An alternative to the Hallmark brand of wisdom

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Lakshmi (Padma) poster from Jumbie Art. Click on the image to visit the store.

Have you ever read Women Who Run With the Wolves? My father bought me that book when I left home. My mother eyed it askance and said: I hope he’s not trying to turn you into a feminist. I eyed her askance and said it’s too late, I’m already a feminist. That was a funny exchange – it makes me smile to think of it now, because my mother has always been a feminist (she left my father in 1978 with two tiny children, studied Homeopathy while working as a signwriter, moved to the country (still single), lived on a farm, learned and taught yoga, then became a successful Homeopath and Naturopath, owning and working in her small practice for over 25 years. Along the way, she re-married, keeping her own name) – she just didn’t identify with the word ‘feminist’. I wonder if she does now – I’ll have to ask her!

10 years after I was given it, I finally read Women Who Run With the Wolves. What was I doing in those 10 years? Learning about all the things I didn’t want to do with my life. Anyway. The book changed me in some indefinable way, and connected me both to the wild woman in myself and to the wild in all women everywhere – damped down, drowned, silenced, shattered, slapped – but still wild, still there. Each one of us who re-kindles our own inner flame can then go and re-light another. Our wildness grows stronger with every new flame; with every new flame we women grow bolder, braver and brighter.

I found this a little while ago on the facebook page of Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estes – and I’ve been saving it for you, my friends, for a day in which you might need it. I think today is that day, and maybe I need it more than you, who knows, but I kind of feel that if I need it, then maybe you do too.

Dear Brave Souls: about wise souls, truly.

If one were to seek in oneself or in another what some colloquially call ‘a wise person’… I’d suggest one go to those who and that which is not cleaned up, those who live and have lived in the roots, not as a temporary tourist excursion but because of a twist of fate, an unwise turn, a struggle to surface from underwater whilst bearing up under the wearing of concrete shoes.

Nice cleaned up Hallmark card ‘wisdom’ is ok. But it’s a map with all the broken gravel blue highways and rough pathways through the woods and across the desert, missing. If you want the skivvy, ask a soul who has been trapped in the broken places for a time, whose scars not only still show, but they GLOW in a certain Light of goodness and love and humor and alertness and aliveness to many things.

And consider this: my great loves– amongst them Avrohim Heschel, Dorothy Day, Thich Nhat Hahn, Dalai Lama, Rigoberta, Maya… lived face down in the dirt, often fled for their lives– that… that creates the kind of indelible wisdom that is from the ages, across and outside of time, uncorruptable, unsentimental, un-darling, and would never go on a Hallmark or other kind of greeting card without setting the entire paper of the card on FIRE.

I have been for years, threatening in good humor, to bring out my own line of greeting cards with my paintings on the fronts, such as… perhaps the time is NOW to do so. First card thereby from small card publishing company known as ‘planet cpe publishing’… this card when opened, reads:

“Tell the person who tells you ‘what doesnt kill you makes you strong,’ to get lost… permanently. What kills you, kills you, and you lie dead with bones scattered. It is resurrection, for sure that is our great untapped strength, a rough reality you will come to know by screaming, reeling, and scrabbling upward, breaking your fingernails to the quick as you climb the slime wall in order to snatch back your illicitly stolen life again… that, THAT is worth the striving, that you can and will come back from the freakin’ ‘land away,’ where you have been left for dead.

Listen to no one who says such travail is surrounded with flowers and pretty script and lace. It isnt, it’s surrounded by bloodshed and splashed brains and an eerie light that is NOT the end, but rather is The Presence despite all else, The Presence of Holy Hell on Earth… and you will rise. You WILL rise out of Hell, leaving Hell behind and bringing the Holy back with you to the topside world. Well worn, shined and you have earned the right to wear that kind of true Wisdom hard won.

Thus, now: Courage. Courage. Courage.”

And with love, and I mean it…
dr.e

excerpt from The Dangerous Old Woman manuscript: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype, © 1993, 2012 by Dr. CP Estés, all rights reserved.

10 comments

    • How strange that this book has to sit on our bookshelves for such a long time before we read it. It’s almost as if it has to sit with us until we’re ready! It’s a good book to have by your bed side and just read it when inspired. Actually, I’m going to do just that!

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  1. Thanks for sharing Sara. I am currently reading Women who run with the Wolves – after owning it for a good decade or more. Over the years, I have visited it off and on. It sat on the bookshelf. It was big at Uni – I kind of blurred around the edges of all that knowledge.I flicked through it, put in back down, left it alone, briefly read bits n pieces, packed it, moved house, unpacked it (a coupla times!) and placed it back up on the book shelf once again.

    Early this year, in the midst of a meditation retreat and heartsharing, a girlfriend spoke of how signficantly reading it had impacted her journey (she thought she had chucked it out, in a ‘cleaning out’ process, only to discover when she searched the book waiting for her). After that conversation, I went home, looked at my bookshelf, couldnt find it! Damn it – I must have chucked it out. Oh well. buy another copy someday…

    Earlier this month, I stood gazing at the bookshelf – and there it was – my copy – right it front of me. I am loving the stories, the understandings, the wild woman connections I am expereincing as I read it (re-reading some parts), right now, in the right time and place for me.

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    • Wow! What wonderful timing! And what is it about that book that seems to require such a long settling time on our bookshelves? I wonder if it’s because young women in our country don’t really understand how feminism applies to them until they hit their 30s. Including me ☺️. Some stories, like the seal woman still rumble around in my head.

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    • Hi Aleya 😊 Yep, it seems this book cannot be read straightaway (or even in the first decade of being acquired lol 😀). It certainly has some gems in it though – I hope you get to it.

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