europe, travel log

a season of water and women

gaetan’s hand spreads out over the flats : “all this was water. still would be if it wasn’t for the drains. that’s why it’s flooded right now, with all the rain. this here is the island of avalon, over there by the evergreens they would send off bodies on boats from the isle of the dead. it would all be impenetrable swamps, clouded in mist – you’d need to find a way here then wait for the lady to summon the boat…”

perched on my terrasse, we gaze at the horizon. today the mists of avalon have loosened their grip and the fields are drenched in sunlight. the land here bathed in song as much as it bathed in water. chinese medecine links the element of water to the winter months, and the cards follow suit, leasurely showering a deluge of cups on everyone around me, of water bringing memories, ancestors, connectedness through time and space – incubation.

here i am sitting with women again. i listen to their stories. we’ve had freak february daffodils, gales and a snowball holiday where the town celebrated its 20cm of powder in utter delight. meanwhile, the rest of the island labored in waist-high snow. we pour cups of tea before we start the women’s circle, staring through curtains of endless rain and experiencing leaking dreams : we wander in and out of other women’s heads, curious birds swooping in our wake between the cracks. a woman down the hill dreams of me sitting on a sofa, rain splattering indoors. “that happened – a couple of days ago”. hypnosis summons an image of a radiant bull, leading a herd towards the sun, while the woman sleeping the room next to me sees a cow jumping over the fence, back and forth. tara and kali, smiling at each other from each side of a double page, wreak havoc in dreamed funeral homes and real salt circles. i dream the name of the water god tlaloc, indignant of being treated as if he had no feelings – how many, many more coincidences we would discover if we all constantly shared our dreams with each other… i tattoo a spider on a thigh, an invitation to a certain kind of womanhood, of courage, of connection to the mysteries –¬† a few days later a woman has to be brave for a younger girl, and lets a tarantula rest on her petrified hand.

i spend a long time blowing steam in the candlelit cave. the numb soles of my bare feet can feel everything. i blink through this deluge and feel the action of the slow drops of healing.

this community of women is like the soft call of home. “take a moment sisters, breathe…” sacred feminine were just words, before. now it’s a feeling with texture and colour. an experience in my pocket. a craving i didn’t know i had.

i’ve had a whole life’s worth of inventive ways and reasons of steering clear of the female community. whether i was a scruffy tomboy, a lone bookworm or an angry punk, the hats i picked up never held any breadcrumbs back to a peer group i could relate to. the word femininity only summoned pink razors, cosmo quizz and other hollow icons of the consumer culture, manufactured to pollute women’s brains with vapid noise. traveling was slowly, steadily unscrewing the bolts of what i knew, but still – the mainstream latino culture of my new homes wanted to know where were my babies, where was my husband, why my hair was short and my jeans torn. i kept my own company. i’d never met a community of sisters and never dreamed such a thing could ever be waiting for me.

but lo and behold – first, i meet kinswomen! this has never happened to me before! wild souls pining for the road or plotting for a roof, depending on the day. they stride into my life one after the other, we wave friendly banner like ships entering a harbour, we trade news from the trail, goods and houses, tattoos, haircuts, massages, plant friends and sponges. i feel like the ugly duckling, looking up to the family of swans.

then there’s all the others, the many faces of the goddess. we connect in the simple way that were used for millenia and buried for centuries. on a new moon we arrive¬† at the circle depleted and part company elated. leave your archetypes by the door, the maidens, crones, single mothers and tired warriors, the broken-hearted and sick and homeless. here we only have women. drums. songs and shrieks and how can you describe what happens in a circle. “you’ll just have to try this out at home”. a space where the civilized animals are played down. we talk blood and bones. “oh wait, you do that too?”

as the legend goes : we are women, standing on the shoulder of an older woman, who stands on the shoulders of an ever older woman… it’s inexpressible, feeling this umbilical cord of kinship, stretching back through the fabric of time. shining from every eye gazing back from around the fire. suffice it to say i am loved and blessed.