The Woman and the Tree

I was sitting with a woman in Red River Island – the venue from which we run our programmes and the woman was trying to talk. She couldn’t talk because grief was blocking her throat. She was trying to tell me about her life in Canada. Here, as a young British woman she had lived on a reserve with the Native Americans. This was a place where she’d connected with spirituality, a nation, a native man and crack cocaine.

But that’s not what we were talking about.

We were talking about babies.

Lost babies.

Babies that never were.

Native American Indian Midwifery, 1877

I sat very still, watching this woman’s energy squirm and grind on the chair as she endeavoured to recount her story. Clearly it was putting her through pain and she could barely utter the words.

Consciously breathing very slowly, I attempted to reengage her energy into a soft rhythm and eventually, after some time, she was able to speak.

“So, one day Bethan,” she rasped through her plum stone/ womb stone throat pain. “I went out into this bea-d-ful forest. And the trees – they were THIS big. And they were fuck off ancient. And I went over to one …” She scraped back her chair, stood up, walked across to the wall and looked up at the memory tree with tear-glass eyes. “And I leaned against it like this – so I had my back to it … And then I slid down to crouch.”

Back to wall she slid down. She cradled her bloated stomach that now held her cancer, as a pregnant woman would her belly.

She looked up at me now. She took a deep quivered breath. Her voice dropped to a whisper.

“I imagined for the first and only time that I was pregnant.”

There.

Words said.

Words uttered.

Into the silence of the Red River Room.

I didn’t move.

I didn’t remove my eyes from her.

In that moment, when someone is telling you their story, you are holding them like a bridge or a thread of cotton. That is the deal. That is the process. That is the partnership between teller and told.

This is the sacred place.

So the space was held

until,

finally,

the woman stood up.

She didn’t sit down. Instead she paced around, a wolf pacing around a campfire.

Eventually she continued to speak.

“The next day Bethan,” she whispered. “I met this guy. I’d started seeing him. This native guy? He said, I’ve brought you a gift but I don’t know if I should give it to you. I said, “a gift? You’ve got to give it to me!”

I smiled. In the recounting, I heard her voice return, her playful barking gentleness. The proud woman I knew.

“What did he bring you?” I smiled.

The woman stopped pacing. She put her hands on the back of the chair, leaned forward for support and stared into my eyes. “He’d brought me some leather art. On it was engraved a native woman crouching against a tree. She was pregnant. Apparently that is how the native women give birth. I had no idea …”

Silence.

Bursting silence.

I nodded, reached out and put my hand over hers. Creakingly, the bridge was pulled up, the golden thread coiled in and her chair was pulled out to sit down.

The story

was over.

“Did you know at that point that you were unable to have children?”

She nodded and wept.

“Do you think that there is any way that this cancer now could be connected to unresolved grief in your womb?”

She nodded again. Silence. Until … blurted, “I can’t get over it Bethan. I just can’t.”

“Okay,” I whispered, still holding my hand over hers. Okay. Then … “Can I tell you a story about my friend, the Fosbury Goddess?”

The woman wiped her nose, nodded.

“So … 11 months ago, this amazing, amazing friend of mine discovered that she had gone through early menopause.  She was single, living in London and had no children.”

The woman’s hand, beneath mine, twitched.

” … And it has been very, very hard for her. At first she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was stunned, overwhelmed by the implications. Then, after that this whole world opened up … this massive invisible world of how it is for women once we can no longer bear children.”

The woman nodded. Breath sucked in. Her body juddered.

“But then something happened. She began to wake up this old knowledge, this oldoldoldold knowing that  that began to help, you see …”

Whispered, “Yes?”

“What helped her was restoring the three ages of women.”

“What’s that?” Voice a little clearer now.

I smiled. “You know, my darling. We all know. In our bones. It is the Maiden, Mother and then the Crone. The wise, powerful, sorceress phase of the Crone. You and the Fosbury Goddess stepped into Crone early. This is what happened. You see?” I leaned in close. “What Fos realised is that Crone is the forgotten phase of women. It is the phase that the NHS fight off this HRT. It is the phase that women fear and resist. It is the age that is ignored, shoved down, looked down upon. You know? Just like the number 13 that people have been brainwashed into thinking is evil, Crone is not only real and here, but she is powerful. And when honoured, she will protect and guide you. And, you know what? When Fosbury Goddess started to embrace the third phase of woman, things began to change for her.”

The energy in the room had started to stir. It was no longer tight, swollen like a balloon full of water. There was something different. Something a little more fluid. A light release.

For the next hour, the woman and I talked about Crone; who she is, what she stands for, societies repression of this Wild Woman. I told my client/friend/sister about some of the things that have happened for the Fosbury Goddess since her recognition of this aspect.

And with each story, with the new weaving, the woman before me started to shift. Her posture straightened, as if something deep in her belly had begun to stir … something that was bigger, more powerful than the cancer that had ravished her now-absent womb and ovaries.

By the time I drove her home to the little council estate nearby, the sparkling soul I recognised was beginning to seep back into her bones; she was in her space, holding her space, head held up, ready to recite her native prayers again. Pulling up on the curb, we hugged each other and said goodbye.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Thank YOU,” I said.

“I love you,” she said, eyes dancing.

“I love you too,” I replied, wanting to cry.

The woman opened the door and carefully climbed out. Her stomach was still tender from the operation and until now, for some reason, it had been refusing to heal at the usual pace. As she straightened herself on the pavement, she leaned in and said, “Please call your friend and say thank you. Hearing her story has just done something to me. I can feel it. I can feel it in me belly.”

“I will tell her,” I promised.

A few days later I called Fos in London and I told her. We were both struck silent. A week later I brought my client back to Red River Island and you could almost reach out and touch her newly restored energy. I asked her if I could share her story. She said yes. I asked Fosbury Goddess if I could share her story. She said yes too.

So. This is their story. It might look like two stories – or a triple story if you include mine – but actually it is One story.

If you would like to find out more about the Fosbury Goddess’ story, you can visit her new blog at www.mychangeview.wordpress.com

xxx

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13 thoughts on “The Woman and the Tree

  1. Powerful story Bethan and so pleased we were invited to listen to it. Perhaps a little off topic but one of the reasons that retirement complexes stress me is that I feel they can be places where we wall off or fence in the crones. Grandma or great aunt no longer take pride of place in our living rooms; admittedly some of them don’t want to and don’t need to but I sigh every time I pass a retirement complex and see the fences and security gates!

    • Agreed Gallivanta, agreed. The Isle of Wight is known for it’s abundance of residential homes. Here they are tall, Victorian houses where the doors are shut and the heating is perpetually on. When I lived in my old house and we used to use the swimming pool at the children’s grandparent’s hotel, the most delightful of crones would shuffle across the road (escaped from her home) in her swimming costume and with her towel. She was called Pat. She was in her mid eighties. She was as wild and as naughty as any teenager and she taught 4 year old Pix to swim. When Pix complained about it, Pat squawked at her. It was magical. This talk of crones also reminds me of my second children’s book, Eggaporting to the Amazon where a tribe of karate kicking crones save the day. They are led by “Granny”, a character who has popped up in my of my books. I think the Crone energy stepping back into the world might well restore something much needed.

      • I think it just might. I am sure the Isle of Wight is a lovely place to reside and retire as long as one can come out and set little Pix-es to rights 🙂 Why have I missed your children’s books? Am I being blind?

      • No, you aren’t missing anything. I don’t really talk about them ever on here. The books were published in my early twenties; two children’s adventure novels designed to be read to 5-8 year olds. The first was called Skeleton Beach and based on me and my brother fossil hunting on a beach near our home as kids. One day my dad showed me a rock, told me it was a “hag stone” (more crone talk!!) and I squirreled it away home and took it into my school the next day. All playtime I sat wishing for sweets whilst clutching my hag stone. When I opened my eyes, I found two boxes of Sunmaid raisins on the ground before me! I was about 5 and went to a church school and my highly Christian teacher immediately confiscated my hag stone and refused to give it back. Skeleton Beach was based on the thought of two children finding a hag stone, whilst fossil hunting and wishing that all the dinosaurs in the cliff would come alive …
        The second one was Eggaporting to the Amazon and based on a story of a book I wrote as a kid. At the time I pledged to use any money earned through it to buy acres of rainforest and years later that’s what I did. Granny wasn’t in the original book though. She hopped in from a anti-establishment picture book called Granny Woz Ere.
        There’s a post on this blog about it somewhere. I’ll find it … xx

      • Okay 🙂 I can’t help feeling we need something like “Revenge of the Hag Stone’ to right the cruel injustice of being ripped from your hot little hand.

      • The weirdest thing was that when I launched the book and did a signing in the local book shop, who should turn up but THE TEACHER HERSELF! She had seen the publication announced in the newspaper and thought, “oooh, I remember that girl!” and she’d turned up for a signed copy. I literally had not seen the woman in 19 years. Re. the hag stone being ripped away … as I had run around yelling that “the magic worked!!” another little girl called Rebecca Vine was crying as she’d lost her two packets of Sunmaid raisins. They must have dropped out of her pocket just as she walked past me and then when I opened my eyes, there they were. I reluctantly gave them back.

  2. Reblogged this on My Change View and commented:
    I woke up thinking about the Triple Goddess. As always in life, you inspire me. I am blessed to be walking this path with you sister xxx

  3. I loved this. Loved it. It touched a chord with me in that when I first found out I was menopausal, just before I hit 41, I was so angry and ashamed and hated myself so much. The minute I began to embrace my new self, things changed dramatically. A year on, I still veer between rejection and acceptance – partly through fear of the unknown, I’m certain – but I’ve glimpsed enough to see that embracing the crone brings great gifts. Thank you for reminding of my need to stay on the path of acceptance and thank you for this wonderful, evocative post.

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