Stopped by Hillwomen’s, on an errand, at least, and, at best for some sorely needed nourishment, which was forthcoming from these women – these two wise women, living in a little hut at the top of the path in the woods –
these older women who give me the gift of perspective, “There’s time, Time’sChild; you don’t have to make it all happen this year”…
these women who know the secret I yet hold from myself, that I, too, will be old; these women who hold a secret about my future
these women who have stayed awake with me into the morning, who have made tirual with me before the fireplace,
these women who also know the importance of “breaking the rules”,
these mother-teachers, these menopausal playmates,
these women who defuse the anxious urgency of my 36 years by showing me how many are the good years yet to come, how good the many years could be.
Coming from my mother’s world, I needed that. My mother’s world of magazines that say that houses are lived in by couples or families — that family world where family is sacred – And John and I and our daughter were once a family, and I have left it all, left them all…
And still I remember that family means that some ones deeply know that you exist – and your name will be in the Bible – and some ones generation later will want to know who you were, will look at your picture with care, searching the faces of the ancestors of their own pantheon, will read your journal, if you left one. So much of what has been is honored in this, in family, in our multiple knowing of the tale of our lives have been.
“This is Pearl’s sweater I wear, oh brothers, like a symbol. Our magical grandmother, we remember Pearl.”
“Oh, see, Jeannie, I wear Grandpa’s leather jacket like a sign. Remember him!”
Oh, David, your cabin holds time so gently, fragilely. Grandpa’s rocks. And the lamp Pearl pulled from the ruins of the old miner’s cabin.
Years later we stood in the ruins of Pearls cabin and found, among the mouldering memorabilia of myth, a notebook in her script, half of the page already returned to the elements: descriptions of the kinds of trees, and minerals.
Oh, my brothers, we beheld these things and we knew something about time then;
And David, your cabin holds time gently in its lamplit walls.
And Don, we have stood and watched the trees around us point out into the sparkling void through which we fall. Once, on the eclipse of the moon, the starts behing the moon emerged. The moon, red and rounding, the starts out beyond where it hung. The stars – the moon – the trees – this ear – our lives. Our lives – this earth – the moon – the stars – the void. And on the hilltop we heard behind the wind the darkness resounding with “Om”… and on the premise of sheer scientific materialism itself, still, the only appropriate response is religious awe.
Don, we celebrated, quaking in the vision; “Oh, my God! Jean! The universe winked!”
And now I am a lesbian.
And they are afraid I will judge them and find them lacking in important ways. And I do. And they think I fall short of the vision we achieved in those times. And I do.
I could not watch this eclipse with them. I needed safe space, safe to watch for vision by, safe for ritual to happen. Not home town. I started north, home, thought Jefferson St. isn’t safe for ritual either, not if you want to actually see the moon, that is.
As I left, I mentioned to Don our WomanSpirit gathering of women philosophers soon to happen. “We’re going to talk about ‘What questions do feminists need to rethink?’” Don stood up in his garden and counted on his fingers:
Well, there’s death, life after death, the Tao of physics,… the nature of reality…” It made me defensive. …And yet, and yet isn’t it just what I wanted to say myself, and couldn’t… couldn’t, because I’m new at this, and I barely know yet what “feminist” can be made to mean. And yet I know that until I ca find women who are also seekers of these visions, I have not yet found my family.
I didn’t say all this to Libra and Pisces. (I didn’t know it until now.) We looked through some boxed of Pisces’ photographs, looking for Ann Kreilkamp, one of the women philosophers coming to the meeting. – The faces I notice most are the faces of older women. I feel a little self-conscious about it, but, oh, how can one not linger over Elsa Gidlow’s face?, searching the skin and muscles and eyes for clues to what it’s like to be this woman…
Another, a wrinkled face, at once British, and yet possible moved by religious contemplation; I have to ask to be sure I hear it right – “…and did you say she’s a lesbian?”
Ann Kreilkamp’s face. She looks younger than her phone voice sounds. Her face holds some question – I can’t guess it. It hardly seems decent to look hard at a photograph of someone I’ll be meeting soon.
Now it has some to pass that as Time’sChild pondered the faced of older women, faces pondered at some time earlier, by Pisces Hillwoman as she took the opportunity the camera lens provided for peering periscopically where naked eye must not linger unless we are lovers
it came to pass that the planet on which all this happened swam, at that moment, into a nigh-direct line between its sun and its moon and a window may have opened onto the cosmos.
Time’sChild had been wanting to ask a question:
T: Can I, I want to ask you one questions and see if you have anything to say about this. (In the background, Pisces, practicing her guitar, begins to pick out a “growing” song.) Do you think that I have fear of success? I’m just on the brink of starting out as a writer, and I’m so scared. A friend said she thought I was afraid of success, and that some women have this thing of being afraid of success –
L: Probably most women… or all women have it.
T: Well, tell me how you understand hat. Why would anyone be afraid of success?
L: All right. Pisces, do you have it?
L: I think I have it too. It’s… I don’t know all about it. Some of it is minimizing everything we do. We’ve learned to downplay ourselves, to make less of what we do. If a women does something, if we do it, we make it look very small and insignificant. I think that we expect hostility if we’re a success – that we’ll be targeting and criticized.
Also, if we take a stand and actuall say something definite, we may be held accountable for that. Somebody may say you are wrong…
T: Right. So it’s really fear of failure. That’s what I was afraid of.
L: It’s both. It’s both. Women are not experienced at being visible. We’re supposed to be nice and in the background; and to come into the foreground either positiviely or negatively is something we’re not all used to or prepared for.
And it came to pass as the women talked that the moon crossed deeper into shadow. Someone noticed that the eclipse had begun. “I think I may need to watch,” Time’sChild said. “One spring I watched a total eclipse with my brother — and I really had – well, just a total illumination. “Go watch,” smiled Li bra, “maybe you’ll have a partial illumination.”
Outside, beyond the trees, a curving shadow capped the moon. “Go away, you shadow!” call Pisces and Libra. “You can’t have our moon. We’ll send you away!”
It wasn’t how I wanted to see it.
Is it a wrong turn, then, this move into the mythical, the symbolic?…
And yet, what about that universe out there, if it’s all a dream on the mental screen?
I needed to watch.
I needed to witness this moment, to witness for a while to the world as seen by this monad. And to do that, I needed to let my voice sing out into the night. And I knew I had come to the safe place to do these things; I had come to women’s space.
And my voice under the eclipse howled out my confusion. How can the universe hold both these things? The awesome dance of matter and the candlelit hut of the Hillwomen?
And even as I howled, it was a song
a song again under the moon. And I remembered how I had called myself “moonspeaker” and why.
And thought of Selene and her mother, tending sacred groves … and of how there are again sacred groves on earth — on women’s land… And the only way I could bear the thinking of such thoughts was to spill it over, singing.
How can the universe hold these two worlds?
The moon, its face now tinged with lavender by one of our sunsets, swimming, at time t2 out into the light again, crossing out from shadow, our shadow, out there, two hundred thousand miles into the void, that dark corridor in the darkness, waiting to touch the moon, to be manifest unto us, the shadow in the dark, calling “Awaken! Look where we are!”
…Or is that where we are at all? Or is Berkeley right? (In school I studied both physics and philosophy because though I thought physics/ astronomy was probably the ultimate scoop on reality and holder of greatest vision still, I wasn’t sure, so I took philosophy, too. [Question: Who guards the guardians?])
And are there witches? And is there a quest? And is the news ultimately just as good as your imagination is big?
In the words of my myth, is there magic?
How can the universe hold these two worlds? And where is home? And do we lose this earth in order that we should notice how it is home? And do we lose our lives in order that we should notice how they are home? …went my mind, wrestling still with the problem of evil and the nature of enlightenment while my voice addressed the moon, the moment and the moon, questioned them, calling, howling,
then more and more the peaceful song
asking its questions in Mahlerian tones
singing on the safe land
while Libra and Pisces talked softly
in the cave of lamplight.
Often in my song, my voice cracked. At thirty-six, my voice is old from disuse and from age. Often I look much younger, and on the beach, if you glimpsed us from a distance, you might think my friends and I were twelve, sometimes. But when my voice sings out its power and its passion, it is an old woman’s voice. But here, here I could let it be, with them. They will not be embarrassed for my old woman’s voice.
Look, sisters! Time hurls me your direction!
Sisters, receive me! It seems I’m becoming one of the elders.