Cloud Factories

Received an unintentional wake-up call from my granddaughter yesterday. Yes, I’ve been missing in action here, for some time now. Lots of physical issues, doctors appointments, new routines and medications, other family members hospitalized, as well as the psychological and emotional roller-coaster ride the current state of this country has been experiencing. I am fairly certain that I am not the only one who is feeling a bit shaky and lost. The desire to duck and run, find a quiet place and just work at breathing normally is exceptionally strong at the moment. The desire to write, although still alive, has been pretty far down on my list of priorities. You could say it hasn’t even made that particular list for a while now.

There is a distinct (I believe) mindset involved in writing anything. And to write in any kind of public forum (including a personal blog) only increases the parameters and personal responsibility of that mindset. To use a metaphor, for me the words have been taken hostage, kidnapped, and they no longer hold the same meanings for what they used to define. Many of our most prominent leaders spout lies and falsehoods meant to deceive and hide any truth, at best only to obscure reality for their own personal gain. Yet, want us to believe they are still speaking the same language we have always shared. To have principles now seems to put one automatically into the minority and invite attack fueled by fear and hatred, as well as explosive violence. It’s difficult to speak, let alone think of writing under those kinds of circumstances.

So, why am I here doing that, you might ask. Because my granddaughter posted a question on Facebook, and I was suddenly reminded of who I am, what I originally set out to do here four months ago, and it all connected with a memory of her when she was only four years old. You can read that story here:

https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/cloud-factories/

I was in the delivery room when Kaitlynn was born. It was a moment I cherish and will never forget. And that weekend trip we were on is just as strongly lodged in memory because of what she taught me that day. That we must look to see the beauty around us because it calms and nurtures our soul. If we spend too much time looking into the darkness, we might actually miss the light that is present there.

And the light is there, it is what defines the darkness, gives it its dimensions. And, I must mention, that is the reason I write. When I put words to paper I am seeking enlightenment. That might sound rather strange to some, but it is my reality. I put words on paper in the hopes of being able to see, as clearly as possible, the nebulous thoughts that are constantly roving through the darkness of my mind. The human mind is a cavern of constant chaos. Putting words to that chaos brings them into the light of my awareness and only then can I choose where I stand, what I can believe in, and hopefully find a path I can follow through it.

If you think about it, language is a sort of ‘Cloud Factory’.  All those words pouring out from millions of voices. Some no more than belching clouds of smog, while others might create beautiful and even healing images. Some choking the life force from our lungs, others creating paths of acceptance, compassion, and yes, even freedom. And that’s exactly what my granddaughter’s posted question did for me. It cleared the air of all that confusion, reminded me of who I really am, what I have been about for years, and led me directly back to this series of essays I started in March with a post titled Beginning.

This is the question she re-posted on Facebook:

So we wanna ban abortion but not allow women to get their tubes tied per request?

And I started laughing as I immediately began forming an answer to her question, telling her that I could probably write a twenty page paper in response. Her words turned on all the light bulbs within my cavern of chaos, creating a path that led directly back here to this series of essays. These posts began as a direct response to the #MeToo movement. The Movement began as a push back against the abuse most women have experienced for centuries as a part of being born female. And Kaitlynn’s question has a direct correlation to that issue. Why shouldn’t women have the right to decide what is best for their own person, beginning with their bodies and physical health and well-being?

It was my intention to discuss three myths that have shaped our views and definitions of women and their role in society. How those realities have been shaped by a male-dominant society and are still a huge part of who we are today. But with my own health concerns, the hospitalization of three very close relatives in the past two months, and the fear filled atmosphere in our daily lives, it’s been a long hard climb to get here and do this thing, which started as a vague idea, but felt so right, and still does. This is not an excuse, or another apology. It is a heartfelt thank you to my granddaughter for clearing the air and making this current moment possible.

As far as Kaitlynn’s question goes, in a male dominant society women have been defined by men through the centuries. We have been labeled as possessions, the weaker sex, not capable of clear and logical thought processes (nor allowed to learn them), unable to protect ourselves (and not allowed to learn how to do that), our behaviors have been scrutinized and detailed on a fast descending scale. I could go on and on, but the sad reality of all of it, is that for some men, that simply means that the female body is no more than his sexual turf over which he must maintain control. The products of her body (children) are also his, and in many cultures exist to prove his own virility. And how better to ensure that than by removing her from any process of what might or might not be done to her own body?

My previous essays go much deeper into that reality and are based in Historical fact. That is not to say that I believe all men think in this fashion. I don’t. But, I do believe that all of us are affected by these centuries-old set of ideas about what women are all about. We still don’t know that, do we? It has only been in the last hundred years that women have been ‘allowed’ to vote. We still have a long way to go.

What I have already written is about the role of myth in creating those definitions. I have already mentioned what is referred to as the Monomyth, the story of the Heroe’s Journey that can be found in most, if not all cultures. The story of how a youth becomes a man, a leader, successfully bringing a new health to the society in which he lives. There is always a reward for completing that journey. And most often that reward is the love of the woman of his dreams. She isn’t his partner on the journey, she is a secret he holds within himself. And she is his reward for proving himself. That makes her far less than a true help-mate, and more a possession in need of his guidance and protection.

As always, these posts are meant to encourage a discussion, a sharing of thoughts. I have usually added some sort of quote to help that discussion, and this one is no different.

quotes.....

 

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Apologies and Other Thoughts

First things, first. My apologies for not having been here for a while. I got involved in other things, then let the time slip away. In April, I decided to try to do NaPoWriMo, which is a poem a day challenge through National Poetry Month. Then someone asked if I’d give prompts for the same. I, less than enthusiastically, agreed but only if I had some help, which I did receive. But, now we are half way through May, and I still haven’t been back here. I have been reluctant, to say the least.

Writing a poem a day is a difficult task, and although I have done it several times (both on my own, as well as for National Poetry Month), that doesn’t make it any easier. I always remind myself of something Robert Bly told Bill Moyer in an interview, when Moyer commented on the fact that writing a poem every day can’t mean all the poems are ‘good’ poetry. Bly’s response was laughter, then he said, “Some days, you have to lower your standards.” That comforts me on those down days of such a cycle, and I have used that reality to make even more poems:

https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/complicated/

But now, we are more than half way through May, and although each morning as I waken, one of my first thoughts has been, “you need to get back to that series on myth,” and yet, have managed to avoid doing just that. Why? Good question, and not an easy one to answer.

I have been watching the news throughout this time period. And must admit, that what is happening in my world, my country, makes for a deep sense of foreboding. Fear and uneasiness do not make a good playing field for creative endeavor of any kind. Creativity is built on an element of hope. Hope that the effort will be both productive and enlightening. But, after watching sanctions and laws repealed, almost on a whim, in order to make money at the cost of those most vulnerable among us, it gets more difficult to find hope in the present day reality.

And yet, that is just what got me started on this project. Myth, mythology, and symbolism had a great deal to do with how I became whoever I am. They have helped me to explore my own truths and the choices I have made in following the path of my own existence. Yet, I have allowed myself to become distracted and have managed to hobble myself in the process. That ends now.

Joseph Campbell tells us that we resonate to myths because they are the story of human development. Somewhere in these stories, we find pieces and parts of our own experience, and through them come to know a bit more about who we are, why we are, and even what we may be about.

For instance, in the myths I will be exploring, I find truths about human history, especially that pertaining to the Patriarchy and its constant need to diminish women. To control her, rather than allow her to flourish. We saw the underbelly of that reality in the recent trial of Larry Nassar. Over 300 young women (girls) sexually abused by one man. Some who spoke up, but were silenced by others in roles of authority, who had to have some inkling of what was actually happening. And I’m not just speaking of men in positions of power, but women as well. How could this become the norm, or acceptable in any manner?

One major answer, among many, must be that of centuries of conditioning. And part of that conditioning is reinforced by the stories and myths we hear repeated time and again. For instance, take the color red. For centuries, women were cautioned about wearing the color because it symbolizes passion, or a passionate nature. What got Red Riding Hood in trouble? That flaming red cape she wore. And the myth about the woman who wore red shoes that eventually danced her to her death. If a woman wanted to be treated with respect, or at least with common decency, she didn’t wear the color because everyone knew that only women of a certain lower level would dare to do so. Yet, we all know that if a strange man chooses to attack an unknown female, it probably has nothing to do with her footwear. It has way more to do with how he thinks and sees his own role as a male member of society. The conquering warrior, and dominant one whose many aspects are also relatable to that of a predator. Elements of which we all come in contact with during the process of growing up.

If a woman was attacked, it wasn’t her attacker who came into question first. It was her own person, and behavior. What was she wearing, was she being flirtatious? Had she been drinking, did she do these things on a routine, or regular basis? In other words, how did she make herself a target for such behavior? As if she would knowingly do such a thing.

That is why it took over 300 girls and young women coming forward to put an end to one man’s sick perversions. He was a doctor, and frequently said that they were just too young to understand that he was performing a medical procedure. And for decades, that was an accepted reason for dismissing whatever accusations were made. Why?

Could it be because most women learn at a young age, that they could, at any moment, become prey, and then be accused of asking for it? So, they remain silent, and even find themselves guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or that they should have known better? Should have been able to discern, at a glance, that this particular man would take his sense of male privilege to a place that can never be acceptable, but somehow, silently is? Because she lives within a society that says she alone is responsible to see that it never happens to her, while he is told that when a woman says “No”, she really means “Yes?”

There is so much wrong in all of this. But, the #MeToo Movement is a rallying point for all women and men. It is long past time that this issue be addressed. Time for the world to take a clear and honest look at what we humans have created and also destroyed in the process of becoming whatever we are to become. Perhaps time to finally balance the books and find a different way, a different definition, a new way of seeing and knowing. But above all of that, maybe it’s time for a new level of respect to be born and nurtured among all of us.

The most common way people give up their power
is by thinking they don’t have any.

__Alice Walker

 

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Flip Side

As they say, “There is always a flip side to every coin.” I have already written about how it is the elite, within any culture, that forms, frames, and defines that culture. The Patriarchy defined woman, but also defined man in that process. It goes, without saying, that it is a hard act to follow.

Seeing as all of these posts are aimed at a discussion of a series of “Feminine” myths, I thought it appropriate to write about the main male myth, here. It is called the Mono-myth, because it is Universal, known, in one form or another, world-wide, and some version of it may be found in most cultures. The Mono-myth is the story of the Hero’s Journey. It isn’t just one story, but comes in many different shapes, formed by the traditions of whatever society created it.

Joseph Campbell, the leading Mythologist of the past century, broke down the Hero’s Journey into 18 stages, or parts. Each stage requires some sort of challenge or test that must be completed before the next stage is entered. Can you see where this is going?

I am not about to outline those entire 18 stages, but will give you a brief synopsis, only.
It all begins in a Common World, where the would be Hero lives an everyday existence. But, there is some sort of problem in that World, a problem that needs to be healed. The young, would be Hero, is called upon, or shanghaied, into going in search of the magic elixir that will help his world. He meets all kinds of people, some are friends, companions on his quest, others are guides or mentors, and of course there are those who will be his sworn enemies. He enters a whole new realm of existence, where he must learn new rules, and earn his own place within that new world. He must face and overcome ordeals, but eventually gets the opportunity to gain possession of the elixir he seeks. To do that, he must fight to acknowledge, accept, and heal his own flawed character. He is, after all, only human, which means he is imperfect. After all of that, having obtained whatever elixir he seeks, he must decide to either continue his questing, or return to his Common World. If he continues the quest, he will meet and must overcome even more obstacles. If he returns home, he must learn that because he has been altered by his experience, home can never really be the same as it once was.

That’s my nutshell version of the Mono-myth. But, you get the idea. Life is a constant battle that must be faced and the individual must pass all these tests, or never become a Hero. Think of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Percival, and the search for the Grail. These were the tales handed down from one generation to the next, that defined what a real man should, or could become.

But, again, we must look at the fact that the elite within any society comprises less than one third of that society. And very few of that small number, ever attain that hallowed definition. Most simply rely on the past, the blood, or name, of some long distant descendant who somehow managed to gain a foothold into those upper echelons. The fact that blood, and fame, is thinned over time, doesn’t seem to enter that reality. Most often, the upper class sees its position as one of privilege, rather than responsibility.

What then, of the common man, the head of the household? That one who will never be a part of that ‘higher’ class? He is still held to that same definition. He never really gets to rest, does he? He must go out and work to provide for his family, but then come home and still be in a constant leadership position. Yes, he may have a wife, but he has also discovered that she might have a mind of her own. He works under the authority of others the majority of the time, but then must take on the mantle of authority in the one place he should be able to find rest. His “partner”, as defined by society, is just another responsibility. How does he find peace, let alone the time and energy it takes to explore his own identity, find his soul, and let that soul speak to him? How does he find worth in his own person? He has been put in a no-win situation. Should it really be a surprise that there is so much anger, violence, and abuse occurring on a daily basis? Constantly needing to prove oneself has its own high level of frustration. Talk about being fitted with an iron belt that has no key.

The problem becomes huge when men are taught to see women as less than, weaker, needing to be taught their place, and to be somehow ‘controlled’ (think of the word submissive). What actually happens here is a constant battle for some sort of control. Some semblance of value and viability. Two partners who have never been taught equal partnership, involved in a constant undefined struggle, underneath the ongoing, sometimes all consuming desire to just find meaning.

Here’s another quote to fuel this discussion:

 

 

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Getting to the Roots

I collect words. About a week after my last post, I found a new (to me) word , in my mail box. The word is deracinate. It literally means: to pull up by the roots. But has come to define the process of isolating, or cutting off, an individual from his/her given culture. It is most often seen as a negative action.

As a former gardener, I’m quite familiar with the process of weeding a garden. When you pull out a plant, roots and all, you clear, and clean the ground for new plantings of your choice. I couldn’t help but think about what I had written in my last post. How much better to eradicate a culture, then to deny it ever existed? At the very least, to shroud it in darkness and cast a shadow of extreme doubt that it ever was a reality? Then replace it with another that is heralded as being only natural, due to its obvious superiority?

But, who defines what is superior? From what I have gathered in exploring the concept of a matriarchy, that culture is most often defined as more egalitarian. That means that the skills and abilities that most supported and allowed the culture to flourish were rewarded, regardless of gender. Female and male were seen as equals, most likely their roles differed, but each role was seen as important to the continuation of the culture itself. And those roles were handed down from one generation to another. The parental figures taught those skills to their offspring. A good example of that can be found in The Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean M Auel. Yes, it is fiction, but a great deal of study went into the work.

We need to get back to that concept of definition, and who decides what is good, bad, right, or wrong, and what will most likely allow the culture to flourish and continue. The elite, those who hold power, also create the rules concerning and defining good citizenship within that society, as well as who, and how, wrong behavior will be punished.

Thus, we can see how the patriarchy totally redefined the concept and position of women. Being territorial, it applauded physical strength and battle readiness, but at the same time, redefined woman as something less than. She was the “weaker” sex, therefore in need of protecting, and was not allowed to learn the skills that might allow her to defend herself. Because she gave birth, her place was in the home, taking care of his property, and to a great extent, became viewed as his possession right along with all the other household items and whatever animals he might own. She was far closer to nature, and thus must be controlled and trained. And because she was closer to nature, she didn’t possess much ability for logic, being far more emotionally activated. Simply put, she could not be trusted and, for a period of time, was even fitted with a locked metal chastity belt, when her husband was off fighting the good fight, with the single key to that belt kept in his pocket. This was to ensure that her offspring were his and only his, and that his property would descend to his male children.

Of course, there were a few individual women who rose above that definition. Leadership roles, such as queens and heads of convents, and the like. Women who shepherded their households while husbands were off fighting “Holy Wars”, making sure that husband still had a household to return to. They were most often seen as unnatural creatures, anomalies, even witches with dark powers earned through associations with demons and such.

A good example of that would be Sophia, the older sister of Peter the Great of Russia. Peter, and his younger brother, were too young to take the throne. Sophia (a decidedly intelligent and ambitious woman) became Regent of all of Russia and ruled until Peter came of age. She was instrumental in opening trade with a much larger world than the closed Russia that had existed until then. When Peter came of age, one of his first actions was to lock Sophia in a convent cell, where she was stripped of all power, including her name, and where she remained until she died. Peter expanded on those first tentative moves to let Russia join the rest of the world, and is given credit for all of it. Strangely enough, the name Sophia means wisdom, while Peter means rock (as in stone).

I did a twenty page paper on Sophia in College. It took a great deal of digging because, at first, the only quote I could find about her, was from one of the first foreign journalists she had invited into Russia’s closed society. In his words, she was an unnaturally, ugly woman, grossly obese, with a wart on her face that sprouted long hairs. 

This is all to say that the patriarchy, over the course of hundreds of centuries, redefined woman as something else, something different, something other than itself. And over those centuries, women came to view themselves in light of that other definition. If on occasion, she raised her voice to express another opinion, she was more than likely told “not to worry her pretty little head about such matters,” which were obviously beyond her understanding.

But then, the patriarchy made a mistake. Within the past century, it gave her the vote. Perhaps because it believed that wives would automatically follow their husbands preferences, and giving her the vote might actually shut her up. It didn’t. In fact, it had just the opposite effect. She now has a voice and is using it. Not just on her own behalf, but in making her world a better place for all of its members.

Here are some of the synonyms for that original word deracinate: abolish, annihilate, eliminate, erase, expunge, exterminate, extinguish, stamp out, uproot, weed out, wipe out, abate, demolish, efface, extirpate, liquidate, obliterate, off, purge, raze, scratch, scrub, squash, torpedo, total, trash, waste, blot out, do away with, mow down, root out, rub out, shoot down, take out, uproot, wash out.

I also stumbled upon an interesting quote, I thought might be germane to this discussion. What is your response to these words?

No one is ever a victim,
although your conquerors
would have you believe in
your own victim hood.
How else could they
conquer you?

__Barbara Marciniak

 

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Matriarchy and the Matter of Bias

“Matriarchy has often been presented as negative, in contrast to Patriarchy as natural and inevitable for society, thus that matriarchy is hopeless. Love and Shanklin wrote:

When we hear the word “matriarchy”, we are conditioned to a number of responses: that matriarchy refers to the past and that matriarchies have never existed; that matriarchy is a hopeless fantasy of female domination, of mothers dominating children, of women being cruel to men. Conditioning us negatively to matriarchy is, of course, in the interests of patriarchs. We are made to feel that patriarchy is natural; we are less likely to question it, and less likely to direct our energies to ending it.”[19]

This quote is from a much deeper exploration of the word, matriarchy, and may be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matriarchy

I have attempted to read through the entire article, several times, but most often end by throwing my hands in the air in confusion, or some level of disgust and depression. But the article proves the quote over and over again. We have been led to believe that a Matriarchal society (if it ever existed at all) was, and is wrong and bad, even though many indigenous societies followed a Matralineal practice of defining descent through the mother figure. A practice that also, at some time in the past, included the tradition that the home and its contents were the property of the female head of that residence, and could not be used for any purpose without her express permission and approval.

In her book, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker has an excellent article about Matrilineal Inheritance (p.620 – 624), in which she details how that right of inheritance was bludgeoned by the Patriarchy for centuries, using religion and the Church as a righteous authority, to finally obliterate its reality, ultimately leaving the female of the species, legally unable to own any property at all, including the writing of a will without her husband‘s consent. This Matrilineal descent, and the Patriarchal obsession to wipe it out, is a strong point toward the existence of a Matriarchal society in the time of prehistory. (You don’t work that hard to destroy what is not a threat to continued existence).

Break down the word prehistory, and it might sound something like this: Prior to his story, nothing of real importance existed. Nothing that was note worthy. At best, it is shrouded in darkness and mystery. What might be deduced can only be conjecture and thus, questionable to the highest degree.

I went to College in the 1980’s and early 90’s. One of the most important lessons I learned, early on, is that every writer has a bias, a personal set of views that will form and color her/his writing. That would include my own. I am a female, both old and tired. What I write here will definitely include my personal bias, no matter how hard I attempt to curb that reality. It is not my intent to persuade any individual to believe as I do. But rather, to open a dialogue concerning the constant and ever-prevalent abuse and dismissal of half of the human race.

I will try to do that with the use of myths and symbolism. Those are the things I have studied, as well as writing and History. It is my intention to explore the three major myths concerning Lilith. In order to do that, we must first explore how myths are made, and the manner in which they are used to define both morals and behavior, within society.

Myths are stories. Stories are one of the oldest teaching tools known to humankind. Even before the advent of Language, clans and tribes would gather around a communal fire and act out those behaviors which would best allow the group to survive. A strong warrior would act out his/her actions in battle, so the rest of the clan could learn from them. With language, the stories were told, as well as acted out. And those stories were passed down from one generation to the next, becoming oral traditions. And they continue into the present moment. Go into any library and ask for the Biography section. We still learn from one another’s stories.

And just as a writer can not escape her/his personal bias, it is the same with the Storyteller. A slight inflection of tone, a pointed glance, or the wave of a hand lends more weight to any part of the story being told. And that tone, or added movement, will have an affect on the listener. It will lodge that aspect of the story, more clearly in memory.

Think back to childhood, when someone might have read you a story from a book. The best ones were those that were infused with the sounds and looks of the feelings and attitudes portrayed within the story. Those are the ones you remember, because those actions brought the story to life. They also served to teach you the proper responses to certain life experiences.

When the ‘bad’ guy looks to be winning, we are shocked and surprised. We are also taught to fight back, or to call out for help and protection. And nowhere, has that response failed more drastically than in the experience of sexual abuse and assault, perpetrated against women and children.

March is Women’s History Month. The #MeToo Movement has brought the battle against silence to a public and worldwide forefront. It is so very long overdue. And it is only a first step against the bias toward silencing the acknowledgement of any and all human reality.

I have a question with which to open this discussion: When and how did you learn that it is best not to speak out against unwanted and inappropriate behavior?

My answer to that question can be found, again, in this prior post:

https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/when-someone/

Elizabeth Crawford  3/19/2018

Notes: Image is a line weave drawing (doodle) done in colored inks.

 

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Beginning

 

I created this blog almost ten years ago, in 2008. And if you take a look through its archives, you will find an assortment of essays, written by me, on numerous different topics, but a majority of them are about writing on a regular basis. Making notes on ones personal experiences, and how one can learn a great deal from engaging in such a practice.

Today, I want to do something different. I have been having some difficulty writing here. I addressed that in my last post about the long-term affects of abuse. Writing it all out did help. But then I realized a few things, as well.

First of all, I finished teaching an online, year-long class about writing ones story. A journey of tremendous undertaking. Then immediately went into a downward spiral about what should follow. And have been dithering around about that ever since. When I finally decided what it was I really wanted to address (something concerning Women’s Issues), it occurred to me that it is incredibly timely at this juncture of the human story. Should I keep it in a closed classroom with a small number of women, or open it up to a wider audience? And just how might I go about doing that?

First of all, I started making notes, a simple outline. I taught the stuff about twenty-five years ago, but it remains clearer in my mind than any other class I taught at that time, actually, any class I ever taught. However, that doesn’t make me an expert. Far from it. I had the freedom, back then, to teach whatever I chose, and it was always about my own experiences and what I had learned by reading and writing. I would always mention the books where I had gathered those ideas. So, I went looking for the one book I could clearly remember using for this topic. Couldn’t find it. I’ve moved a few times since those teaching years, and it has obviously been lost. I searched online, but again, too much time has passed, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

Given that reality, I realized that I couldn’t really teach the class, or so I thought. Then it occurred to me that I could just share the information here. These pages and posts are my personal opinion, nothing more. They explain how I came to know what I know, and am the creature I have become.

So, this is a beginning. The first in a series of posts (have no idea how many) about a subject I studied in great detail, simply because it interested me, but then brought me a great deal of knowledge and understanding about myself, my own experience, and that of the many women who inhabit my world. It is about myth, but a certain set of myths. It is about how myths are made, and of what they are made, and why they have such a deep effect on how we come to view our world, and our very lives, and our place in that world.

I will suggest other posts that you might want to read, perhaps even a poem or two. I enjoy comments, and will endeavor to respond to whatever thoughts or questions you, the reader, might choose to share. And that begins now. This is a post I wrote several months ago. Although it came out of my personal experience, and has a bit of political flavor, what is important here, are the thoughts about the matriarchy which held sway before the patriarchy that conquered it, and how that conquering took place. Please read it:

https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/when-someone/

Thanks for reading.

Elizabeth Crawford 3/8/2018

Notes: Image is a digital painting that came about as I was playing with colors. It is titled, “Prayer At Dawn.”

I’ve been holding onto this draft, still dithering, lol, but today is International Women’s Day, and suddenly, I knew it was time.

 

 

 

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The Deer

Two days ago, I wrote a poem. That shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, seeing as I have been writing poetry for almost forty years. And yet it was a shock to my own person. And that statement begs an explanation. So, here goes:

I am a former abuse victim, both psychological, as well as physical and sexual. That might not be news for many of you who have read my stuff in the past. But what I want to write about today is the reality of the long term affects of being such a victim. Yes, I am a survivor, but I am also very human. Which means I was conditioned to accept that kind of treatment, and learned some ways to deal with that reality. The main one was to silence myself. I have to be very clear here: I didn’t understand that I was silencing myself, I thought I was keeping me safe.

When anger or violence came into my present moments, I became the deer frozen in the headlights of any oncoming vehicle. I would still myself, because to do otherwise was to make myself the focus of that oncoming rage.

But then I went to college and found words and writing, but especially poetry. It was really difficult to allow myself a voice of any kind. I had to constantly fight my own ingrained response to whatever was happening around me. Eventually, the words won out and I accepted my new role as a writer. And after that, as an advocate for other survivors. It wasn’t easy, life never is.

College is a sheltered environment, meant to create an opportunity for discovery and growth. I flourished there and was scared silly when it ended. But the writing stood me in good stead, brought me awards and acknowledgement that eased the fear, and allowed me to continue. Until recently.

I leapt to join the #Me Too movement. It was something I’d unknowingly waited for almost my entire life. Why wouldn’t I? It was empowering to see and hear all these women speaking their truth. But, then came the Larry Nassar trial. I began shutting down, receding into my quiet, and mostly silent self. The enormity of what this one man did, and was allowed to do over decades, was too much to absorb. And disguising it beneath the white coat of a healer and care giver was beyond comprehension. This was just one privileged man, living in a male-dominated society. How many more could there be?

I turned away from the words. They no longer held meaning for me. Instead, I dove into my quiet escape of visual art. Didn’t realize that I was shutting down. Just taking a break, I told myself. I live in a world that has been completely altered. The man who leads my country is a self-proclaimed abuser of women, who calls his actions “locker-room talk”, and simply denies the numerous accusations that have been brought against him, defining them as lies, falsehoods, and the words of individuals seeking some sort of publicity. And his followers, whipped into a fury by any opposing voices, are willing to do violence both in word and deed, because he encourages that sort of behavior. I live in a world fueled by greed, whose leaders tell us that a massacre of children can only be met by thoughts and prayers, because they get pay-offs for not legislating the sale of guns. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

I’ll go back to the poem I wrote. It was very short, very simple, but I struggled for almost 24 hours about whether or not to post it, before realizing that I had allowed myself to slip back into that victim’s mode of silence. I thought others would laugh at its simplicity. They didn’t. I thought a great many things, before pushing that publish button, but did it anyway. I had to, because I am a writer, and words are the world I live in and have created for myself. And the poem pushed me to continue, to come here today and reassert that reality. I was that deer in the headlights, but I refuse to be frozen, to be silenced, especially by my own fears, old and new.

The poem may be found here:

https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/together/

It’s an invitation.

Elizabeth Crawford 2/16/2018

Untitled
Photograph
by
Elizabeth Crawford

 

 

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Oblivescence

As a writer, I collect words. Going so far as to receive a new word, in my mailbox each day, from Dictionary.Com. I do that because they are not common words, not the stuff of everyday usage. I actually enjoy exploring their epistemology, where they originated and how they have changed over time, their history. The word that titles this post has been sitting in my mailbox for a week, just waiting for me, because the moment I saw it, I knew I wanted to write about it. But, I also wanted to give myself some time to gather my thoughts, which exploded all over the place when I read its meaning. It means: the process of forgetting.

Because I am also a creator of images (artist), I like to introduce, and enhance my posts with images, my own more often than not. This morning, when I came here, I didn’t have a clue which image I would use, so just started looking through my media library. When I found the one above, I figured it was perfect. It’s a pen and ink line weave doodle I made nine years ago, and it has always made me think of a woman, seated with her back turned, with all of her myriad memories clinging to her. They change and are altered by simply existing, moving one from another, flowing together as memories have a tendency to do. Meaning one thing in the moment, but pulling up others that somehow connect with them. Some of those memories are precious, held and kept close, while others we’d prefer never happened and often push away because they hurt or distress us. But both have value because they help us to understand the individual we have been, and that one we are becoming.

I have good memory function.  Not eidetic, or what is called photographic, but more like good recall. When I read something, and later want to go back and check it out, I can usually remember what book it was in, approximately where in the book it might be located, and sometimes even which page (right or left), and which position (top, bottom, or middle) on that page where it might be found. Of course, add strong emotions ( like relationships) to that, and it becomes a different story.

Forgetting is a natural part of living life everyday. And that has been the cornerstone for all of the writing that I do. If one writes it down, one is far more apt to remember it, most of the time. Writing it down means making note of it, making it noteworthy. We make grocery lists because we don’t want to forget what we need when we are there in that huge supermarket being stimulated by all those people and choices, colors and noise, smells, and a ticking clock. How much more important to remember special people we meet, occasions that altered our way of thinking, or changed our patterns of behavior, good or bad? Words that we hope we may always remember, or attitudes we wish to mirror?

We already know that we are prone to forget, to lose track of things we wish to remember. It is a part of life, and a piece of everyone’s experience. It is oblivescence. Although I agree with Clarrissa Pinkola Estes, when she writes that nothing is ever lost from the human psyche, I also know that we do forget, especially when we most truly want to remember. We pick things up and set them down elsewhere, then spend lots of time trying to recall just where we put them. But, like the woman who spends an hour trying to find her glasses, only to find them perched atop her head, instead of on her nose, we have simply placed them elsewhere. Perhaps on the top shelf of a terribly cluttered closet in the back hallway of the mind. Like those bright red mittens, now faded, but kept because they were a gift from someone who truly understood our love of the color and the real warmth behind the giving.

That’s why I really started writing. Keeping notes on what I wanted to remember. I had no way of knowing that it would become more than a desire, but a calling, and eventually a profession I would teach to others. This blog was started ten years ago, and no, I don’t remember everything I’ve written. Which means I come back here, not just as a writer, but also as a reader, pleasantly surprised, at times, to find sense and meaning in what I’ve done. But also to remind myself of who I am, what I want to be, and even how much more I could still do.

The process of forgetting has a purpose. It makes room for more gathering. We want to remember certain things, or deny that others even happened. Memories help us learn, sometimes what we don’t want to be or become. Forgetting is not always a permanent loss, more often it is misplacement. And writing is the greatest tool for keeping certain things where we can find them again, and even learn more from them.

This one word had me pondering for days. And no, I haven’t even scratched the surface of all that it brought to mind. That might come out in further posts. It just helped me to remember how and why I love words enough to keep writing them.

Elizabeth Crawford  2/6/2018

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Awakening Moment

When I woke, this morning, an image came into my head. It was a long ago memory, but I suddenly understood something that I have always been curious about. Yes, I am a writer, and have been writing for close to forty years, but I also dabble in visual arts. And have been doing that a lot longer. I call it dabbling because it’s playing, for me. I don’t take it seriously, it’s more of a hobby, a result of my own deeply embedded curiosity. “If I go this way, where will it lead, and what will be the result?” In other words, if it doesn’t work out it’s not a big deal, but it might lead to more ideas, and that is just plain fun.

But, writing is different. It’s far more serious, somehow. When I sit to write, I usually have a simple, but specific plan. A path that includes a beginning, a middle, and an end, a conclusion. Those three things might be represented by no more than three words. The rest is up to me and how well I follow the path I have placed myself on. And, I must add, this is work. It takes careful thought, the ability to choose just the right words, in just the right manner, so that whatever I am choosing to say is comprehensible to others, able to be understood. At least, that is my hope.

The awakening moment, this morning, came from when I was in fourth grade. My teacher had taken me aside and told me that I had been chosen to attend a special drawing class being given on Saturday mornings at another institution. The special class teacher was a well known artist, and I’d have to get permission from my parents to attend. I did so, out of curiosity, and my parents agreed, after an initial period of indecision. I had no idea that I was the only one from my school who would be attending. And, perhaps, the only one invited to do so.

Family dynamics are often a tricky business. My older sister, by three years, had already taken possession of the family’s ‘artist’ designation. In high school, everyone knew that she was headed for a position in the visual arts. After graduating, she worked at a local paper mill as a commercial artist, and later worked for the State Historical Department in the same capacity, while developing her own niche as a painter.

Meanwhile, I found work at a factory, behind a machine, and then became the relief girl as I knew how to work all of them. But, due to physical issues had to quit. Got married and had four kids, and continued to dabble with all kinds of crafts and art projects. Finally decided to try college due to that unstoppable curiosity, and found several things. I could write, I loved learning, and my marriage was a mess. Got a divorce, graduated with two degrees, honors, and later was invited to teach writing at the same University, because one of my poems anchored an anthology that was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Now, back to that awakening moment. Back there, in fourth grade, I had no idea that I had been chosen to participate in a special program. And, although I was often awarded for my artistic talents at school, I also knew it caused a problem at home. I was somehow, inadvertently invading my older sister’s space. The moment, I finally remembered was when that special teacher took me aside after viewing a pencil sketch I had done of my father. She asked me several questions about how I had come to do that, and if I’d ever done anything like it before. I told her the truth. She had told us to try sketching different things in our own home. I’d never tried to draw another person, so decided to try doing a picture of my dad. I didn’t think it was all that good, but she felt otherwise, especially because I was only ten at the time. The following week, I told my parents that I really didn’t want to go back to the class, and they seemed relieved at that decision.

All those years later, in my second year of College, one of the first poems I had ever written, won first place in a writing competition on campus. I dug in and learned as much as possible for the rest of my college career. I had finally found my own space, one in which I wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes. I never lost my play space however. When words fail me, I turn to lines and colors and get lost in them until I find my equilibrium again. In that way, I keep both of my favorite spaces and they serve me well.

Elizabeth Crawford  1/28/2018

Image is a kaleidoscope made from a bonfire photo taken in my sister’s backyard.

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The Business

I am back to business, writing. Finishing up a year-long online class, while dipping my toes in something called Micropoetry, but doing it in my own fashion. A poem a day through the month of November. Although I can, and have done, my share of writing form poetry, I definitely have a rebellious streak, and enjoy engaging it, especially when writing. I have decided to define my postings as Stray Thoughts. No particular form, just an exploration of a thought in a conversational format.

Back in college (I attended when entering middle age), I repeatedly heard one rule in all of my Creative Writing classes: Writing is a discipline, there are rules and you must learn all of the rules. Only after first learning all those rules, by practicing them over and over again, may you break them.

Having a rebellious nature, I took that statement as a promise, not a caution. I set about learning the rules (at least most of them), but with one eye on that priceless promise that one day I could (and would) break them.

What can I say? I was already in my late thirties, newly divorced, with four children. I had a great deal of learning to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. Needless to say, it was an intense time period. But, I did learn a great deal, and far more than just the rules of a writing discipline.

For instance, I learned that my fellow students (most of whom were half my age), had a great deal to teach me. They knew that all work and no play makes for a very dull Jack or Jill. Play was a needed release from that intensity of focused learning. And learning how to play with others, is a necessary discipline of living life fully. But, there are rules to that as well. The desire for acceptance and belonging are built in, but can become dangerous if they become the primary goal and engender a loss of individuality. Conformity may look like unity, but in reality, it strips its membership of uniqueness. They, in turn, become susceptible to any false leadership, having given up their own right to determine an individual future.

So yes, I learned how to play, but also how to retain my right to go my own way, and even break the rules where and when it was necessary. Because of my age, my student friends often sought me out for leadership. Sometimes I accepted that role, other times I simply said, “I have to go home, make dinner for my kids, and then study for an exam.” Sometimes leadership is done through example. Not that I knew that at the time, I was still learning, and for me, learning was as much fun, as playing. In a very real sense, learning is playing. Playing with ideas.

So, I’m back in business. I’m writing, doing it in my own way. Do you ever break the rules? How and when?

Note: Image is a pen and ink doodle that always makes me think of how individuality can cuddle up next to conformity and form a better, sometimes even, more pleasing image.

 

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