Solid ground

i have something on my mind

i have something on my mind

Recently, I watched the movie Nine. In it a man in his 50’s struggles to find creative inspiration as well as meaning and balance in his life through his relationships with, fantasies about, and memories of women. The title is a reference to the Nine Muses and the myth that these daughters of Zeus are the source of inspiration for men. I did not love this movie. I found it difficult to watch the self-sacrificing role the women characters played to support the creative genius of the main character, Guido.  His mistress was happy to wait for him endlessly and fill her thoughts with fantasies of his whereabouts. His wife, the stabilizing force in his life, longed for the days of their deep connection but still loved and believed in the promise of his creative genius. His friend and costume designer supplied the voice of reason and kept him focused and on track as much as possible. I watched the movie, and the relationships between Guido and his women, with a mix of envy, disgust and irritation.

I am envious because there is no mythic story of nine beautiful sons of Zeus or anyone else put on this earth to inspire the creative passions of women. Men do not often play that role in women’s lives in mythology or in reality. I try to imagine this movie with a woman as the central figure supported and nurtured by nine men. No one would accept the story of a woman loved, doted on, and supported by nine men. The only role for a woman in our culture who is loved by that many men is as a whore. In fact I find it difficult to imagine a movie in which even one handsome capable and intelligent man is content to sit at home and hold the space for a woman’s creative genius while she goes elsewhere to nourish her artistic nature and to satisfy her sexual desires.

I think it was the character of the lovely, waiting wife, Luisa who disgusted and irritated me the most. It was painful to watch this character shelve her career to take up the role of the patient wife in love with a man who’s delicate genius needs steadfast support, understanding, and forgiveness. It is a role I am too familiar with. It is the role I have played and many women play of holding space, supporting and waiting. At an early age we accept as fact that “behind every great man there is a woman”. We learn as girls to be patient and wait for men. We wait for them to call, to make the first move, to finish their education, to finish work, to return from war, to come home and to have time for us. I am curious if our acceptance of this role is cultural, part of our cellular memory or part of our feminine nature.  I search my memory for myths and fairy tales of strong independent women and find instead stories of witches destroying or supporting the lives of delicate, helpless princesses and innocent maidens.

The stories of my people, of women, have been erased by patriarchal monotheism. My stories are those of a conquered people. They are gone. Destroyed to destroy a way of life. They have been reworked and replaced to support patriarchy and the traditions of the conquerors. I cannot find a model for my journey in literature. In the tales that are left the female characters undergo long journey of transformation and endure great hardship but always for the love of a man.  Even if I dig deeply into these stories and see the sought after male figure as my internal masculine nature I cannot get past the fact that these are stories handed down by men, written by men, interpreted by men, and that it is something masculine not feminine that is the prize. I know that the stories from the oral traditions of goddess culture are buried deeply within these stories in much the same way that churches across Europe and Great Brittan cover the buried sacred sites of Goddess worship. In every story about a witch, goddess, or destructive evil female figure there is a clue about the strength and wisdom that women possessed before matriarchal culture was destroyed. I know that others have looked for our stories and done this research and it is time for me to pick up these books again and see what I can learn about being a woman on a journey of self-discovery within the long ago discarded and buried stories of my people.

The other day a friend and teacher shared a saying that has stayed with me.  He said, “ We should not wait to feel solid ground under our feet before we start dancing”.  With that in mind I move forward on shaky ground aware of how much more there is to know but not letting my ignorance, envy, judgment, disgust, irritation, confusion or my lack of solid ground keep me from moving forward.  This journey is a dance. I will find solid ground in time.

6 comments to Solid ground

  • Melvino

    I saw a Sundance channel documentary recently about 5 0r 6 women artists, including Nancy Spero. I don’t know if you know her work but at some point in her productive live she decided not to picture men in her art. She was a founding member of a women’s gallery in New York, AIR, and made several decisions about presenting her work that put her outside of the mainstream (she worked on long paper scrolls and later directly on gallery walls.) She raised a family and was married to Leon Golub a very political artist who like his partner did figurative work when the vast majority of the artists working were engaged in abstraction. Check her out.

  • Meg

    Wow! that was powerful. I too have been in the strong supportive role waiting for my turn. My error was thinking if I could only give more, support more, love more, do more I would have reciprocation. I allowed my own beach to become eroded and filled with things that were destructive and dishonest. and yet I remained loyal to a relationship that was false. I am hoping and praying that my daughter will find her muse and live her life as an individual and not someones ‘better half’. I pray that she will live in a changing world without rigidly defined roles.

    ps what about Yael who killed Sisera with a tent stake. She needed a better publicist, cuz you don’t hear much about her….


    Hello Marlene,

    Thought provoking . Seductive. You have a way of weaving this kind of truth that makes me stop in my tracks; I have glorious Daughters.
    I often print a page of your journey…tuck it in my bag with binoculars for some time at the beach.
    We ride these still chilly waves and so easly connect with the Power and Beauty of Nature. Our Hearts are open and we become aware of “Heart Power”.
    These are the times I choose to open dicussions while we are all wrapped up in towels
    lying in the sand with our heads together . I tell my girls when they are considering the importance of someone (for one reason or another), to ask themselves does the intended person have Heart Power? We must surround ourselves with Heart Power. Our own
    must be nurtured , and the person they are considering as a mate or perhaps as a boss
    must be a person of integrity.

    Anyway, here’s a great book “The saga of Baby Devine”, by Bette Midler.
    It’s about everything you have been saying, with a good ending. I read this book to my daughters from the time the were tiny, then for many years after. They loved the art,

    Thank you for your stunning tapestry of many colors . Journey on!


    • Marlene

      thank you nancy. I love the description of you and your daughters wrapped up in towels on the beach discussing heart power. I have never read The Saga of Baby Divine. I will check it out.

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