Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feminine Divine

"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.


  1. Gorgeous thoughts from a gorgeous amazing woman herself. I totally agree with you about the amazingness of women, but I don't think that women are any better than men. We are an equal but different species. Men are just as brillant as women, whether they are storming the beaches at Normandy or writing some of the greatest novels of all time. We are amazing, God-created creatures, and so are they. I'm not sure why our society demands we have to think one or the other is better or stronger or smarter. You don't do this here or ever, but I as much as I love and am in awe of the incredible women that surround me, I am unable to join in on the growing chorus of women that like to rag on men as a way of building themselves us. Like I said, this so isn't you in any way, it just popped into my brain and now I'm totally rambling.

    So, I uh, I love your last lines. You have such a way with words. Your little light is lovely.

    I'll go now.

  2. Happened on your blog - what a hidden gem of craftsmanship and raw truth. Not to mention the pics - ahhh. I think I will pass this way again. Thanks for the thought provoking shares.

  3. Colleen, thanks for your thoughts! I felt trepidation in writing this because I feared it would be taken as some kind of statement on the superiority of the female gender. I don't believe one gender is any better than the other. I also don't believe we are as different as much of mainstream Christianity seems to assert we are--but we could debate that one til the cows come home and never prove one thing or another.

    I do, however, believe our society is pretty dang good at recognizing the accomplishments of men and skirting over those of women. I don't think many people are trying to deny men's historical achievements. But we do, still in 2010, have problems recognizing the achievements of women.

    I could probably write a whole blog or book on the idea of 'women who rag on men'. I just think we should be careful not to let a few extremists represent feminism, just like we wouldn't want a few fundamentalists representing Christianity, or Islam, or any other societal organization.

    Thank you for your lovely thoughts!

    Married for Keeps, what a delight to hear from you. I am touched by your compliments, truly. Thank you.

  4. Brittany,
    Thanks for you your kind response! I love your blogs because they always make me think. And laugh. And cry. See, I disagree with the statement that soceity glosses over the acheivements of women. I feel like society is obsessed with the accomplishments of women and blare them from the rooftop "Today a woman wrote a new book! Amazing!". I feel its a little demeaning, like it's coddling us. Like, of course we can write a book you idiot. We don't need a parade everytime we do something, just like men don't. I feel the same way about minorities. When we stop acting like women are incredible for doing simple things that men do all the time, then we will be on the road to equality.


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