A few months ago I found myself brushing my 7 year-old daughter's hair back into a bun for her ballet recital. It was a busy day at the end of a busy weekend. My family was in town, we were dressed up and she and her brother were amped up because of the excitement of performance. We pulled out a chair right in the middle of the living room and I worked to sweep her long brown hair back from her face into a balanced and steady bun for her performance.
I'd been agitated because it was such a busy day and I don't like having all that extra energy in my space. But when I stood behind her I was caught in the sweep of the brush through her locks. Something in me suddenly felt timeless. I remembered the feeling of my own mother running the brush through my thick and challenging hair. I remembered her helping me make it into a bun until I learned how to do it myself in high school. It touched a realization inside of me: Women have been doing this for all of time. Ever since there was a reason to pull hair back from a face, women have done this for their children and themselves.
Feeling that timeless connection to the thread of all women suddenly shifted that wild moment into one that was sacred. How long will I get to brush her hair back for her before she will take it over herself? She already fixes it on her own most days. I felt the honor of the simple task rather than the burden of it.
Recently I gathered with the coaches, apprentices, and teachers of the Sagefire Institute 2016 class for Nature Based Life Coach Training for a weekend in New York state. With Sagefire I've been learning so much about the natural world, the ways of more Earth-based cultures, and about traditional ways of surviving out in the wild. It has been fascinating.
One interesting point came up as we met together... most of the knowledge they were sharing with us came from men. Interestingly, it came from the ONE remaining man who knew it in this particular tribe who taught it to ONE single white man... or the ONE remaining man who knew it and taught it to a few students. My teachers are students of the students. But this knowing of the plants, and of how to make fire, and how to track animals, is all in lineage that has been passed down by men to men and got down to very very few people knowing it. Much like modern yoga came down to Krishnamacharya who only taught few people who then spread it out to the rest of the world into the weird and powerful phenomenon it is today.
And the question came: Where are the women? Where are the women's ways? What did and do the women know that has not come along with that lineage?
I thought back to that moment running the brush through my daughter's hair. And I think in some way, the Women's knowledge has never been lost. I know how to fix my daughter's hair because my mother fixed my hair, and her mother fixed hers. I know how to bake because my mother baked in our home and let me have access to the mixer (which I did break occasionally). I know how to cook and how to clean and how to take care of people when they are sick because that is what my mother did. I sew because even though my mother tried to teach me and I couldn't pick it up from her, she sewed. And when my child was born that is all I wanted to do so I taught myself the basics.
My husband does not need to build us a house with his own bare hands today. He doesn't need to go out to hunt our food. He doesn't need to fight to defend our homestead (thankfully). He doesn't need to know how to build a fire or what animals run near our home.
But someone still has to make dinner at our house. Someone still needs to wash the clothes. Someone still needs to carry and birth the babies. Someone still needs to wash them when they dirty themselves during the day.
Women's wisdom. Women's knowing and work is still here. I oftentimes argue that I "shouldn't have to do" all of this. It can feel like a downward spiral of repressive chores. But when I step back and remember that women have been doing this for all of time, some of what felt like burden feels like blessing.
At this point I want to go into all the things I also know: Some women weren't mothered in the way I was mothered. Many women, actually don't have any of the knowledge that I have simply because my mother decided to stay kind of granola. That the women in cultures who were close to the Earth also carried all the knowledge of how to make fire, hunt, heal sickness that the men carried. Also, men do dishes, cook, clean, wash children, and fix hair. And, equality of the sexes. And some women don't want to do any of these tasks. Etc. Yes. I know. Perhaps this is all idealized.
But seeing as how I'm going to be doing these things AND running my business and teaching my classes. I choose use them to remind myself of the link to the timeless eternal spirit of woman