Second Rite of Passage: place, space, and grace

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The variety of abilities in a group of women can be astonishing. Gather up a group yourself and ask the question, what ten things can you teach me, from juggling to car repair and everything in between? Trust me, astonished, you will be.

Speaking of which . . . our next offering was from the teacher in our little group. We gathered once again around the fireplace. She offered up a quick writing exercise to warm us all up and then we began.

“I like to do this with my high school students. It gives us a way to understand where we come from. If everyone can do a first draft and then rewrite it to keep or to give it to Ginny  . . .”

A pause. We think. We write. We tell our stories. We are given a prompt that includes asking for a detail about where we come from, something that matters to us, and who we are. This is what we came up with:

“I am from every country in Europe through scratch farms in Oklahoma, one women general stores in Montana to California for the promised dream.”

“I am from pepper trees, flaming bouganvilla, and eucalyptus that peels off in three different colors.”

“I am from wallpapered halls, big wheels, basements with pipes you can swing from, and long days at the Little League field.”

“From a carousel of seasons, absorbed one minute in hot, sticky thunderstorms and the next in the frigid arms of sleet- the cruel child of a marriage between  snow and ice.” . . .

“I know that crystal clear nights matter as do the warm summer evenings . . . “

“I know that I am under the trees, performing rituals for the birds and playing a flute in a long white swing, hearing a voice in the wind.”

I think we done good. Don’t you?

What would you write?

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Second Rite of Passage: a word, a bird, and a hand massage

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As I mentioned, the bulk of the weekend were experiential “gifts” from all of the women invited to Ginny’s second rite of passage. This was the best kind of present as it left an indelible mark of the giver’s presence in my daughter’s life. Here’s a taste of the first offerings as reflected in my juicy juicy journal:

“After a while, a migration was made into the den, the place of last night’s nest. Karmyn quietly encouraged us to open up our chests and hearts to the new day. A stretch towards the sky. Then a train of massages, back, then back, then back. Shoulders, shoulders, shoulders. Gentle music of peace and old time hymnody. Partners scattered in twins across the room. Almond oil. Aromatic lotions. A time to massage the hands of one another. Sharon’s hand slips like a fish in and out of mine. Rub. Squeeze. It’s amazing- the topography of hands: muscles, bones, freckles, gradations in skin tone. The rich smell of thick almond lotion pasted on hands. A joyful swish of Karmyn’s long hair and a blessing, and the movement moves on. . . .

Scattered on the ground are: “Birds of North America”, Tricia’s birding journal posted with stamps and stories, poetry and quotations, and blank white stickers.

“When I was in Belize for three years,” she says, “there was not a lot to do.”

She took up birding. It helped her make the jungle her home. Neo-tropic birds. Memorable moments. Calls that called to her, “I think you’re pretty! I think you’re pretty!” she thought she heard one bird say.

She reminds us that the books tell us that every bird has a color, has a call, has a place and asks us to find three things in us to share that make a place a home.

“A potted plant to care for. Photographs of the old life and the new. A local textile for the bed.  Mapping out the geography of place. Sinking deep into the history of where you are. These are a few. And then, find three things we want to look for in a relationship, just like the characteristics of neo-tropic birds. The plumage is not the most important. Look for compassion in the eyes. Have the same migration path. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Laugh. Laugh together. Laugh with and at each other. Laugh. Then think of three things we must do, our life lists, like a birding life list, three things. Kayak at night. Full immersion in the local custom. Hike every trail in the Sierras. Plant a garden. Those are a few. There are so many more.”

These were the things we were to chew on at local restaurant. So much to share with one another in the world of journeying women. What might be your contribution? What journey would you take the rest of us on in that bright hour?

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Second Rite of Passage: This One’s for the Girls!

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Now, you can’t leave a kid with only tunes from troubled teen-hood, can you? You’ve got to bring her up to date with your current “poems, prayers, and promises” (well, in a manner of speaking).

The next activity up for sharing was “a desired anthem”- the song we wish we could have heard in our late teens. As we shared our picks, we realized we were not only singing them to Ginny, but also to ourselves. It was salve to the heart . . . . Here’s a few tidbits from a few songs. Imagine getting to hear these lyrics sung to you as a young woman:

“Her face is a map of the world, is a map of the world. And you can see she’s a beautiful girl, she’s a beautiful girl. And everything around her is a silver pool of light. The people who surround her feel the benefit of it. It makes you calm. She holds you captivated in her palm. Suddenly I see, this is what I want to be . . .” from Suddenly I See by KT Tunstall.

“In the easy silence that you make for me, it’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me, and the peaceful quiet you create for me, and the way you keep the world at bay for me . . . the way you keep the world at bay . . .” from Easy Silence by the Dixie Chicks.

“So sit down and write that letter, sign up and join the fight, sink in to all that matters, step out into the light . . . so many years from now long after we are gone these trees will spread their branches out and bless the dawn . . .” from Planting Trees by Andrew Peterson.

“Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces, calling out the best of who we are, and I want to add to the beauty to tell a better story; I want to shine with the light that’s burning up inside . . .” from Add to the Beauty by Sara Groves.

“This one’s for the girls who’ve ever had a broken heart who’ve wished upon a shooting star; you’re beautiful the way you are; this one’s for the girls who love without holding back, who dream with everything they have all around the world; this one’s for the girls,

yeah, this one’s for the girls . . .” from This One’s for the Girls by Martina McBride.

You get the picture . . . . what song would you have wanted to hear at age 18?

First rite of passage special post: a little musical foray

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

That first conclave of quilts and women draped around my living room did not invoke a cool deep dip in the pools of contemplation. It brought on a raucous, riotous sharing of a variety of music ranging from artists like the Indigo Girls to Marlo Thomas (yes, Marlo Thomas; do you remember the album “Free to Be You and Me”?). As I mentioned in the previous post, women could choose songs that piqued their teenage interest at age 13, 14, or 15, and/or they could choose songs that speak to them today- those tunes that would have been an important voice in their adolescent lives, if they could’ve had access to them back then.

A smattering of the offerings that first rite of passage day included songs like “Let It Be Me” by the Indigo girls (if the world is ni-ight, shine my life like a light, great song, hold up your cell phones or lighters and sway, please!), “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs (there’s more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see. Trust is what I’m offering if you trouble me . . .), and “As Cool As I Am” by Dar Williams (I will not be afraid of women . . . I will not be . . . afraid of women, great song with a powerful message, trust me).

Some lyrics were light-hearted, others, serious or powerful. But Ginny, getting to experience the rich explanations and stories behind these choices (after the optional sing-along portion of the program), allowed her a picture-window into the lives of these mentor-women at a time in their lives much like hers. I remember looking at Ginny’s face, noticing moments of comfort, recognition, and uncontainable glee as she watched these valued women chanting their teenage stories, no holds barred, through the vehicle of music.

And now, looking ahead to  my next post . . .  hmmmm . . . I wonder what songs were burbling in your teenage brain back in the day? . . . .  more to follow.

First rite of passage: music! music! music!

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Maril reading the lyrics to an important song from her teen years.

I first came up with the idea when I thought back to those days in junior high school, and asked myself, “what was I listening to back then?” And then the follow up question, “what do I wish I would have heard back then?”

After pondering those two questions and reliving the experiences related to the answers, I realized that collecting important music in people’s lives helps share the hopes and struggles of a moment in time. I wanted the exploring of music as personal time capsule to be a learning place for Ginny on others’ timelines. This desire eventually became a solid piece in the puzzle of creating a memorable rite of passage for my daughter.

Most of us, I believe, have connected with music at particular times in our lives, and some of  us, at almost every moment of our lives. Maybe it was the lyrics: “day after day it reappears, night after night, my heartbeat shows the fear, ghosts appear and fade away . . . (Overkill by Men At Work)” or it could have been the overall message: “love is like oxygen, you get too much, you get too high, not enough and you’re going to die . . . . (Love is Like Oxygen by Sweet).” Regardless, music often had an impact and became a touchstone for a certain transition in our lives, good or bad.

So I invited the women of this first rite of passage to dig into their memories, and pull out songs that had an impact on their lives during their 14th year, or thereabouts. When the songs of both tragedy and triumph were busted out at the event (yes, even “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music), there was much laughter, and a few tears, as well as some robust singing along as one of the women d.j.ed the compilation c.d (later given out to guests), as it played out parts of our earlier selves.

We still play that collection six years later, sometimes dancing without reserve and singing with complete abandon into our plastic soup ladles.

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Ginny, listening to the women with glee and wonder.

First rite of passage: honoring with food

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a feast of Indian cuisine

A daughter’s choices for what to lay out onto the groaning board may not be the same as her mother’s. Me, I enjoy a plethora of samplings from baklava to petit fours, and then a hearty helping of rich, red Italian food (or, should that be the other way around? No. Dessert really should be first.) My daughter, Ginny, would probably choose a plateful of sushi, some recently harvested loose leaf tea, and a whole host of Indian entrees from tikka massala to  aloo gobi. . . and that is exactly what we served on her first rite of passage that Saturday afternoon, with a few spanakopita on the side.

Preparing and serving food to another can be a way of honoring them as well. When we choose to nurture another’s body through good food, we also nurture their unique tastes when we let them share with us the things that bring their taste buds joy. It is like opening a window into their gastronomy, and sometimes it leads to opening doors into our own, as well as trips to markets and restaurants we didn’t even know existed in this world. (Yes, tikka massala is now one of my favorites; I crave that lovely, creamy, orangey-red sauce; I’d better stop, my mouth is salivating).

So to honor Ginny, age 14, at her first rite of passage, I snuck questions in and around our conversations, regarding her favorite foods. “I’m going to the store, honey. I’m not saying I’m going to get any of the things you say, but if you could pick anything out for dinner this week, what would you pick? I mean anything!?” (I’m sure there are other, even less obvious ways in and around the question.)

On the day of her rite of passage, the honoring of Ginny’s taste buds was in full swing; there was hot tea in antique cups, sushi in round sticky circles on a platter, crunchy triangles of Greek spanakopita, and a healthy offering of Indian food. And I have to say, every stomach was satisfied because every stomach seemed ready for the adventure.

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another cake from another celebration, but you get the idea! let it explode with enthusiasm!

First rite of passage: creating spaces

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paper and lace doily luminarias in “the room of celebration”

We were living in a beige neighborhood with stucco walls and neutral carpet (the accepted uniform for houses in the area). We weren’t raking in the bucks at our current jobs, so reserving an ultra rarified space with wooden floors and haloed light was not an option for this rite of passage. In fact, renting a space didn’t even rent any space in my mind at the time. As the granddaughter of Angelina Castellino Mammano, Sicilian immigrant and crafter of household wall art from broken bottles and dress-making scraps, I knew that making do was the right thing to do.

I had already formed a plan for theming each room for the event. I wanted a room of stories for sharing adolescent gems from the diaries of memory, a room of wisdom to gift Ginny with symbols of growth into womanhood, a room of blessing to pour words of hope and affirmation over my daughter’s body and soul, and a “room” of celebration to party till the twinkly lights shined no more!

Combining “making do” with these themed elements was my challenge. How could I make a room of stories a warm and safe place to mine the treasures of the historied heart? How would I make a room of wisdom that honors my daughter’s own sensibilities of beauty and taste? Could a room of blessing become a holy space without wooden floors, sacred echoes, and sanctified ceilings? What space could best hold a feast and a riotously celebratory dance party all at the same time?

Well, with a call out to a couple of women included in the special day for suggestions and ideas, as well as a gathering, yes, an actual gathering of materials in my living room of things I had on hand (quilts, fancy fabrics, folk art carvings, photographs, mis-matched tea cups!), I created simple, but beautiful spaces that held what I had hoped my home would house most on that important day: a homespun montage of warmth and meaning.

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My daughter relishes the “room of wisdom”