A woman asks before going to sleep one night, “How can I help the earth?” She feels a sadness in her life. The next morning as she awakens, she hears these words that come from her depths: A song for the earth of joy.
What does this mean? How can a woman live this song?
I am reminded of a story that was written in the eighth century about Caedmon.
Caedmon, who couldn’t read or write, got together with friends to share a meal. That evening as they sat around the fire, a harp was passed around for all to sing. When the harp was passed towards Caedmon, he made an excuse about having to take care of the animals, and left.
He felt that he lacked the skills to sing. Downcast, he fell asleep and had a dream. In his dream an angel appears and says, “Caedmon, sing me a song.” Caedmon tells the angel, “I cannot sing so I left the feasting.” But the angel says, “Nevertheless, you can sing to me.” What shall I sing?, asks Caedmon. The angel tells him, “Sing me the beginning of all things.”
That night in a dream he composed a song of praise with words he hadn’t known before. Out of his dream was born the first English poet known by name.
This story is centuries old, but to me it still carries an essential truth.
Long ago, this song was part of a woman’s everyday life. She swept the floor, prepared food, cared for a child, with this song. In these ordinary, daily rhythms, an energy from a different dimension could be sewn into life. It fed the life around her and it also nourished her. It was a matter of sewing. Each day, with each breath.
But then, fragmentation began to occur. And this song was silenced. It became hidden deep in the unconscious where it was kept safe. This wisdom about life was sealed off so effectively that we didn’t even remember that we once knew it.
I heard from a friend that in her morning meditation, she sometimes feels an immense gratitude for her garden, her work, and home. But when she begins the day, she finds that she can’t hold it. It dissipates as the day goes by and she feels instead an emptiness in her life.
Elders from many traditions speak of the vital need for women to reclaim this song. So how do we live this?
At a recent gathering of newly homeless women at a daytime shelter, Ginny, who is my co-facilitator and who is also a dance teacher, mentioned that women used to pray through dance. What she said gave me an idea. After the silent meditation, I invited the women to stand in a circle. And then, led by Ginny, we moved silently in the slow rhythm of a dance, just a few steps to the right, then one to the left, then a few more steps to the right. Someone began to hum a gentle refrain.
It was so simple. I watched as one woman was able to follow the movements, while another had difficulty remembering each step. But everyone was included.
I wasn’t expecting anything. In fact, I wasn’t in a particularly good mood that morning. But standing there with the women, I became aware of a sudden joy in my heart.
When we finished, a woman said her back was hurting and moved quickly back to her chair. As soon as she sat down she lifted her head, rather than looking down as she usually did. “I feel such beauty…this beauty inside me. Indescribable. I am like this. I needed to know this….”
There is a sacred place in women. Some call this place beauty. Unlike the old structures of guilt and shame that harm us, this is a different way that nourishes life and shows us the next step.
In my experience it includes the part that can hold this, and the parts in us that cannot. Like a golden ring, it is whole. A song inside creation.