when we need it most. I am committed to breaking this silence. My birthday poem speaks to the pattern that lies behind my life and how it determined to an extent how I have lived. Chosen or not.

We come out of a culture that believes that each person has ‘free will’ and therefore the choices we make are our own. I challenge this concept because my life experience has taught me otherwise. Within the constraints of the patterns we live we do have choices. So this is a “both and” approach. Coming to terms with constraining patterns can be painful, but only then can we make choices that allow us to make peace with our lives.

On her birthday…

On her birthday

 she surrendered –


Nature’s pattern
for her life was not
what she would have chosen.
She imagined
children…
Instead a deer
appeared
 Bereft, confused,

grief stricken,

 she followed…
He led her
to black bears
who loved her.
Trees
supported her when
all seemed lost.
Finally Barred Owl became
Friend
(Her beautiful brown eyes
comfort lost souls…)


She is old now
Purged
of needing
Others
except for help.

An excruciating process.
Nature
leads her to

undisturbed forest

to visit her father

a beaver in disguise.

Red berries blaze
as she trembles
under the pattern
that owns her.
Her body

never ceases

to remind her

that she is alone.

Peace she

learned lies

in the wild places.

The ground

beneath her hums

glows

synapses running

through her feet

Paradox –

Alone but connected

to the whole.


At 77 
Her days are growing short.
Poignant.
Trees lead her on
 Ruthless slaughter
puts her life in perspective
Forests survived five extinctions. 
Maybe she can
survive one.
The life she lives is
always on the edge
of not remembering
Who She Is.
But the forest
sings to her …
Barred owl greets her
Birthday songs at Dawn.


Her dreams fade
 warnings remain… 
 The pattern haunts her

Resistance blocks…
Oh how
She 
wishes that aging 
brought wisdom 
and not
a cluttered mind
leaving
even the children
she once 
longed for –

Blurred

 Silence, their indifference fading…

But she still needs

that sharp knife edge

to keep recording.

her story matters

though she can’t imagine why…


Aching limbs, exhaustion.

 shortness of breath
slow her down.
She must pay attention…
Care for Body
Give thanks
Use the Snappers Beak
Tear flesh
only in self defense.
Give up the dictates of Nice
Let forest be Guide
even when white fear
buries her alive
Hope is engagement
with the future.

That fierce
capacity for love

needs a lover
Nature
 receives.

Thrives on reciprocity.
Humans
 can’t be trusted

 Her vulnerability
is in the way
We all betray
so innocence isn’t the point
but Sensitivity is.


To feel a crackling fire

 warming
a chilled room

(her secret bower)
pale sun star
in descent

burnishing

 beloved hemlock

bittersweet gold.
Dogs snore

as she tastes

a fish

she prepared

that morning

to end this day…

Gratitude flows –

one unbroken whole.
She’s content
knowing needs

were met.
As for the future
she cannot know.

Because I live my life in relationship with the land I love animals and plants speak to me in a language beneath words. On the morning of my birthday just as I was writing about the patterns that dominate our lives and so often go unnoticed the Barred Owl literally screeched a few feet from my window. Because I am used to this kind of affirmation I was only startled for a moment. What’s interesting here is that I used to have barred owls nesting/ hunting here but after the ravages of neighboring logging the owls left. Early this summer I heard the barred owl in my woods and one night the wings of one almost brushed my shoulder as the poor owl tried to escape mobbing crows. Throughout the summer intermittent calls and lately I am hearing a Barred Owl calling early at night. I have the strongest sense, that one at least, is moving back into this small forest

BIO: Sara Wright is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.



Categories: environment, General, Poetry

Tags: , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Thank you, Sara, for sharing this here. It’s so true, generally speaking, folks don’t like to talk about “the dark and terrifying”, and especially in relation to aging — to close to the reality of death,
    I think is why. Which as you know, folks don’t like to talk much about either! I hear you, though, and I’m glad for nature and the animals that accompany you. Happy Birthday. May the owls return ❤️

    Like

    • Oh it is so nice to hear from you… and yes, this aging issue seems to be hidden behind a wall of silence – as if we could make it go away. I would like to break through the wall but i sure can’t do it alone. – to open up conversation on this issue could lead somewhere but it seems like others are not interested…. Hope all all goes well with you. And thanks for responding.

      PS I have to log in twice very day to get to th site but I still do it.

      Like

  2. I love these lines –

    “That fierce
    capacity for love
    needs a lover
    Nature
    receives.”

    Thanks for sharing the vulnerabilities of aging. I had a strange thought about aging last night – a thought not very welcome in our culture. I realized that at my age of 71 Death would be accompanying me for the rest of my days. Either I will pass first or I will hear more and more of the passing of my friends and mentors. Sobering thought and a reminder to live as fully in the moment as possible (even in an aging body).

    And I understand well the feeling of these lines –
    “Resistance blocks…
    Oh how
    She
    wishes that aging
    brought wisdom
    and not
    a cluttered mind
    leaving
    even the children
    she once
    longed for –
    Blurred
    Silence, their indifference fading…”
    But never doubt that you certainly have wisdom. You express it often here at FAR.
    Happy Belated Birthday Sara!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Judith – and yes, of course you are right – age brings not only fragility to us personally but we begin to lose others too. We have been socialized into a culture that simply doesn’t ‘do’ death which of course makes it harder and lonelier..Even when folks are sharing rituals physical death isn’t mentioned….As a ritual artist I include my own death in rituals especially during this time of year… I think of the Days of the Dead where families both mourn and celebrate those that have died…. so healthy so sane and so grounded. Denial disappears.

      Like

  3. Happy belated birthday! You are so right that our society, including feminism, does not want to see aging or death and we all suffer as a result of the disparagement of older people. Lots of global statistics show how older women, especially, experience discrimination in so many areas of life. Frau Holle, the Cailleach, and other fierce, sometimes terrifying “crone goddesses” associated with death and regeneration show that our ancestors did better at facing death and old age and we can learn from them, I think. Your post and the comments are such an important step in talking about our own experiences with one another. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Carolyn, thank you for validating what I have said so completely. It is discouraging that feminism doesn’t approach this issue – certainly Carol did, though i rarely saw comments that addressed this element in her writing. Discrimination is a brutal reality if you are single woman living alone – no one owns it. Our ancestors lived death as part of the life process – and as I mentioned in the last comment – the days of the dead still honor physical loss as do Indigenous cultures. Thanks!

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  5. I participated in a Croning ritual last week. As I read your post, I realized she celebrated only her expectation of a healthy elderhood (she turns 55 next year), without giving up (physically active) maiden and mother. Next time, I will ask for a more explicit acknowledgement of aging. (She objected a few years ago when I wanted to read Barbara Ardinger’s Ant and Grasshopper at Summer Solstice. Last year, without fanfare, she included the coming darkness as relevant in June.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • 55 is not a croning age – too young – although I too participated in such ceremony once – BUT you get it and that’s what is wonderful – this expectation that health and energy will follow us into aging – becoming a crone must acknowledge the breakdown of our bodies – one reason I think there is so much silences around aging

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that 55 is early. I remember clearly when I was 55 being surprised when realized I qualified for the senior discount at an event. I also remember clearly the January that I turned 65 in March, I ran for a bus on the senior’s free day, and the driver asked me to pay, he didn’t believe (accurately) that I was 65. There was a local women’s group called OWL (Older Women’s League) that seemed to be having so much fun, I wished I could join them. I think their lower limit was 55. But when I turned 55, they were still all 20 years older than I was. (I am now 77 and bus drivers never question me.)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Sara & FAR Community:

    Wishing you all the best for a belated birthday.

    Time and tide wait for no one. Aging is inevitable. It is the nature of all flesh. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Those ancient truisms are as true now as ever. Medicine and technology enable our forgetting and denial but can’t obliterate the reality of our live bodies that inevitably, one day, cease.

    Sending you empathy across the ages, the miles, the internet.

    Can you discuss more what you mean about “patterns” in your life and relative freedom(s)? Patterns can be very sticky and limiting and even feel inescapable. Yet how is it that if we can see them we can’t change them for the better?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh what a question – wonderful! Intergenerational patterns are in my opinion impossible to break – we can however break the cycle in our own lives once we recognize we are caught in a pattern that is so much bigger than we are…. Nature and Ruperts Sheldrake (scientist) taught me – Sheldrake wrote about patterns – morphogenesis 50 years ago – and gosh – he opened the door to my new thinking – I knew I was stuck in something bigger than me.. he was condemned by the scientific community – but of course the joke was on them – Unfortunately we still want to believe that we have unlimited free will and can control everything – oh boy not so..

    Like

  8. Brava and belated Happy Birthday, Sara!

    Like

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