"I've always loved strong women, which is lucky for me because once you're over about twenty-five there is no other kind. Women blow my mind. The stuff that routinely gets done to them would make most men curl up and die, but women turn to steel and keep on coming. Any man who claims he's not into strong women is fooling himself mindless: he's into strong women who know how to pout prettily and put on baby voices, and who will end up keeping his balls in their makeup bags." --Tana French, Faithful Place.
I have this memory of gazing down at baby Indy, all fat-cheeked and sweet smelling, deeply peaceful in her sleep, and saying to her, "You are a reflection of the Divine."
I had been reading--here she is again--Sue Monk Kidd's "The Dance of The Dissident Daughter". It felt like healing. Like balm on a raw soul-wound.
This was during the pregnancy when more than one person saw my swollen belly, my little daughter, and said to me: "This next one's a boy, I hope!"
The pregnancy of seeing the slight hitch of disappointment in strangers faces when they asked what this one was and I said, "A girl".
A time when I almost--almost--learned to say it apologetically.
"Another girl." Sorry.
Strangers faces saying: Too bad.
Then there was Sue, telling me that if the Divine could be male, it could be female too. That women are as capable of understanding, comprehending, interpreting, and communicating with the Divine as men are.
And then I looked down into my female child's face and saw Her: Divine.
I am in awe of the women around me. Women who are incredibly, divinely strong. By 'incredibly', I mean they are strong through times and situations they should not possibly be strong through. Things that rightly should make any person crumble. It might take a woman years to find her voice but once she does, I don't think she ever stops listening.
That's what I can't get over. These women I know, or know about, who find themselves in terrible situations: terrible marriages, terrible poverty, terrible illness or violence or circumstances--and somehow find it within themselves not just to keep going, but to evolve. To start over. To reach down to the bottoms of their very selves, take stock of what's there, and then leave things in the dust: Parental expectations. Societal expectations. Bad husbands, bad jobs. Bad turns of luck.
They go into a sort of hibernation and then they emerge: beautiful winged creatures. Free and lovely things. Things that show me what sorts of strength I may be capable of, if I had to be.
I am so honored to watch.
I had a friend tell me lately she went through a number of turns that left her, as she put it, reduced to her core. And there she was, just her and her center. Not ravished like a wind stripped tree, but raw like a thing just starting to bloom. Such pretty wings, flapping slowly. Waiting to sense what's on the breeze.
I had a friend tell me "I'm a proponent of marriage, but I'm not a proponent of amazing women being stuck with shitty husbands." This woman who works, raises children alone, goes to school, dreams beautiful dreams of making life better for others.
I had a friend tell me that one day a switch turned off and she couldn't stay in her old life another minute. A woman whose core has proven to be built of stronger stuff than her sweet demeanor would ever betray.
I thought I was a strong woman. And then I see these people. Adversity hits, and what do they do? They push back their sleeves. Dirty their hands and scrape their nails against the absolute bottom of the well.
Their hands come up clutching bounties of stars.
I was thinking of this last night as I fell asleep. In the Bible, the wisdom of the Divine is personified as female.
They call it Sophia.
That girl-child in whom I recognized the presence of God: her middle name is Sophie.
When I tried to conjure up a symbolic image for this point in my life, I kept seeing darkness all around. But I was holding a little light. I could see more in the distance.
Last night, thinking about these people, I finally saw what was beneath me.
Wild waters. An ancient, living ship. Carrying me home.
I am Vesuvius, and I was afraid but I wrote this anyway.
**Credit for the above photo goes to Lady Cierra Lorenzen, who probably needs a website; to "the timer on her camera"; and to the general awesomeness of all the Lorenzens for probably generations back, but specifically to Kiah, Cierra and Lucy.