Also, there is risk embedded in this girl savoring what’s hidden, underneath, unsanctioned by culture:
I met my own loneliness, rage, impotence, indignation.
We, coming early to culture, repressed and choked by it, our beautiful mouths stopped up with gags, pollen, and short breaths; we the labyrinths, we the ladders, we the trampled spaces; the stolen and the flights...
-Hélène Cixous, "Sorties"
As a teenager I remember forgetting my house key and pushing the patio table to stand under the kitchen window, prying off the screen, and climbing in. My uniform skirt snagged on the bricks, my thighs bare and scraped, I shed my propriety often—in favor of some deeper dignity: no place—and no part of myself—barred from me.
I broke into my own home. I had to.
As women and girls do and will, until the bolted speechless doors of pleasure are flung wide open for us, by us.
I call these doors speechless, but not silent, not even voiceless.
Hear it? This murmuring in the belly of women’s unmitigated desire, of our lust for ourselves, of what we’ve been banned from expressing yet. Yet, here we are: speaking, singing, praising, drawing up utterances from the bog of our deep memory.
Do you recognize this voice—curious, magnetic, impetuous—the longing that draws down the stars?
"In some places the mantle is actually exposed."
-from “Mantle (geology),” a Wikipedia entry
A mantle is “a cloak… that which enshrouds,”
I am in the fitting room at Express trying on clothes for my new job at the front desk of a condo building. I put on a tube skirt that engulfs me in stretchy fabric from high waist to mid-calf. I consult the mirror and wonder if I’m wearing it wrong. I look like an inky mermaid missing her tail. As I shimmy out of this skirt and into a pair of tailored black pants, smartly creased, I notice my body humming softly inside, heedless of what would bind it. I feel a resonance with all of the other women’s bodies, humming and thrumming within business suits and within those cinched sheaths of fabric that we don’t call corsets anymore, but that compress our luminous skins, no matter the name.
I write this not to decry fashion, or what any woman chooses to wear, or to deny that I bought those black pants, and wear them with heels, and feel sleek & powerful in them.
I also like taking them off.
In some places the mantle is actually exposed.
I whisper this word, mantle: women weavers, weavers of worlds, speakers and sharers of power. Women have woven and worn ceremonial robes, lavish or simple, voluminous, with folds of light and shadow, shot through with soul-fire and desire.
Maybe our culture treats fabrics as a lifeless commodity, or as a shorthand by which we announce our belonging to a place or a group. But fabrics woven by women have been sites of radical—and sometimes furtive—forging of creative identity. One can weave secret whispers, spells and prayers, into the weft of the cloth, and then wrap her body up in these. While others may not read her mantle’s message precisely, they can feel its power, must stand in awe of the choices she’s made about what threads to weave in, by the spell of her design.
I learn the story of the Celtic heroine Brighid and her green mantle known as brat Bhride. Brighid asks the King of Leinster for land to build an abbey: he says she can have as much land as she can cover with her mantle. She opens her green swathe and spreads it over the earth: before the eyes of everyone, her mantle grows and grows until it covers as much land as she needs. Brighid is honored as both a Pagan goddess & a Christian saint: inside the folds of her mantle, a sacred power beyond allegiance, beyond the claim of duality.
In some places the mantle is actually exposed.
I see you spreading your arms wide, your vibrant mantle billowing down around you, your body glowing with the energy you’ve been gathering up, holding to yourself, steeping in. Your mantle enfolds your creative gifts, draws them in close, and opens when you are ready to offer, in brilliant array. We know how to do this. Many times we've been told it is otherwise: our bodies, our gifts, our lives are not enough. Mantles tattered and torn. But I know something deeper encircles us, grows brighter and stronger, as we attend to it. Our mantles of indefatigable grace.
At Re~Vision, a women’s creative process retreat on August 12, we will spread our mantles wide in celebration of the writing we’ve dared. We’ll practice generosity & curiosity as we read each others' words and offer/receive feedback. And in remembering that we are always enough—our mantles ever weaving & re-weaving strands of wild light—we open to the resilience necessary for creative re-vision. The insight & strength to carry our visions all the way to completion.
Your voice needn’t be loud to be strong.
In the heart of a whisper, a knowing look, rushes a current of shivery knowing. The strength of remembrance, the embrace of hushed tones, the bubbling crisp clear music of the land waking from her long sleep.
Loud is all around: the bull dozers and the politicians and the oil drills are loud.
In the midst of this clamor, there is so much power in your own natural voice. Sinuous, undulating, rising and falling, slipping between the cracks of this clanging to sing up the buried songs. Your voice. May it rolllll like a river and shine like the sea.
Oh yes—and thank the stars—women’s voices are also brash, wrathful, or sharp as wolves marking territory. But always pulsing with love, tender and fierce.
Let us celebrate the diversity of our voices, the harbor of our own lush imaginations—the dreams, vibrant and tenacious, we are shore to.
See how we can hold it all, stream this multi-sensory richness from our mouths and hearts?
As we voice the world’s quaking—unsettled and wild—and press through the old stranglehold that would dampen women’s voices, we honor all our determination to know ourselves, to nevertheless unveil this beauty: women with wingspans wide as sky.
At this creative women's retreat for the Summer Solstice, we will practice embodying our writing with passion + confidence in our voices and bodies.
One word to describe what we’ll be learning about together is “performance” of our writing, but what we’re really practicing is how to call forth our unfettered selves, our sovereign cells, from where they’ve been awaiting a voice. How to embody our deepest knowing, without apology, and to offer our creative voices in the spirit of a gift.
The retreat will be a mix of guided visualization, writing, movement to express emotional energies, and ritual. In a supportive circle of sisters, you’ll discover the symbiotic relationship between your physical voice + body and your internal creative voice, how the two can nourish and reflect each other, and be offered as an elixir to our thirsty world.