Sometimes I look for signs. What I hadn’t expected was a sign. An actual sign.
A sign on the side of the road.
I was down in West Springfield and had gotten myself turned around. While make a U-turn, I saw a beautiful monastery seated up high on the hill. At the bottom, a sign. When I read it, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
There were more words on the sign than those. But I nearly drove right off the side of the road.
I thought: Wow! It really exists! It’s a revelation! A tremendous gift! There was a community that had shaken off the out-dated language of ye old father and expressed a reality that is necessary for our healing.
But then I looked again:
Oh, I thought. It was a convent. Not that they aren’t special, but it surely wasn’t what I’d first thought.
The disappointment I felt was not a new thing. Nor is it for me that there must be a Mother God and no Father God. The problem is, there is no Mother God.
For years I’ve wrestled with my mothering work, supporting and helping mothers as they work to come more alive as mothers, to mother well and be human well, to be seen, valued, and honored.
I knew in that next instant that my work had been in the wrong direction. I had been focusing on helping human mothers. But the problem was so much greater.
Without a living archetype of the Great Mother active in the collective consciousness of our culture, it doesn’t matter how many Mother’s Day cards we give or receive, or how hard we work to get maternity leave, or how much we despair at the enslavement of women who are denied abortions.
While at Yale, I studied feminist liberation theology intently. One of the books I read was this one over here on your left. It’s about the women who actively participated in Jesus’ ministry. Though I haven’t read it in many years, the title popped to my mind, even as my heart plummeted to notice on that sign the small little word “OF,” the word that changed everything.
To think of the memory of someone is to understand that they are passed. Gone. Not active. Not instrumental.
What we have in our culture today is a world in which we have relegated the aspect of the Divine expressed as the Mother to an archaic ancestral time.
I knew as I saw that sign, felt my heart leap and then fail, that the work is not to be a critic of the system, not another person to point out how poorly things are going for women, how disastrous for mothers, how empty spirituality is for so many, how harmed so many have been by the “Our Fathers,” without ever an “Our Mother,” how without the archetype of the Great Mother, we have gone deeper into violence and personal and collective soul-infertility–
But that, very simply, I had to make IT, that thing I had thought existed when I misread the sign.
There are many ways to live but two of them are: as spectator and as collaborator.
In my understanding of myself as the self-titled Fertile Feminist, I identify myself as a creator, working creatively, as a maker, of children and family and content and myself. This collaborator role is not unlike the one the children took on the other day when we went to visit Park Hill Orchard, which is both apple orchard and art museum. There, the children engaged with the art.
There was no walking around “in memory” of the days when we were a part of the world we live in. It was instinctive, natural and spontaneous to become a part of the art, to understand that the world is a frame, and we must put ourselves directly inside of it (as we all playfully did there, striking silly poses!).
A little word can mean so much. A little word can change so much. That OF changed everything for me. It said to me: bring it into the world.
It sparked the creation of The Sacred Order of the Great Mother–a community at once “edgy and ancient,” in the words of my friend Ayana, a place of revolutionary thought going about the business of restoration. Not somberly, with a crippling rage, but with delight, playfulness, joy.
It is a place of refuge and play, where we are children before the Great Mother and also Mothers for this Great world, where we are collaborators with one another and with the world itself, where we are doing the work of restitution, which is what?
Nothing short of birthing a world more alive, more just, more kind, and more whole.