It’s all just churning in my head. Needing some direction. There is so much pain out there. Women and children. Without strong healthy women how will we have healthy children. My brain traveled in this loop of circular logic. Broken children, broken weak mothers.
I’m in Baltimore of all places. Not the place you necessarily expect to see a medicine man. Right? I’m in town for a long weekend. It’s been cold and rainy since I got off the plane. With a break in the weather we decide to get outside. A good hike. There’s an amazing park nearby. Patapsco Valley State Park. It’s my first time. As we drive in my jaw drops, the landscape is dripping with life, literally. Vines, wisteria hangs from the tall straight trees. You can hear water moving in the distance. We swiftly find a spot to leave the car. Her four legged companion is bursting at the seams to get the show on the road. People, they take forever…
Hoisting myself to my feet my attention is drawn to the opposing bank. A quaint swinging bridge touches the shore where a fully dressed medicine man is holding court. He is dressed head to toe. Lots of red… A single feather in his hair. His walking stick adorned with a sundry of tokens and feathers. Each with a story. He gives his grand walking stick a thump on the earth and me a nod. Our eyes locked, I nod in return and turn my attention back to the kids and the excitement of our hike. The waterfall the main attraction. As we approach, the sound greets us first… the sound of water splashing against the stone basin. Getting closer the green moss grabs me. Dripping from every surface. The stones covered in life. We fill our pockets to the brim with treasures found along the way.
Back to the beginning.
We wind our way back to the place we left our car only to find him, the Grand Medicine Man, on this side of the shore. I spot him instantly but see he is engrossed in the company of others. My attention goes back to the kids and the chatter. I feel him approaching. Glancing in his direction he nods with recognition and says, “I need to speak to you.” I look around, at the kids, back to him, point back at myself and ask, “Me?”
He guides me away from the others to a small grove of trees. I say, “Wait, my kids.” He touches my arm, “Not to worry. They’re not ready yet.” As we find our space, he begins to speak…
“I have been called here today to speak to you about women.” I open my mouth to speak but with a wave of his hand the words stay put. “Women are the creators of life. They are to be revered. No man would be here today without coming through woman. Next to God, stands woman, the creator of life. Every man on this planet has a mother. Respect… Women in your culture are not respected. Respect will only come when women begin to respect women.” I can sense the kids getting restless and he again speaks “This is meant for you. Pay attention.” He reaches into his pouch. “I have something for you.” he says. He then presses into my hand a golden coin that holds the image of Sacajawea. Did he know? How could he? My mind races around as he tells me the story of her strength and courage. The Charbonneau they speak of in the history books is in my girls lineage on their father’s side. He’s buried just up the road. He talks me through her plight of loving a drunkard who beat and persecuted her, and how Clark helped her and her children escape back to her people. Not exactly what’s in the history books, but close. He didn’t declare the name of the drunkard. I didn’t ask. Women from the lineage of Sacajawea. Strong, secure, beautiful women. Free from the grips of abuse and alcohol. The pride of being the vessel that brought them forth welled up inside.
He then gently takes my elbow and begins to show me things right around us that could be eaten, explaining that the earth will always feed us. In times of need, follow the birds… If the birds can eat it so can you. An image of Grandma flitters across my mind’s eye. Her lessons, naming each plant and tree, explaining what could be eaten, or not.
He tilts his head towards the heavens, arms extended telling the Gods that he has told me all that I needed. Looking back in my direction, he says with a smile, “Meet me at the waterfall and I will tell you much more. I will be waiting for you.” With that he made his exit. I’m left standing there in disbelief. Gathering myself up I turn toward the car.
The impact of this interaction resonated through every facet of my life, rearranging my thoughts, and eventually catapulted me into writing Junebug. It’s true, everything points back to us. We birth them. We raise them. We give them their values around women, around sex, around what makes us human… Or we should. Shame on us really. We are instead teaching our sons of the weakness of women… the dehumanizing of women. Where does our responsibility start and their’s end? They are ours. We created them. In the wild, be it horse, wolf, or bear… Momma is gonna take you out for messing with her kids or die trying. Daddy or no daddy. Her purpose on this earth, at that point in time, is the safety and well being of her young. Whose protection and safety do we worry about first? His? Ours? When we begin to value being a woman, discover what it means to be a woman… a mother, then the world, man, will begin to give us value.
I love the scene in the movie Hook with Robin Williams, where Hook has the children in the classroom. He is trying to gain the trust of the boy. The is the hook, pardon my pun, into Peter Pan. He gives the boy an A while the perfect little girl finds herself with and F. The girl in tears yells at Hook, “You are a bad bad man. What you need is a Mommy.”
In the end that’s it, right? Our world is in desperate need of a Mommy!