The Right of Spring to be Sacred

Kali stood for Existence, which meant Becoming because all her world was an eternal living flux, from which all things rose and disappeared again, in endless cycles.
From The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

Last week, blossoms started appearing on the bare branches of the red maple tree. This morning, a blue jay (at least I think it’s a blue jay) tugged at a still-bare twig, and then flew off with it. I assume a nest is being constructed nearby.

Though spring has been revealing herself for a few weeks (this is California, after all), today is the first day I felt her presence. The air is cool and crisp in the early morning, but the light has changed. The sky is intense, Mediterranean blue.

Persephone returns from the underworld.

According to The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Persephone is the Crone form of the Triple Goddess Demeter, the Queen of the Underworld long before legends of Hades/Pluto abducting her for his bride. She is the Death-goddess. She was, in another form, Kali Ma, the Hindu Triple Goddess of creation, preservation, and destruction.

Spring has always been a difficult transition for me. It has never felt like the beginning of something for me. It has been rather confusing.

I’m listening to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) as I write this. There is nothing pastel about it. Nothing Easter bonnet about it. It is the laborious ascent from formless to form.

“Black was Kali’s fundamental color as the Destroyer, for it meant the formless condition she assumed between creations, when all the elements were dissolved in her primordial substance.”
The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

Now I know why spring was always confusing to me, why when I see the pastel blossoms, I also see the gnarly beauty of the twigs and branches they claim as their residence.

Spring isn’t the butterfly; it is the transition to the butterfly. Caterpillars, I think, are one of the most courageous creatures on earth. They respond to the call to enter the cocoon, in which they dissolve into a kind of primal soup that eventually gives birth to the butterfly. The same creature that trod on the ground, now flies above it—sees from a different perspective.

That is the promise of embracing the ordeal—creation, preservation, and destruction—that life is. In the end, we have a different perspective. What we once knew gives way to what we now know. To grow means to change.

I am not a fan of either matriarchal or patriarchal systems. I think that both tend to require a loyalty to a system over loyalty to one’s heart. So, I’m not advocating for a return to a matriarchal system.

I do think, however, that it is time for the patriarchal system, best exemplified by our Congress (in particular the Republican branch of it) and the Papacy, to give up the ghost. It would be nice if it did it quietly, but it seems like it wants to take as many of us down with it, including the earth as we know it, to prove it is right and powerful.

I am a woman in her sixties. This is the Crone phase of my life. We live in a society that demeans that. Think Mitch McConnell, a man in his seventies, called Democratic women “The Golden Girls” —as if that is an insult.

So while it is not necessarily time to restore the matriarchy, I do think it is time for us Crones to embrace what we have learned as women—within our own bodies we experience the profound way of life that is bound up with death and destruction as well as birth. It is time to call the patriarch what it has become—little-boy bullies—and send it scurrying.

We need to destroy the sentimentality that the patriarch has descended into so that life can ascend.

I ask you, would a society that really embraced the ordeal of life have allowed the poor patients in the charity hospital in New Orleans to die after Katrina because they were poor? Would we really think we have a God-given right to own weapons that are weapons of war—intended to cause as much death as possible in the briefest time? Would we deprive women of the right to make choices over their bodies? Would we think we are all in this alone?

Crones have been dismissed as dried up old women. Really what Crones are are people with the wisdom that comes from living life authentically. You do not have to be a woman to be a Crone.

It’s time for the voices of the Crones to rise and be heard so that what ails us—a disconnect from life itself—can be healed.

It is time for the right of spring to be experienced for what it is.

Bring in the Crones. Don’t bother they’re here.

I’m Angry. I’m Damned Angry

I am watching waves crash against the rocks as they reach the western edge of the continental United States.

The northern California coast is magnificent. Yesterday, the wind turned the ocean sea green, the white-tipped edges visible to the horizon, and pierced you with its ferocious chill. The wind is not so powerful this morning. The air is cold, but it does not penetrate the way the chilled wind did. The ocean is back to being Mediterranean blue, its undulating beauty much less ominous.

Still, some waves crash over the rocks down below that rise three stories above the surface.

I forget that spring can bring that bracing chill with it some days. It is often more bracing than the winter’s chill. I don’t know why that is.

I have been on blog silence for nearly three months, suffering from butt-not-in-chair syndrome caused in part by patella-femoral syndrome. My knee got out of alignment and sitting for longer than 15 minutes made it ache so much I could not concentrate on anything other than the pain.

So, that was the proximate cause of my silence.

But, I also just plain didn’t know what to say, as a small group of young Republican men have begun their assault on common decency in the name of fiscal responsibility and freedom.

As I have said on Facebook they remind me of an old joke: A small underdeveloped country, in an attempt to become relevant, calls a news conference to announce they are sending a man to the sun. Won’t the man burn up, the reporters ask? Don’t be silly the country’s official says, we’re sending them at night.

These boys (and an occasional mean girl) seem to be hell bent on making sure women remain barefoot, pregnant, and muzzled, and the poor and middle class are so focused on daily survival that we don’t have time to participate in democracy.

They seem to have no sense of history – no understanding of what the world was before they came into it – while being simultaneously ignorant of how decisions today affect the future. Not to be trite, but they either don’t get the concept, or don’t care about seven generations.

I’ve heard Joe Scarborough belittle the notion that the BP oil spill hurt the Gulf because the Gulf is so large, it can’t be ruined. Well, except for those dead zones that have been created.

I’ve heard Scott Walker refer to public employees (teachers, police, firefighters) as the haves while the taxpayers are the have-nots. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that public employees pay taxes.

I’ve heard history being rewritten to sanitize our history of slavery.

And then, of course, there is the absurd notion that denying a woman the right to make choices over her body and health is a pro-life position. Cut funding for abortion, cut funding for maternal health, cut funding for children’s health, cut funding for education, cut funding for childcare services.

I don’t call that pro life – I call that anti-life.

I’m pissed. I’m damned angry. These are not brave courageous men, these are boys who have been given license with no regard to consequences.

So what has this got to do with my knee and waves crashing into the edge of the continent?

Take a leap with me.

You could not tell by looking at it that my knee was out of alignment. I suspect that its misalignment would be measured in – whatever miniscule measurements you could imagine. But that tiny, indescribable change in alignment made a huge difference in my daily life, in my sense of well being, and in my understanding what it means to live in a body that is mortal and must be paid attention to.

Our planet is like our bodies. A small temperature change can have repercussions far beyond our ability to discern the change in temperature. Who can predict the repercussions of a dead zone in the ocean?

Right now, the rocks stand in the way of the waves’ inexorable ascent on the shore. But little, by little, the water wears down the rock and some day, they will be gone.

These men who are imposing their agendas on us are little men. Smart and clever they might be, but wise they are not.

Send in the crones. You don’t have to be old or a woman to be a crone. But you do need to have the humility borne of life experience and compassion for what it means to be human, and what it means to be a part of something bigger than one’s own ego. Morgan Freeman said he would live another 30 or 40 years and still he wouldn’t see the end of the universe. He’s a crone.

I’m angry. I’m damned angry.

Pre-Pubescent Girls to Post-Menopausal Women: A Friendship

Mary Ann, please don’t worry about the future, ’cause you’re too nice a person to have things turn out bad. I know that much happiness and especially love is in your future.

June 1967 (what I wrote in Mary Ann’s annual)

It’s not just the cool air on my skin. It’s the light. And, there is a stillness, a calm. It’s a time of reaping.

The equinox is a week away, but autumn has arrived. My favorite time of year.

I wrote in June that summer is baskets waiting to be filled. Autumn is the time to fill them.

Butterflies, when they emerge from their cocoons, wait until their wings dry before they take flight. In my morning pages this morning, I wrote that I was ready, like a butterfly, to take flight.

I’ve said before that I think the caterpillar is one of the most courageous creatures ever put on earth. The caterpillar, responding to its DNA, cocoons itself, becomes a protoplasmic soup, and from that protoplasmic soup becomes a butterfly. Then, the creature who could only have an earth-bound view of the world, waits for its wings to dry, takes flight, and sees a view of the world as new and magnificent as we saw when astronauts sent back photos of the earth as seen from the moon.

I think that the caterpillar represents for me the willingness to submit to the mystery of life calling. It occurred to me that the butterfly taking flight is the end of a journey, but not the point of it. The cycle will start again.

It is in the cycle that I find faith and hope.

I visited Mary Ann recently. We’ve known each other for fifty years – from pre-pubescent girls to post menopausal women. We come from similar backgrounds: our fathers were working class men who had served in WWII; we lived down the street from each other, a short street in a new housing development, our neighbors included PhDs, a dentist, the City engineer, a former priest, and stay-at home mothers. The street teemed with kids playing baseball in the street in summer.

We met in January of 1960, when I walked by her house. What’s your name she asked me? Then, how old are you?

Buddy Holly had barely been dead for a year, his sweet lyrics found power in rock and roll rhythms as he assured us that not only was it easy to fall in love, but that love would surely come our way.

By the time the decade ended, we had graduated from high school; my mother had gone to work, but Mary Ann’s continued to stay at home. The vineyards that covered the fields behind our house had been plowed under to make room for more families just like ours. Four leaders had been assassinated, Woodstock promised a new day dawning. The sun set forever on that day when a man was murdered as the Rolling Stones strutted on the stage, their dark rhythm joining forces with lyrics that announced to the world that the girl was under their thumb.

Mary Ann married a man who cherished her, was widowed five years later, then, much like me, ended up on the bumper car ride of relationships, getting involved with men who didn’t cherish us. We took the path of the Rolling Stones rather than Buddy Holly.

But as we talked over our visit, it was clear to me that though I had been to college and she hadn’t, we had both kept ourselves in check in similar ways, believing that our role was to stay in the background, just like our mother’s had. We both have been the caretakers, tending to the needs of aging parents and parents-in-law; been the backbone that ensured that family business was taken care of.

And both of us have been responding to a siren’s call to awaken to another journey. For a brief moment, I worried that we were too late. That we were supposed to be retired now, not venturing on a new journey.

Then it occurred to me. Whatever the new path in our journey might be, our lives had prepared us for it. That the attention we paid as we tended to the needs of people who are dying, had given us a particular kind of wisdom. We had not lost time by tending to life’s ending; we had learned to trust its course.

I suspect this might be the norm for women as they enter their seventh decade. I wonder if we have an advantage over men in this. Perhaps we are so used to cycles and tending to life passages, that we can more easily see this as an opening into a new, rather than the ending of a career.

The future seemed much simpler that day I assured Mary Ann that there was nothing but love ahead. We aspired to marriage — thought that was what our lives were about; finding the right man was the happy ending, nothing much happened after that.

Love was in our future, but it wasn’t to be the man who would make up for our mothers’ disappointments born out of their sacrifices to domesticity. Instead we went on a journey to understand what it meant for us to love. We learned that it was sometimes hard work, and that we had to start with ourselves — not in a self-indulgent way — but by finding out who we were, what we wanted, and what we needed to feel cherished.

We have both found our happy ending relationship-wise, we are married to men who cherish us, who give us time to let our wings dry so we can fly.

As the days grow shorter to share equal time with the night, I am filling those baskets of summer. Preparing for the change of seasons. Reaping the perspective of a long-time friendship. Finding faith and hope in the cycle of life.

Ready to fly, and then start the journey again.