I asked my painter/writer/seeeker friend Beth Morey to write me a post about the moon. Basically I was like WHAT IS UP WITH YOU AND THE MOON, BETH? She’s kind of crazy over it, and wild, which are two of my favorite things. I felt I had to ask. This is her answer.
There is something compelling about the moon to me. I see her, and my blood quickens, and a feral drumbeat begins to build in my bones.
I drive down the little mountain that we live on, roads lined with yesterday’s snow. My mind is full of to-do’s and obligations, when I steer my car around a bend and there she is, the newborn moon.
Suddenly my heart feels too big for its cage. I pull over, fumble with my phone, take a photo that reduces the moon’s grandeur to impossible triviality, and try to breathe. I want to launch myself from the car, roll wildly in the snow, whooping and cheering at the hallowed sight.
The barely there silver crescent cups her remainder, visible although it is cloaked in our cosmic shadow. She barely lights the sky, but I feel bathed in Holy.
I think it has to do with cycles, and with mystery. Because, as a woman, there is so much of my being that is cyclical, although it’s only recently that I’ve been able to come to terms with that reality. It has taken anorexia-inducing amenorrhea (the loss of menstruation), two pregnancies and postpartum healing, sixteen months of breastfeeding, and the return of my menstrual cycle to appreciate my physiological, emotional, and creative cycles.
I have never loved my monthly blood more now that I have experienced it as more than the vile, unmentionable nuisance that our patriarchal society paints it as. Instead of disgusting, I experience it now as rich with meaning, with profound and exquisite unknowing. And I like it.
When it comes down to it, we women are about life, and death.
We experience this microcosmically in our menstrual cycles – the thickening of the uterine walls, preparing a welcome for new life, only to have the genesis of all life to empty and bleed crimson when the waiting egg is not met with a mate.
We experience this in birth, too – dying to ourselves, opening our arms and our legs to the pain that literally tears our insides open to make way for new life . . . for the baby who will become the child who will become the adolescent who will become the adult who can’t help but take a piece of her mother’s heart with her wherever she wanders. We experience it in the sacred, sleep-deprived rhythms of breastfeeding, of nap times and play group and balancing chores and careers with the children.
And just in case you imagine that infertility might exclude you from the sisterhood of cycles, do not fear. Although I am not intimately acquainted with the winding road of infertility myself, I see in my friends who do their rhythms of egg retrieval and hormone injections, the ripening of follicles and of hope. I hear of the cycle of adoption applications and home visits and endless, agonizing waiting and longing. I hear of the pilgrimages across state and international lines, of arms filled at last, of promises broken with phone calls that begin with “I’m sorry.”
We are a people of rhythms, we women.
At least, we can be, if our eyes are open. And, if we are paying attention, we can see our cycles reflected in the moon’s, and her cycles reflected in ours. Her waxing and waning, the pregnant fullness, the dark night that feels like death but really is only the fallow that must precede the planting – she shows us the way.
It is the same with creativity, I’m finding. In a culture that idolizes the bottom line, we are expected to produce and produce and produce without rest or fail (just look at the way we treat our agricultural animals). But this is not the way that the moon works, nor the land, nor my heart. I cannot paint and paint and paint without ruining myself for painting. I paint, and then I must rest and wane and wait as my soul and my psyche are fed and replenished by the inspiration-fertilizer I feed them. And then, when the time is right, my energy waxes and I am flinging colors once again. My art is the better for it. My bottom line is the better for it. And my femininity thrives on this kind of cyclical living.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in Women Who Run With the Wolves, calls these rhythms the Life/Death/Life cycle. I love this; it feels so appropriate. I have birthed a dead baby, and a live one. My daughter’s death led, paradoxically, to life within my soul, and my son’s life has caused needed death and shedding.
I look at the moon, and she teaches me to hold both experiences as blessed, beautiful, and inviolable – because they are.
This last full moon, I wrapped myself in a down jacket and dragged a lawn chair outside and sat in the moon’s clear light. I watched her slide across the sky, slow and silent and unstoppable. She does not hurry, but she is never late. She never speaks, but the tides follow her lead without question. Death swallows her, but cannot stop her from rebirthing herself anew each month. I hold this truth close.
We have forgotten the moon, I think, as a culture. I know I have. We have forgotten her power, just as we as a culture have invalidated the power of women. And we need to remember. Because what is the sun without the moon?
“The Creation Mother is always also the Death Mother and vice versa. Because of this dual nature, or double-tasking, the great work before us is to learn to understand what around and about us and what within us must live, and what must die. Our work is to apprehend the timing of both; to allow what must die to die, and what must live to live.”
- Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves