Our son’s autumn week at home has come to a close, finishing with a trip south for a family wedding in Pennsylvania, completed by the necessary mecca to Wawa–just for gas; but while we’re there–How about a soft pretzel or two?
We skip the hoagies this trip, but what about Tasty Cakes–the communion of Return–the Body of my Childhood (the peanut butter chocolate ones) and of my late mother (Butterscotch Krimpets.)
We arrive home the lesser for it, even while our hearts are full, as the powdery sky above the Green Mountains speaks to the cleansing promise of winter.
these women circles take place in a private residence on macarthur road just off route 9 in marlboro, VT (between wilmington & brattleboro.)
(note: women participating in the snail mail 3-season writing journey can reserve participation in the monthly women’s circle at an reduced rate; please inquire.)
Facilitator Kelly Salasin has been participating in transformational women’s circles since her early thirties (in the late 1900’s 🙂 In 2000, she began leading women’s workshops, circles and groups, including designing her online curriculum, Writing through the Chakras, which she leads with women from Crete to the Carolinas. Kelly is a certified yoga and yogadance instructor.
She regularly assists leading presenters at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, including Jean Shinoda Bolen (author of The Millionth Circle), Julia Cameron (the Artist’s Way), Joan Borysenko (A Women’s Book of Life),Tara Brach (True Refuge), Tama Kieves (This Time I Dance) and Dani Shapiro (Still Writing.) Kelly studied with renown chakra teacher Anodea Judith (Wheels of Life) and has assisted teaching trainings with Megha Nancy Buttenheim, founder of Let Your Yoga Dance (a chakra-based movement practice.)
Each March, Kelly serves as an NGO representative at the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City, gathering with women & men from around the globe to amplify women’s voices.
“Listening, witnessing, role modeling, reacting, deepening, mirroring, laughing, crying, grieving, drawing upon experience, and sharing the wisdom of experience, women in circles support each other and discover themselves…” Jean Shinoda Bolen
They were barely toddlers when we heard them on the rock outcropping off the back door.
That early June dawn offered a rare sighting of an entire family–both parents and their pups—6 in all!
Later, like last summer, it was just the pups who would come out all hours of the day, and they would let us join them outside, while lounging or nestling or playing, and we’d speak softly as we approached, and sometimes take a series of photos, like parents of little ones do, noticing, over time, how their fur thickened and their coloration and markings deepened.
Eventually, only Ollie and occasionally Cleo would stay when we came near, but soon, even Ollie dashed back into the den upon our arrival. (The other two never stayed long enough for us to get to know them.)
And then that July day came, and the day after that, and then a week, and then another, where we had to resign ourselves that they had grown too old for humans or had perished in the woods while learning to hunt with their parents.
And even still, I look and listen, every day, just in case, jumping up at any sound to see… Nothing.
This is how it goes. The wondrous gift of life and then the absence of the gift. The vacancy. The ache.
Our Aidan will do the same disappearing act this summer, has already done so, is always doing so, transforming from that chubby-cheeked, toasted-marshmallow fleshed, apple-berry-loving baby into an adult—all of an unfathomable 18 years this August.
One afternoon in the heat of early July, he and I were embroiled in a dispute of some kind, hollering at each other across the kitchen, and then simmering with hostility in our respective corners of the house.
Moments later, we heard the squeals, and then we rushed together toward the back door and stood there in silent adoration, our skin touching, our breaths slowed, our moods completely transformed in the holy presence of new life.
Once last summer, when I was working at my desk, I went to the door, in deep despair over our nation, and there were the babes who in an instant lifted me from rhythms of man.
Just the thought of that day is a teacher, a balm, a homecoming.
I slept poorly last night, even after stripping out of my nightgown and stepping onto the porch and into the rain, too soft for the good soaking I craved.
It may have been the moon. It may have been the strong coffee I had an hour too late in the afternoon. It may have been the news I took in before bed, a personal taboo that I’ve broken again and again since #45; so necessary is attention, so addictive is urgency.
Once asleep, I woke often, even in the wee hours of this morning, but it wasn’t until I heard the sound of squeals, not quite birdlike, just before 6 am, that I came to my feet and stepped quickly to the balcony doors, and saw with a mixture of joy and disappointment, three ten-year-olds scampering up the stone path to the outdoor tub.
“They’re so grown,” said Aidan, when he stepped in beside me, wiping his eyes. “Only three?”
“Do you think that’s Ollie?” I asked, as the other two disappeared in the woods across the lawn.
We watched the young fox alone there on the hill, until he too realized his solitude, and dashed off in search of the others, whimpering into the woods and venturing in just a bit, before reappearing, loping back across the lawn, and up the rock outcropping, to the cry of a parent’s reply from inside the den.
“Not Ollie,” we said, and then Aidan turned and went back to bed.
Once the sun rose a bit more over the hill, I went outside to bathe, and as the sole of my feet felt the heat of the stones beneath me, I thought of their paws there just an hour earlier, of how we shared the same path; and not just the foxes that morning, but the deer, and the chipmunks, the moose, the turkey, the groundhog, the fisher cat, the black bear and all manner of creatures with whom we share this land, seen and unseen, sometimes seasons, sometimes years, between sightings.
Once inside the confines of the tub, I closed my eyes and tilted my head back and floated upon the water listening to the my breath, each inhale and exhale amplified by the porcelin, and hearing even the beating of my heart, echoing like a drum, as the world around me disappeared.
When I opened my eyes again, it was the lush green foliage of the canopy that I saw overhead, and I felt much like a scuba diver, but in the jungle, deep in the center of me.
I was returning from my morning walk, and she was just heading out.
We spotted each other as I crested the driveway.
My first thought was:
“Oh, there’s our cat, I mean, our dog.”
I almost called her toward me, but then remembered that I didn’t have a pet, haven’t had one since I was a kid.
This freed up my brain to produce: “Wild animal,”
And then: “Fox,”
And then: “Baby fox,”
And then: “Hi Cleo!” the smaller of the two babes that I got to know when the four of them frequented the rock outcropping off my studio.
Surprised to see each other head-on, we stared for some time, and then to fill in the space between us and to keep her from dashing and to lessen any anxiety I may have felt about her further approach toward me, I sang the lullaby that I had sung when she was just a kit.
Eventually, she decided against continuing down the driveway, and turned toward the path into the woods, so that I could continue up, moving from the shade to the sun.
With two cars between us, we stared some more. Yet it wasn’t so much staring we were doing, but “stilling,” taking in the presence of each other, acknowledging our shared and distinct lives, as if to say: “Hello, there, nice to see you again.”
Then she turned to trot down the grassy path, and I stepped up onto the porch; two neighbors getting on with our day.
It occurs to me now that as the fox kits have aged, they like to see me a couple times a month, in quick bursts, while I like to see them at least every few days, in leisurely companionship.
I’ve always loved The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts so when I saw that they had a new exhibit called: Women Artists in Paris 1850-1900, it was a no-brainer; though honestly, I was more excited about “women” and “Paris” than I was enthused about women’s art.
That is until I walked into the exhibit and felt wave after wave of emotion.
GRIEF. ANGER. DISBELIEF. SURPRISE. AWE.
I wanted to weep. I wanted to fall to my knees. I wanted to throw things.
Why had I thought that men were the artists of the time?
And the authors and the scientists and engineers and the mathematicians and the leaders and the pilots and the firefighters and the warriors…
Why were the accomplishments of my gender so hidden, so maligned, so discarded by history?
(The 2016 film “Three Figures” comes to mind.)
I’d never done a gallery tour, not since my public school days, and I never wanted to until now. I wanted to know what I missed. And why.
I am heartbroken. I am appreciative. I am furious.
I am sorry that I did not know, did not celebrate, did not focus on the accomplishments of women.
“The first measure of success for a woman artist,” said the interpreter, “was to paint like a man.”
Isn’t this true everywhere? Men’s work/view/attitude serves as the benchmark for… Everything.
(Even my tea bags come with the quotes of men. Even my yoga teacher references the teachings of men almost exclusively.)
Confession: I have never taken an Art History class, and the subject of Women’s Studies didn’t exist at my Jesuit University (talk about achievement shaped around men!) so some of what I write here may be obvious to others, and even well worn, like the way “La Toilette paintings” of women in their dressing rooms, partially clad, were painted by men of women—as objects.
(#45 comes to mind.)
Not so a toilette painting by a woman where the sitter is subject, looking right back at the painter, and forcing the viewer to recognize her full humanity.
Women were turned away from the leading art schools, although one entered by pretending to be man, and women were further regulated to what was considered the bottom rung of art–the simplest to paint–still lifes–with the understanding that women could not manage the complexity of painting movement or the physicality of painting on larger canvasses or the indelicacy of painting nude. (In fact, they were prohibited from studying the male form altogether.)
To the women who pushed past, are pushing past, have always pushed past the artificial boundaries of a society shaped around men, THANK YOU.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, thank you.
Women Artists in Paris who painted into obscurity, thank you.
Clark Art Institute, thank you.
Gallery interpreters, thank you.
American Federation of Arts, thank you.
Laurence Madeline, curator of the tour, thank you.
Art historians and researchers, THANK YOU.
It is no surprise to learn, even while it is equally heartbreaking, that many women artists married male artists, and once married, gave up painting while he continued, and even more heartbreaking, resumed painting again after his death.
(“Your life must revolve around mine,” my father hollered at the kitchen table when my mother began to express needs beyond serving him.)
It is no surprise to learn that Nordic women were able to devote more energy to the arts, free to travel to Paris, because feminism had reached their part of the world first.
(Thank you, Nordic women, for leading still!)
During the tour, I watched as one older husband snapped his fingers at his wife when she paused too long in front of a canvass; and as another, changing his mind about the tour, came up to his wife, who was rapt in attention to the talk, forcing his headset into her hands and dashing off; while yet another oldler man whistled and scowled at the other tour group where three women were talking too loud (one of those women was the silver-haired interpreter.)
It was my husband who reminded me of this series of incidents which I took as a matter of course, but which for him, slowly awakening to the gender differential, shouted loud and clear, of a lifetime, lifetimes, of male entitlement.
What I did notice, uncomfortably, was that the exhibit guards for Women Artists in Paris were all men. It was an older man who came up to me as I scribbled into my notebook, telling me that I could not use a pen. It was a young woman, working the desk, who gave me a tiny pencil to use instead.
Gender discrimination isn’t a thing of the past. Feminism isn’t new or old. Women’s lives, like Black Lives, have always been full with humanity, even while that humanity wasn’t/isn’t recognized by the perpetrators of discrimination, degradation and assault and even while the absence of that full humanity is overlooked and often unseen by those who have been demeaned and those who love us.
The older I get, the more I weep in recognition of what was kept out of reach for so long.
(Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 features more than 80 paintings by 37 women artists from across Europe and America–at The Clark until 9/3)
august 1st~birthdays are holy days, the sacred aperture of the soul’s entry on the earthly plane. which brings to mind my friend Paul, born today, on the pagan celebration of the turning point of summer, the beginning of the harvest season–a time of year which deserves high praise from me for all that’s been received…
my son Aidan, my first kiss with my husband, our move to Vermont, the last day of our summer backpacking honeymoon adventure across Europe, our firstborn…
And before the wheel turns to Autumn, the birthday of my beloved & the return to spirit of my mother on the same date
and in between and before the season’s turning–the holy apertures of nieces & nephews, in-laws, & grandmothers, uncles & friends, my baby sister, my father, and the honorable 44th President of the United States of America.
And then there’s the fruit, the tomato, the cornflower, the pumpkin, the blueberry.
All these outrageous acts we gather in abundance for the leaner seasons.
I love Mondays. The chance to start again. To get it right.
I hate August. “A month of Sundays.”
As a result, I’m often angry.
A reminder that I need to grieve.
While at first unnerving, harvesting lavender among honey bees is a soothing communion of attention and appreciation; but not so with bumble bees; theirs is a more frenetic energy; mirroring my own fretting–whether to cut or to leave–to preserve or to bask, to prepare for winter, or to be here now, in summer, so fleeting, like the irises and wild roses and strawberries, already passed.