Category Archives: story

A story of Pregnancy & Death

I’m 24 weeks pregnant and it’s a girl! And she is living in the most fabulous Red Tent that I have ever created. The story of my pregnancy began back in October 2015, when I was at wrapping up a 3-year long Red Tent movie tour having hosted more than 1000+ screenings & Red Tents. My grand finale was at the Parliament of World Religions, where I was co-facilitating a 6-day long Red Tent with ALisa Starkweather and Giuliana Serena for over 8,000 people. At this conference, I met this most extraordinary grandmother elder who I greeted with such love. She said to me, “You are my mother.” A spiritual seed was planted.

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After this conference, my time traveling ended and it was time to settle down with my fabulous husband and start the next “stage” of our life. I had intended to get a temporary, “normal” job in Chicago for about a year and start a family. And once the baby was born, I would be a stay-at-home mom for a year or so. But things didn’t really work out as I planned. As my level of frustration increased, one day in early February everything changed. Within a 24-hr period, I found out that I was officially pregnant and that my friend Lydia Ruyle was dying of a brain tumor.

Image of the Tarot Card I got everyday for a few weeks. Image courtesy of Katherine Skaggs.

Image of the Tarot Card I got everyday for a few weeks. Image courtesy of Katherine Skaggs.

My first sign of pregnancy was not that I had missed a period; it was that my morning tarot card was the water child (see photo) everyday for like 2-3 weeks. When I found out that I was pregnant and that my friend was dying, I said to my husband, I want to go to Colorado for the next few months and film the end of my friend’s life. Lydia was a matriarch of a global sisterhood and I have always wanted to make a movie about her, but the timing was never right over the past 10 years. Lydia is the reason why I make the kinds of movies I make. She has always supported me and said that the world needs the kinds of movies I wanted to make. She has been a huge guiding force in my professional life and for that I will always be grateful. With my husband’s blessing, I left for Colorado to film Lydia. I was greeted with tremendous support of Lydia’s incredible husband, her daughters and son, and her niece. Filming Lydia was a deeply profound experience for me, and of course she was extremely excited to find out that I was pregnant. I captured a truly amazing story about her life and her death, and I look forward to the time when I turn it into a movie for you all to see. Lydia lived her life with such gusto and she always wanted to encourage others to let their light shine too!

Dr. Isadora, Lydia Ruyle, and ALisa Starkweather in the Red Tent at the Parliament of World Religions

Dr. Isadora, Lydia Ruyle, and ALisa Starkweather in the Red Tent at the Parliament of World Religions

As my time with her came to an end in March, my morning sickness and debilitating nausea were taking hold of my life. And for the past several months, I retreated to my house, which is why not many people have heard from me on social media, phone or email. To this day, I still have nausea. It’s been a difficult pregnancy. But she’s healthy and kicking up a storm in utero. My due date is October 23rd. So she may be a Libra or a Scorpio, we shall see. She will be the 4th generation of matriarchal zodiac cusp women, since my birthday is May 22nd, my mother’s is August 22nd, and my grandmother’s was April 21st. We have yet to pick a name, but I know that it’s going to be something AMAZING!

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Filed under birth, daughter, death, friendship, From the filmmaker, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, mother, motherhood, parenting, red tent, red tent film, red tent movie, story

Feminist Utopia…

Remember yourself as a little girl. Now imagine what that little girl would do if she were invited into a Red Tent. Would she play, sing, laugh, learn, relax? We can create this for our daughters and the daughters of our sisters…

Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV.

After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know…

How would you life be different if you had a Red Tent as a girl?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

If you liked this video, subscribe to our channel & sign up for our free weekly episodes of Red Tent TV at http://www.redtent.tv/

Missed my most recent episodes? Watch them here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw

Enjoy the video and have a fantastic day! Thanks for watching!

My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZGBmANkmSBD1337JiQWbw
Website: http://www.redtent.tv
Friendship on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redtentfilm

Opening song “Red Tent Temple” by Mother Turtle. http://www.motherturtle.com/

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", coming of age, daughter, Feminism, red tent, red tent film, red tent movie, Red Tent TV, story, The Red Tent, women's spirituality, women's stories

September and October Movie Screenings Showcase Healing, Celebration, and Inspiration

By Jayleigh Lewis

Screenings of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, continued throughout September and October 2013, showcasing the variety of ways women have created space for the spirit and vision of the movie to grow and weave itself into their lives. Isadora, the filmmaker, attended many of these screenings, where she witnessed and participated in profound moments as well as moments of celebration and inspiration.

The Red Tent movie is rich in personal stories, both those that were featured on-screen and those that arose from the making of the film. In the course of recent screenings, some of those stories were shared and expanded upon. On September 14th, Lushanya, who appears in the film, hosted a screening at the Community Church of Hope in Phoenix, Arizona. During a post-screening Red Tent talking circle, the women sat in age order (ranging from 18 to 80) while Lushanya shared a follow-up to her story from the film.

Red Tent & Screening in Phoenix, AZ

Red Tent & Screening in Phoenix, AZ

Speaking about being raped at age 7 was difficult for her, but she chose to make her story public for the movie. After she was interviewed by Isadora, she realized she still had healing work to do. She decided to return to her hometown in northern California, to the house where the rape had occurred. She carried pink roses and a letter she had written about her experience. When she got to the house, she saw that there were children living there. She left the roses and her letter on the doorstep, with the intention of healing any negative energy that remained. The next day, she came back and saw the roses on display in a window. Lushanya’s healing intention had been accepted; participating in the Red Tent movie had set into motion her courageous act.

A personal story came full circle for Isadora at the September 27th screening in Madison, Wisconsin. In March 2009, she was walking an indoor labyrinth with a friend inside the First United Methodist Church in Madison. A confessional stood next to the labyrinth, and Isadora entered. There, she confessed to the universe that she needed an idea for her next film, was feeling the pressure from her Ph.D. committee, and had no clue what to do. She completely surrendered to the universe in that moment, trusting that the idea would come. The next morning, she got an email from ALisa Starkweather, asking if she’d like to do a PR video for the Red Tent. Then and there, the first seeds of what would become the Red Tent movie were planted. Isadora told this story at September’s screening in that same church, acknowledging the grace that allowed her to return with the finished film to the very place where it all started.

Red Tent & Screening at the United Methodist Church, Madison, WI

Red Tent & Screening at the United Methodist Church, Madison, WI

Complementing these momentous journeys and transformations were times of great fun and celebration. On a very hot September 13th in Riverside, California, a far western suburb of Los Angeles, in the desert, a Red Tent movie screening was held in a small belly dance studio called the Body Temple. Kathie, a midwife and doula who hosts Red Tents, invited women from two separate Red Tent communities to come together; the screening was packed. Underneath a giant red parachute which served as the Red Tent’s roof for the evening, women drummed passionately post-screening, and participated in tribal dancing led by the studio’s owner.

Red Tent & Screening in Riverside, CA

Red Tent & Screening in Riverside, CA

On September 15th, the Red Tent movie celebrated its first birthday at a screening in New River, Arizona. A small party was held inside the venue, the Peaceful Spirit Enrichment Center, complete with balloons and women posing for photos!

Lunapads, a producer of woman-friendly reusable menstrual pads and an early endorser of the movie, hosted the second-ever screening to take place in Canada in its Vancouver headquarters on September 22nd. Owners Madeleine and Suzanne teamed up with author, shamanic practitioner, and “menstrual priestess” Nikiah Seeds to put the event together. Nikiah led the Red Tent gathering after the movie, inside a womb-like space with a unique feature: thousands of cloth maxi pads decorating the walls! Also in attendance was Jasmin Starrchild, founder of the Red Moon Medicine Movement, longtime host of Red Tents in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and one of the women who appears in the Red Tent movie.

Red Tent & Screening at Lunapads, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Red Tent & Screening at Lunapads, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

As it is screened in more and more locations, the film’s visibility and reach grows. On October 16th it was shown at the New York City Independent Film Festival, and on October 24th and 25th it premiered in Israel. Zohar, who runs a Red Tent in Tel Aviv, hosted the dual screenings, which sold out with 120 women present each night. For the occasion, the film was shown with Hebrew subtitles; it was the first screening to feature them.

The breadth and depth of the ways women come together continues to be reflected in the diversity of Red Tent movie screenings around the world; may the creative, transformative power of the film continue!

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", From the filmmaker, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, Jayleigh Lewis, recent screenings, red tent film, red tent movie, story

The Myth of the Siren

by Robin Corak

I have always been fascinated by sirens. Yet, traditional myths of the sirens as beautiful but sinister creatures luring sailors to their death never made sense to me. These myths, like other traditional myths, portrayed the men as strong, noble, seafaring individuals going off to fight yet another war whereas women who had any measure of power were portrayed as ugly, shrew-like, simple, and/or cruel. These women were to be both feared and dominated. The message of these myths seemed to be to be saying that as a woman, we should be beautiful and society -and men in particular- would be enthralled by our beauty. By the same token, beautiful women were not to be trusted. It always seemed to me to set up a losing proposition-our primary source of power (at least according to the myth) was also to be our downfall and prevent us from finding lasting love and trust in a relationship.

But as with any story, there is more than one perspective and many ways to read between the lines.

What if we were to view these myths through a lens that considers that  masculine energy is active and feminine energy more reflective? Then, perhaps, the role of the sirens was to lure the men away from their determination to act  (in this case in a realm of fighting and destruction) and to instead entice them to stop and reflect for a bit, to appreciate the beauty around them and to consider another way of being. Given that the ocean has always been associated with our subconscious and the realm of feelings, perhaps the powerful draw of the sirens was a longing by these men to experience greater introspection and  dive deeper into exploring their own emotions- something not always accepted or encouraged by society.

By reclaiming the stories and myths that either cast women in a negative light or limit our identities, we can begin to more fully embrace and understand our power as well as the unique gift we can bring to the world. This is true not just with traditional stories but with the stories that others in our lives – well meaning or not- have told us and even with the stories we have told ourselves. I have often found that in the midst of my greatest fears and/or the most limiting beliefs about my self, I find a hidden power, talent, or strength I didnt know I had.

When I was growing up, I was often told and felt that I was not athletic or good at sports in any way. Part of this was due to a medical condition I had that made me appear tiny and somehwat fragile.  For that reason, I shied away from anything that required physical power, endurance, or speed. I was viewed – and I viewed myself- as being the “nice” one. Soft spoken and quiet, you could often find me holed up in my room with my head in a book.

Fast forward several years to a time when my very active son wanted to take a Tae Kwon Do class and wanted me to take it with him. I was terrified because I still believed the myth that I was not and would not be good at anything requiring athletic skill. But I certainly couldn’t explain all of this to my 7 year old son in a way that he could understand and I wanted to be there for him and support him. So in a testament to the power of love, I took the class with him. Not surprisingly to me, I found that I did not in my current state possess the power or endurance to do some of the more challenging warm up activities nor did I have the desire to engage in sparring with another partner. What did surprise me was that the forms we were required to memorize (which are actually sparring moves in a sequence) were alot like dancing. I have always loved to dance and thus I found myself enjoying and excelling in this area. What I lacked in power, I made up for in control and fluidity. I began to realize that what I had often thought of as athletic skill was much broader than I had ever realized and that there was a place for gracefulness in this new definition. Of course, my joy was suspended somewhat when I set out to prepare for my first belt test which required breaking boards with my fist and my feet.

Again, those nagging little voices in my head reminded me of the myth regarding my lack of athletic prowess which I had too willingly accepted in my youth and which had grown in power upon facing this most recent challenge. Fortunately for me, I am tenacious (and I will admit it, a wee bit proud) and there is a rebelling voice inside me that was not going to let this challenge defeat me. (The fact that the 5 year old testing right before me made it look easy certainly didnt hurt my resolve!) I approached the board, took a deep breath, punched with all of my might… and failed. But that is not the end of this story. Because I tried again -2 more times- and succeeded. Not only did I succeed in breaking the boards and passing the test, I succeeded in rewriting a story that had limited my view of who I was.

While I no longer participate in Tae Kwon Do, I have kept those broken boards as a reminder of the power we give to stories and myths as well as the power and the responsibility we have to rewrite and reclaim them. In the case of the myth of the siren, I have not only started interpreting the story in different ways I have also sought to find the ways in which I am offering or can offer my own unique gift as a siren in my own world. Whether in my role as mother, sister, lover, friend, writer,  or leader of the non-profit which I oversee, I have the power to emit a compelling, calming, safe and loving energy which allows people to pause, explore, and re-center. In creative and sometimes humorous ways, I “lure” people into looking at things from a variety of angles and exploring alternative visions, paths, or options. I try to inject a sense of joy and playfulness, particularly during those times where people are experiencing great challenges, need a break, or have lost the ability to connect with their inner child and let him or her out to play. In my own subtle way, I try to compel others to explore, appreciate, and emrace the undeniable beauty that exists within. These are the uniquely individual ways that I attempt to offer the gift of the siren. Your role as a siren may be completely different which is a wonderful thing, as we each have a uniquely powerful way of sharing our gifts with the world.

I challenge you to find the siren within. More than that, I challenge you to reclaim, reinterpret, and rewrite not only those traditional myths about women which you may have been drawn to but also those stories that have been told about you – whether by others or by yourself- which may no longer serve you. I assure you that you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

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Filed under Guest Blogger, myth of siren, story, women's stories

How Women hold Space for one another : Acknowledgment as an act of the Sacred

by Hollie B.

lunation.com.au

I give thanks to my dear Sister who agreed to my sharing of this story. I have chosen not to use her name. Because that’s not what’s important in this Story. So for now, she is called ‘this Woman’.

This is a Story about why I believe all Women benefit from sharing Story in a Red Tent. I don’t so much believe that every Woman needs to speak to share their Story in the Red Tent. But each Woman may find healing through Being present with shared Stories.

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I know this Woman who is employed in a place where She sees the absolute worst in human behaviour. Anything awful You can imagine, this Woman has probably seen it, heard of it, or been exposed to a story of it in some way. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not trying to bring You into a yuk Space, I just want to paint a very clear picture of how different this Woman’s everyday life is compared to many of us.

She has an awesome partner. In this case, her partner is a man, but it is not his gender that is important. What I take from this story is that her husband is there for her in the sense that anything awful that she needs to download from work, she can share with him and she knows he can take it. He works there too.

Home life is good for this Woman. Her children have grown and they are doing their own thing. She celebrates their maturity, knowing that their Journey is their own. Anything that causes stress from work, gets talked about before coming home, and left on the road. In other words, she doesn’t bring it home with her. She has a relationship with her husband, that although has had pain and grief in the past, is healed and in an Awesome Space now. She’s done Circles for healing her menarche and healing her mother-issues and letting go of the past and… In other words, right now, even though there are things that bother her in her worklife, and she knows there will still be Life Work to do, yet she feels fairly sorted.

Is that to suggest that this Woman doesn’t need an Experience such as a Red Tent? Like, she’s fairly sorted so she doesn’t need to sit around with other Women to talk about ‘issues’. She’s got her husband afterall. If he’s so Awesome, why would she need to go along to a Red Tent? She’s already got understanding and a soundboard for whenever she does have an issue. She feels supported at home…

Well, recent experiences have taught me that actually yes, she does still need the Red Tent Experience. This is not something I’ve come to on my own by the way. This isn’t something I’m coming at from my place of advice and an ‘I know what You need attitude’. Actually, it comes straight from this Woman’s mouth.

But the reason might not be what you’re thinking.

This Woman, wants to Be witness to other Women’s stories. She understands that everyone needs a place to share – to vent – to speak – to let go – and everyone needs to feel heard in that.

This Woman does not believe that She has ‘no issues’. But she does feel that the ‘everyday’ things she is haunted with are not for the ears of anyone outside of her industry. It’s not about being selfish. It’s not about coming and hearing everyone else’s ‘stuff’ and not adding anything to the energy. Actually, it’s about finding the Right place (for her) to share her stories, and entering the Sacred Space so that it is held Sacred. For this Woman, she feels depth in being the Witness. She isn’t there to give advice, or story-compete (Oh Yes I’ve seen lots of that), nor is she in the Red Tent to suppress some sort of need to feel special by being different.

Put simply, this Woman finds depth in the Work of witnessing other Women’s stories. In the act of acknowledgement – as witness to other Women and where they are in the moment – she becomes a Sacred Keeper of Tradition and Compassion. When she has something to say, she does. But for the most part, She helps hold the Space. She sits listening, without judgement – accepting of the Story as it is. She nurtures Women who do need to share. And She is content to Be.

Recently a number of events played out in front of me that really anchored this understanding for me. I saw many aspects of this Story. I heard the words ‘I’m fine’ while watching the body language that said ‘don’t fucken push me cos I will break – and I don’t want to break right now!’ I felt the acceptance of this Space while watching other Women go on the finger pointing mission of trying to ‘help’ and offer advice. I saw the break down of safe and Sacred energy with that pushing. I felt the pain of this Woman in not feeling accepted for where she needed to Be with other Women. I felt the distrust from Women who held expectations about sharing. The next day I felt Truth and Realness pour from the heart of this Woman as we shared together how that happened and where she would have liked it to Be. And it was in that conversation that I got clear around one very important aspect of the Red Tent.

I understood already that Women need to speak. I understood already that for a long time Women have not been heard. I have also noticed often that there are times when Women just talk for the sake of it. I have noticed that even when You suggest as a facilitator that everyone can keep their opinions and advice to themselves, and just let a Woman Be in her Space, they just can’t help themselves giving advice and opinions and cutting People off. I have noticed that some Women have a need to agree and say ‘You’ll be right’ and ‘You’re strong’ and ‘You can do it’ in response to another Woman’s Story. And I’ve noticed that this is not only un-helpful, it’s fucking disrespectful.

Red Tent

My Red Tent and Women’s Spaces aren’t for feel good pep-talks. I facilitate Spaces for Women to Be. And to feel supported in that Being. In these Spaces it doesn’t matter who we are at home. What we do at work. What we have to do tomorrow. We just get to Be exactly as we are – in whatever Space – in that moment – without apologies. And we get to do it in a supported Space.

And what I became clear around, thanks to this Woman, is that I really want for the Red Tent Experiences that I facilitate for Women to feel the Power of sharing Stories, simply through Being Witness.

And then that got me thinking (it’s fairly on-the-go in my mind – when thinking is on, it’s really on until clarity is found). Although the Red Tent Experience happens in its own way, and Women share whatever they need in relation to that day, that moment; there’s still some things that some of us need to heal – and we don’t necessarily have a safe Space to do this in. Some of those ‘issues’ are older than ‘this moment and this day’, and we’re not necessarily sure how to bring them up. A ‘general’ Red Tent for sharing, although beauty-full and healing, may not always get to the deepest seat of what we need to heal.

It’s a bit daunting to bring up our miscarriages and our terminations and our divorce and how to raise our sons and daughters and our mental illness and our mother issues and our body image perceptions and… in a space full of Women who we have never met, or whom we only see every now and then. It’s particularly daunting to suddenly bring out the deep Stories of grief and loss that have been pushed down for a long time, or never given a Space. For example, it’s not easy to start talking about the abortion You never dealt with emotionally ten years ago, when the Woman next to You is talking about how she loves being a parent.

I always find it so deeply moving to hear stories from Women about things I’ve never experienced. Whether the Story is about joy or loss, it is the difference that I find mySelf inspired by. I feel honoured when a Woman shares something new to me. That is the journey of the Witness. It is quite beauty-full.

The essence of the Red Tent is the commonality of Being Woman. Always in the Story, even when we have not had the same experiences, it is the sharing that moves us. In one Woman’s Story of pain or hope or joy or loss, we find something of ourSelf. And we grow. That is True healing. That is how we fill our cup. Whether You are the Story-teller or the Witness. There is something for every Woman in the Red Tent.

And so, this leads us to the renewed, improved and fully awesome Red Tent Experience of 2013. We are diving deep. We are creating Space for Stories with intention. We are allowing room for Women to share and to respond authentically. We are opening a doorway for Women to Witness and find Truth around the Way we speak and respond. And we are Working with the Red Tent, to simply Be.

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", friendship, growing up, healing, Hollie B., international, memory, mother, place, red tent, red tent experience, ritual, sacred space, space, story

Mirror, Mirror…Do You See Me?

By Sharon Nesbit-Davis

My mother didn’t change the furniture in her house. Once placed it stayed until they moved out over forty years later. So when I visited with my children my bedroom was exactly as it was and I lifted them to look into my old mirror. They giggled at the distortion. I remembered that was the best part about it.

The wavy mirror had been my grandmother’s. It watched me grow-up. We spent hours together. A few times I stared until I had an out of body experience, but mostly I imagined. I imagined putting on makeup for a date. Getting dressed for my wedding and taking one last look at the little girl about to become a woman. I perfected acceptance speeches. I am prepared to win an Oscar for best actress and best director of the best picture, the Nobel Peace Prize for eliminating war, and reluctantly a Presidential nomination. “I am both stunned and honored you want me to be your next President.” I also mastered the Miss America wave.

None of those imagined things came true. By the time I was old enough to date I boycotted makeup. That had to do with animal testing and not knowing how to put it on without looking like my mother. By the time I married, I’m pretty sure I was already a woman. We had a hippy-style wedding in a park and I took a quick look in our VW Bug’s rear-view mirror. Very quick because we were over an hour late.  My dream of being in the movies took another route. Mimes rarely get respect and never win Oscars. Eliminating war was more complicated than I thought. Silly me. I didn’t realize it was such a big money maker. And no one should ever draft me to be President. For a few years I was Board President of a progressive private school. At my first meeting I asked everyone to get up and dance to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”.  I discovered it’s hard to make people follow the leader. As for the princess wave it was never needed, but has been used. I’m not going to describe the circumstances.

If I had the skills I’d paint a picture and title it “Reflections on a Mirror”.  There would be the little girl me, looking at the grown me, holding my baby. The little girl me would smile with recognition as if she had a premonition this was going to be her life. She didn’t. She would have thought it boring to be married with children. She didn’t know what a mime was. She didn’t know that love for seasonal changes and a man would make her forget Hollywood dreams.

I don’t look in mirrors much now. The wavy one is packed in a box among possessions of my mother kept with no need or place for them. Mirrors are used functionally to remove spinach from teeth and snot from my nose and coat eyelashes with mascara. I buy the kind that states no animals suffered and hope it’s true.

If I take a moment and look, I don’t see me. This reflection doesn’t show what I’ve seen and done and think. It doesn’t show what I find hilarious and sad or that I can feel that way about the same thing simultaneously. It doesn’t show the grief of children lost and parents buried and cancer ridden friends or the splendid births of grandchildren or bits of memorized poems awakened by the site of an old woman’s smile or a little girl’s grave.

I wonder if others know what they see isn’t me. If they don’t I won’t be insulted. I probably don’t see them either.

Words © by Sharon Nesbit-Davis

Version of this was published on “Open Salon”

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Filed under "things we don't talk about", grandmother, growing up, mother, Sharon Nesbit-Davis, story

From Gender Resister to Red Tent Sister

By Christina Mellen

I came to the Red Tent through a circuitous route. If anyone could have told me twenty years ago in my college days that I would passionately participate in a group that celebrates the womb, that perilous territory hotly contested by both religion and politics, well, I would never have believed them.  I was too busy spiking my hair and enrolling in Women’s Studies classes, absorbing the falsely empowering doctrine that gender is simply a construct of society that we as a rational society would, in some unrealized future, evolve beyond.
Fast forward twenty years, and I am engaged in a conversation with a female friend a few years younger, but with the same preconceived notion. When I invited her to visit the Red Tent that had just begun meeting in her community, she responded “I don’t participate in gender-based groups.” She then shared a story about teaching children to knit in her art class. She said she won’t offer the class until just as many boys sign up as girls, and surprisingly the boys seem just as interested. She says she doesn’t see gender, and I feel torn.

The part of me still stubbornly clinging to the ideals of feminism-though I’m often told they are as outdated as my k.d. lang-styled bolo tie- wants to agree with her. However, soon after college, many of my feminist friends went on to get married and have children, heeding the calling of that anatomy that our philosophical musings about the nature of woman left out in the cold. I did not feel a great emotional or psychological need to procreate so I got along fine disowning this part of my embodied self, thanks to the modern miracle of the birth control pill.

Since then I have been married and divorced. I have explored women’s spirituality groups led by wise women in herb shops who seemed full of New Age joy but soon proved to be post-menopausal man-bashers. I found my own “Ya Ya sisterhood” of women writers and poets who worshiped the Goddess on seasonal holidays.  I’ve hollered, hooted and cried communally at “The Vagina Monologues.” But it wasn’t until a fellow Goddess worshiper at my Unitarian church begged me for several consecutive months to come to Red Tent that I started having something to look forward to once a month instead something to cyclically gripe about. Over the last two years of sharing space and stories, solace and soup, in community with women in various stages in their fertility cycle, my own silenced womb has begun to speak in its own voice and I have begun to listen.

At forty-one I am finally contemplating the place that nurturing has in my life now and may have in the future. An early identifier with the option not to have children, I am in a place of openness, honesty and consideration about this life choice. When I read the novel by Anita Diamante that holds the same title as this growing national movement, I was drawn to the womens’ sisterhood and strength and the way they maintained their sacred secret world, honoring the Goddess under the noses of the patriarchy. I longed for that closeness, that solidarity. I loved the sensuality of birth- among these experienced women, I imagined I would be less fearfully fear facing my own travail.

The reality of this growing force of mutual empowerment–connecting through our common experience and witnessing each other’s differences without judgment–surpassed the serene escape of fiction. At the Red Tent each month, we share and create our own story. We check our titles and egos, fears and fierceness, at the door, and enter into vulnerability and introspection together. Among the crimson tapestries and candlelight so lovingly and artfully arranged by familiar hands in acts of service and joy, we can finally lay down our arms, breathing a little more deeply. In that vulva cathedral, the weight and expectations of the world are far away.

And when we emerge each month self-renewed, our cups filled, we find we have more to give back to our jobs, family and loved ones. We find we are changing the world by finally asking the questions that academic and political feminism shied away from—defining ourselves as women not by our past or by the roles we refuse, but by who we are now and who we are becoming—a more compassionate and empowered society than our embattled grandmothers could ever have imagined.

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Filed under Feminism, red tent, red tent experience, story, transition