MOTHER GOD, AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF FOUR OF MY MOST BELOVED AND BRILLIANT STUDENTS

 

In 2008, I was in a play called Kitty and Lena, in which I starred as a Marilyn Monroe-esque actress struggling with identity and abuse.  The play premiered in New Mexico, then moved on to San Miguel Allende, Mexico, one of the most lush, lovely, artistic, colorful places I have ever been.

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The streets of San Miguel

There, we performed in a hundreds-of-years-old building, which was a profoundly beautiful experience in and of itself.  My co-star was Nancy, a brilliant, incredibly accomplished actress in her 70s who saw strength and talent in me and took me under her wing.

Every night, we sat together in the living room of the picturesque house our director had rented for us and drank wine together.  Sprawled on our plush couch, owning every inch of space she touched, Nancy sipped merlot and told me stories of what it was like to know famous actors and actors of yesteryear, including Marilyn Monroe, which besotted me.  (I’d always loved Marilyn.)  She also told me that I was powerful and beautiful and brilliant, and that people would try to make me feel small for the rest of my life, but I should never, ever believe them, and I should never, ever allow myself to be treated as anything but the goddess I was.

me and nancy
Me and Nancy in Kitty and Lena

I needed to hear it.  At the time, I was starring in my own series of increasingly dysfunctional and abusive relationships, both romantic and platonic.  I pretty much had, “Wipe Your Feet Here,” tattooed on my forehead.  To have this astounding woman see power in me changed me forever.  She also introduced me to her friends, Stuart Howard and Judy Waters, who flew in from Los Angeles to see her perform.  Stuart was a director for Days of Our Lives, and Judy was a gifted actress and psychologist.  We spent an unforgettable night drinking on a rooftop, sharing our hearts and stories. They too saw talent and strength in me, which added to the power of Nancy’s belief in me. I fell in love with them, and to this day, they are two of the most precious people in my world.

The week we were in Mexico happened to be Holy Week, and one of the nights was Mary’s Night.  As a protestant, I was raised not to believe in a feminine divinity of any kind, so I was astonished to feel a palpable, beautiful presence radiating through the streets that night, emanating from the shrines that were built on every corner, echoing in the “Ave Marias” that rang from the walls well into the night.  I have never attempted to write about that night in depth, mostly because I feel that to write about something that sacred would rob it of its beauty and holy magic.  But suffice it to say I experienced something that was nothing short of a visitation.  I felt this sacred, decidedly feminine presence come into my room and call me its daughter.  I felt it ask for my heart.  I gave it.  My life has never been the same.

Since then, she has been present at every significant moment.  I was driving down a freeway, right beside a sign that directed me to a Virgin of Guadalupe shrine, when I got the phone call from my agent saying we had sold my first novel to Simon and Schuster.  This is me saying “thank you” at the shrine.

me-praying

An image of her stood at the chapel that stood outside my front door during my magical time living on the Rosemont College campus as their writer-in-residence last year.

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I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, she is always with me. I’m not Catholic, not even close. But I am profoundly in love with the Mother God.

I am a very different woman from the one I was when I first met The Mother in San Miguel.  I’ve published books and traveled the world.  I’ve done away with every abusive relationship in my life.  And I am lucky enough to be able to teach one of my beloved art forms, writing, in various contexts.  I teach at universities and conferences and retreats all over the world (including in my beloved San Miguel, where Mary always greets me).

For years, I’ve taught a course online for the amazing Center for Creative Writing called Writing to Reclaim Your Sacred Self. Sequestered in the third part of that course, there is a lesson about The Feminine Divine. Last year, two of my students took that course and asked me if I would create a course for them focused exclusively on the divine feminine.  How could I say no?

We began the course in January.  Each week, we explore a feminine divinity, as well as aspects of her that relate to our own lives.  We explored Durga when we talked about slaying personal demons.  We explored Inanna when we talked about the times of darkness in our lives that give way to resurrection and light. The course has been nothing short of transformative for all involved, especially for me.

I am always blown away by the writing my students produce, but the writing produced in this course, and the writing related to the feminine divine produced in my Writing to Reclaim Your Sacred Self course, has gobsmacked me.  I asked a few of my brilliant student for permission to share their work here, as I believe it needs to be read by more than just me.  They graciously said yes. If you want to read about the feminine divine in a way that nurtures your heart and inspires your mind, keep reading.

FOUR KICK ASS POEMS ABOUT THE FEMININE DIVINE

This first poem is by my student, Benjamin Ross, who stuns me every single time he picks up his pen.

Ocean of Us

Wellfleet beaches twilight low tide, strung with stones like gazing stars

you and I and the sun, seagulls setting and rising with the moon somewhere tiding rhymes around our wonder

wandering, picking up the scattered verses of solid Earthspun rainbows daydreaming us

the everything-children we are, exploring this allowingness at the edges of silver waves, falling awake in cold bursts within a warm heart-held nowhere

falling through the striated light like piano notes playing the sand beneath shallow water, entranced and eye-flickering moments washing by

as gentleness rises, praising dunes in aloe eyes, the story-over-story layers of washed mantle amazement as sand tumbles time, somersaulting slowly in downward slopes

 

everything kindness, our hands held out with stones, wandering last-moment hands, starfish expressions of us, full spectrum vocabularies geologically spelled out under our toes

sharing the birthwater urges and blood-circle orbit of inner body heartspun aliveness meeting another body’s spin in rhythms of attuned-and-separate exploring

joining the universal rhythms of falling-rising, pulsing of light and the electricity of earth, in the immersing-all-around body of the living beach

both of us molten through wombs of oceanic volcanoes, moving like water drawn moonwards, spiraling on Earth’s surface as we travel this galaxy-orbiting sun
or singing with a ukelele as we sit in the sand, all shell-blown whispers and washes, the surf of us spread across laughing inner skies

the smile of land meeting water and heartbeat of infinite softnesses that swell under our bare feet

or the cry of shimmering pink and cerulean blue bursts in sunsets that reveal sanctuary like lungs being breathed

believing, still, in friendship across time and our various losses and lostnesses and rememberings, like these stones both knowing and unknowing, wondering who we are, questioning us constantly

 

we always arrive here, beachcombing around tiny streams in the sand, lit up from earth to eyes with forests of stone projecting their thoughts through us, and emanating from us in a hazel glow

swaying together in this life, returning to the harmonies held within and holding notes of quartz, jasper-agates and amethyst, serpentine, granite, slate, pumice, sandstone, marble, igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary stone, with shells of a million hues softer than concepts

as if the beach burned through us and we burned through the beach, devouring the sun as it devours us, resurrected in a communion of elements, two poems turned inside out with the universe revealed as our true selves

 

wherever those selves are or ever were – we left all these ideas on the beach among stones and driftwood, and rose like the clouds flowering on top of dunes

we never were encapsulated in ideas, the two of us, but always again found in delight and honest emotions, in the fingertips that strum sand, the notes of us wandering affectionately across each other’s lives, always in new ways

pondering nothing, and something, and then nothing again, always returning in bodies of light birthed in the renewing darkness

leaving no sun unturned

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And this is by Mary Quick, wise woman extraordinaire:

 

To be the Mother of God

Wouldn’t she have to be even more of a god than God?

Unconceivable and conceiving

She realized that possibility that idea

Creating that thing called God

Must have been phenomenal beyond phenomenal

Bringing to life that Son that we call God-with-us

To bring Truth and Love to the world

 

This Mother of God whose belly swelled

Who had painful contractions that only a mother could bear

Birthed a bloody baby in the usual way

Nurtured him wiped his chin and his bottom

Raised him inauspiciously

Taught him about speaking the Truth and abiding in Love

To be the Man-God he needed to be so that the world would see

This Christ- carrying Mother of God must have been more than her Son

Conceivable a Mother of God who is God

The Son in her image

Jesus and MM

 

 

And finally, this is by the incredible Annette Stewart, inspired by our week studying Brigid, keeper of fire and passion.

A fire burns inside me

 

It starts as a child fueled by hunger and want

Growing up poor is not good, but makes me strong

Writing makes me a good student- I am smart and awarded for my wit

I work hard and make it through my academics and smarts

Undergraduate, Law school & MBA all reading and writing with mix of math I love

I learn to make money and find I am good at what I do- is this a calling?

I create a charity and help my sisters

I find love and have a daughter

My friends are producers I see Broadway shows meet artists see passion

Wonder what am I missing?

I take a writing class and write

I read the Classics again

I draft storyboards of books with great tales

I know I must write and make the time starting with this class

What is next?

I must go to work tomorrow, but do my best to not lose my fight for passion

What does tomorrow hold?

Hopefully a continued fight to find my soul & path

Who am I?

Only time will tell……

hourglass

 

To finish this off, I’ll add a song that I listened to on the bus from the airport to San Miguel that fateful trip all those years ago.  It came on, and I listened on repeat for hours, watching Mexico roll by.  I couldn’t explain why the song moved me.  I guess my heart was prepping me for the introduction to come. This song has become mine.  There but for the grace of god go I.

“Ave Maria” by Beyonce

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “MOTHER GOD, AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF FOUR OF MY MOST BELOVED AND BRILLIANT STUDENTS

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