When I moved to Maine from New Orleans 15 years ago, I was delighted to discover how many birch trees were on the property where I lived with my new partner. Previously I had had little contact with these beautiful white trees, other than in pictures and stories. The name always evoked images of birch bark canoes and messages to fate scrawled with bits of burnt wood.
Rebirth is challenging. It demands that we be accountable, acknowledge failures and fears, recognize the ramifications of our actions, and the ways we impact those who share our journey. We often don’t realize that denying self-love and care in favor of sacrifice for others results in a double negative. If we don’t care or ourselves, we cannot care for anyone else.
Warning…TMI ahead. I’ve thought a lot about writing this piece. I believe in the spirit of sharing experience; learning from one another—recognizing our own stories and finding we are not alone—when someone is willing to speak her truth. My gratitude to Carol Christwhose courage to share experience has empowered me to brave (I feel an overwhelming urge to insert emojis to express my emotion and gratitude; and although I am desperately trying to restrain myself… 🤗❤️🙏).
Being vulnerable is scary. It is uncomfortable. It requires us to share our deepest fears, that for which we feel shame. It can be embarrassing. We don’t want to be judged. And yet, our vulnerability can also promote our own healing and offer a sense of comfort to those who share in our struggle. And so, I feel like I should shout out Geronimo…
This month marks eleven years since losing my mother to violence. It also marks fours year since I chose to leave my seventeen year marriage. I hadn’t before made the connection about these two events occurring the same month until this very moment of my writing – but it occurs to me that there is a significance in finding strength during a time when I was grieving the anniversary of my mother’s passing. Perhaps a reflection for another post…
I remember the moment I knew that my marriage was likely going to end; I felt like I was dying. I begged my husband to stay. I recited prayers that have never brought me comfort. I went to a church that offered me no community. I sought counseling from a priest who devalues me because I am a woman. I turned to the traditional interpretation of my religion to keep me firmly placed in an unhealthy marriage. Power structure enforcing power structure.Continue reading “Grief and Rebirth by Gina Messina”
I know that most Christians accept some version of the idea that Jesus, the person, died, and then ‘rose from the dead’ in a supernatural, miraculous way – probably the most common definition of what Christians celebrate at Easter. I grew up in progressive Christian churches, where I, too, was taught this idea, which I found fascinating and inspiring. Many people (both Christians and others) still find it healing and inspirational; and I want to state clearly that I think that’s well and good.
What I would like to suggest, however, is that this approach may miss the main point of Easter, of resurrection, and of these narratives. Here goes.
I think being a mother must be an amazing experience. I don’t really know the glimmers and shadows of any life but mine, even though I would be more than happy to listen. Recently, I’ve been reading the poems of Carol Ann Duffy, Scottish poet, U.K. Laureate, and once partner to poet Jackie Kay, and she writes something in one of her poems (“A Clear Note”) that I resonate with: “Never have kids. Give birth to yourself.” It is not Duffy, the narrator, who says this, but a character named Moll.
In the triptych poem, three women—Agatha, Moll, and Bernadette, three generations of women, speak to and about each other through time and space. The quote is just something Moll recalls saying to her daughter, Bernadette one night when she is drunk. I of course do not think a woman cannot give birth to herself if she has children. But it is certainly a good (in my opinion, for I wish it so) excuse for myself, revising this line of verse in my own voice: I will never have kids; I need the entirety of life to birth myself.
In the ancient world, snakes represented fertility, creativity, rebirth, wisdom and, even, death. They were often closely connected to female goddesses, priestesses and powerful human females who were the embodiment of such powers. For example, there is the Minoan goddess/priestess holding the two snakes in her outstretched arms. She is closely linked with fertility and domesticity. Similar figurines, with similar associations and dating to approximately 1200 BCE, have also been founded in the land of what once was Canaan, where Israelites also lived. Medusa, in whose hair lived venomous snakes, turned men who looked at her to stone. Ovid’s account of the creation of Medusa credits the Greek goddess Athena with Medusa’s lively hair. Another Greek legend says Perseus, after killing Medusa, gave her head to Athena who incorporated it into her shield. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is portrayed often with snakes wrapped around her as a belt and/or on the floor next to her. Continue reading “On Snakes by Ivy Helman”
It is, I think, quite common knowledge that most Jewish holidays relate to the seasonal cycles of the Earth. Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest. Chanukah sheds light on the winter darkness. Tu B’Shevat marks the end of the dry season and so begin the prayers for rain in Israel. For Purim, we throw off our winter doldrums and let off a little steam to settle our cabin fever. Pesach is no exception: welcome spring: birth, renewal and even creation. The leaves return to the trees, baby animals are born, flowers bloom, warmer weather arrives and somehow the possibilities of the coming summer are endless.
In fact, the associations between Pesach and spring are many. Arthur Waskow in Seasons of Our Joy explains the origins of the connections (pages 133-139). There were probably two different seasonal celebrations – one of shepherds and one of farmers – that came together around the time of the Babylonian exile into one festival which we can see in Exodus 12 – 13: Pesach. Farmers in preparation for the harvest of spring wheat cleared out the old crumbs and fermentations of the last year to make room for the new. Shepherds celebrated the arrival of baby sheep and their flock’s fertility in general by slaughtering a sheep, putting its blood on their tents and dancing around a fire. Continue reading “The Coming of Spring: Reflections on Pesach and Judaism by Ivy Helman”