I am reading the latest book “Travelling with Pomegranates” by Sue Monk Kidd which she co-wrote in journal style with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue has written other books, both fiction and non-fiction. One of my favourite novels, “The Secret Life of Bees” was written by her. This book though is different, even as it returns to many of the same themes which she has previously touched upon in her other books, especially her exploration of feminine spirituality in her book “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter”. (Strongly recommended!)
There are some books which we read for the story, the narrative, the rich
texture of langauge. And then there are others like this book, which we
choose because we know the author from previous books and novels. But as we delve deeper into the heart of the book we begin to realise that we are somehow forming ourselves anew even while we are still immersed in the author’s own words.
“Travelling with Pomegranates”, I think, is such a book. For me it requires a pen in hand to write my own reflections down as I read, and a pencil to underline the little gems of consciousness altering thoughts which the authors set down.
Sue Monk Kidd begins by setting the tone and parameters for her account and ruminations by re-telling the ancient Greek tale of Demeter and Persephone. Hecate, the old crone and goddess of the crossroads and the dark moon, turns up to help Demter in her time of despair as she seeks her lost daughter, Persephone. Hecate is like the Old Woman in May Sarton’s poem whose words Sue Monk Kidd quotes, “Under the words you are my silence”. Approaching 50 at the time of writing Sue feels compelled to go on a journey, a pilgrimage “in search of an initiation”. She wished to create “a new consciousness” in herself, “not through words, but through the wisdom of a journey”. Presumably her justifications for undertaking a real, physical journey are related to her changing perspective, the altered undercurrents, that she was experiencing in her writing at this time. She wrote about the “stalled eerie stillness” in her writing, about the “strange fallowness” she was experiencing. For Sue it seems, there was no alternative except to go on a journey, to see if she could “distill life into a new, unknown meaning”.
Yet the questions Sue poses herself and her readers, do not, it seems to me, require a real life journey in order to find an answer.
Sue asks whether there is “an odyssey the female soul longs to make at the approach of 50 – one that has been blurred and lost within a culture awesomely alienated from soul?”
Ultimately such a journey, a pilgrimage, is an inward journey, whether it happens at our writing desks or on our travels to exciting and exotic places, though the latter may hold the added advantage of being steeped in feminine consciousness and spirituality. My first introduction to the goddess spirituality of Greece was through Carol Christ’s wonderful books about her personal experiences there with her descriptive accounts of how her consciousness was altered and, later, framed by her spiritual digs into the dark and moist womb into the laps of the goddesses.
Sue’s daughter, Ann, also feels the benefit of the larger, broader perspective offered by leaving her quotidian experiences behind. She learned much about herself on her first trip to Greece especially when she caught glimpses of her life through the eyes of Athena, Goddess of warriors and nurturing, and adopted guide for Ann herself.
–So yes, if it were only possible, then yes, yes, and yes again, I too would wish to travel to Greece and follow in Sue and Ann’s footsteps, and open myself up to new visions, vaster and more life enhancing perspectives, and richer, deeper understandings and meanings in my life.
But I have neither the freedom of movement nor the monetary wherewithal to indulge my fantasies and dreams. The closest I can hope to reach that mystical pinnacle of freedom (oh what a life affirming word! To say it is enough to make my heart and soul soar higher and higher within!) is through reading and writing. My responsibilities tie me to this place, here, now, no beyond, only this and this and more still of this. All that may be learned and discovered anew I must do here, now, on this very spot. This part of the earth’s face carries my mark; my shadow trails through the freshly mown grass and sinks into the bowl of soapy water where the delph lies waiting for someone to make them new again. But it seems there is none else here but me who can do this work. The children, the husband, each seem to have their own tasks assigned by their age, place and standing within the institutionalized grouping we call ‘family’. Anything I might achieve or do or learn must arise from this very patch where my feet are firmly tethered. (A fisherman’s rope could not hold me in a tighter grip. Some days even my wrists seem to chafe at the cruel harshness of the twined fibres.)
All I have are words, and if they fail me, as they often do, if I feel my chest tighten and the words catch and tear against the tender flesh of my throat, well then, what of it? I shall simply have to accept it, to stand in place like a soldier threatened with the firing squad for dereliction of duties, feel the heaviness of my feet like blocks of concrete and wait, wait, wait until this exhaustion, this darkness, passes, all the time while praying that it will melt away like the mist on a warm and sunny morning in early May.
Shall I only believe that truth, my truth, my chance of freedom, lies somewhere beyond, above, behind, beneath my duties, that it exists shining like a lost jewel, but elsewhere, not here? If I must do that, then I am lost, then there is nothing, no one, no self, no thing at all.
Sue defines soul as “the rich, inner life of the psyche, the deepest impulse of which is the create wholeness”.
Well then, perhaps this deadness which I carry within shall be the hummus from which the seed of my wholeness, my renewal, might grow from.
But where shall I find the seed?
[Posted by Edith, aka soulsister]