Sunday, June 14, 2009

The School for Wild Girls

"I look forward to becoming old and wise and audacious." --Glenda Jackson

I grew up among strong and beautiful women. They weren't beautiful like the sylphs in magazines. They were all shapes and colours and sizes, some quiet like deep rivers and some bold as a marching brass band. There were women with silver wings in their hair, women ample or ascetic in form, and women who relied on wheels instead of feet.

When I longed for an older sister, I scanned the choices available in community theatre, school, and church. I picked one--okay, more than one--and my choices happily reciprocated. Even though my own mother was more than capable, I borrowed extra mothers too: a couple of Sunday School teachers, the leader of an after-school arts program, and even the woman who played my mother in our local production of "The Music Man." They would check up on me when we met in the grocery store. They would invite me over for tea or take me out for lunch. They gently schooled this awkward, unsure child in the social graces. They encouraged me to voice my dreams and listened--really listened--to my halting attempts at vocational articulation.

I've always felt keenly this debt. I aspired to be like them--not only in their varied and fascinating lives, but also in their mentoring abilities. Now, at long last, I have a base from which to operate and the wherewithal to share some life-lessons and resources of my own. Conveniently, this farm even offers potential "mentees" a chance for instant payback in the form of meals cooked, beds weeded, and other much-needed chores and projects done.

This week, the farm will be transformed. Instead of a quiet two-person operation, we will become a household of four. Two young women, thousands of miles apart, recently contacted us to request short stays on our farm. Whether by providence or happenstance, their schedules somehow meshed together. Now they are both in transit and will shortly converge on this farm for a week of outdoor work, skill-building, and personal discernment. As per their requests, there will be bagpiping and Gaelic lessons. There will be experiments in group cooking. There will be a trip to a botanical garden and a trip to the beach. There will be weeding and raised-bed building, feasting and merrymaking. And amidst all of this, there will be stories. Here, in this green place, we will tell our own tales.

There will assuredly be laughter. There may well be tears. But the best thing of all will be the honesty and courage of shared struggles. We will find strength as we discover points of connection. Like my young visitors, I, too, hope to be en-couraged and emboldened. I, too, hope to exercise my ability both to name--and be held accountable to--those things which form my deepest and best self. I may be somewhat older and--perhaps--somewhat wiser than my young visitors, but I hope we shall all be equally and joyously audacious!

(photo of Barbara Cooney, Maine author and illustrator, from


Songbird said...

What a wonderful opportunity for all concerned!

Mama Pea said...

That photo of Barbara Cooney is AMAZING. It speaks volumes.

Six years ago for my 60th birthday, my daughter gave me a book entitled "Wise Women, A Celebration of Their Insights, Courage, and Beauty" by Joyce Tenneson. It contains fantastic photographs of "older" women. If you ever get a chance to see it, I'm sure you'd appreciate it.

Look forward to posts re your soon-to-arrive visitors!

Jan said...

I love Barbara Cooney and her classic book about "Miss Rumphius" is one of my all-time favorite children's books. In fact, I've read it to groups of adults. Thank you for that beautiful picture of her.

Jennifer said...

What a spacious life you've led!
I give thanks for your example...

LutheranChik said...

What fun! Best wishes for what sounds like a wonderful week!

Auntie Knickers said...

Terrific -- I had a similar experience to yours with many mentors. And, in case you're up for a field trip, did you know some of Barbara Cooney's original illustrations are on view at the Bowdoin Art Museum right now, free admission?

Ariel said...

I think you might be alluding to me in part of this post--at least a little. I didn't realize you were keeping a blog until you referenced it in your facebook today. I've been reading it for two hours and it's now past one. It was lovely to see my wedding gift quilt hanging in your living room in the "couch piper" photo.

Some of your writing is getting darn good. We should catch up.