Friday, March 9, 2012

In Honor of Women

In honor of International Woman’s Day, yesterday, I want to mention just a few of the amazing women I know, whose efforts keep the world spinning, as far as I can tell. While captains of industry, military men and politicians make the headlines, women’s efforts too often go unnoticed, even though they underpin the primary functions of life: mothering, cooking, cleaning, organizing, supporting, caring, innovating, healing, teaching.

I often think of my paternal great-grandmother, who came across this vast country in a covered wagon in 1863. Her health was so fragile at the outset that my great-grandfather, a doctor, stored her coffin boards on the floor of the wagon, just in case. Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, she gave birth to my great-uncle Abram and, as the story goes, when news of the arrival reached the local Indians, they came to experience, through sight and touch, the amazement of a blue-eyed blonde baby. It’s hard to imagine such rugged and perilous perinatal conditions, isn’t it? In Salt Lake City, the new mother was nursed back to a semblance of health by Mormon women and she went on to live into her nineties on the ranch they founded, La Panza. She was one tough lady, according to my father, who knew her as a child. What else could she be, with that background?

Women, in my experience, are always doing extraordinary things, quietly, doggedly, sometimes thanklessly. They underpin their families, get educations, rise above chronic medical conditions, create art, beautify the earth with gardens, develop healing hands, go on adventures, found organizations, hold public office and, in general, hold the common weal in their hearts. Here are just a few of those powerful women I have been privileged to know.

Let’s begin with my own mother, who pioneered on this mountain, who dug flower beds out of the thin and unyielding earth of this place; washed our clothes on a scrub board in the back yard, wearing a WW II Army parka against the snow; who cooked venison and, once, a porcupine; who always set a beautiful table, no matter how sparse the meal; who taught me not just to sew but fine dressmaker details, too; who never forgot she was a lady, despite living a difficult life; who created a beautiful and serene home by exercising her refined aesthetic sensibilities; who encouraged my sister and me to become fully ourselves, through reading and voice, piano and ballet lessons; who was a true and unwavering helpmate to my father; and who lived well into her 80s and was a boon to many. And still, this is but a paltry summary of who and what she was; her strength, moral character and sense of duty; her whimsical, childlike side that could create magic; her physical beauty and dignity; her charm.

Then there is a plethora of friends, all of whom routinely amaze me: Roxanne, who makes the most marvelous videos that encourage, promote healing and uplift, and who is a fine poet, a spiritual being, and who endures her MS with such profound dignity and proactive verve; Susanne, a university professor who is raising up gardens of native plants, despite the Texas drought and who is currently researching and writing a book on plants grown by indigenous peoples, and their uses – her love of the earth is boundless; Sylvie, who has shouldered a huge familial inheritance, has written a book about it, fought cancer and still has time to make fine art; Hope, a retired university professor who rescues animals and supports them by making and selling marvelous art; Catherine, who founded A Celebration of Women, giving international recognition to women who would otherwise work in obscurity; Gael, who is a scholar of Celtic lore, an herbalist and healer, who faithfully tends a family member despite that person’s ingratitude; Debbie, who has battled both chronic health problems and cancer, yet who has cared for each member of her family in their times of crisis and who teaches us all how to have both courage and joy in life; Pam, who travels across oceans as casually as most of us go for groceries, and who is deeply involved in reconstructing her family genealogy; Marianne, who made a courageous decision to set her own course and to grow beyond certain familial restrictions, who is a fine astrologer, a deeply knowledgeable historian, a gardener and tender of farm animals; Sandy, who tends her ailing family with such devotion and, despite her own physical difficulties, is a dancer of ravishing power and beauty; Linda, who has turned her experiences with angels into a book that will comfort and soothe those who are making the transition from this life to the next; Louise who, broken in body, is powerful in spirit and who reads and writes reviews with relish; Barbara, a dedicated sportswoman who, even in her mid-60s, is still winning competitions and who keeps racehorses and is a knowledgeable woman of the track; Marsha, who is totally conversant with the film industry and who is still honorably paying off the medical bills incurred during her mother’s final illness, by working two jobs; Tammy, who is a beekeeper and is developing ways to both conserve lands despoiled by mining and to preserve honey bees and their habitat; Carol, who is a fine jewelry maker, who loves to experiment to create new effects and who looks better in leathers, on the back of her classic Harley Davidson than any other living being; Lorinda, who created the Sierra Foothill Beekeeper’s Association, to promote and preserve the raising of honey bees; Mickey, a fine poet who has dedicated her life to teaching music to children; Patricia, who courageously published an account of her transition from a traditional heterosexual marriage to a lesbian relationship and who continually promotes the arts; Sister Mary Sean, a Dominican nun who has dedicated her life to helping paroled inmates and to visiting those still in prison; Christie, who lives like a sprite on air and water, whose poetry and healing knowledge and capabilities have touched many; Judie, a horsewoman, superb cook, gardener and rock-solid foundation to her family; Reggie, who worked miracles of art in the prison system and is a Renaissance woman: artist, classical guitarist, writer, song writer and linguist; Julie, writer of books and channel for the voices of other dimensions; Carole, country woman of multiple talents who lives in a remote location, raises farm animals, is a mechanic, ham radio operator and emergency link, and the absolute foundation of her family; Marjorie, a chiropractor, nutritionist and healer who is mother to three amazing young genius daughters; Cynthia and BZ, two world-class storytellers who keep the imaginations of children leaping and the mythology of the world alive; Cindy, who created an NPO to teach the print making techniques of her artist father to school children; Carolyn, who uses crystals to heal and who teaches others to tend the welfare of the world; Johanna, who courageously earned a doctorate in a second language, who generously uses her time and wealth for the good of others; Joan, whose aesthetic sensibilities are second to none, who tends to the abraded souls of abused children and lives in a home that is a little piece of 18th-century France, with a bevy of Mau cats; Kai, a university professor in Shanghai who is showing her students how to throw off the strictures of their former education and truly create; Glenda, whose goat farm produces the finest and most beautiful soaps. . . .

I could go on and on. Women are one of the deep treasures of the world. Life would devolve without them, and not merely because of their capacity to give birth. If there is a shoulder to the wheel it is likely a female one. If there is a sickbed to be tended, it is likely a woman who bends over it. If there is a cause to be promoted, a person to be encouraged, or a civic effort to launch, be sure that women will be there to do it. It seems to me that, while an International Woman’s Day is a fine thing, what we really need is an International Woman’s Millennium!

So, thank you my friends, and, as my mother used to say, all my friends who I don’t even know. Thank you for being the staunch, powerful, motivated, compassionate, adventuresome, glorious women that you are. I can’t say it enough: thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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