Keeper of Stories
“I come to stories as a cantadora, keeper of the old stories. I come from a long line of tellers: mesemondok, old Hungarian women who might as easily tell while sitting on wooden chairs with their plastic pocketbooks on their laps, their knees apart, their skirts touching the ground, or while wringing the neck of a chicken…and cuentistas, old Latina women who stand, robust of breast, hips wide, and cry out the story ranchera style. Both clans storytell in the place voice of women who have lived blood and babies, bread and bones. For us, story is a medicine which strengthens and arights the individual and community…
I once dreamt I was telling stories and felt someone patting my foot in encouragement. I looked down and saw I was standing on the shoulders of an old woman who was steadying my ankles and smiling up at me.
I said to her, “No, no, come stand on my shoulders for you are old and I am young.”
“No, no,” she insisted, “this is the way it was supposed to be.”
I saw that she stood on the shoulders of a woman far older than she, who stood on the shoulders of a woman even older…I believe the old dream-woman. In my experience, the telling moment of the story draws its power from a towering column of humanity joined one to another across time and space. If there is a single source of story and the numen of story, this long chain of humans is it.
This is a book of women’s stories, held out as markers along the path. They are for you to read and contemplate in order to assist you toward your own natural-won freedom, your caring for self, animals, earth, children, sisters, lovers, and men. I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious.”
This week was heavy. We lost a woman of faith, and found ourselves in the midst of grief and communal tensions.
The readings this week offer care and hope in the Divine - the disciple, Tabitha and/or Dorcas, who died and was raised to life - the fact that she is named as a female disciple, and that she is raised to life; then we have Psalms 23 offering comfort in the darkness of life and loss. The Revelations passage again comforts by saying, “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat”; and the last section from John 10, where Jesus says those who know the Divine - the sheep as metaphors referenced in Psalm 23 - will know the voice of truth.
But I wanted to offer another text as our starting point, which also points to the hope in the holy stories of our religious traditions, and to the holy stories of our lives, particularly . Even as loss overwhelms us. This is where the passage above comes in, and—I believe—offers us hope and a restored sense of the foundation of our holy stories.
We are a tired people. We are searching. We are a people searching for the fullness of life as it encompasses everyone else, leaves no one behind, isolated, or without ability to join should they choose.
We are looking for rebirth and freedom. We are looking for a innate Wildness that connects us back to the Divine. We are hungry for the sustenance which satisfies the longing of the soul. We are bearers of the longing, and bearers of the fulfillment. We are not “Creator” ourselves, but we are a majestic reflection of dimensions and colors and expressions of the Divine, unseen until now.
We are the bridge and tower. The stronghold and the river. We are the open arms and thundering storms. We are starved for the tender care of Divinity, the Wildness of Her freedom, the story of her Forests, the rest of Her embrace.
This week’s lectionary readings offered a hope toward fullness of care and resurrection.
But today, I am tired. Today, I am weary. Today, I am hopeful that the fervent and excited disciple in me will be raised; is still alive; is a woman and warrior of Humility, Hope, and Justice; is a person ready to be raised to new life—freed and whole and willing—and ready to carry the dream of Justice with the company of the saints. Today, I am hopeful that the story in me endures, even as tragedy overwhelms. I am hopeful that the women and people who come before me, are whispering the way, and encouraging this holy circle of learning and awakening. I am tired, and I am hopeful—and this is okay.
I will end by reading Psalm 23, which is from the lectionary readings this week. I offer an alternate translation, with expansive word definitions from the Hebrew I found, and with the Divine as a Feminine entity, since the Masculine is readily offered in other translations.
An alternate reading of Psalm 23:
23:1 The self-Existent, The Eternal is my guide, I shall not want.
23:2 She makes me lie down in green pastures; She leads me beside still waters;
23:3 She restores my soul. She leads me in Life’s paths for the purpose of Her presence.
23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; your company and your support -- they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a meal before me in the presence of those who distress me; you anoint my head with oil - fruitful and richness - ; my cup overflows. I am satisfied, filled, whole.
23:6 Surely beauty and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Eternal forever.
Go in peace,