Female Rain

October 27, 2007

When I was ten or so, the winter rains came to southern California and over stayed their welcome. The streets and arroyos and creeks all filled with water. The water rose and rose and rose and rose and in time, filled up the golf course and surged over the highway. My parents worried that the flood control dam might burst. We were down stream. Had my parents been steeped in the ineffable, they might have looked at me, and wondered about the way they dammed me, and damned me. Memories of their own emotions of joy and ecstasy, and of great sadness and doubt might have rose up as the waters rose. Perhaps they would have spilled over the banks, gathered momentum and taken out every dam that tried to hold them back. And in their weeping, they would hold me close and tell me of their sorrows and hold me close as they rocked me for comfort.

About twenty years ago – I wandered alone down in the flood plain – noticing the footprints in the dry wash. Finding mattresses hidden in the trees where those who don’t live inside sleep at night. I walked up to the big dam and then walked across the top of it. It held no water on either side and seemed superfluous. I am not a big fan of dams and levees and our attempts to control the flow of water. Our attempts to control the Mississippi intensified the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This winter when the rains come to southern California – the landslides and mudslides will try to remove anything that stands between them and the ocean. We are all trying to flow to the ocean – back to Yemaya – into her embrace and nothing can prevent our returning.

Last spring as I worked on my masks at the Masks of the Goddess intensive – Lauren had the CD ReTurning playing in the background. I wasn’t really aware of the words – other than turning, returning, but I was deeply aware of the feeling of peace and wholeness that infused each of us as we worked the leather to create our images. The first mask I did I named Emerging – and she is copper and earth toned. The second mask I did I named Flow – she is opalescent and pale blue and gold and of the shallow, surface water. Each day as I pass them, they ask me to finish the series… There is the need for a representation of Fire, and Air also. Perhaps that will be something that keeps the winter nights filled with meaning. I wonder what will emerge and flow if I remove my interior dams?

There are just light sprinkles and dense fog as I look out the window – and frost is forecast for tomorrow morning. Unless it clears, I suspect frost won’t come until Sunday night – but it means that sometime today, the last of the shiny red peppers need to be harvested. The basil that I cut to the ground and protected from the threat of frost several weeks ago has regrown and I am ready to harvest the last of it for early autumn pesto. When the rain stops, I will be able to weed and put the vegetable garden to bed for the coming winter.

After writing about my uneasiness of the dark nights of winter, it seems to have already eased a bit. As I look out the window and imagine the landscape covered in snow and resting, dormant, I feel a quiet sense of peace. And a renewed desire to downsize from this large four bedroom house into a smaller dwelling with more stone and glass and fewer bathrooms to clean. The other day I shared a story with a woman about some friends who lost their home to a wildfire in 2003. They rebuilt because the insurance pays only if they rebuild on the same location. They lost everything. It burned completely to the ground. There is a part of me – that could lose everything in this house – and the house – and feel relief in the parting. The woman I shared this with told me “No! don’t even say that! You shouldn’t feel that way!” Her reaction was so intense that it jarred me from my reverie and made me wonder what it is that a loss like that would be for her.

After losing my father and allowing myself to grieve all the losses of my life and of those who never were cried over – I realize that there is a central core of me that will always be safe – no matter what the exterior experience. In my theories class – we are reading of existentialism and I am reminded of James Hollis’s premise – that there are basically two existential wounds – overwhelment and abandonment.

My unmothered mothered swore I would get all the things she never had as a child.

No one ever stood up for her – she stood up for me and I never learned to resolve my own childhood conflicts – my mother sent them home.
No one ever held her. She held me on her lap as I wriggled to get down. Whose need for closeness was being honored in those moments?
No one knew if she came in at night or where she was. She waited up every night I was out and when I lived 3000 miles away, alone in an apartment, she planted the fear that I would not come home safely if there wasn’t someone at home waiting for me.

I always assumed that my mother overwhelmed me… It was through therapy that I came to recognize the abandonment. Her needs for social approval were so immense, that her outer focus centered on climbing the social ladder. She helped found the Muckenthaler Cultural Center and was its first president. She spent day and night there at the mansion – preparing to turn it into an art center.

If I needed to be home sick from school she just took me with her. I didn’t appreciate it as a sick child, but I do now. I look at the virtual tour and realize what a gift it was to have free roam of the house, the outbuildings, and citrus the avocado orchards. In that wounding – there is the gift.

What I wonder though as an adult is could my mother have done something that made me feel cared for when I was sick and she had to take me with? Could she have created a safe nest for me to lay down and be sick and come back to check on me? Probably – but her need to do this volunteer work outstripped any ability to empathize with a whiny, needy, sick child. More and more the memories of being abandoned flooded over me as I dove into this work with Salmon Boy.

Sometimes I feared I would be stuck forever in the role of unmothered child. Even with the work of creating an internal mother, the pain remained. It was after reading the Heroine’s Journey that I realized there were whole areas of my experience that had not yet been asked to speak. Leaving my job after the boon of success was my entry into spiritual aridity. At the time of my father’s death, I plunged into the underworld. Emerging from the depths, I felt a deep hunger to connect with other women and to bring the goddess to light in my life. Healing the mother – daughter split still challenges me.

At some point, part of that mending was saying, enough, “you have done enough” for now and it is ok to set this work aside. You don’t have to be perfect and this doesn’t have to be complete. All the work I did to work through that split was dwarfed in the recognition that the work in that area of wounding is about being gentle to myself – accepting myself as valuable and accepting that I didn’t have to do a perfect job on my first try. I learned to be a “good enough” mother to myself in the surrendering of the work.

I am fully engaged in healing the wounded masculine of myself, the men in my family, the men in my community, and the devastating aspects of the masculine which are unfairly and pejoratively labeled as THE PATRIARCHY.

It was Clarissa Pinkola Estes who taught me the difference between people who dominate and oppress others and the unfairness of the label of The Patriarchy. If you haven’t yet been exposed to her voice – get a copy of Theatre of the Imagination and listen to the twelve volumes of teaching stories. The stories helped me on multiple levels. Her voice speaks to that wounded part of me in my unconscious and lets it know it is safe to emerge. The stories can be heard as stories and they are interesting and thought provoking. In time, the stories burrow under our skin and lodge in our hearts and become a reservoir where we can hold buckets of compassion to share with others.

So now as I look at my window, I realize I have been here for two hours – musing and ruminating – remembering and lost in reverie – and in that two hours, the sun has risen and the fog is lifting.

What gifts does the rain bring you when it comes? What dams are needing to be breached so you may flow to the sea?



  1. I’ve been meditating a lot a bout this post. I dislike dams, and am terrified by stories of ancient villages, flooded for the sake of modernity, of which you can sometimes hear the church’s bells underwater. I was also horrified by what happened in New Orleans.

    However, having lived until 18 very near a river, I have witnessed the power of water through regular floodings, and have learnt to appreciate mankind’s efforts to regulate Nature’s forces. Nature’s forces can be terryfing, as our mind’s and emotion’s forces can be. I’ve been a witness to that too.

    This is why I believe that dams are not necessarily a bad thing. Repression, or rather regulation is part of the life force ; the middle path. Though me may suffer from social, historical, family regulation, it is still a structuring process more often than not. Well anyways this is what I have found recently. For example I have learnt to value social graces after having been all for the expression of emotions and authenticity for years.

    I think you are totally right to make a difference between our real parents, only humans with good and bad parts, toys of higher forces, and the internal parents which are healing archetypes.

    Inspiring myself from bouddhist values, I also think sometimes we overidentify with our pains and sadness. I think it is great sometimes to shrug off the melancholy, laugh out loud and say “but then again maybe not”. I strongly believe that Life is mainly about love and jokes, we shouldn’t forget that we don’t know the punchline. As it said on a bookmark I found in Coventry Cathedral “don’t worry and don’t forget to smell the flowers” ! o:)


  2. Hope I’m not sounding aggressive ; I often sound it while I’m just struggling to find the right words :o)

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