Dear Robin, Michelle, Stephanie, Bonnie, Lauren and April,
It was this week, 15 years ago, our baby sister called to say, “I think Mom is having a seizure.”
That she called me, 300 miles away, instead of 911, was testimony to her tender age, and to our strong connection.
48 hours earlier, I left them at the shore, to return to my home in Vermont, for the last weeks of my pregnancy. Mom would die when Aidan was just over month old.
She was the one who taught me about synchronicities, which is what brought me to write this letter to you, today–Father’s Day, Solstice, and the International Day of Yoga–an alchemy of consciousness.
I’ve just finished reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book, Urgent Message from MOTHER. Her name might ring a bell. We used a quote of her’s for Mom’s funeral program:
At what point do we see our mother’s face and realize that she is a unique person who gave us birth, loves us, and is beautiful in our eyes and vulnerable, and know that time and work have taken a toll on her and that someday she may need us to look after her?
Robin recently joked that Mom is getting a lot younger in that program photo, and I hadn’t realized it, but she’s right! I am only a handful years away from the age Mom left us.
At the time, I wasn’t really familiar with Bolen’s work, but that passage–about caring for our mother–like you all did so beautifully–struck a chord in me; and I kept abreast of her work over the years until this past winter, when I thought I saw her standing across from me, and without thinking, boldly mouthed the words:
Jean Shinoda Bolen?!
And she beamed back, nodding her head, with signature warmth.
Bolen’s book, subtitled, Gather the Women, Save the World, is a quick and passionate read, but I took pause when I came upon an excerpt from a speech given by Angeles Arrien.
I was first introduced to Arrien’s voice in the months after mom died–as an antidote to missing her–as Arrien’s anthropological approach helped me tip toe toward Mom’s passion for the Tarot.
Arrien’s speech, Lessons from Geese, based on the work of naturalist Milton Olson, is now cliché in the world of organizational leadership, but Bolen sheds a new light upon it–with regard to women and relationship and common purpose.
Like our family, Bolen describes the West as motherless–absent of the Divine Feminine, and of the much needed shared-leadership of the feminine voice in the world.
“It is time to gather the women,” she says, “for only when women are strong together can women be fiercely protective of what we love.”
This reminds me of us. How we pulled together in the years when Mom was drinking and again after her death:
Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an up-lift for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Our need for each other was so fierce that togetherness was a matter of survival:
Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
That lifting power reached its pinnacle on the first anniversary of Mom’s passing–just before 9/11–when we came together again to support one another in our grief:
Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
All along we took turns caring for one other, and after Mom’s passing, Robin took the lead and welcomed us all into her home to celebrate wholeness once more.
Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
But as our lives grew less desperate and our need for each other less profound, the comfort of our combined flight was outweighed by feelings of confinement; and our encouragement for one another lessened, and we began to drop out of formation.
Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
We have yet to lose a goose, but that day will come, and if age plays a role, I may be among the first, just as Mom was first among her siblings, who were long estranged before her death.
This fragile, finite journey leads me to wonder… How can we honor each other, in all of our formations–allowing new leaders and new destinations to emerge–while remembering how we have been served–over time–by one another–in love?
Honking for you!
ps. And with our brother’s wedding on the horizon, how do we make space for a new sister in the flock?
(Note: I first conceived of this post as a letter to my sisters, but then realized that we are a reflection of the whole–women–mothers–daughters–sisters–all.)
From Urgent Message from MOTHER, Gather the Women, Save the World: Mother is Mother Earth, mother instinct, mother archetype, mother goddess, the sacred feminine. Women as a gender have qualities and priorities that the world needs to end the violence that traumatize children and has made cycles of conflict and fratricidal wars inevitable. A call to save what we love, inspiration from examples, how evolutionary social changes come through grassroots movements.
Jean Shinoda Bolen speaks to the vital role of women in the world:
Jean calls for a United Nations sponsored 5th World Conference for Women!
Click here to find out more.