Equinox is a time of abundance and hope: harvest in one hemisphere and planting in the other. For a brief time, day and night are equal. But how quickly the balance tips. In the northern hemisphere harvest must be gathered in before the frost; in a trice autumn will pull us deep into the dark.
At harvest the continuation of life hangs in the balance. Will the bounty be enough to sustain us through the winter? In New England the land is parched by drought. Parts of Louisiana have been inundated by water. In both cases a severe imbalance hinders growth. Privation replaces abundance. Worry replaces joy. What do we need to do to bring our lives and our world into better balance?
In northern Europe farmers traditionally made corn dollies to celebrate the end of the harvest. The last sheaf of wheat was cut with ceremony to honor the life-giving force that makes the grain grow. In Peru each life-giving crop was believed to be animated by a divine being who caused growth. Maize Mother, Quinoa Mother, Coca Mother, and Potato Mother were honored with effigies made from sheaves and leaves of the harvested crop and elaborately dressed in women’s clothes. In ancient Greece, Demeter, the goddess who caused the grain to grow, initiated mortals into the secrets of immortality through the Eleusinian Mysteries. The goddess represents the life force that is far greater than our individual lives. She holds all living beings within her capacious self, nurturing them through the cycle of life and death and rebirth.
Last weekend as hordes of strangers poked and prodded their way through my house. I left it to its own devices, to choose as it would the next family to create a home within these walls, and I went for a walk in the woods. As I stood alone on a knoll overlooking a bend in the Charles River, I observed two trees. The taller one was a black oak firmly rooted and stretching almost beyond sight into the air out over the river. Nestled next to it was an ash whose lower branches were bare. They reached around the oak and seemed to me to be a spirit tree growing in tandem with the living one. As my gaze widened to take in the river, my Soul Self expanded. I felt connected to a deeper, wider, stream of Being. I was filled with Grace from a source beyond my understanding. I felt deeply loved and companioned on my journey through and beyond time as if a spirit form held me as the ash held the oak.
It is not easy to accept that one is growing old and is subject to the ravages of time and mortality. But I want to claim my role as an old woman in this cosmic dance of life. We crones play an important role in the cycle. When we honor the life force as goddess, we honor her in ourselves. Our aging bodies are beautiful. Through us younger people are connected to the past and the continuity of the generations. We see with a vision that crosses generational boundaries. We hold memories of a time when the ancestors were alive.
As a crone, with my personal life cycle well beyond its mid-point, I ask the goddess what is still within me to be harvested? What life wisdom needs to flow through me to nurture others? I want to tune my ear to a suffering world, and do what needs to be done, by me, now, before it is too late.
Honoring Loss: Grief, Healing, and the Wise Woman Path
Wednesday November 2, 2016 – 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM
Join two of the authors of “Becoming Women of Wisdom,” Melody Lee and Karen Edwards, for a day long retreat. The program is designed to help us cope with loss. This can be the loss of a loved one, a job, mobility, or any loss in which it feels that a part of our identity has been ripped away. We will explore the grieving process and the gradual movement toward inner growth. We will walk a labyrinth to facilitate our journey within. There are two lovely outdoor labyrinths on the grounds and also an inside labyrinth available as needed.
Rolling Ridge Retreat and Conference Center located at 660 Great Pond Road in North Andover, MA 01845. Register online or by calling 978-682-8815. Early registration: $65, after 10/11/16: $85
Experiencing Light and Dark
Take a walk outdoors on a sunny day and feel the heat of the sun on your skin. Take time to be fully present. Open yourself to the sun, its warmth, its strength, and its glare. Notice how being outdoors in the sun makes you feel. Next, at night seek out a dark place, perhaps a room where you can extinguish all sources of light. Sit alone in the dark. Open yourself. Notice how your senses react and how you feel in the dark. Sit there long enough to allow the dark to gather into its own luminosity. Write or draw about these experiences in your journal. How often do we actually experience the dark in our 24/7 technologically connected world? How can darkness bring balance to our lives? How can acts of kindness brighten the dark of another person’s day?