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the womb of the forest
and the words we have not been allowed to speak
All I want is to feel the sun’s warmth without the wind interfering. Is that so much to ask? But it’s not what I get when I step out the front door. Figures. Since when can anything just be pleasant? Since when does asking for tranquility matter?
I'm more sour than usual as I wrap the dog’s leash around one hand and balance a mug of bone broth in the other. My stupid bone broth for my stupid inflammation diet for my stupid gut health to remedy the stupid medical crisis that tried to kill me. But what’s two weeks of more bone broth when one friend is burying her younger brother and another friend is being diagnosed with breast cancer? Bone broth is nothing.
No, not nothing: the stupid mug is a symbol. A menacing reminder that nothing is safe, no one is protected; everything can change in an instant and death is always at the doorstep.
More than anything, a reminder that I am so damn scared.
It’s too windy to walk the dog down the open street of our neighborhood like I’d planned, but I know what to do instead. During brutal midwestern winters I learned to seek shelter in the forest, the oaks and pines rising up around me in avowed protection from the elements. I have come to trust them to keep snow and sleet out of my eyes, and I know they will cover me from today’s spring wind too. I turn behind our house and head toward the small trail that divides the prairie leading into the woods.
My breath catches in my throat as I near the forest entrance and understand what I have done. What I have sought.
I walk straight into the womb of the forest and let her hold me while I weep.
Its no wonder that womb imagery has marked much of the world’s religious traditions, including my Catholic one. Vaginal-shaped archways in cathedrals. Baptismal immersion in uterine-eque waters. Yonic medieval art. The language of being born again.
We reach for the womb to protect us, to hold us. We imagine a mother to cradle us, to nurse us. She, in the depths of our consciousness we are certain, will envelop us and keep us safe against the last enemy — death. For thousands of years we have found every conceivable way to call upon her without naming her; to crawl toward her without daring to utter the words we have not been allowed to speak:
that God is a mother.
But the earth, she can tell no lie. She has no use for tired games of hiding truth. And so I duck my head through her trees, the crisp leaves of winter and the soft moss of spring mingled together underfoot, because it is that liminal time when everything is changing. For a moment she hushes me; for a moment I am enwombed.
And for a moment, all is well.
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Feminist Prayers around the web:
Red Letter Christians recently published my prayers “for small activism” and “for seeing color.”
My boss at the National Catholic Reporter wrote a column about how she gifted her 8th grade daughter a copy of the book for her confirmation.
Spirituality & Health ran an excerpt of the book’s introduction, along with the prayer for a feminine imagining of God.
And if you’d like to hear more about the book straight from my mouth, Asha Frost and Kaitlin Curtice each hosted me on Instagram Lives this month to chat about the book. (Tell me, who understands intersectional feminism better than Indigenous women?)
A new way for us to connect
This week, Substack unveiled a new feature called Notes. It’s a space right here for us to share links, quotes, photos, etc. It has Twitter vibes, but personally I want to use it to chat writing and reading with likeminded people. And so far that’s been promising!
To join the conversation, click the green button below or find the “Notes” tab in the Substack app. As a subscriber to The Rewilded Life, you’ll automatically see my notes. Feel free to like, reply, or share them around.
You can also share notes of your own — and I hope you do! I would love to see your thoughts and interesting quotes from things you’re reading on Substack and beyond.
May this weekend find each one of you safe and sound in the womb of Mother God. Perhaps you, too, might experience the peace that passes understanding on a walk through the woods. Perhaps you might let someone you love hold you close. Perhaps you might soak in a bath or curl up under blankets. Sometimes the best prayer is just the feeling of letting yourself be held.