Tenacious Magic ~ Chapter 14
S gathers with likeminded folk * a disturbing dream memory * a lack of vision * a taste of the dark * talks about pregnancy * a message about the Divine Universal Mother * seeking Her
Oh, it feels good to be writing to you on this LOVELY spring Friday in the Hudson Valley. I missed publishing last week, even though being in Greece was epic. The chapter I have for you today is quite long. It may be that I needed two weeks for this one to come through. Thank you for your patience.
When we last left S (that’s me) a few weeks ago (in Chapter 12), she had just seen a vision of the Goddess in the back of a cab. Even now, I can point to that moment as the moment of contact, the first direct experience I had of the Divine Feminine. And I’d say…the call to Her. H says to me, “I will help you become that woman.”
H did help me become that woman, but so did others. Most notably, my daughter. Becoming a mother has been the most important initiation into the feminine mysteries I’ve had in this life. So, this week I revisited my journey through pregnancy.
As I look back on this time, it feels to me that the Goddess was suddenly lurking in every corner, every conversation. She was infusing everything with meaning. And She seemed to be coming in multiple forms at once. I was experiencing the dark feminine and Shakti with H, but I was also transforming from Maiden to Mother, receiving the blessings of the Great Mother and even the wisdom of Gaia. I know now this IS the omnipresence of the multi-faceted feminine. She IS everywhere. Even though it looks like she’s been suppressed—and in critical ways she has and female-bodied people have suffered horribly—she’s also always already here, always ready to be known by those who seek her sincerely. It surprised me as I wrote and looked through my old journals, to remember how little I knew of Her then; how little exposure I’d had to feminine wisdom in any form. The writing of this story is born from my gratitude and dedication to spreading Her wisdom into the world again.
What I felt then was that there was a great chasm I had to cross into a new land, like The Mists of Avalon (some of you will get the reference), I had to get on a boat and sail into the impenetrable fog of time to find the secreted, forgotten, but still thriving, world of the Goddess. I had many helpers. You’ll meet some of them in this chapter and some in the next. It was like following breadcrumbs, but the Goddess is very clever and very persistent. If you are devoted, she will hold your hand and guide you straight into her arms.
I reference some books in this chapter and I’d like to name them here (I have a whole bookcase full now, but these were my introduction). Nowadays, I feel like it’s quite easy to find workshops and YouTube videos and books about The Goddess, The Priestess, the Divine Feminine. In 2010, it was much harder. And it felt especially hard for me, coming out of the patriarchal frame I was in without knowing it. All of these are treasures and many of them written decades ago by pioneering women.
The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler
Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George
Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Crossing to Avalon by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD
Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The Feminine Face of God by Sherry Ruth Anderson
All of us are at a different point in our journey with the masculine and feminine. I hope my experience resonates with you wherever you are.
Note: If you are new to my Substack, Tenacious Magic is an emergent, serial novel about the teacher/student relationship, the masculine and feminine, Katherine Mansfield and Gurdjieff, and time. I publish a chapter every Friday. Here is an introduction to the project. Here is Chapter 1. The chapters are free up to Chapter 7, at which point I took it behind the paywall. If you enjoy it, please subscribe and join the discussion. I incorporate reader comments and invite opinions and insights from readers to influence and inform where the story goes.
If you enjoy my writing or are interested in these topics, I encourage you to subscribe. This is how I make my living and your support is everything. Thank you!
Now, back to the story…
“This was already well into the Bronze Age, a time in the rest of the then civilized world the Goddess was steadily being displaced by warlike male gods. She was still revered—as Hathor and Isis in Egypt, as Astarte or Ishtar in Babylon, or as the sun Goddess of Arinna in Anatolia. But it was now only as a secondary deity, described as the consort or mother of more powerful male gods. For this was increasingly a world when the power of women was also on the decline, a world where male dominance and wars of conquest and counterconquest were everywhere becoming the norm….”
― Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future
East Village, Summer 2010
Caravan of Dreams is a regular gathering place for the high vibe community of New York City. A smallish restaurant on a quiet side street in the East Village, it has served vegan and live food since 1991. Any night of the week you can find writers, artists, tarot readers, alien enthusiasts, yoga teachers, dancers, musicians and entrepreneurs dining, drinking smoothies and juices, and scheming to make the world a better, more conscious place.
It’s a Wednesday night when S descends the small set of stairs to the entrance. Moving from the busy street into the interior is like walking into another world—something between a Burning Man camp, a yoga ashram, and a bedouin tent. She feels immediately at ease…and hungry. She searches the room for Leah and her friends.
There’s live music tonight—two guitarists in the corner. As she walks through the space, she sees familiar faces from the dance floor and yoga studios. Leah comes rushing from the back room and grabs her hand, swinging her arm up to expose her round belly. Leah gives a little squeal and hugs her.
“You look radiant. You know, pregnancy is the only time a human body holds two souls…and you can see it. Your eyes are sparkling!” Leah is a yoga teacher who loves to put together gatherings of kindred spirits. There’s never an agenda, just good food and well-curated company.
“Come. We’re in the back room where it’s quiet. I didn’t know there’d be music. Francis is here. And Daniel and Neil and Anya…”
They walk arm-in-arm to a long table in the back. Candles provide the light and S sees the table is already full of snacks…live hummus platters, vegan ravioli, little seeded crackers with cashew spread and strawberries. Everyone is drinking a different colored juice. Eight faces turn towards them as they approach. Leah introduces everyone around the table and then introduces S.
“She and Francis have been friends for years. They’re both conscious business big shots. I think you are a…futurist?”
“Like the Oracle of Delphi,” someone down the table calls out.
S nods, “Well, I was…”
“Now she’s working on a project called Motherhood.” Leah points to her belly.
She sits in the empty seat Leah offers and settles in as the conversations around the table resume. A handsome man about her age is sitting next to her. He has long black hair and is dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans. He speaks to her in an accent she can’t quite place…German? Swiss?
“So, you were a futurist…in the past. What does that make you now?”
She smiles, “Yes…I was a futurist. Now I like to think of myself as a presentist. I’m most interested in the present moment.”
He raises his eyebrows in delight, “Ah..yes. I am also a presentist. What a coincidence. My name is Neo.” He offers his hand.
She smiles as they shake, “Like The Matrix?”
“He nods…only I was first. So tell me, what is it you are doing to amuse yourself at present?”
She tells him about the company she is starting with H. He listens attentively, “So, you and your partner are helping business leaders to…be more spiritual, more aligned with the Laws of Nature…did I get that right?”
“Yes, that’s the idea. The hope is that we can turn things around quickly if we can awaken the people who hold the power and resources.”
“I understand. But, I think they prefer to be unconscious. It’s an ambitious task. ”
“You haven’t met my partner.”
It’s the first time she’s spoken about what she and H have started to dream up together. When she returned to the work with H a month ago she told him about her pregnancy and he was thrilled for her. He suggested they focus on creating a consultancy—build it and get a few clients before the baby comes. She was ecstatic he considered her a worthy partner. She was growing into the role; apprenticing.
Across the table, Daniel, a well-known counter-cultural writer and a striking man with one blue and one brown eye are in a heated conversation, on the verge of argument. S and Neo listen in. Daniel is interrogating the other man about his shamanic practices.
Suddenly Francis turns, “It feels so familiar. Do you remember?”
“Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been here before?”
“At Caravan? Loads of times.”
“No, I mean…here on the verge of civilizational collapse…or transcendence. Like Bucky said, ‘Utopia or bust.’ It’s the feeling of something new in the air amidst the decay…We could be in Paris in the 20s with Picasso and Modigliani. This could be the Lapin Agile.”
She knows what he means. Yes, this is the avant-garde…the front lines. She feels it and it is the most comfortable place in the world. She loves the edge. She thinks of Katherine, the modernist…part of a great literary avant-garde. Time seems to collapse in that moment. She is Katherine and the Bloomsbury Group in 1917; also witnessing the death of civilization and the end of empires; also wondering what is being born through them and how they can serve that.
She says to Francis, “You know there’s a theory about the avant-garde…the idea is that one person can have a vision, but it takes a small group of people with a shared vision to receive the downloads from the future. Between them, they provide the ‘structure’ for the future to land in this time, on this plane. We need to be together, to gather like this, to attune. When we do…we make a landing pad for the future that is wanting to be birthed.”
He smiles, “Yes…birth is a beautiful metaphor for what’s happening. And all of these people…all of us…are midwives.”
“I’m going to know a lot more about the whole process very soon.”
She excuses herself to go to the bathroom. On her way back to the table, she notices the shaman sitting at the bar alone. He gives her a smile as she walks by. His eyes are captivating and he gestures for her to come have a seat. Why not?
They chat for a while about his childhood in Peru, living in Paris, and his eye color—a change that happened as a result of a very high fever, a shamanic sickness, as a child. Once the eyes changed, so did his vision of reality, he said. They laughed about her sitting at a bar very pregnant. He ordered a juice for her.
“You are a mystic. I can tell. Who guides you?”
She starts to say H, but thinks about it and what comes to mind is different. Maybe it’s the Parisian accent. She says to him, “Do you know Gurdjieff?”
The shaman closes his eyes and smiles, nodding. He is amused and impressed. “Yes, yes. I know him well. He comes to me.”
“He comes to you?”
“In visions, in dreams. He’s very…apt. Is that the word? Very ready to guide. And very funny. Very, very funny.” He looks at her laughing and she laughs, too. She knows this.
“He is…a trickster…that’s the form. He is not one you can pin down, but very wise. I like him.”
“Me too. I love him.”
After a few minutes of talk about plant medicine, she returns to the table to gather her things. Pregnancy makes her tired early and she has to get back to Brooklyn. She thanks Leah for a stimulating evening and Francis walks her to the door.
“I heard you say you and H are starting a consultancy together?”
She feels a little sheepish that he’s overheard the news, “I would have told you, Francis. It’s new and it’s all just coming together now.”
“It’s fine. I’m happy to hear it. You’ll be great together. I just…want you to be sure you’re doing it for you. I thought you were building your own business. I mean…I’m just checking on you. He’s very convincing…and he has big ideas…sometimes a little too big.”
“Yes. It’s what I want to do. I feel so alive, Francis. I feel like I finally know what I’m doing.”
Francis puts his arm around her shoulder, “Ok. Just be sure you don’t get lost in the process. You’re too good to be someone’s second.”
She leans into him with gratitude, “You’re a true friend, Francis.”
“Forever. Worlds are born and die, over and over again. We’ve been here before and we’ll be there again. It’s our real job. We have to look out for each other. Remember who you work for…” he gestures up to the sky.
She steps out the door into the fresh night air and breathes deeply. The stars are brighter than they have any right to be in the East Village. It’s a new moon.
A terrifying and vivid dream wakes S with a start at 4:00am. She moves quietly into the living room to write it down…
I was at the Prieuré. Or rather, I was Katherine at the Prieuré and I wanted to leave.
I was standing in my bedroom, which was cavernous and in decay. It was dark and foreboding. People hustled this way and that throughout the house. Others seemed to be experiencing the same feelings of eminent demise, the end of things as we’d known them.
I was questioning my relationship to Gurdjieff. What was I to him? His secretary? His slave? His lover? Was questioning his powers—was he really the great guru he’d originally seemed to me? I was questioning the life I was living here. It had been so romantic in the beginning, full of promise, exotic. But standing there in my fragile state now, I felt tiny and afraid…out of control. I felt I was getting weaker, not stronger. I decided it was time to leave, or at least to confront him about my fears and anxieties. I told myself, “He’ll want to help. He’ll make it right.” I wanted him to reassure me.
Orage approached and held my hand. He felt the same way. We exchanged sympathetic glances and there may have been some supportive conversation. He also felt he needed to confront G about uncertainties he was experiencing. He also wanted to leave. We decided to go to him together. I was relieved to have my friend’s support. I couldn’t have faced G alone.
We walked out into the dark, dingy hallway. It was thick with cigarette smoke and down at the end of the hallway we could hear the rowdy crowd in G’s study.
As we approached, G’s deputy, a small man with quick movements and sharp features pulled us aside into a waiting room, another small bedroom. He explained that G was busy entertaining guests and if we wanted to see him, we’d have to wait.
Through the open door of the room we were in, G became visible in his study talking loudly, animatedly. He was surrounded by adoring fans, retinues of people from around the world, worldly people. My consciousness registered this: It’s H.
I relaxed a little at the sight of him, a man I loved. But then suddenly, Warhol was there. He showed G/H a photograph he’d taken and was proud of. G dismissed the photo angrily, humiliating Warhol. People cowered and look around at each other, surprised by the venom. G stormed out of the room. A minute later, the deputy came and indicated to me that G wanted to see me…alone.
I walked into the hall and there was G. He indicated I should lead the way and so we went back to my room.
The room was Victorian with wainscoting and a floral, dark green wallpaper. The bedspread was thin and worn. The furnishings were sparse. G took a seat on the floor, crossed-legged, like a Buddha. I sat on the edge of my bed across the room, facing him. We sat like that, looking at one another, and I was reminded of all the time I’d spent sitting across from H in his Madison Avenue office. We were at about the same distance. The sensation was the same. “Like being in a cage with a lion.”
His eyes were dark and stormy as he took in the room. He commented on the fact that I’d decorated. I’d painted some gold stars on the lower part of the wall and was in the process of creating a mini galaxy. I was proud of what I’d done and happy not to be talking about anything more weighty than decorating. I smiled and began to babble about my plans to extend the constellations all the way up the wall.
He cut me off in disgust saying, “I don’t like it.” It was exactly the reaction he’d had to Warhol’s photograph a few minutes before. He was stone cold and said, “What’s the vision?”
The word, vision, was weighted. I understood that the question was not just about the décor, but about my own vision for myself, my life.
“What’s your vision for how this room will look when it’s done?” he challenged again.
I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I realized I had no vision. I’d been playing…I’d been seeking his approval, trying to impress him.
Suddenly as this realization entered my consciousness, he captured me with his eyes and held me firm. A supernatural power coming from him dissolved my ego. I was pure consciousness, floating in a state of nothingness. I was no longer attached to my body. I was terrified and awed by the experience. Instantly, I regretted doubting his powers.
Then, without moving a muscle, he lifted my body off the bed and held it with his gaze. He held me close to the ceiling for a second and then he let me drop to the floor with a crash.
I realized as I stared at him and processed what had just happened that it was this power that had drawn me to him in the first place: his ability to show me—to demonstrate for me physically—forces beyond my comprehension. This had been my seduction from the start. But, I also realized what he’d just done had been an abuse of those powers and also that he’d been withholding those powers from me, keeping me wanting more, keeping me in limbo. I hadn’t seen or felt that magic in a while.
I lay there feeling afraid of what would happen next, but also completely resolved to leave. I saw that he was not teaching me to harness these powers on my own, but had been wielding them over me. He’d shown me what is possible, but hadn’t empowered me. There was no love, only darkness and a power he held over me.
I knew I had to get out of there, but I feared it might be too late. He might kill me. But then, he said, “Get out. Pack your things immediately and go.”
As he left the room he said dismissively, “Tell your next guru you’re a typical psychosexual victim.” I could see that he’d known this all along and had been using it to manipulate me.
When he was gone I felt relief. With lightness and a sense of urgency, I started packing my bags. I saw I’d been given a window to escape and I was going to take it.
Into my few bags I stuffed shoes and clothes and my few books. I took some tea and bread for the journey. As I packed the food I worried that it wouldn’t be enough and I wondered if I might go hungry. I realized I’d become so dependent on being waited on, on having food brought to my room on a tray, I could no longer feed myself. My mind now clear, I reassured myself I could do it, I could take care of me. “I’ll buy food if I need it,” I thought. And with that thought, the reclaiming of the ability to fend for myself, came great joy. I was ready to move on.
S knew immediately that it wasn’t an ordinary dream, but a memory….and not even her own memory, but Katherine’s. She couldn’t deny or ignore the darkness she’d witnessed in G. And though it hurt her to see him in this way, she recognized that simmering intensity in H, too.
She wondered at that phrase, one she’d never heard before, but so clear in the dream: a typical psychosexual victim.
A few days later, S is seated across from H in his office. He is leaning casually on one arm of the chair, dressed in a white button-down shirt and jeans. Absolutely at ease. He has been listening to S recount the dream of the Prieuré, which she has managed to tell him without emotionality. She feels vulnerable…this is a dream about Katherine and Gurdjieff. But, it’s also about them. She has no idea what he will say…she never has any idea what he will say.
“He’s right…you have no vision.” He says it matter-of-factly; in his characteristically blunt way. Even taking into account his unpredictability, she is surprised by his response.
“What do you mean? I’d call that dream a vision.”
“I don’t mean that kind of vision—you have plenty of that. I am talking about a plan, a direction, a focus. Just like Katherine in the dream, you are trying to please everyone and completely oblivious to what it is you really want.” He waits for her to take this in, “Almost every week for a year you have come here and we have talked about life, marriage, money, work, dreams…and every time I ask you, ‘What is it that you want?’ How many times have you actually answered the question?”
“I do answer it. Every time.”
“What do you say?”
“Freedom…or some version of it.”
“Exactly. You want freedom. You can’t see that you are already free—your only limitations are in your mind. If you saw that, you wouldn’t be wanting it. You wouldn’t even be sitting here. You’d be off doing what your heart desires. You would have a vision…Your problem is eagerness. Strop being eager for things to happen, eager for people to love you, eager for life to be different…and imagine they’re already happening. Not when our company happens, but our company is happening. Eagerness pushes it away. Too desperate, grasping. Whenever you feel yourself feeling eagerness for something, imagine it’s already here.”
She can hear the truth in what he is saying. She takes it in.
“Look…the dream is threatening not because the Preiuré was threatening…but because of your own state of mind. It’s dark and threatening and turbulent because you have no vision. You have doubt because you have no vision. The packing wasn’t about you having to go out and do it on your own, it was about you needing to leave that state of mind.”
His words have the almost visceral effect of turning her own ideas about the dream’s meaning on their head, upside down. She can feel herself struggling to re-orient.
“Now is the time. The baby will be a good catalyst. We’ve already begun building something together. Our company will need you to be visionary. Yes, right now it is my vision but you have your own vision and it will be necessary for us to make this a success. Here in the work I am…guiding you. But, in our business we will be partners. I want an equal. I want you to have a vision for yourself, for your baby, and for this new company.”
She begins to sink as she does when she realizes she’s missed something crucial or when she feels overwhelmed by the work she has yet to do.
“Don’t judge yourself. Just find your vision and put all of your attention on it. It’s not about ‘getting somewhere’ the spiritual path…it’s about living well in the present moment. The future is the sum of your present moments. You don’t need anything but maybe to get a little wise so you know where you’re going. Once you have that vision, live it—even if outside evidence seems to contradict it or tell you otherwise. Just be in that future. Things will change…I promise.”
He looks at her encouragingly, “The dream was very good. A wake up call.”
She is still hooked on something. She is almost scared to ask, “What about that point about being a typical psychosexual victim?”
He sits up straighter, “What do you think it means?”
“I don’t know, but I know this is a tricky area for me. Our couple’s counselor told me once I have a complex erotic complex.”
“Complex is not so helpful. Everything is simple from some point of view. It’s like this…you’re afraid of the part of you that is clear about sexuality and desire. You actually have a great power here, but you don’t use it. You’re afraid of it. Look, I don’t talk about this much because you’re a married woman and I’m a married man. I like to stick to business. But, you must have mastery of your sexual power as a woman.”
“How do I do that?”
“There’s a lot of shame to clear. I cannot help you with that. You must look into that.”
“But, I want to solve it. I feel like I should address it.”
“Yes, I agree. But, how are you going to solve it if you don’t even know what you’re working with? Right now, you are sexually frustrated and it makes you angry and desperate. Your intuition cannot come through if you’re angry and desperate. So, you need to find a way to relax. Dance. Be with your husband. Surrender to him. Be feminine. Be gentle. Can you do that?”
She loves Paul, but their sexual dynamic has never been fulfilling. They live already, early in the marriage, more like brother and sister than husband and wife.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve ever surrendered to anyone or anything…not really.”
“It’s time. You will have to surrender into this birth. That is certain. But, you can work on it before then. And you must. This sexual energy is a great power and we need it for our work. Channel that into getting us clients, into manifesting the life you want. Get it solved—if not for you, then for the baby on the way.”
The atmosphere between them is charged. He says softly, “I want to tell you something…I want you to solve this so you can make a nice home for your baby. So you can make a nice living. So you can have the life you want.”
“I want that, too.”
“Good. Then, let’s meditate.”
It’s been months since they’ve meditated together. As they sit, she begins to notice a change in the way the light is falling on H. She’s seen this change before in flashes, briefly. But now, something more sustained, more definite is happening…
As usual, the light in the room is white. The light seems to be emanating from H. But, now his face is veiled in shadows. He starts to go dark…so dark. She is waiting for him to become light again as he has in the past, but instead he becomes darker and darker. S sees his features on a field of inky blackness…like moonlight illuminating the features of a black creature in the dead of night. As she watches, the darkness starts to spread down through his body.
“You’ve gone dark,” she says.
“As light as it gets, so it gets dark, too.” As he says this, he gets darker still. His whole body is now black, “You have a problem with the dark?”
“I wonder how dark you’re going to get,” she says honestly, in awe.
“Maybe you have a taste for the dark.”
As he says this, she feels the darkness within her own body. It feels like an aspect of self she’s always known, but has forgotten. Like a long-lost friend or a prodigal child; a visitation from a darker part of herself. This part is passionate and sensual, delicious, reveling in her own pleasure and the pleasure that is available to be had…that is in fact, an aspect of Reality that she knows with her whole Being and that she IS. There is an intense power in this dark part, a chaotic force…destructive, but also fruitful—omnipotent. She feels the sensations, the darkness, consuming her from the ground up. Her thighs, genitals, and lower belly become completely dark.
With this awareness, a great black snake appears in her inner vision working its way firmly, resolutely, up from her feet through her seat through the center of her being; consuming her, disappearing her into its gut. It moves with an undulating, serpentine motion and as it rises, she feels its powerful presence–something almost sinister, but not evil. Just empty…a void capable of erasing anything in its path.
As the snake is about to consume her head, she chokes herself out of her immobile state. She snaps back into the moment. The spell is broken.
“What happened?” he asks.
She starts to tell him about the darkness and the snake from a place of fear. Her heart is racing.
“Just tell me without the drama,” he prompts.
She describes what she’s seen and felt, more calmly this time. He says firmly, “You cannot let emotions accompany this rising. Just let it fill you…”
She sits there adjusting to her body, which feels electric. He asks: “How do you feel?”
She laughs suddenly and with abandon, “Dark and a little wild…like a wild woman!”
He smiles, “Bring this energy to your work. Get rid of the nice girl act. It doesn’t suit you.”
He rises and goes to his desk, which is often her cue to leave. She sits for a minute longer, feeling like she needs to steady herself before moving out into the world. Something enters her consciousness. He senses it.
“Who visited you just now?"
“A voice telling me it’s all trickery…I am weak and will believe anything,” she says this as a confession.
He stops shuffling the papers in his hands and looks at her, “You must get rid of this voice.”
As she leaves, she feels high; like she can taste freedom. On the subway home she feels something tugging at the back of her mind. She thinks of Katherine. H was able to help her make sense of the prophetic dream for herself, but what about Katherine? Did she want to leave the Prieuré? What happened there between Katherine and Gurdjieff? An intuition tells her Katherine needs something from her…that Katherine sent the dream to tell her something.
Hannah is back from Paris for a visit and to take care of the details of selling her New York apartment. She is staying with S and Paul in Brooklyn. They will celebrate S’s 37th birthday while she’s in town.
The pregnancy is a delight. For the first time in her life, she is not struggling with her body, but marveling at it. Through the early weeks of morning sickness; through the middle months of bliss; and now into the final days of heaviness…she has surrendered to a process beyond herself and her ability to manage or contain anything. She is a work of art, a flower in bloom, a miracle unfolding.
On the morning of her birthday, S wakes to the sound of a voice; a conversation happening just within her awareness. The voice says, and she hears this clearly,
“Allow her to stay now in the energy of her own consciousness.”
The message feels angelic, comforting…like a prayer. She feels she is being watched over and she relaxes deeply. She feels something heavy lift and she recognizes that this is what she wants with all her heart—to be in the energy of her own consciousness…to know herself completely.
They have tea in the kitchen. Hannah is alive with her success. Her career in acting and directing has really taken off in Paris. She has been traveling around Europe putting on shows and working with exciting directors. She is full of stories. Hannah asks S to tell her something surprising about her experience of being pregnant.
“I’ve learned to surrender when my instinct is to struggle,” S says thoughtfully.
“I can’t even imagine.”
“I couldn’t either. All my life, this body has been like a prison. Now, I feel…it sounds silly to say it…I feel it like a temple. You know how they’re always saying your body is a temple? Now, I know what that means. It is truly holy.”
“It makes me think of something Jung said,” Hannah reflects, “He said men make war because they need to surrender their will to something higher. I wonder if women don’t need to make war because they have to surrender themselves to something higher to bring through life?”
“You know, I was reading a book by Ina May Gaskin on natural childbirth…stories of women giving birth at home, little vignettes. They’ve been so helpful…I’m 37 and I’ve never seen a birth and never really even heard a woman talk about her birth experience. What I see in movies is horrifying…in the back of the cab on the way to the hospital and all that…it’s always an emergency. Anyway…in this book, Ina May says there comes a point in many natural birth experiences where the woman feels like she will die for this being to be born. She must literally surrender her life—come into the recognition that life itself, the continuity of life, is so important she will give herself up for it. That, she says, is often the turning point in the birth…that surrender…then the baby comes.”
“Dolly, you sound like an expert already.”
“Hardly. It’s so humbling. There’s so much to know and only so much a book can teach you!”
“So, you’ve decided to have the baby at home?”
“Yes. It’s been such a tough decision but I know it’s right. I don’t want the hospital. I don’t even want a doctor. We’ll have a midwife. I want to do this as my ancestors did. My mother was born at home. And my great-grandmother had eleven children, so the knowing is in there somewhere.”
“I think it’s wonderful…brave.”
“Thank you for saying that. I’ve told several friends and they’ve thought it was ludicrous…irresponsible, stupid. They told me horror stories about births and I had to point out that every one of those stories happened IN the hospital.”
Paul walks into the kitchen for some coffee, he’s been listening, “I don’t know what it is, but you insist on overestimating what ordinary people can bear. Don’t you know this by now? People do not like anything strange or foreign…There are people I tell that I joined a food coop and they can’t handle it. They think it’s communism.”
Hannah and S laugh. Hannah says, “Women have been made to feel so afraid of birth." It’s sad. I mean…have the baby where you feel safe and good.”
“For me, that’s at home.”
Hannah reaches over and shuffles through the stack of papers and books on the corner of the kitchen table. There were lists and worksheets from the home birth class, books and business cards—resources for before and after the birth.
She looks at S’s long to-do list, “Good lord! I thought you said you’d surrendered.”
S laughs at herself, “I know, I know. I still have to make my lists. They give me comfort—the illusion of control. You should have seen me at first. I was managing the whole experience like a client project: charts and keynote presentations and spreadsheets. This is a big step forward. Just a simple list. And I don’t have to do it all. Just…60%.”
Hannah puts the papers back and stands, stretching, “I better get dressed. I have to be 100% ready by 10.”
Hannah has chosen her career as an actress over motherhood. She’s always claimed she didn’t want kids. S knows this, still she asks, “Do you think you’ll have children?”
Hannah turns around sharply, her eyes wide, the actress in her portraying shock and horror. She says breathlessly, “Dolly. Do you not know me at all?”
Later that day, when S tries to tune into Katherine, she cannot find her. The absence is strange and she wonders if it has something to do with the voice she heard earlier. She does not know it now, but it will be seven years before she feels Katherine again.
Brooklyn, Fall 2010
S is sitting in her living room frantically finishing up her remaining projects and crossing items off her to-do list. She is in efficiency mode—preparing for the arrival of the baby in less than a month—when an email comes in that brings everything to a halt. The sender is her old friend, Gary. They don’t speak often, so she is surprised to hear from him. But the shock of the message touches something much deeper.
Imagine a Divine 'Universal Mother'
Of all things.
Why is that we ALL are born through women? It is mundane and supremely divine at the same time.
She has helped me through everyday of my life and simply knowing and learning about her, her existence and work…I have been transformed...
And let's not forget that you, Ms. Brown, embody all of this,
Right here, Right, now...
Sending light to you and I'm excited for this new life to come into being, through you.
Please keep us posted.
She is suddenly sitting in a whirlwind of anxiety and confusion. Does not compute. He has put his finger right into the unseen wound. He has touched the very thing that she has forgotten to attend to in this pregnancy, forgot to put on her to-do list…
Embody the Divine Universal Mother.
She reads and re-reads the note and realizes she has no idea what he means. And it feels important. It feels absolutely essential.
She sits staring at the computer screen, but hovering somewhere above her body. She looks down to see herself, as round and fecund as a human can be; bursting with creation; the very embodiment of the divine feminine, without a clue about what that means. She suddenly sees that she’s not spent even a few minutes through the pregnancy or indeed, in her whole life up to this point, contemplating the power of the divine feminine.
I have no idea how to be a woman, let alone a Divine Universal Mother.
She begins to see all the ways she has been coping, compensating and avoiding. She is suddenly consumed by questions…like she’s just discovered a new territory and has to set off exploring it without maps. Where are the maps?
She sits up and looks at her masseuse. Brooke is a gentle and feminine presence—pretty with curly brown hair and pale skin, soft features, graceful movements. A friend recommended her because she offers pregnancy shiatsu, a nurturing modality. Brooke says a few sweet and encouraging things to her about the upcoming birth and S has a thought.
“Brooke…I have a question…I feel vulnerable to ask it but I think you might know the answer, or where to point me for an answer.”
Brooke looks at her with an open face, calm and curious.
“Do you know where I can learn about the Divine Feminine? A friend sent me an email telling me I am embodying the Universal Mother and I don’t know what he means. I don’t even know where to start.”
Brooke smiles gently and immediately nods with understanding. She grabs a small notepad and pen from her desk, “Yes. Oh there are so many places to start…and it’s best to start with what calls you. When She calls you…”
S gestures to her belly and says, “I think She already has.”
“Plenty of women have multiple pregnancies and never know the Divine Feminine. You’re lucky she’s calling to you to know her. It’s the most beautiful journey…a remembering process…”
S remembers the goddess in the reflection in the back of the cab. She catches her breath. She nods and Brooke can see they are now in a shared understanding.
Here are a few books you could try. She writes down the titles of three books. Each one sounds more delicious than the last. Her handwriting is a clear, lovely cursive…feminine. S takes the precious piece of paper with her as she leaves like she’s been handed a life-saving prescription…or a map.
The last month of the pregnancy, the to-do list is forgotten; he projects are wrapped. S spends all of her time and energy seeking a connection to The Goddess.
She orders all of the books Brooke recommended and more. She reads. She meditates. She prays. She sits and tries to feel the Universal Mother’s presence. It’s slow going at first. Mainly, what she sees is how masculine her conception of God is. How paternal. And she sees how her approach to everything in life—her career, her marriage—even her pregnancy, has been masculine. Suddenly, she understands something cryptic H once said about a woman being born a man and having to become a woman…the same with a man: he is born feminine and must become a man. At the time it felt like some impenetrable alchemical code, but she is beginning to see.
She knows the answer is in her body. So she begins to walk like a woman, to lay in repose like a woman. She even watches old European movies and studies the women. In one of them, black and white, she sees an extra—not even a speaking part—walk her bicycle diagonally across the screen through a town square. Something in the sway of her hips unlocks her own.
Days before the birth, she is researching postpartum remedies and she finds a wonderful book of herbal baths and tinctures for new mothers. She feels the call of the plants like long-lost family. Their names seem to be speaking to her and she wants them with all of her being—enough to make a special trip into the city, to a little spot she knows in the East Village. She doesn’t know the real name of the shop, when she lived in the neighborhood in her twenties they used to refer to it as the Witch Shop.
Later, as she stands over the stove stirring batches of boiling herbs she feels powerful and witchy herself in a way that is deeply familiar. She finds herself thinking about magic, witches, the light and dark feminine and masculine, the universal mother, wizards, and tricks. She knows that it will be her work through this next phase to know them all intimately, to learn the difference.
And she’s going to have a baby.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~