Magic Shoes

We are the granddaughters of the witches you did not burn. ~ Unknown

shoes1I wore high-top tennis shoes for A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer. I think they are still referred to as tennis shoes. I’ve wanted a pair for a very long time, would pick them up from the shelf in the shoe department, turn them this way and that, then return them to the shelf without even trying them on.

I don’t know why.

And then I was in the staged reading of A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer. My piece: “Conversations With my Son.”

“You’re coming in from the garden,” the director suggested. “Do you have a pair of high tops?”

Finally, I had an excuse to buy high tops. I found them online for a mere $6.00.

You should know that though I have always wanted to garden, I am absolutely clueless when it comes to growing things. While my dogs and cats flourish with me, I have the distinct feeling that plants of all varieties know I appreciate them, but want me to appreciate them from afar. I don’t have the ear for their language.

I added a hat and flannel shirt to my costume. And then I put on the shoes. Magic shoes.

They were comfortable. They connected me to the ground I walked upon, whether the stage, the green room, or the muddied grass that surrounded the theatre. I believed I was a writer/mother/gardener/feminist who wrote, tore out articles that recorded the horrors of women used as spoils of war and everyday victims of “domestic” violence, sent them to my son, called him in the middle of the night and as he went into meetings to pitch ideas for writing to talk about the state of women in the world—and also worried and wondered: did I damage my son as a man and as a person with these horrors perpetrated by men.

She didn’t, this writer, Susan Miller. Her son seems fine. A good man. There was a light at the end of the hall in her home growing up, It signified safe passage. So she had a light at the end of the hall in the home in which she raised her growing son as a single mother.

I think it’s that light at the end of the hall—safe passage—that allows a child to grow, to flourish, to feel entitled to his or her story.

Many of our ancestors were burned as witches. Some for political reasons—it was a way to wrest property from them—others because they were connected to their female selves. For generations mothers tried to protect their daughters from suffering the same fate by teaching us to cover it up, go along, act as if we were powerless.

I think that legacy is changing. There were witches that did not get burned at the stake and their descendants, those like me, are finding our footing, our voices, our beating hearts—courage.

The word “courage” is from the Middle English. It denotes heart as the seat of feelings. In the Animal-Wise Tarot deck, the Cougar card means Coming into Your Own Power. Fill your heart with power knowing the time and circumstances are right to take charge of your life most effectively.

shoes2Something about those shoes. I wear them whenever I can now. So much better than those high heels that cripple our bodies. Sometimes we need to don a costume to realize that it isn’t a costume at all, but who we actually are.

I am the granddaughter of a witch they did not burn. I am not alone. With our beating hearts filled with power, our voices are speaking the truth of the human heart. Authentically. With compassion. And with the light turned on at the end of the hall.

Safe passage.

Wisdom Matters

I did not know Elizabeth Edwards. And yet . . .

I have not written a blog for over two months. I wanted to write something before the last election, but it was as if the cat got my tongue. I wanted to write that To Kill a Mockingbird was a fitting metaphor for the country right now; that Sarah Palin and her followers are like the Ewells. Sarah Palin, like Bob Ewell, claiming victimhood and using love of family as a weapon, revels in the power to destroy lives. Her followers seem like Mayella Ewell, who is at the mercy of her rapist and physical abuser—her father, Bob Ewell. Even greater than the rage she has for her father, is that she feels for the town people who turn a blind eye to her plight.

The only power the Ewells seem to have is derived from the conceit that being white entitles them to more than if they were black, regardless of character.

I was not able to articulate that in October. Then the election happened, and the cat seemed to disappear with my tongue.

People, I think, are feeling powerless over their lives right now. As the gap between the haves more and more and haves less and less grows greater, survival fears creep in, which provides fertile ground for tyrants—those whose pathological need for power has no boundaries or decency.

And then, there was Elizabeth Edwards. Pundits and commentators reported that she had lost her battle with cancer. When reminded that she did not look at her impending death as a battle lost, they lost their veneer of objectivity. They seemed to let in the story they were really telling: a life had ended, and though they did not yet understand why or what, she had taught them something about living.

I’ve been sorting through why I can claim the right to pause at her passing, how though I never met her, I feel affected by her life.

She was the same age as I, so perhaps that is a part of why it hits close to the bone. I admire that she took a route that was new to women when we were younger; going to law school. She embraced her entitlement to her aspirations. It took me another twenty before I even recognized I was entitled to them.

When her son was taken from her, she didn’t lose herself in work. Instead she lost herself in grief. I think that’s healthy. I think that’s why she found her way out of it. It also says to me that though she had stepped into a world that was defined by a cultural stereotype of being male, she did not become enslaved by it. She did not man up, she womaned up.

Losing the 2004 election had to be disappointing. On the same day, she learned she had breast cancer. I think the fear of being diagnosed with breast cancer lurks in the dark corner of women’s lives. Dire news about cancer returning coincided with revelations about her husband’s infidelity. The betrayal became public humiliation as it played itself out in 24-hour news cycles. What was most difficult, she said in an interview, was that all through their thirty years of marriage she had been able to turn to her husband during bad times. That’s what she had lost with his betrayal.

If anyone might feel powerless, and bitterness at being powerless, one could understand her feeling that way.

Whatever route it took her to get there, she chose grace over bitterness and powerlessness.

Women like Sarah Palin and Sharon Angle declared that their opponents needed to man up. They are enslaved to cultural stereotypes of being male, a stereotype that might provide the illusion of power over others, but ultimately carries no genuine power with it. They apparently never met Atticus Finch.

Elizabeth Edwards showed us courage and grace in the face of humiliation, disappointment, and death. We all have the power of courage and grace, regardless of what life throws our way.

She showed us how to number our days so we can apply our hearts unto wisdom.

We need leaders who know how to number their days.

We need them to woman up.