Monday, July 25, 2011

Mother Divine

by Jeff Tweedy

When the devil came
he was not red
but chrome
and he said
come with me
you must go
so I went
where there was no fire
no torture
no hate
everything clean and precise
towering polished diamond skyscrapers
glittering ice avenues
translucent blues and silver signs
marking every turn
I was welcomed
with open arms
all lines of defeat sanded away
I felt no fear

I received every kind of help
the air was crisp
sunny late winter days
springtime yawning
over the cottony horizon
hell is chrome
I believe in god
hell is chrome

Presently, a roofing crew blasts music through the neighborhood.  They have been working for a week on my neighbor's house.  One member of the crew, a particularly spirited man, sings along to the festive Hispanic music hopping out of the radio.  While hammers make perfect background music for meditation (wink wink), I love this man's uncensored joy. I find myself grinning every time he cries out in song.  A huge pine blocks my view to the house but I imagine this man leaning into the slant of the roof, crooning to each shingle as he slaps his hammer down.  Maybe he doesn't care for his work.  Maybe it is only the music he loves.  It doesn't matter.  He sounds as though he simply cannot help himself and this abandon delights me.

I have been thinking about fertility lately.  Not THAT kind of fertility - although I did watch When Harry Met Sally this weekend and appreciated Sally's line about your biological clock not really starting to tick until you are 35 in whole new ways.  No, I have been thinking about how gentleness is a quality I was not able to give myself earlier in my life, and how projects and days and relationships blossom under its loving influence. 

The summer after I got married (those storied 14 months ago!) I traveled to Santa Fe to visit a friend, and to reconnect with the old place I originally fell in love with on a road trip just after college.  Wandering around the square, I spotted a 12 foot high statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in front of Santuario de Guadalupe, the oldest church in the United States honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was drawn to the statue like a downstream current, and I circled and circled her, taking pictures from every angle, soaking in her beauty.  I drank in the golden constellation of her robe and its Statue of Liberty-esque turquoise patina.  I puzzled at the child bursting from her feet.  And I bowed beneath her towering, benevolent, powerful head, her massive shoulders, and folded-prayer hands.  I was devoted immediately, though I had no idea who this woman was, or what her story was.  I didn't care. I was in the presence of something great and loving and gorgeous.  That was enough for me. 

I later learned about Our Lady of Guadalupe's story and symbolism, but feel totally unqualified to explicate it here.  In a book titled A Woman's Journey to God, Joan Borysenko offers this: "She identified herself as 'the Mother of God, who is the God of Truth; the Mother of the Giver of Life; the Mother of the Creator; the Mother of the One who makes the sun and the earth; and the Mother of the One who is near.'" 

I adore this last name: the One who is near.  I find it so intimate and comforting and sweet.

Borysenko continues: "One of the most interesting aspects of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is that she is wearing the cintz, a tassel or maternity bond, around her wrist.  She is a pregnant goddess."

At the time I discovered the statue, I was going through an intense questioning period in my artistic life.  My journey to Santa Fe was, in many ways, a homecoming to my creative roots - to the woman I had been, and had been becoming, before I muted my free-spirited ways in the rough years after college.  Unbeknownst to me, in Santa Fe, I was journeying to get them back. 

As I stood beneath this eternal mother in the clean sun, I felt something I had no idea I had been living without.  I felt pure, utter acceptance: acceptance for who I was, for what I had been born to do, and for whatever pathways made me happy. 

No wonder my devotion was instant!  I had accessed something ancient and healing. 

When my parents visited Santa Fe,  I'm afraid they experienced the heat more than any other aspect.  But what mattered to me was my recognition that a primal energy connects my mother and I.  She is the woman who created me, housed me in her body, nurtured my own body's growth, and, ultimately, is the woman who taught me how to be a woman, living in a body that can create new life. 

My mother was on my mind all over Santa Fe.  I wanted to show her everything I discovered.  I felt incredible gratitude for her, and for all the ways she nurtured me - especially in high school when my brothers had left for college and my relationship with my mother blossomed.  My experience with the statue initiated me, and reconnected me to the universal mother energy, and thus to myself as a woman with creative powers.  This experience, and the art, and the festive embrace of God, were some of the reasons I felt so close to my mother - who was states away on the east coast - while I was in New Mexico. 

This is the energy I have been thinking about lately: the pregnant goddess energy, the woman in her creative powers, ready to give birth to the moon and the sun.  When I am in contact with this energy, which yogis call the Shakti, all my human loves and relationships connect.  They swirl together and mix and play, because I am stepping into the current drawing closer and closer to the mother's heart.  Things make more sense to me when I am in contact with this energy.  At the same time, I become aware more than ever of the mysteries I can never solve, and of the underwater shadows I cannot name.

When I am truly connected, I accept these mysteries and shadows, and even delight in them. Safe in the discovery process, I rediscover faith.

I get it now, what people mean when they say faith is a garden you have to water daily.  I am finding that my garden loves gentleness - sweet attention and listening.  I bet most gardens do, but what do I know? As Jeff Tweedy says in an interview about writing poetry in The Writer's Chronicle, "I believe that the interior landscape is much more honest because I really believe that is the only thing you can truly know...I find that the more you can get to the essence of your interior life, it actually becomes more expansive than any world view you can try and impart."

Sometimes I find efforts at self-care daunting, haunted by failures past and future.  But today, I'll slop  water on the roses, plop the house plants in the sun.  Is it really so hard to nurture and care for the soul?  Aren't there a million good ways to do so?  My hope is that we all find our own ways.  That we give ourselves permission to delight and cry out in song, or to weep and massage the blood out of welters.  Whatever the steps we take home, may we honor and keep them.  May we know where they are, even in the dark.  And may we share what we find with each other.


  1. It sounds like your Santa Fe is like my San Francisco. :)

  2. Oh good! I'm so glad you are discovering magic there. And you were so nervous...:)

  3. I want to go to Santa Fe now! When we did our Cleanse a few weeks ago, we read a lot during it on what we'd experience. One chiropractor said during this time to "Be mild with yourself." For some reason that really dug its way into our hearts. Now when we get frustrated and hard on ourselves or try to go too fast, we remind each other that it's okay to be mild with ourself.

  4. Oh, SO sweet! What a wonderful discovery, yes? Ease works a million times better than the whip. Isn't that funny? We think it would be opposite. But we are all such gentle creatures. Remembering that is one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves and our lives. Thanks for sharing!


I love to hear your thoughts!