April is about Connecting with the Wild Wise Woman within us.
This month I am spending with the books of Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I first read Women who run with the Wolves when I was in my 40s, and it seems wise to me now to revisit her 20 years later to see how much wiser I am, and what she can tell me about being a Dangerous Old Woman.
“Sometimes to make the point I have to move to other animal metaphors. I like to use mice. What if you were raised by the mice people? But what if you’re, say, a swan. Swans and mice hate each other’s food for the most part. They each think the other smells funny. They are not interested in spending time together, and if they did, one would be constantly harassing the other.
“But what if you, being a swan, had to pretend you were a mouse? What if you had to pretend to be gray and furry and tiny? What you had no long snaky tail to carry in the air on tail-carrying day? What if wherever you went you tried to walk like a mouse, but you waddled instead? What if you tried to talk like a mouse, but insteade out came a honk every time? Wouldn’t you be the most miserable creature in the world?
“The answer is an inequivocal yes. So why, if this is all so and too true, do women keep trying to bend and fold themselves into shapes that are not theirs? I must say, from years of clinical observation of this problem, that most of the time it is not because of deep-seated masochism or a malignant dedication to self-destruction or anything of that nature. More often it is because the woman simply doesn’t know any better. She is unmothered.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
Many women of my acquaintance are un-mothered. We have mothers, but many of us don’t have the connection to the previous generation in the way we expect. Some of our mothers were un-mothered as well, and we have no stories for the kinds of cultural changes that mark the 20th Century. The baby boomers grew up in a world so alien to the Silent Generation, that my mom at 80 still thinks the world of WWII was the best of times. For her it was.
For my daughter, the past is unthinkable. and for me…well, if you remember the 60s, so they say, you really weren’t there, dude. I was lucky to ride just before the wave in some ways, before the schools fell apart, before Nixon taught his henchmen and their conservative cronies how to manipulate the data from the polls to tell people what they wanted to hear. But I wasn’t born soon enough to be a digital native, and I find that I have often let mass consciousness make my decisions for me, even as I thought I rebelled against it. Rebellion is only the other side of compliance–mass consciousness is still in charge.
Like the swan, the UglyDuckling, I had no ratty tail to carry on tail-carrying day,and no one admired my wide feet or strange sounds. But many of the mice also felt this way, and
All of us must at some point learn to be our own Wildish Mothers. We must learn how to Sing our Deep Song, and bring to the front of our being the Wisdom we have crafted from accumulating years on the face of Our Mother Earth. I’m going to spend a month with Clarissa and her stories, going into my own deep.
My next novel contains a mouse character who is being as crafty adn invisible as real mice often are. I will plumb her depths as I work through my own. Perhaps I will find my inner mouse, and she her inner swan. There is more than one way to catch a mouse–bacon and peanut butter are better than cheese, and that must be a clue to me as well.
Come along with me as we move into the wildish dark cafe at the end of the universe.