Years ago, a decade or more, I had a friend describe herself to me as a hot house orchid type of woman. She was convinced that we gals are all like flowers…each of us identifiable with one type of flower out of the plethora of beautiful choices available. A floral representation of our spirits.
When I told her I didn’t feel like a flower at all, but like an Oak Tree, she offered to pray for my self esteem and any feelings of unattractiveness or lack of feminity I had. And so, with tears in my eyes and head hanging down, I thanked her, because oh! How I wanted to feel…to BE….beautiful and feminine, exotic and lovely, fragrant and desireable. And Oak Trees, apparently, weren’t any of those things……
Fast forward to another lifetime. To Now.
I’m am just finishing the last few tracks of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes CD series on the wise woman archetype called, “The Dangerous Old Woman”. My God! If it were possible to fall in love with someone by their voice alone, I am totally in love with Dr. Estes. She has this amazingly warm, honey-toned voice filled with passionate expression and wisdom. Sometimes I get so engaged in the sheer sound of her voice, that I have to shake myself out of this ‘zone” I get in, so I can really hear what she is saying.
I don’t have the time to do a complete review on this incredible, life changing work right now. Maybe I’ll write more posts on it later. However, let me say this: For someone like me, who had almost no familial history passed down to her (all of my grandparents were dead before I was born, for example), this series has been gold! For the longest time I felt like I had no “past” to draw upon. My parents were a somewhat typical 50’s generation couple: dad was a young and upcoming executive for a major manufacturing company and mom was all about creating the right appearances – both in our home and on our persons – to support that. Even though I had something like 14 aunts and uncles, and more cousins than I could count, half of them were in the Midwest and completely unknown to me. The other half – the California contingent from Mom’s side – were busy doing what they always did at family gatherings: The adults ate, drank and partied together while us cousins were stashed safely away in another part of the house to play.
It’s been while listening to the stories that Dr. Estes tells in her series that I realized just how much I missed out on. For eons, peoples of all cultures, all over the world, have passed down their collective experience and wisdom through the art of Story Telling…the elders to the youngers. They did this while they worked in the fields, or around the pots hung over the campfires. They did this while they did handcrafts and woodworking and tool smithing. There were stories that covered every aspect of the human experience – from life to death to beyond. I honestly can’t remember any wisdom stories shared with me as a young person. Well, there was that drunken uncle pinching my newly forming breasts at Thanksgiving one year, offering his bit of wisdom: “THIS is what the boys will be after!”
Sure, my mom – who was orphaned at 17 when her folks died a day apart – would frequently wax sentimental after a few vodkas. I occasionally heard about Grandmas’ sewing, or Grandpas humor. But no “Stories”, if you know what I mean. Not like the ones Dr. Estes shares, from her own culturally rich heritage, nor the stories she’s acquired through her studies of indigenous peoples. For example, the world is replete with fairytales that are shared – as if by magic – by many cultures, with only little revisions here and there. They ultimately relay the same Truths. The same Cautions. The same Hard Earned Wisdom. My youth was filled with the stories I got from books. The adventures of Nancy Drew. The occasional Bible story from children’s church. And tales of life on the high seas, mostly lived by men like Captain Horacio Hornblower, and Captain Bly.
I’ve found myself soaking up the stories and myths on this CD series like a desert soaks up the rain! They’ve nourished my soul – touching me deeply in places that I didn’t even know I buried, and causing new life to bloom.
Back to being an Oak Tree….which I still feel like is a pretty good representation of Who I Am, only now – years and hard won experience later – I now celebrate and embrace! Even more so after hearing Dr. Estes tell the story of the old tree from her village…a magnificent 100+ year old tree that – after finally succumbing to an incredible lightning strike that split her from top to bottom – ended up being filled with treasure. Literally! Countless numbers of items…from cards to tools to clothing to toys…that had found their way (either by winds or human hands) into the deep crevices of her limbs and trunk and roots over the years. Some of these precious treasures – spanning entire generations of the village – had wood literally growing around them, as if in the safe keeping of a mother’s palm.
Women, Dr. Estes says, like Trees, are the Keepers of Treasures. Women, like trees, mature and harden and grow stronger through wild storms as well as gentle showers. No longer frail, thin sapplings, the older Tree – sturdy, scarred, shading, more fruitful – stands like a powerful Guardian of the woods.
Women, like trees, are the holders of Ancient Wisdom….
Last week, I had a dream. In the dream, I found myself travelling through a village towards a steep hillside. On the hillside, was a grove of giant trees – like Red Woods (my favorite) nestled close together. As I got closer, I could see that the red bark on their massive trunks had been roughly hewn away and there were faces on them! Gentle, heavily lidded eyes and strong, powerful noses. Lips curled in almost smiles and eyebrows shaped like bridges. As I climbed, I used these beautiful, magnificant faces as handholds and footholds to help me. Up and up the hillside I went, my steps sure and quick.
When I reached the very top, I found myself on a path that wandered into the distance. Within the first few steps, I came along side another tree – a smaller tree with thick greenery – that was absolutely buzzing with hummingbirds! One particular hummer – as big as a sparrow – left her perch and flew right in front of my face. I could see that she was an older bird…thicker than the rest…a little scruffy around the feathers, but her eyes were bright and her beak strong. Her eyes! They looked INTO me, not at me, and as if making up her mind that I was satisfactory, she allowed me to touch her…practically purring like a cat as she enjoyed my fingertips stroking her. She tilted her head and pressed it against my palm and then quickly jumped to my shoulder where she nestled in my hair, and became my travelling companion. I swear she was smiling.
It was here that I woke up, with a lightness of heart and a vibration of such pure happiness, I didn’t stop smiling for hours. My dream told me a story that night. An encouragement, of sorts, to use the ancient “wise woman” wisdom that was available to and in me, to guide and support me as I continue on my life’s journey. I felt a knowing that everything and everyone I needed would be there for me – available to me so that I could take Joy with me as my companion. Never alone. Never without Help. That even the Impossible was possible!