The Care & Feeding of Women, Part I
This morning, once again, there are two roan geldings in the first field. Young, playful, manes and tails full of burs. They canter back and forth with each other, kicking, swishing their bur-filled tails, tossing their heads down and their hind hooves high in the air. They are delighted. They spend hours standing under the giant old apple tree, eating fallen apples and the tender green shoots of grass that grow up around the rotting fruit. Their energy is intoxicating, alluring, contagious. They know how to participate and receive. They know how to be true to themselves. I sit with them, listening to their powerful jaws rip and chew the grass, watch them as they dexterously cut small apples into quarters and eat each quarter one at a time...delighting in every bite. As if they’ve never eaten an apple before. As if they might never eat one again. Nourishment. Participation. Gratitude.
I have spent the last four days in deep ceremony with women as I led the first-ever Truth Telling immersion process. I wish I could describe in slow motion, the entire process of the weekend, moment by moment. Because that is the way we are rewired – moment by moment, step by step until where we are standing bears no resemblance to where we were and we realize we are exactly where we need to be. Being with women in ceremony and community has been a feature of my life, a place of regular devotion. But lately, as the elder-woman of me comes courting, it has dropped down into a clear, conscious, urgent and fearless expression. I am devoted to the resurrection of healthy female culture (and to its counterpart – that of the healthy masculine). I believe everything I care about in this life relies on us, women, remembering how it is we must live in order to thrive, and the diligence and devotion it takes to insist that our lives are formed around the culture this requires.
This isn’t about denigrating men. Quite the opposite actually. It’s about remembering womanhood and sisterhood in a way that allows us to be sovereign in our well-ness so that what we bring to our men in the way of requests are actually things they, in their reciprocal wholeness, have a chance of providing. Women – we have been taught a way of being, a way of creating family, of being loved, of making love, of creating and living in community, that is erroneous. We cannot thrive in the model of the nuclear family. We do not stay full and nourished when we do not cook, eat, birth, mother, laugh, journey through dream-time with, sit side-by-side and cry with our sisters. In this place, the one we've come to now – where the way we are living seems to be THE WAY we are supposed to live (hasn't it always been this way??), I am reminded that we now have three generations of individuals who were born and raised in urban environments who do not know what the night sky looks like; that there is a firmament of stars above our heads speaking to us all night long. Slowly but surely the humans in industrialized culture are being habituated to forget The Wild, to think of it as 'out there', the place we go for recreation. I believe what is happening to our female culture is no different. We are forgetting who we are and what we require in order to be vitally, wildly, intelligently human.
We are designed to be touched regularly, but not just by our men and not just when we are making love. Nor simply in the sweet (sometimes overwhelming) way we are touched by our children. No matter how ‘good’ our sex is, how sensitive, intelligent and present our men are, they are not capable of touching us the way our sisters are. And yet, even here, we’ve forgotten this way of being. This weekend I facilitated a group of women, here on the lush lawn at The Center On The Edge, to remember how to touch each other from a place of our own curiosity and pleasure. What and how do you touch when you’re simply curious about what it might feel like to touch this woman’s cheek, or shoulder, or belly? What does it feel like to be touched from this place knowing that nothing is expected of you other than to receive? What will you ask for when you’re invited to make a request? How many requests will it take for you to start asking for what you really want? Will you feel fear because we’ve been taught that it’s weird, wrong or just undesirable to be touched by another woman if you have only ever been a lover of men? Will you stay present to feel the process or will you head to that place we women know so well – the place we go when we are afraid?
The process was profound. Each woman shared her experience of being touched in this intelligent, present, no-expectations way. Each woman dropped deep down into an old-world place we don’t often find with our sisters in this culture. Yet in my experience working with women for the last two decades, we’re hard-wired for it. And our thriving, full-participation unique expression requires that we have it.
I am in the midst of a great dismantling and rebuilding. This weekend immersion was one offering that is coming out of this process. The dismantling has me questioning everything – everything I was taught about how my life should look. In this place I am being met by The World with a level of wholeness, creativity, love and vitality I have to work diligently to receive. The keystone of this process is the continued practice of telling my truth. And it’s cumulative. If I dare speak the truth that I am hungry for more intelligent, intimate connected community, and I step into the process of creating what I imagine might be one facet of this, what will my next hunger be? What will the fruits of these experiences be, beyond a feeling of opulence (financial, spiritual, physical and emotional all combining in a tapestry of wealth I never imagined would be mine). What will I realize is mine to do next in this constant graceful reciprocity of receiving and giving?
Women, this is not an attempt to shame or make wrong our individual experiences – the things we imagine are true about our lives based on our choices. Marriage and family are the hub of all vital, intelligent human communities. My invitation to each of you is that you quietly, carefully begin to tell your truth, based on a knowing that despite having some version of autonomy, the structure of our lives (and what is available to us as a result), is not actually something most of us chose. For all sorts of reasons, it has been engrained in us that we should want to live a certain way – that the ultimate expression of our maturity and success and the ultimate expression of our womanhood is having a husband and children and living in a beautiful house. But this is actually a destitution to the glorious way we were designed. I am not advocating polyamory and I’m not advocating homosexuality. These concepts are just simply too small. I am advocating taking a step outside what we have been so diligently and relentlessly taught about what we need and want, to question whether this is actually enough.
That is all. I sit here at 7:30 am on my porch writing this, a steaming cup of tea next to my computer. The sun is cresting over the trees into the field on this crisp autumn morning and the roan geldings, their sweet pony smell finding me, are less than 100 feet from me. The cattail grasses in the pond are like bright orange flames raising up out of the water. The elkhound is snapping at honey bees while both my boys, young men, are just stirring in their beds getting ready to start their wild days; my older son healthier, more alive and on fire than ever before; my younger son, irreverent, sensitive, breathtakingly intelligent and finding his way. And me...coming into my 50th year in a little over one month. I feel more alive, more nourished, more on fire, devoted, heart-broken-open, than I ever imagined was possible. From a place of love and rightness I am daring to tell the truth that lives like sunlight in my heart. In this place am speechless, beyond grateful, for the intimate, fierce love I receive from both men and women; caring, connected community that has at its core, a clear dedication to, and partnership with The World – service to This World, as if all life depended upon it. Because it surely does.