They always say in writing – use a title and the first few sentences to grab attention and the reader will want to see what you have to say. By my title, you have probably ascertained that I have made reference to a couple things: Wonder Woman, Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” and traction. While lately, I have suffered from writer’s block and lack of time to work on my writing, I have also found myself in another place of suffering that has me in traction at least thrice weekly.
It is in that spirit that I reflect on my former status as the infallible wonder woman – the mom of 4, who works full time, teaches, writes, supports her family, is in the middle of writing a dissertation and who started this new year as my year to “Lean In” and really excel in my career – to the current status of fallible woman, mom of 4 trying to stay afloat in all of her obligations, dealing with difficult sibling and teenage bantering as well as (thanks to a begging daughter spouting promises of responsibility) a Siberian Husky puppy and a resident 10 year-old Boston Terrier who now demonstrates the epitome of love-hate relationships, to prioritizing projects in order to keep everyone happy while I try to heal, attend physical therapy, and manage newfound pain and limitations.
In this post, I offer my [brief] thoughts about aging and struggles when a body, probably abused through pushing too hard, but also enduring the normal wear and tear of aging, begins to betray you while trying to come to terms with to a new normal of limitation within your own being – “adapting” if you will – a skill that I believe women have come to master well.
I have begun to call my mother the “Reaper,” which I understand could be to some mums sort of insulting. Images of the Reaper are typically not terribly flattering, you know, with all that sunken skin and stringy black cloth flying around. My mom looks nothing like that, by the way. In fact, she has at all stages of her life borne a striking resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor, causing many a stranger to run up to her over the years, exclaiming, “Oh my goodness, do you know who you look like?” And, let me add, often much to the consternation of those in Mom’s company, such as, well– me, for example– when I was trying to deliver my first baby and the attending nurse ignored me in order to chat with my mom about her resemblances. But, I digress here.
Mom is the Reaper because she is at that point in her life when she rather unabashedly tells it like it is, “reaps truth” as I have come to think of it. Though she may look all violet eyes and white diamonds, she is beyond mincing words.
Is this a feature of aging? I once read that the decreased estrogen and increased testosterone levels in post-menopausal women may contribute to a personality shift where women are more inclined to report on what they are thinking. This may be a factor, but I would find it likelier that many women, menopausal or not, simply get to a point when they have seen/heard/experienced/endured enough that they find little merit in putting up fronts, regardless of hormonal predisposition.
Plus, I am wildly unimpressed by some of the material out there on menopause. It seems like a lot of conflated nonsense that correlates every aspect of female sexual maturation with hormonal imbalance and impending doom. I recently read a book by an “expert” named Dr. Miriam Stoppard – great last name for a menopause specialist, right? – that actually gave medical advice alongside hints about make-up tricks, relationship management tools for your depressed mid-life spouse, and what girdles to wear to help hold up your sagging flesh.
It is interesting that “women who speak their minds” are even an object of contemporary cultural commentary at all. I mean, would there be any talk at all about males who speak their minds? Young girls who speak their minds are cast as feminists, strong-willed, scary to boys, unfeminine, and so on. Of course, the embedded androcentric assumption is that they are doing something contrary to normative female behavior. Older women who “speak their minds” are cast as rude hags and crones, spreading around their venom and disappointment, especially if they swear. This blog on post-divorce dating, kind of says it all:
Society has created this vortex of fear surrounding women aging. Yet, as I turn 30, I am only feeling awe. Awe over everything I accomplished in my twenties and awe in all the things yet to be realized in my thirties. The interesting thing is how other people are experiencing me turning thirty. Some are reminiscent of their twenties or how their experienced their thirties. Others start to bring up certain things which are apparently still lacking in my life. The biggest ones are a husband and children. They look at my eve of thirty-hood as the clock ticking away on me finding love and most definitely on my biological clock.
In 2014 I wrote about the passing of my dear Pop and the painting that burst forth when I was told very clearly that Pachamama had come to accompany him on his return. It is with a very heavy heart that I now write with news of the recent passing of my dear Nanna. The anchors of our family now both gone. When I was told of her passing, I envisioned her being carried by angels; at peace and free of pain.
The last time I saw her she told me the spirits had been visiting. “I’m not scared,” she declared. This was not surprising for Nan always had a close relationship with spirit. I remember her telling me of a ghostly experience she had many years ago. It was very late one night and someone had come knocking at the door. Out of bed she got and answered it only to be greeted by her brother who had died many years before. He asked her to come with him and she told him it wasn’t time yet. Nan swore it wasn’t a dream. It had really happened. This is just one of many otherworldly encounters she told me about over the years.
Much of my childhood and early adulthood was spent at Nanna’s house so there are plenty of fond and funny memories of her. Her obsession with ghost and horror stories stands out as one of them. When we were children, she would get my sister and me to stay up late with her and watch all kinds of mystery murder shows. I remember watching The Hounds of Baskerville with her and being scared witless. The bonus however was getting to cuddle up in bed with her for the night.
Reading was one of her greatest passions, and she read everything from Shakespeare to Stephen King. I believe it was Nanna who inspired my love of history and over the years we swapped and shared numerous historical books. Her knowledge of Old Britain was astounding, and I remember many a discussion over the fate of Mary Queen of Scots – Nanna was always a bit anti-English, and we often wondered how history may have unfolded if Mary hadn’t been de-throned and exiled. In fact the last book she sent for me to read was another about her.
Stargazing was another one of her loves and is something she will be dearly remembered for. Many evenings were spent out on the deck looking to the night sky. Nan knew where all the constellations and zodiac signs were and she rarely missed an astronomical event. Whenever I have looked to the stars I have thought of Nanna, but now when I look to them, she is one of them. Shining down on us brighter than ever.
I dedicated my latest painting to Nanna. For me, painting is how I can process my thoughts and feelings and is also a way to find clarity and understanding on matters such as the nature of life and death. From the moment I made the first marks on the canvas I kept hearing “your ancestors are behind you.” I knew I was being guided by them and tried my hardest to connect in with Nanna’s spirit to see and feel who guided her home. Nanna had strong ancestral ties so it was only fitting to feel them so strongly here. The two younger women standing in front are the gatekeepers, standing at the threshold to the other side. The woman in the centre came with the message that Nanna is at peace – she is peace. She is pictured smelling the roses that were one of Nanna’s favourite flowers to grow. The firebird symbolizes transformation and the flight of her spirit that is seen to the left leaving, heading back to the cosmos from whence she came.
Death is surreal and it still hasn’t quite sunk in that I will never see her again. Nanna was a strong and caring woman who loved her family deeply. Her legacy is one of love, and while the circle feels broken in the sense that she is no longer physically here, it remains unbroken for her spirit lives on forever in our hearts.
I am the daughter of Ramona Cherise Lane, the granddaughter of Ailsa Aileen Rollings and the great granddaughter of Ruth Harrison. I come from a long line of beautiful, strong and capable women stretching back to the dawn of humankind. I honor them and give thanks for all that they have taught and shown me.
Nanna taught me about my ancestors.
She taught me about the importance of storytelling.
She taught me about mystery and history.
She taught me to love books.
She showed me how to crochet and knit.
She showed me how to play cards.
She showed me spirit.
In life and death Nanna has taught me of unconditional love and acceptance.
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal”
Jassy Watson, who lives on the sub-tropical coast of Queensland Australia, is a Mother of four, passionate organic gardener, Intuitive/Visionary & Community Artist, Teacher, Intentional Creativity Coach and a student of Ancient History and Religion at Macquarie University, Sydney. She is the Creatress of Goddesses Garden, Studio & Gallery; a school for the Sacred Creative Arts. Jassy teaches regular painting workshops in person, nationally and internationally, and online based around themes that explore myth, history, earth connection and the Goddess. Regular creative events and presentations are also held that have included visits from international scholars, artists and musicians. Visit http://www.goddessesgardenandstudio.com to read more about her and the work she creates.
As you read this, dear FAR community, it will be my 59th birthday. I was born February 27, 1956. I have one year to go before I turn 60. For this last year I desperately wanted to dye my hair blue, purple and green and let the roots go gray.
However in a long conversation with my hair stylist she helped me realize that I have spent so many years dying my hair various shades of brown, dark brown and burgundy that if I bleach the hair out to white (so that I can then go blue, purple and green) the hair will fry and fall out—ah, Ok. I will live with my brown, black and burgundy hair until I am ready to go completely gray and watch it grow out (my hairdresser tells me it will take three years). Or I will decide to live with the choice I made to dye my hair since I was 35 or so and let it be and keep dying it – and have that be the choice I made. Continue reading “On Not Being A Big Hollywood Film Director, and Other Life Choices by Marie Cartier”
Before Olga Eunice Quintero Smyth died on December 4, 2014 at age 101 and 10 months, I was tempted to believe she was immortal, literally. I knew Olga for forty-five years (from age 16 to 61). For thirty-five of those years she was my mother-in-law. Our history began when I was kicked out of high school and went to work at her free-wheeling school, her utter lack of any interest in reforming me a blast of fresh air. It ended with me sitting beside her as she was dying, softly singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
Olga was named for a Russian princess her mother encountered when she was a babe in her arms en route to Trinidad from her native Venezuela. Olga took for granted her descent from Incan royalty as well. Her mother moved the family to New York when she was eleven. A few years later, she won a scholarship to Mount Holyoke College. She married a classmate’s brother, Julian Smyth, great grandson to Nathaniel Hawthorne. If that weren’t enough, Olga claimed for Julian’s line direct descent from the first century Celtic Queen Boadicea. As long as she could speak, she spun tales. “Where in Africa was she born?” one of her nurses asked me. “What kind of a dancer was she?” Continue reading “My Immortal Mother-in-Law by Elizabeth Cunningham”
First of all a Crone is a woman. She has lived most of her life already and has accumulated many life experiences and therefore, can relate to those younger than her with greater understanding. She has acquired the wisdom associated with having had those life experiences. She has reached a place in her life when she may be slowing down. She may have retired from her career. She may want to devote more time to herself, serving more as an advisor rather than as the doer. We can read the poem, Warning by Jenny Joseph to get an idea, or watch her read it here or below…
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”
Next Saturday, November 1, is the holiday Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This is a Mexican holiday that has currency now throughout the world—but especially in California. After all, in 2014 Latinos will surpass whites in California demographics. It is prevalent at this time in Southern California to see sugar skulls decorated—to even have children make decorated sugar skulls and honor the dead. The holiday provides a focal point for a centered observance and prayer dedicated to those who have died in the past year. It is connected to the other holidays at this time, particularly Halloween where as we Wiccans often say “the walls between the worlds are thin.”
Another tradition celebrated at this time is creating an altar for loved ones—or several altars or ofrendas. The altars can hold sugar skulls, photos and artifacts of the deceased, and marigolds. Marigolds are a symbol of death and are referred to as “the flower of death.” Marigold petals might mark a path from a home to a grave in a village so that the dead can find their way back for this holiday. Marigolds make arches and decorations in and around the altars/ofrendas for the scent of the marigold is purported to draw the dead back for the Day of the Dead reunion. The holiday has its roots in indigenous Mexican holidays and continues back possibly 4,000 years to Aztec rituals honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of the Underworld. Continue reading “Honoring Our Dead, Holding their Stories by Marie Cartier”
My mother-in-law, quoting her mother, has often said, “a woman who tells her age will tell you anything.” I think the “anything” here she is referring to is sexual disclosure. She may be correct because I am not above or below talking about that, but that is not what I am talking about today. Today, I am talking about age, since I am on the cusp of my fortieth birthday.
Still two months out, I am surprised that this birthday registers for me as much as it does. The experience has caused me to plumb my mind in search for vanities that I had not previously noticed. In the depths as on the surface, I have observed, for example, subtle changes in my skin and muscle tone. I will catch a glimpse of my profile and see my mother or my sister, occasionally even one of my grandmothers. My feet look a little, well, bonier somehow. I had to buy glasses recently. However, when I go spelunking, it is not really these things that trouble me. I actually like myself more as an adult than I did as a child or very young woman. I developed a wonderful sense of my body’s strength when I bore and nursed children as well as a compassion for its limitations when I had surgery. I seem more suited to my own flesh these days, and sometimes I actually feel sorry for my younger self who did not know how to appreciate herself. In twilight moments, I occasionally drift backward mentally to a previous iteration just to offer her a little affirmation. It is not really the getting older that I find myself snagging upon nor (and I think I am being honest here) the loss of youth per se. What is it then? Continue reading “Mid-Life Genesis by Natalie Weaver”
This piece titled, ‘Love Facing’ is a meditation on the intergenerational dynamics of family violence and our need to move beyond labels in order to understand the complexities of American violence. It begins with a narrative critic of spanking as a corrective measure and its propensity to escalate into other forms of violence. The poem continues with reflection on how male privilege and power impact the disempowerment of women and girls. It signals forgiveness as a possible means of understanding intergenerational trauma and stress, however. The piece advocates an understanding of male privilege and dynamics of power and control, as a means of empowering women and children, affected by family violence. Furthermore, it examines our societies failure to raise healthy men and boys, who are comfortable openly expressing their emotions. In the end, the poem signals our human need for unconditional love, respect, and honor and need for religious and spiritual practice imbued with compassion, mercy, and kindness, or feminine attributes of the Divine.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” ― Jimi Hendrix
I am 47 and I have gray hair. I decided to stop coloring my hair some months ago. A decision that was and should be a personal one, set me up, like a badly dressed starlet in the pages of a fashion magazine, for commentary from everyone.
This includes my mother and assorted sisters in law, cousins and stepson, friends and even salespeople.
I was prepared for my mother’s reaction who is in her late 60s and starts getting restless when a minuscule amount of hair roots begin to show their natural colour every couple of weeks. Who still has her eyebrows threaded in that ultra thin style that was (thankfully) only fashionable in the 1970s. Obviously then, when I first announced to her that I was going to abandon the hair dye, she wasn’t thrilled.
Imagine being confronted with a powerful and disturbing image illuminating the vagaries of time beside a daughter, your child, with a head of gray hair, when your own is burgundy brown.
Or at least that is what it says on the box.
A stranger, a woman in hijab, stopped me in a supermarket aisle and told me I was ‘brave’.
“I wear the hijab and I wouldn’t ever stop coloring my hair,” she further stated.
“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
― Yoko Ono
If you are reading this on February 28, 2014, then you are reading it on the day after my birthday—I am 58 years old now. I wrote previously about aging and feminism and reclaiming our bodies—my fears of wrinkles—well, not fear…my surprising distaste/revulsion of them, and then yes, fear. My ability to maintain peace inside my aging body came about because I have a life-long history of feminism and I practice yoga. I explored all of this in one of my first blog posts for this site, “If You’re Lucky, You Get Old.” That was two years ago.
I am happy to say that I am no longer scared by my face—by its changes. I believe that “if we are lucky, we get old.” Now—I don’t want to just “get old,” I want to get old and be healthy—and by healthy I mean I want to keep my mind.
This past month I went back to the East Coast to attend the funeral of my mother. She died of Alzheimer’s. Yes. Feminism and Alzheimer’s. Women get Alzheimer’s more than men—women constitute 2/3 of those who get the disease. I know many friends who are afraid now—their mothers had it—are we going to get it? There is a lot of research on Alzheimer’s and little information. There is however the information that women get it more often than men. Some of the things that can prevent Alzheimer’s are physical exercise, healthy diet and social activity. Are these harder for women to attain than men? Continue reading “Birthdays and Aging and Feminism and Religion by Marie Cartier”
The story of Exodus, through a liberation lens, has different meanings depending on the person’s experience in life. I recently experienced my own kind of liberation, a freedom from decades old enslavement. Through this realization, I celebrated with many other women with the reminder – you are not alone!
The story of the Exodus is a familiar one. It is a text of oppression, journey, and freedom – a freedom that finds us in new surroundings, a place of revelation and transformation. Many have written about the Exodus text found in the Hebrew Scriptures from different ideological lenses and social locations. For me, I propose to apply this to menopause (also known as the “change”).
It is not too far fetched to look at menopause as a transformative event in a woman’s life. For a woman like me, who struggled with the disease Endometriosis since my teen years, menopause it is not only transformative, but liberative. The only effective treatment for this disease (for me) was the injections of Lupron Depot that put my body in “medical menopause.” Because of that experience, I felt like my body was being liberated from disease – this disease that debilitated me monthly or, at the very least, caused me tremendous pain.
A few weeks ago, I had the experience of attending a musical with a group of friends. I am not in the habit of blogging about my personal life, but I cannot help but wonder if my story and experience might help another. The problem about “the change” is that we joke about it and usually face it with unbelievable dread. I propose to look at the “change” as a positive – a new beginning, with a reminder to all women out there – you are not alone!
I received this revelation several months after my surgery at a musical named – you guessed it – Menopause! What started out as a much needed get together of friends turned into an awakening and celebration. Something that has me celebrating the change – even as I fan myself through the hot flashes (I prefer “personal summers”), tear-up during emotional commercials for no reason (something I haven’t experienced since pregnancy), clinching my teeth due to a quick-igniting temper that causes me to exercise remarkable restrain (and you thought patience was a gift to children and teens), to searching every cabinet for that holy grail of comfort food – chocolate. As I reflected on that evening, it occurred to me that I was living my own exodus story and the very thing that enslaved me can no longer hurt me – I am now free – renewed and emerged, but still in a strange wilderness that holds different challenges. Continue reading “Encountering “the Change” as a Personal Exodus and Liberation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
Lady Death is knocking on my dear old Poppy’s door. His health has been getting progressively worse with each day and it is a sad and trying time for all of the family. Naturally, with death, comes reflection, unresolved issues are stirred up and we are inevitably confronted with our own mortality. I have been reflecting and reminiscing about times spent with my Pop as a child. So many wonderful memories are warmly held in my heart.
Visiting Pop and Nanna’s house as a child was always very exciting, namely because of all the lollies Pop had hidden in his cupboards – XXXX mints and licorice all sorts his favourites. I remember him Irish jigging in his blue tartan dressing gown around the campfire, and the times he would stick out his false teeth, roar and scare us silly. Slim Dusty, an Australian country music icon was one of his favourite singers, he would play his records on the old player as loud as can be, I knew the words to “I’d love to have a beer with Duncan” back to front. Every weekend the horse races would blare out of his little radio in the kitchen, I would listen along and try to pick a winner for him.
My sister and I would stay at Nanna and Pops house most school holidays and we would both wait at the front gate for him to come home from work, we were always so happy to see him coming down the path, covered in concrete and dirt, his skin so tanned from being in the sun all day. He always greeted us with a big smile and a pat on the head. We would have dinner early and no matter what was on the menu, much to Nanna’s disappointment, he would cover his food in a river of ‘black horse,’ slang for Worceteshire sauce. We would then watch the goings on in the neighbourhood from the back verandah; Pop could, and still can, tell you what everyone else was up to! He was, and still is a cheeky old thing, as stubborn as an ox, and I love him so very much.
Death of one of my family members is not something I have any experience with. Knowing that the time will soon be nigh however, has me naturally thinking about the cycle of life and death. As an avid gardener I witness this cycle daily. I plant seeds, watch them grow, set seed, decay then watch their progeny pop up all over the place. I find cocoons where caterpillars will eventually emerge as beautiful butterflies, only to flutter for two days and pass on. On my early morning bug hunts I find all sorts of larvae waiting to hatch, the strongest survivors grow; have a grand feast on my veggies, only to become a meal or compost themselves. Leaves and branches fall to the ground, animals perish and decay, feeding the earth and maintaining the fertility of the soil in the process.
This Life/Death/Life cycle is no new concept. Since time beginning human life was directly linked to the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life and death. Humans were inextricably linked and connected with their natural environments. They imitated animals and worshipped the sun, moon, trees, rivers and mountains, elaborate rituals and ceremonies were created concerning these cycles and transitions. It was understood by careful observation of nature, that death was a natural part of the life cycle.
But why, in much of our Western culture is there so much fear and denial over death when religions and philosophies the world over have endeavoured to offer solace to humans in the face of our mortality by promising eternal life? Dr. Estes says that, “In much of Western culture, the original character of the death nature has been covered over by various dogmas and doctrines until it is split off from its other half, Life”. This is not how it is, for “death is always in the process of incubating new life”. This is life’s greatest paradox; even in our state of living, we are in fact dying and it is this dance between the two and the nature of the Life/Death/Life cycle that has been contaminated by a fear of death. This splitting in two of life and death, I feel, is largely a result of our disconnection from nurture and nature. This disconnection has impacted on every aspect of society, our ability to flow with these cycles is often weak and as a result impacts all kinds of relationships and structures, particularly that of family and community.
I am not sure what my pop believes about the nature of death as he is not religious, nor does he have any faith in an after life. He doesn’t even want a funeral of any kind. I do remember him though, saying to me as a child rather emphatically, “when you’re dead, you’re dead: food for the worms!” This has stayed with me for life and in it’s simplicity shows an understanding of the cycle. He was an avid gardener too, growing plenty of vegies for the household, and if I look deeper into his comment, which he made on more than one occasion, he was really saying that we become compost, teeming with new life, we feed the earth (the worms) and so the cycle continues.
I am certain though, that Pop fears death, and I know that he fears leaving the living, and while we can talk about, have faith in, and come to accept the Life/Death/Life cycle, it doesn’t mean that it is ever going to be easy. Surrendering to death, not just the physical death of our bodies, but any kind of death, I think, is life’s greatest lesson.
Lady Death is waiting for pop to answer the door, she has come to embrace him and comfort him in his pain and ease his transition. He is not quite ready, but the time will come soon and I feel strong in my knowing that despite how much suffering can accompany the dying, this is the way it is meant to be. From his death new life will emerge.
He will forever live in my heart and memories.
Jassy Watson, who lives on the sub-tropical coast of Queensland Australia, is a mother of four, a passionate organic gardener, an artist, teacher of the Colour of Woman Method, and a student of ancient history and religion at Macquarie University, Sydney. She runs a small business Goddesses Garden and Studio to keep women’s sacred circles, art, music and gardening practices alive. Jassy teaches regular painting workshops based around themes exploring the feminine.
In some cultures, late autumn and winter are the seasons associated with the Goddess as an old woman. As the ice, snow, and long nights curl Her chilling fingers around us, it is fitting that we honor the older women in our midst. Yet, the older I become, the more aware I am of how obsessively American culture has belittled and marginalized older women. Bringing a powerful, vital, and wise image of the older woman back into our consciousness — whether by calling older women “Crones” or using other words — is, to me, a tremendous achievement of feminism and feminist spirituality So, too, is the recognition of the vigor and achievements of middle-aged women inherent in names for this time of life like “Queen” and others. Continue reading “Tending the Fire of Our Circle of Older Women by Carolyn Lee Boyd”
There were some things about my grandmother that I didn’t find out until after she died. For example, in 1974, she co-organized a “Women’s Exchange” in Fresno, California with the theme: Stop the World…We Want to Get On. How much I would have liked to talk to her about that! While I didn’t know about the fair, I do know that she was successful with her vision of getting on this brightly spinning world. My grandma was a woman who was hiking in the Channel Islands one month before receiving a diagnosis of aggressive pancreatic cancer. She was incredible.
After reading Grace Yia-Hei Kao’srecent post about giving a eulogy at her grandmother’s funeral, my thoughts turned to my grandmother’s memorial services this past spring. What, if any, are the components of a feminist eulogy? Grace wonders. In reading this, I reflected on the components of the services I prepared and participated in for my grandmother and I believe they fit the bill. In a pleasingly feminist move in itself, I was asked by my extended family to serve as the priestess at my grandmother’s “committal” service (in which her ashes were interred in the above-ground burial chamber that received my grandfather’s body in 1989).
It was deeply important to me to have multiple voices represented during the small, family-only, service and I enlisted all the grandchildren present, as well as her step-grandchildren, in an adapted responsive reading based on Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”. I chose it precisely because it spoke to the irrepressible, adventuresome spirit of my grandmother. It was a lot of pressure to be responsible for the family ceremony for the interment of her ashes. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be what she deserved. I wanted it to “speak” to every person there. I wanted it to be worthy of her. I hope it was enough. Continue reading “An Epic Woman: A Feminist Eulogy by Molly”
In a class I am taking we were asked to journal with these questions: Ask yourself who are you in the inner voice that does not speak in the world around you or which you have worked tirelessly to bring into fruition in your life. Who are you that has felt suppressed and suffocated?
I sometimes think that I do not know who I am anymore. Life teaches us that it is those outside of ourselves who determine our value to society. We are given love and support (if we are lucky) by our parents as children. Our value is determined by how much time and attention they give us. If we get a lot, we grow up confident in ourselves trusting our way through life. When we attend school our value is determined by the effort we put into our studies, the grades we receive and the extracurricular activities we take part in and finally by the friends we choose. Continue reading “Who Am I Under Oppression? By Deanne Quarrie”
My grandmother, my last living grandparent, recently died. She was 84 years old. Because I’ve just come back from Taiwan where I participated in all of her funerary rites and delivered a eulogy therein, I’ve been thinking a lot about memorializing the dead. Is there such a thing as a “feminist” or feminist Christian way to remember the dead? What, if any, are the components of a feminist eulogy?
“A woman can spin a primal umbilical rope within her womb through which she passes life-energy to the future.” –Melissa Raphael
“In some indigenous cultures of the Americas there is the practice of finding one’s death song while alive. This song becomes the ally of the person throughout their lives, so that they become very acquainted with what the song means in their lifetime. Death then, is a companion of life, and is never forgotten. In the hour of death, these people would, if they were able to, sing their death song–exiting this world with song on their lips and no doubt feeling the power their ally-song had gathered by being with them in their life. I can see that a death song would provide a connection between the person and the cycles of life, guiding the dying person into the next world and helping to allay fear…” –Leslene della-Madre, Midwifing Death
I was introduced to blessingways, or mother blessing ceremonies, as a girl when my mother’s group of friends hosted them for each other during their pregnancies. I loved attending the ceremonies for my mom during her pregnancies with my younger brother and sister and witnessing the web of love, support, and commitment woven around her. They touched me deeply with their sacred, magical, and mysterious flavor. When I was twelve, the same group of friends had a coming of age blessingway ritual for the daughters of the group, ranging in age from 10-16. It was a mystical, beautiful experience. We wore wreaths of flowers in our hair and were blessed with wisdom and tokens from the wise women of our tribe. At 34 years old now, I still have my folder of prayers, quotes, and messages from that day. For years it smelled faintly of rose petals.
This tragedy involves all sorts of issues with which readers of this blog are concerned: power, structural injustice, job insecurity, underemployment, unions, healthcare, and Catholic values (the last of these since Margaret worked at a Catholic institution), to name a few.
I never gave much credence to religion but through my mother, I met G-d, and through her I understood that I’m not a feminist because of the books I’ve read but rather because of the woman I call mom.
The first question I always get asked when I’m in feminist spaces is: “What inspired you to become a feminist?” Although I could go into the various histories revolving around men’s involvement in the early stages of the women’s movement to the similarities between the LGBTQ and women’s movements, my simple answer has always relied on one person: my mother.
I’ll be the first to admit (as well as many other people who will join me in the same chorus) that my mother deserves Sainthood for having put up with all the shenanigans I have, and still continue to, put her through. From running away from our local Catholic church the moment she dropped me off at Sunday School, to swearing like a sailor on leave at a very early age in front of Father Schmidt (who still fondly remembers me and the list I brought in with me to the confessional booth). Continue reading “Truths My Mother Taught Me by John Erickson”
We live in an age when there are overall changes in our society in the values of respect and compassion. I no longer see people pulling back chairs or opening doors for others. Actually, I am constantly witness to a general lack of respect everywhere. From vulgar profanity in public places to downright abuse of others – this saddens me. Where I see this lack of respect most of all is within social media. There, people write anything they want – about anyone they want and to anyone they want without consideration of the grievous harm they might cause. Continue reading “Values of Respect and Compassion for Others by Deanne Quarrie”
oes God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity? Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions. After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?
My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space. Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality. An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar
Her roots reach to the very center of the Earth where they wind around the sacred wells, the deep source of wisdom…
Possessing the potent powers of fertility, growth, resilience and longevity, the tree is widely seen as the progenitor of the world. Family Tree. The Tree of Life. The tree goddess was seen as a sylph, an airy tree spirit who resides among the green leaves, sustaining and nurturing the vegetative forces. She is the symbol of the flow of life, a Mother Goddess who is Herself the Tree of Life.
The Maasai people claim their descent from an original parent tree. For the Slavs, the world tree is the symbol of all relationship, and as such, is held as the central philosophical image in that culture. The Maya of Central America understand themselves to be part of a great celestial ceiba tree. This silk-cotton tree, which stands for all life is the pole at the center of the Earth and serves to hold up the heavens. The Koran refers to the cosmos as a tree. Continue reading “Lady of the Trees by Mama Donna Henes”
The Queen paradigm promotes a new understanding of what it might mean to be a middle-aged woman today who accepts complete responsibility for and to her self, and it celebrates the physical, emotional, and spiritual rewards of doing so.
Although I have been passionately devoted to the Many Splendored Goddess in Her complex multiplicity for more than thirty years now, I am not a believer in the Triple Goddess paradigm. It has never resonated with me because it belies what I believe to be the true nature of nature. The Triple Goddess in Her tripartite phases is widely understood to represent the complete cyclical wholeness of life. She who is Three is likened to the moon, the tides and the seasons, whose mutability She mirrors. And therein, lies the rub.
Winter’s hungry hand has taken another powerful and precious older woman. No one knew Ellen beyond her family and friends, her church and her neighbors. She was 90, a nurse, faithful to her church and of service to her community, and quiet in manner and tone. In my work in elder services over 25 years, I have come to know many Ellens, older women who have labored relentlessly in their homes or in the outside world for little recognition or financial recompense but who have made a tremendous difference in the lives of other. For reasons that may have to do with the harshness of New England winters, or maybe just coincidence, or maybe only perception, winter seems to be the time when they leave the Earth and we are bereft.
Ellen and the many older women I have known like her do not fit into any standard or feminist image of a powerful woman. They do not generally challenge the status quo, except with occasional complaints about unfairness to women in comments to friends. They may not feel comfortable labeling themselves as “feminist.”
As I enter this world, I know that I am so very blessed. My life will be one of worth. As hard as people fought to see me take my first breath, they will fight for my life to be one of dignity and worth. I am protected in a world that is pro-life – or so I thought.
My mother was raped, but the law did not recognize this violent act as rape because she became pregnant with me. The law only recognizes legitimate rape as one that does not result in pregnancy. I entered the world amidst controversy. I was named Magdalene Rose. Magdalene because of the shroud of controversy that surrounded her – the false accusations of prostitution, the stigma that history assigned to her, and the hope of those who have tried to reclaim her as the first witness to the resurrection, a faithful disciple, and devoted minister. Rose was chosen for the flower that can bloom even in the face of adversity; one that can push through the snow to reach the sun and spread its petals.
My mother is a single mom She does the best she can – trying to keep us clothed and fed. She works so much and I stay many nights with my grandmother or a neighbor. She seems so tired, so worried, but yet always has a smile to share with me. I am her blessing, a miracle born out of darkness.
We go to church every Sunday, but strangely, no one will sit by us. We have to sit in the back. I wonder why. Certainly our clothes are a little worn – we rely on hand-me-downs and the thrift shop. My mother dresses me in the finest dresses she can find, I feel so special. In God’s house, we are shunned. People refuse to shake our hand even during the sign of peace. This is the place where we should be welcomed. This is where they proclaim the Gospel and teachings of Jesus. Yet, the only sign of Jesus that seems to exist in this community is symbolized on the cross.
“I never told my grandmother I was gay. I’ve often wanted to visit her grave, clench my hands together, and pray that she forgive me for betraying the trust she instilled upon me long ago. However, even today, I cannot bring myself to make that trek, up the hill into the countryside where her ashes lay below the ground.”
I haven’t dreamt of my grandmother since her passing one hot summer July evening.
The night, and the days that followed, continue to be a blur. However, as my family members continue to see her in their nightly visions, I, go on unabatedly longing to see and hear the voice of a woman who made me feel the presence of the divine with each passing story.
My sister saw her in a dream when she was buying shoes, my mother has seen her multiple times when she would be undergoing a particularly stressful situation, and I, left alone and oftentimes wondering through an abyss of loneliness and disarray, wake up each morning wondering why, I am left all alone. Continue reading “Visions of My Grandmother by John Erickson”
The peri-menopausal woman displays the unbounded limits of her own self. She explores and shares the amazing power of her emotions, now less contained, now erupting in a glorious array of color and sound.
Sometime between the ages of 35 and 55, give or take, a woman enters a phase in her life that can only be described as metamorphosis. Yes, most call it peri-menopausal or menopausal, but truly such changes occur in each woman’s life at this time and it truly is a metamorphosis.
It is that time in her life when she stops producing as much estrogen but the production is often haphazard, sporadic and certainly unpredictable. This affects every aspect of her life. She might notice her eyes being dry in the morning, feeling like grating sand when she tries to open them. Her bleeding times may come on at different intervals or not at all. She may bleed more – she may bleed less. She may experience hot flashes – you ask, “What does that feel like?” Imagine a wave of hot air hitting you in the back of your neck and head – instantly causing you to break out in a sweat. You might even get red in the face! All of this, of course, is without warning, and happening at the most inconvenient times. You will often exclaim, “Is it hot in here?” Continue reading “Metamorphosis by Deanne Quarrie”
My hair started “going gray” at nineteen. Prophetic, you could say, for a college girl whose life was going the same way.
The gray hair began around my temples, curling around my ears like a vine before following my hairline to the forehead and down the spine of my scalp. I remember calling my mother and telling her between tales of new classes and new boys of my new whiskers. “Oh, and mom, you will not believe it. I found a gray hair. What is that?”
Her laugh vibrated though the phone. “That is normal. I went gray at 19. Your father went gray at 19. Your brother has it coming in, too, nowadays.” She added, “Sorry.” But she didn’t sound it. Continue reading “Girls Gone Gray by Erin Lane”