November 19, 2019

In that sense, sexuality can be fashioned as a medicine for the spirit and is therefore sacred.

Women Who Run With the Wolves
By Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I love sex and I love this perspective viewing sexuality as sacred. And joyful!

Heat: Retrieving a Sacred Sexuality

I lay under the chaise stifling my laughter. It was the silliest story I had ever heard. It was a wonderful story, a thrilling story. But intuitively, I also knew it was contraband, so I kept it to myself for years and years. And sometimes in the midst of hard times, during tense times, and even before taking tests in college, I would think of the women from Rwanda covering their faces with their skirts, and no doubt laughing into them. And I would laugh and feel centered, strong, and down-to-earth.
This no doubt is the other gift of women's jokings and shared laughter. It all becomes a medicine for the tough times, a strengthener for later. It is good, clean, dirty fun. Can we imagine the sexual and the irreverent as sacred? Yes, especially when they are medicinal, leading to a wholeness and mending of heart. Jung noted that if someone came to his office complaining of a sexual issue, the real issue was more often a problem of spirit and soul. When a person told of a spiritual problem, often it was really a problem about the sexual nature.
In that sense, sexuality can be fashioned as a medicine for the spirit and is therefore sacred. When sexual laughter is un remedio, medicine, it is sacred laughter. And whatever causes healing laughter is sacred as well. When laughter helps without doing harm, when laughter lightens, realigns, reorders, reasserts power and strength, this is the laughter that causes health. When the laughter makes people glad they are alive, happy to be here, more conscious of love, heightened with eros, when it lifts their sadness and severs them from anger, that is sacred. When they are made bigger, made better, more generous, more sensitive, that is sacred."
(pp. 373-4)

November 17, 2019

Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.

Women Who Run With the Wolves
By Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Clear Water: Nourishing the Creative Life

"I've seen women work long, long hours at jobs they despise in order to buy very expensive items for their houses, mates, or children. They put their considerable talents on the back burner. I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write...and you know it's a funny thing about house never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman.
A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only."
(p. 333)

I feel attacked!!! How many hours have I lost during weekends where I insisted this or that must be cleaned, and while true, used it as an excuse to not sit down and do the work? Insisting if I could just get whichever chore out of the way I'd be able to focus—a thought followed by the full force of frustration when I run out of time. Blaming the inability to outsource the task as the fault when I really needed more discipline. 

"And yet, a woman may do this to herself by talking away her ideas until all the arousal is gone from them, or by not putting her foot down about people creeping off with her creative tools and materials, or by the simple oversight of not buying the right equipment to execute the creative work properly,  or by stopping and starting so many times, by allowing everyone and their cat to interrupt her at will, that the project falls into shambles."
(p. 334)

"To create one must be able to respond. Creativity is the ability to respond to all that goes on around us, to choose from the hundreds of the possibilities of thought, feeling, action, and reaction that arise within us, and to put these together in a unique response, expression, or message that carries moment, passion, and meaning. In this sense, loss of our creative milieu means finding ourselves limited to only one choice, divested of, suppressing, or censoring feelings and thoughts, not acting, not saying, doing, or being."
(p. 343)

"When women are out in the cold, they tend to live on fantasies instead of action. Fantasy of this sort is the great anesthetizer of women. I know women who have been gifted with beautiful voices. I know women who are natural storytellers; almost everything out of their mouths is freshly formed and finely wrought. But they are isolated, or feel disenfranchised in some way. They are shy, which is often a cover for a starving animus. They have difficulty gaining a sense that they are supported from within, or by friends, family, community."
(p. 348)

November 16, 2019

Stop running the milk train. Do the work of turning toward home.

Women Who Run With the Wolves
By Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I lost my first copy of Women who Run on the way back from Montreal; I suspect I left it on the plane even though I don't remember taking it out of my bag. I like to think it found its way into the hands of someone who needed it. The only loss: my notes on favorite passages between chapters three and nine.

Here's nine.

Homing: Returning to OneSelf

"There is human time and there is wild time. When I was a child in the north woods, before I learned there were four seasons to a year, I thought there were dozens: the time of night-time thunderstorms, heal lightning time, bonfires-in-the-woods time, blood-on-the-snow time, the times of ice trees, bowing trees, crying trees, shimmering trees, bearded trees, waving-at-the-tops-only trees, and trees-drop-their-babies time. I loved the seasons of diamond snow, steaming snow, squeaking snow, and even dirty snow and stone snow, for these meant the time of flower blossoms on the river was coming.
These season were like important and holy visitors and each sent its harbingers: pine cones open, pine cones closed, the smell of leaf rot, the smell of rain coming, crackling hair, lank hair, bushy har, doors  loose, doors tight, doors that won't shut at all, windowpanes covered with ice-hair, windowpanes covered with wet petals, windowpanes covered with yellow pollen, windowpanes pecked with sap gum. And our own skin had its cycles too: parched, sweaty, gritty, sunburned, soft.
The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place. When we are children and young girls, the instinctive nature notices all these phases and cycles. It hovers quite near us and we are aware and active at various intervals as we see fit.
Children are the wildest nature, and without being told to, they prepare for the coming of these times, greeting them, living with them, and keeping from those times recuerdos, mementos, for remembering: the crimson leaf in the dictionary; the angel-wing necklaces from the seeds of the silver maples; snowballs in the meat locker; the special stone, bone, stick, or pod; the peculiar shell; the ribbon from the bird burial; a diary of smells from that time; the calm heart; the excited blood; and all the pictures in their minds.
Once, we lived by these cycles and seasons year after year, and they lived in us. They calmed us, danced us, shook us, reassured us, made us learn creaturally. They were part of our soul-skins—a pelt that enveloped us and the wild and natural world—at least until we were told that there really were only four seasons to a year, and that women themselves really only had three seasons—girlhood, adulthood, and old womanhood. And that was supposed to be that.
But we cannot allow ourselves to sleepwalk wrapped in this flimsy and unobservant fabrication, for it causes women to deviate from their natural and soulful cycles and therefore to suffer from dryness, tiredness, and homesickness. It is far better for us to return to our own unique and soulful cycles regularly, all of them, any of them."
(pp. 276-7)

"The pelt in this story is not so much an article as the representation of a feeling state and a state of being—one that is cohesive, soulful, and of the wildish female nature. When a woman is in this state, she feels entirely in and of herself instead of out of herself and wondering if she is doing right, acting right, thinking well. Though this state of being "in one's self" is one she occasionally loses touch with, the time she has previously spent there sustains her while she is about her work in the world. The return to the wildish state periodically is what replenishes  her psychic reserves for her projects, family, relationships, and creative life in the topside world."
(p. 286)

"Every creature on earth returns to home. It is ironic that we have made wildlife refuges for ibis, pelican, egret, wolf, crane, deer, mouse, moose, and bear, but not for ourselves in the places where we live day after day. We understand that the loss of habitat is the most disastrous event that can occur to a free creature. We fervently point out how other creatures' natural territories have become surrounded by cities, ranches, highways, noise, and other dissonance, as though we are not surrounded by the same, as though we are not affected also. We know that for creatures to live on, they must at least from time to time have a home place, a place where they feel both protected and free."
(p. 287)

"The aggravated theft of the sealskin also occurs far more subtly through the theft of a woman's resources and of her time. The world is lonely for comfort, and for the hips and breasts of women. It calls out in a thousand-handed, million-voiced way, waving to us, plucking and pulling at us, asking for our attention. Sometimes it seems that everywhere we turn there is someone or a something of the world that needs, wants, wishes. Some of the people, issues, and things of the world are appealing and charming; others may be demanding and angry; and yet others seem so heartrendingly helpless that, against our wills, our empathy overflows, our milk runs down our bellies. But unless it is a life-and-death matter, take the time, make the time, to "put on the brass brassiere." Stop running the milk train. Do the work of turning toward home.
Though we see that the skin can be lost through a devastating and wrong love, it may also be lost in a right and deepest love. It is not exactly the rightness of a person or thing or its wrongness that causes the theft of our sealskins, it is the cost of these things to us."
(p. 288)

yes to all of these things. Ocean spume!
"Although there are many physical places one can go to "feel" her way back to this special home, the physical place itself is not home; it is only the vehicle that rocks the ego to sleep so that we can go the rest of the way by ourselves. The vehicles through and by which women reach home are many: music, art, forest, ocean spume, sunrise, solitude. These take us home to a nutritive inner world that has ideas, order, and sustenance all of its own."
(p. 307)

Just before this, she references Adrienne Rich's Diving into the Wreck.
"The most important thing I can tell you about the timing of the home cycle is this: When it's time, it's time. Even if you're not ready, even if things are undone, even if today your ship is coming in. When it's time, it's time. The seal woman returns to the sea, not because she just feels like it, not because today is a good day to go, not because her life is all nice and tidy—there is no nice and tidy time for anyone, She goes because it's time, and therefore she must."
(p. 308)

"In order to converse with the wild feminine, a woman must temporarily leave the world and inhabit a state of aloneness in the oldest sense of the word. Long ago the word alone was treated as two words, all one. To be all one meant to be wholly one, to be in oneness, either essentially or temporarily. That is precisely the goal of solitude, to be all one."
(p. 316)

"For myself, solitude is rather like a folded-up forest that I carry with me everywhere and unfurl around myself when I have need. I sit at the feet of the great old trees of my childhood. From that vantage point, I ask my questions, receive my answers, then coalesce my woodland back down to the size of a love note till next time. The experience is immediate, brief, informative."
(p. 317)

November 10, 2019

With few claims on her time and none on her soul, she turns back outside, into the woods, the green negation of all careers.

© Albert Bierstadt / Art Resource

The Overstory
By Richard Powers

I read Patricia Westerford's chapter a few months ago and was so moved. Nearly wept. I have thought about it often since. I packed the book for my train ride to Montreal last month, in hopes of advancing with the story during the 11-hour trip. Instead, I re-read her chapter and it produced the same effect. Love.

"She becomes her father's star and only pupil for the simple reason that she alone, of all the family, sees what he knows: plants are willful and crafty and after something, just like people. He tells her, on their drives, about all the oblique miracles that green can devise. People have no corner on curious behavior. Other creatures—bigger, slower, older, more durable—call the shots, make the weather, feed creation, and create the very air.
"It's a great idea, trees. So great that evolution keeps inventing it, again and again."
(p. 114)

"Watching the man, hard-of-hearing, hard-of-speech Patty learns that real joy consists of knowing that human wisdom counts less than the shimmer of beeches in a breeze. As certain as weather coming from the west, the things people know for sure will change. There is no knowing for a fact. The only dependable things are humility and looking."
(p. 115)

"Sophomore year, Patty gets a job in the campus greenhouses—two hours stolen every morning before classes. Genetics, plant physiology, and organic chemistry take her through evening. She studies every night at her carrel until the library closes. Then she reads for pleasure until she falls asleep. She does try the books her friends are reading: Siddhartha, Naked Lunch, On the Road. But nothing else moves her more than Peattie's Natural Histories, books from her father's shelves. Now they're her endless refreshment. The phrases branch and turn to catch the sun."
(p. 120)

"With few claims on her time and none on her soul, she turns back outside, into the woods, the green negation of all careers. She no longer theorizes or speculates. Just watches, notes, and sketches into a stack of notebooks, her only persistent possessions aside from clothes. Her eyes go near and narrow. She camps out many nights with Muir, under the spruce and fir, completely lost, turned wildly around by the smell of inland oceans, sleeping on beds of thick lichen, sixteen inches of brown needle pillow, the living earth beneath her bag, its fluid influence rising up into the fiber of her and all the towering trunks that surround and watch over. The particle of her private self rejoins everything it has been split off from—the plan of runaway green. I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
(p. 129)

"Her public reputation, like Demeter's daughter, crawls back up from the underworld. A scattering of scientific papers vindicates her original work in airborne semaphores. Young researchers find supporting evidence, in species after species. Acacias alert other acacias to prowling giraffes. Willows, poplars, alders: all are caught warning each other of insect invasion across the open air. It makes no difference, her rehabilitation. She doesn't much care what happens, outside this forest. All the world she needs is here, under this canopy—the densest biomass anywhere on Earth."
(p. 141)

This is where I lose it.
"But I'd want to sign the papers." He peers out into an opening in the western firs, where the sun has undeniably started to set. "Because then, when I die, you could get the pension."
(p. 144)