End of October

October 26, 2007

The post below is the type of work I typically do in the privacy of the Divine Feminine Wisdom group – but as I reflected on it – I decided to share a piece of it here. I ask that you listen with the ears of your heart…

As I drove to Salmon Boy’s in the rain on Wednesday, I had a flashback to my time in northern California – before I met my first husband. The lyrics of this Dan Fogelberg song popped into my head as I watched the leaves dripping with rain.

End of October
The sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter.
Yellows and grays
Paint the sad skies today
And I wonder when
You’re coming home.

The skies don’t seem sad to me – and the ground is eagerly drinking in the rain – we have not had a soaking rain in months – but that imagery of winter coming is settling into my bones again. The long nights are my time of introspection and the last several winters have been hard on me. I asked Salmon Boy – what is it about October? Do I have to be fucking depressed EVERY WINTER? I had an excuse the last several years – the death of my father, the grieving, the inner work, integrating my vision fast…

But again? Encore? I can hear my ninth grade French teacher saying “encore” – still, yet, again, more. And I am having a bit of a flash to the fall before the winter that I was 18. I was living alone in an apartment and working. I think I was between boyfriends and life was pretty much working and sleeping – anything to have some independence and control over my own destiny. I remember going out one evening to shop – not because I really needed anything  – or could afford to buy anything – but because I was lonely. Winter was coming and the heady summer days of living on my own, enjoying my own space, suddenly felt like they were collapsing in on me. Winter was collapsing in on me. Time to do the descent – visit the underworld – muck around in the darkness of my soul’s unexpressed riches.

Woke up one morning
The wind through the window
Reminded me Winter
Was just ’round the bend.
Somehow I just didn’t
See it was coming
It took me by surprise again.

My first trip to the underworld was an abduction – literally and metaphorically – and it wasn’t voluntary. Like Persephone – I was surprised and unlike Persephone – there was no Demeter to grieve for me. My Demeter had not been grieved for as a child, nor had she done her own grieving, my abduction reminded her how unsafe her childhood had been and she despaired that she could not keep me safe.  In my descents since then – I have been more aware – but still not a volunteer.

Last autumn I went willingly – like Inanna – stripped, bowed down, I went in service to my sister Erishkegal, my shadow self. I was ready to hang on the meathook and let my flesh rot away while she watched me suffer. Now she is calling me – asking me to come visit again – and I just want to drink cider, read books, and stare into the fire. Can’t I send someone else in my stead?

And I hear you’re in San Francisco
Living with your sister who’s a mother to be.
And her husband’s way down in Georgia
And I’m still in old Tennessee…
Wishing you’d come home to me.

The work that Salmon boy and I did this session centered on my reaction to my exam for the theories class.  <snipped for reasons of confidentiality>

Suddenly, I wanted to hide – to not excel where others failed. I felt ashamed of my excellence and talent. Salmon boy asked me – why are you afraid to lead, to be seen as a leader, to be the one who knows. We revisited some of my ancient wounds of standing up for social justice and being cut down – particularly my experience in graduate school the first time – a ratio of about 15:1  – men to girls – and my willingness to take on the faculty and ask that they call us women – not the diminutive – girl. I was burned at the stake for that one – and the women who were my colleagues watched in silence as I suffered. They were the Erishkegals of me. Unable to risk their own PhDs to support me. In many ways this was the most traumatic event of my twenties – standing utterly alone – one woman against the entrenched power dynamic of a traditionally male university. How dare she question us?

This would not be the last time I risked my life to be She Who Names Things – and in some ways it has become easier – and often it is deeply appreciated. But this session took a turn toward safety. What feels dangerous about being the one who knows and names things – he asked?

In this moment – my reply is – other than having my throat slit and left to die for having been the one who kept the old healing ways alive?

But in that moment – I allowed myself to feel all the times I stood alone, unprotected, and vulnerable – sometimes at great personal cost. I felt that pain – the sting of rejection – the powerful attempts to silence me.

Salmon Boy looked at me and said “One day it will be safe to be She Who Names Things.” I know he is right. He held up his fingers and gave me the Vulcan Greeting and I gave him the finger and then he gave me Scout’s Honor and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then I walked under the maple trees, raining leaves on my head, drove to the cafe, and drank hot chocolate – starting into the fire – writing in my Four Fold Way journal – going around the wheel – warrior, visionary, healer, teacher…. warrior, visionary, healer, teacher…. warrior, jealer, visionary, teacher… And then I knew the wound of this summer with the prof who tried to silence me.

I had a sudden clarity – separating the “real” failure of him as a professor – with my projected wound – and in that moment I forgave him. <snip>

Life here is easy
I’m sure you recall
How it’s so warm and breezy
In the Summer and the Fall.
But Winter’s upon me
And I’ve got no heat here
And I miss your fire so sweet, Dear
I miss your fire so sweet.

And in the dream that we worked on – traveling light – I lose my cellphone (ability to communicate), wallet (my identity), and iPod (instrument of distraction – information coming into my head) – stripped of all these things – losing the persona, leaving the outer trappings and false self – like Inanna – stripped bare – there is a part of me that tries to keep me safe and small by berating me for losing these valuable middleworld possessions. Yet the wise interior part of me blesses me, vouches for me, and puts it in writing. For Salmon Boy – the part of the dream that had energy was the willingness to walk away from the false self – letting it be stolen. A few years ago – I had a similar dream – but I left my purse on a bus and the bus left without me – I was left alone, with no ID, phone or money – and on foot. Leaving the conforming communal way of traveling with others to set off on my own course on foot. Same theme this time – but a much more conscious surrender of those parts of me.

And I hear you’re in San Francisco
Living with your sister who’s a mother to be.
And her husband’s way down in Georgia
And I’m still in old Tennessee…
Wishing you’d come home to me.

The lover that he longs for in this song is perhaps a literal lover – but for me right now – she is that part of me that is midwife to the unborn, incubating energies that will emerge as the days grow longer after the solstice. All the wishing in the world cannot speed the process – these things require the protection of darkness, the long winter’s nights, the solstice tales told around the fire on that longest night.

End of October
The sleepy brown woods seem to
Nod down their heads to the Winter.
Yellows and gray
Paint the sad skies today
And I wonder when
You’re coming home
I wonder when you’re coming home.

What parts of yourself are swelling with possibility, safe in the dark womb of lengthening nights, ready to emerge as the sun returns?



  1. Hello there “emerging crone!” What a beautiful title for a blog, and exactly what I’m feeling like these days :).

    I’m a closet poet too…just starting writing about aging issues too!

    Keep up the good verse.

    Linda Athis

  2. Wow this really resonated with me SO very much! Last night I had a very vivid dream that I was called to an unfamiliar landscape where I was asked to negotiate with a woman “everyone” believed to be insane and, therefore, dangerous. She lived in a large self-sufficient house that was built on a bridge atop a wild rushing river. She was suspicious of me and yet willing to walk outside, into the stronger light, and let me look at her while we talked. Although she was unkempt and improperly nourished, I could tell as soon as I looked into her eyes that she was neither insane nor dangerous.

    Any way you cut it (and I especially mean that in the western psych sense …) it was obvious to me, even within the dream, that I was negotiating with my authentic but frequently ‘unknown’ self – coaxing that self into stronger light for closer examination and ultimate understanding. Hoping for enough trust to enter the house of my own device – built-to-last on deceptively fragile looking bridge struts above the “river” of very powerful emotions.

    I relate strongly to the feminist version of Persephone myths and always have – the version where Pluto/Hades serves the role of uniquely experienced mentor rather than abductor – where she was goes quite willingly amid the fuel of her own reckless defiance to the underworld because she cannot abide all that humans suffer there without a steady hand for comfort or a reliable light to guide them. So when it comes to Persephone correlations and this time of year I usually focus more on strength and free will; commitment to midwifing the suffering of others without judgment or fear. That’s all well and good but it doesn’t always serve/tend to my own wounding(s). This year I find myself going into dialog with my shadow self on a whole new level – giving to myself what I so frequently give to others. It isn’t easy by a long shot and I am frequently uncomfortable and preoccupied by the enormous process involved. I won’t pretend I’m ‘enjoying’ this process but it has been rising steadily to the surface for the past few years. I know I am equal to the challenge of this moment even if I don’t know in advance what I’m doing or how to get from one point of the equation to another.

    So far this autumn, I find that I’m not railing against the depression as I frequently do at this time of year. I’m willing to be one with it – to negotiate with it and the house it asks me inhabit provided that’s not *all* I am. At age 50 I can finally begin to embrace my own vulnerabilities and fragile aspects without apology or chagrin. But the embrace is clueless. I have no immediate frame of reference for this terrain. That makes it so nourishing as well as informative to absorb what others have chosen to share of their parallel journeys.

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