The Women’s March 1/21/17

It’s all over the news, this march, and all over the Internet. It is, in fact, a worldwide event. I’m glad and proud of the women and the men who are there.

My husband and I planned to go. But I woke this morning with my body uncomfortable, feeling resistant, uneasy, tense. And wound through it all, sorrow. I’ve learned to pay attention when my body reacts.

I sat with the feelings, brewed tea, gazed out the window. While I vote every election, city, state, federal, financially support candidates when I can, and watch and read and evaluate, I’ve been out of politics for a long time. I wondered at my resistance. There’s a march here in Kansas City; many of my friends are going. Why didn’t I want to go?

I kept remembering a vow I made years ago: I would no longer man (or woman) the barricades (civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war protests) but would change the world one person at a time.

Shift to Germany, late 1974. My first husband a soldier and the family had transferred to Germany. The Watergate hearings were going on, but all I could get on our military housing television was German-language hearings, and printed information from the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

I’d just come from three years of Texas politics. In those days, Texas politics were fun: Barbara Jordan, Sissy Farenthold, Sarah Weddington. The Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification (and ultimately failed).

(As a digression, what’s interesting is that Civil Rights has passed; Gay Rights and Gay Marriage has passed–all of which I’ve supported–but no Equal Rights for women.)

In those Texas years, I was deeply involved in politics and in the women’s movement. My friend Cynthia and I formed a consciousness-raising group in Temple, Texas, and joined as charter members of The National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC). We attended the first women’s convention in 100 years at the Rice Hotel in Houston. Here’s a post on that if you’re interested.

But in Germany, there were only Military Wives Clubs. My politics did not fit.

And so, I read. Fortunately, the post library had a good selection of novels and I checked out Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. I don’t remember what it was in the novel that suddenly lifted my head, but I remember my snuggled body in a patch of weak sunlight by a south window. I stared at the television, tuned in to the Watergate hearings, sound turned down, and the realization struck: I would no longer man the barricades, I would change the world one person at a time.

And so, this morning, when I remembered my vow of so many years ago, I thought that was the reason for my body’s resistance. But the resistance didn’t fade. And the sorrow deepened.

That’s when I remembered Cynthia. Here’s one post on life with Cynthia; and here’s another.

That’s when I realized what the resistance meant and why the sorrow. If she were alive, we would have gone together today, either her coming to me or I to her. We would have laughed and told stories and remembered together.

But we can’t. I’m still traveling on this plane and she on another. Perhaps that’s why death is so hard–not just the missing or the emptiness, although there is that, but the stories we held that can only be told by me to others who will hear them for the first time. Or the second time, since I’ve written so much about her influence on my life.

But no chance to reminisce together, to laugh, to fill in each others’ lost pieces.

I could not go without her.

With the realization, my body relaxed, and I sighed. There are some things that cannot be done without the other part of who you are.




Talking About Abortion

128px-Heterosexuality_symbol_svgMy perception, and my passion, is talking/teaching/writing about balancing the masculine/feminine energies in each of us. And in society.

So I was pleased to be published in the latest issue of Persimmon Tree magazine. The occasion, and the call for submissions, was for responses to an essay, Feminism in These Times by Vivian Gornick. A thoughtful piece and well worth the read. Out of the response essays, Persimmon Tree published six.

Mine, Talking About Abortion, is one of the six.

I entered the Feminist Movement in the early 70s and have retained my passion for the issues relevant to women. As a mother and grandmother of men, I’ve also see the value of men having a feminist vision which widens their perspective. The men I raised and the man I married are all pro-feminist.

Equality means a lot of different things to different people, but we rarely hear about equality in the issues related to abortion. Or the inequality of a single mom. I’ve posted the essay below although I encourage you to read both the Vivian Gornick piece and the other responses.

                                             Talking About Abortion

I live in Missouri, the land of Todd Aiken who brought us the term “legitimate rape.” He is not alone in Missouri or across the country. “Obviously rape is awful,” West Virginia member of the House of Delegates Brian Kurcaba has said. “What is beautiful is the child that could come of this.”

No one likes abortion. Even those of us who are pro-choice don’t like abortion. Our “like” is the concept of a woman choosing for herself. It is not our right to judge her circumstances or her story. Not judging is not pro-abortion.

Where is the talk about the sperm provider who created the pregnancy?

Last fall, in my public speaking class, a young woman asked if she could do a persuasive speech on abortion.

“Are you planning on having one?” I said.

“Of course not,” she said.

“So do you plan to argue for having one or against?”

“Against.” She wavered a bit in her answer.

“I see. So you want to argue against having abortions. Look around the class. We have as many males as females. How are you going to reach males? They aren’t having abortions.”

She looked at the men in the class. “I want them to be against abortion, too.”

“So you are going to argue that men should be against abortion even though statistics say they are rarely impacted by an unplanned pregnancy?”

The class stared at me. One of the young men spoke up. “We have to pay child support.”

“In theory,” I said. “Some men do and some don’t.”

“I do,” he said. “And I keep her one day a week.”

“Good for you. That’s more than many men. How many days a week does her mother have her? And did you practice safe sex, like using a condom?”

The young man slid down a bit in his seat. “She said she was on birth control.”

“Ah. So that absolves you from responsibility for your sperm?” The young man slouched lower.

“What if” – I was on a roll – “what if the man who produced the sperm that fertilized the egg had to go to jail for the same length of time the woman was pregnant? DNA testing could prove the sperm donor. Would men be more conscious of using condoms? Do you think there might be fewer requests for abortions?”

No one in the class responded.

This, then, is the abortion problem. Whether we call it the War on Women or simply the Abortion Issue, the fact remains: Women are targeted. Men are not. The responsibility for terminating a pregnancy is on the woman’s shoulders and conscience. Most of the time, the woman goes to the abortion clinic alone and she leaves alone. Why is there so little consciousness or talk around the issue of shared responsibility? Why is abortion only a women’s issue?

Forty-two years have passed since Roe v. Wade and we’re still fighting about a woman’s right to control her body. I’ve been a feminist that long. I knew Sarah Weddington in those days; I went to the “First Women’s Convention Since Seneca Falls” in the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas. The women in my consciousness-raising group vowed to raise their daughters differently; maybe they did. Except I also saw the slide backwards and watched the term feminist become a pejorative for many of those daughters.

I said, “We have to raise our sons differently!” I have. One summer, my teenage grandson came to visit. I picked up clothes from the floor and found a photo, his arms draped around two girls’ shoulders, his fingertips tucked inside their halter tops. When he came home, I sat him down. We were going to have a talk.

“Remember junior high when I warned you girls’ lap dancing could lead to bigger problems? Do you keep a condom in your wallet? Do you realize that if you become pregnant, you’re responsible for a child until he or she is out of college?” He lounged in an easy chair across from me. “Are you listening?”

“Yeah, Grams. But you’ve been telling me that since I was about five.”

“Oh,” I said. “Even about paying for the child until after college?”

“No,” he said. “That part is new. But it’s good information.”

It is possible to raise sons to respect women and to take responsibility. Perhaps that’s the conversation we need to be having. It’s time.




Reaching for Hawaii, Gathering Mexico

Sisters at Sunset

I’ve had some trouble re-anchoring after my visit to Hawaii. It’s the same trouble I have when I visit Mexico, both Mexico and Hawaii being lands where I’ve lived and where my spirit found peace and comfort. Even more, where the balance of feminine and masculine energies come together in a wholeness I don’t experience in many places.

When I lived in Hawaii in 1992, I’d already lived in Mexico for three years, and I felt confounded and amazed from time to time about how much I remembered Mexico in a sameness that nurtured me. The ocean and beaches of course, but also the craggy land and the cattle and goats roaming free across scrubby land. The wide-open and often barren stretches of land. And when I speak of Hawaii, I’m talking about Hawaii Island rather than the entirety of the island chain.

It’s taken some time of wondering and thinking to come to a theory of why it’s difficult for me to be back. The only one that makes any sense is to say that the strength of both feminine and masculine energies feeds me in a way I’m not fed in the center of the country.

People who visit Mexico and Hawaii, even New Mexico for that matter, have a tendency to say “how beautiful” without really considering what they are saying. Yes. Each of those three places is beautiful. But they are also each fierce and tough. And while I have lived in each place, and don’t want to live there full-time again, I do yearn for that balance of beauty and fierce that softens my shoulders and puts a glide in my step.

They are easy places for me, who is tough and gentle, to feel at home.


In Mexico, and in Hawaii, the sacred is an everyday part of life rather than an after thought or a Sunday church service. Perhaps because in both places, a ruling class came in and took over and the indigenous peoples held on to the sacred quality of their life as a refuge. But for whatever reason, the sacred is a part of the air and wind, a part of the scent of sea or desert or jungle. And the ancient sacred lives comfortably alongside modern religions. There’s no separateness. There is only a recognition of the whole.

In Palenque, in the depths of jungle green and misty clouds, the sacred rumbles just below conscious hearing.

And the divine feminine is a visible part of the whole.

At the famous Painted Church on Hawaii, the church building is justly famous for its colors and murals, and in the cemetery below, among neatly lined up white crosses, a lady stands on a natural rocky formation with a kneeling figure below her.

This is probably a statue of Mary although no name is given it on a plaque beside the rock. She could as easily be called the Lady of the Waves as she stands between the petitioner and the waves of the wide sea behind her. People have prayed to the divine feminine and asked for protection for countless centuries, long before Christianity.

Is the Protestant energy that founded this country responsible for the current “War on Women?” An anti-cleric, anti-Catholic history in this country may also account for the lack of wholly and holy feminine energy in all our lives, even today.

I wonder if that’s why a President’s wife is so important. She represents a feminine power source close to the top.

And that brings me to laughter. In Mexico and in Hawaii, laughter is close to the surface and bubbling over into conversations all the time. Laughter is a part of life. Laughter is a part of everyday living and conversations, sometimes just a conversation with self.

Old Man Laughing

This man from Mexico laughed all the time as he talked to me and as I struggled to make coherent sentences in Spanish. He laughed in delight at my clumsy attempts and he laughed to encourage me. In Hawaii, people laughed all the time: while dancing hula, shopping for gas, dropping a bag – oh, oops. And we talked story. By buying a container of pickled ginger, a simple purchase, I also bought laughter and stories of family and grandchildren.

And maybe, at base, it’s the mystery I miss. A mystery of why and how, the mystery of being a human on this life journey with other humans, a mystery of jungles and sea, of craggy mountains, and hidden walks.
And maybe what I’ve learned in all this musing and looking at photos and wondering and writing, is that I ask why all too often. Too often I try to figure things out, a very American characteristic, it seems. Maybe I just need to live in the mystery and let all of the rest of it be as it will.

Just look over my shoulder…and laugh.