Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Influence of a Grandmother

In my first book Questing Marilyn: In Search of My Holy Grail, Personal Growth through Travel, I am in Avebury, England in 1986 on a tour of sacred and historical sites. The following excerpt is an awakening to the importance of my grandmother. Sally is the tour guide.
Sally draws our attention to another section of the field in which a large, moss-covered stone stands. She calls this the Grandmother Stone. Waving her arm, indicating the large circles of stones encased in the grassy henge, she suggests we see each stone as a significant person in our lives and imagine meeting with that person and thinking about what we might say to them if they were here.

"Are there relationships you want to heal?” she challenges.

At first I am startled by the idea. I turn slowly around, looking at huge rocks in the distance with critical inspection. The imagery that each of these stones could be an encased spirit of a person from my life shoots through my mind. I slowly turn, and as I focus on one stone after another, I imagine naming each in turn for my sisters, friends, and associates.

Who would I like to visit?

I delight in the concept of using this setting for a grand drama. I contemplate whom I might choose to conjure up so that I can work through my unresolved feelings. I consider my guidance counsellor who had told me I wasn’t university material, an aunt whom I had loved and admired so deeply before her death, and a neighbour who snubbed me as her inferior. Picking the size and shape of stone on which to project a person and play out a drama, tickles my funny bone. In the distance, there are fat stones, tall ones, and ones nearly falling over. I chuckle inwardly at the power I feel.

Doubts about the sanity of what I am doing flash through my brain. The moment passes. I peer about. I want to go to the Grandmother Stone. Quietly waiting for a fellow group member to leave reminds me of standing in line in church, waiting to go to confession, and of the old women circling the Stations of the Cross, each inside her own reality, not aware of the next person. How easily these memories come back into my consciousness. Even after all these years of being away from the church and the rituals learned there, the automatic responses are right at the edges of my mind. I am confusing the religious teaching with the spiritual experience.

This is not a church. What a powerful influence all that had on me! What power it still has on my behavior as an adult woman!

As I stand here in an English field, I regain my sense of being my adult Self and become fully conscious of the fact that I control which path I choose. I want to make this an experience that connects me to my own spirit, my inner energy. I see that now there is no one near the Grandmother Stone. I slowly walk across the long grass toward the towering stone stopping a few feet away. I walk around it. I can see that from one angle the folds and wrinkles of rock resemble the crinkled skin of my paternal Grandmother who died at the age of ninety-two.

Once again, I walk around the stone envisioning a hunched old woman, a silhouette, an imagined spirit of a crone, deep within the stone. I know this is projection, and my imagination at work.

I search for the intimate parts of my personal history. I want to provoke memories of events and experiences that will rekindle the feelings of connection and belonging that I have savoured in my past. I want that intimate spiritual harmony of knowing. I am the right person as me, in the right place for me, at exactly the right time for me to be ME.

This is a very personal quest. No one can do this work for me. I can play with my inner heartstrings. I am truly in the moment, making the most of whatever I can be now.

I circle the stone yet again, looking for a place to touch it. I choose my spot and stop to face it directly. I take a deep breath in, and then slowly exhale. I place my feet slightly apart and firmly on the ground about six inches from the stone’s surface. I steady myself, making sure my weight is evenly balanced on the soles of my feet. I clear my mind and focus on my gentle breathing. I slowly lift my hands and place my palms on the stone. I lean forward so my cheek rests upon the rough surface. I can smell a damp, musty scent. It is not unpleasant. I breathe steadily and concentrate on being present in my now. I block the voices of two of my travelling companions who are walking by, momentarily listen to a bird singing, and then close my eyes. I am lost to the outside world, in full view, but not aware of it.

A tear slides down my cheek as I connect with a long-forgotten memory of Grandma. I hear myself as a small child, calling her name. I feel the excitement of the times when I would jump from my parents’ car, almost before it stopped, and run to find her. Visits to her farm were always filled with so many adventures. At my grandmother’s knee, I learned the chores of living that so many women have done: milking cows, churning butter, and feeding hens. Women in all cultures tend to the needs of others until they need to be tended themselves. My mind’s eye reviews the scenes as though I were watching a movie. I let my memory slide forward in time, recalling the changes to her home. A phone was added, then inside plumbing, a propane furnace to supplement the wood stove, an electric range, and her first television, which she got in 1963 because she wanted to watch President Kennedy’s funeral.

I feel the emotional response of missing the years of family gatherings that had stopped with her death. She had been the glue that held that extended family together. Since both my parents predeceased her, her death brought an end to that regular family connection. I feel like a lost grandchild, alone without parents. I let my tears flow, knowing that they are running onto this stone. I can feel them between my skin and the rough surface. I am anointing this crone stone. It will change as a result of my presence if even only for a small amount of moisture to the moss.

The bonds with cousins, aunts, and uncles were all tied through Grandma. There have been weddings and funerals since, but no real parties or picnics. I am one of many, one piece of a larger group of biologically connected people who are, however, emotionally and physically pretty much unknown to each other. I suddenly comprehend this in a new way.

I move away from the huge stone, gently patting it in a loving way, saying a silent goodbye. I make a conscious slide of awareness from past to present. Grandma was once the child, then the mother. Someday, I hope to be a grandmother. Projecting into the future, I contemplate my roles as a woman. I am a daughter to my mother and a mother to my daughters. Each role is unique. Each role influences to flow of human life.

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