The meaning of life comes to us, in part, through synchronicities. Yet it is up to us to recognize how these coinciding threads weave themselves through each day. Four such synchronistic events occurred for me this week. Here's a go at weaving them together in a way that deepens the meaning of each event and creates a more all encompassing tapestry...
THREAD #1: YESTERDAY, on the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child (known as the International Girls Day here in the U.S.), our book club discussed Wayétu Moore’s ambitious and highly praised debut novel, She Would Be King
Moore (who was born in Liberia) uses magical realism to bring to life the early years of her homeland’s history. One of the main characters, the young girl Gbessa, is exiled from a small West African village, left for dead after being starved and bitten by a snake, and yet she survives. Wayétu Moore’s story, too, is one of survival. In 1989, when she was five years old, she and her family fled Monrovia. “My dad worked overtime to preserve our childhood,” she writes. “Gunshots in the distance became ‘dragons fighting’ and dead bodies on the streets were people ‘sleeping on the road.’”
Passionate about the importance of literacy for boys and girls, Wayétu Moore founded the nonprofit One Moore Book, and in 2015 her first bookstore opened in Monrovia, Liberia.
THREAD #2: EARLIER IN THE WEEK, I was at the Boulder Bookstore with editor Marcia Meier to help celebrate the release of Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty. Although I didn't contribute to the anthology, Marcia had asked me to join her and Renata Golden (a contributor) on a panel to talk openly about these topics. Did they seem frivolous compared to the topics in She Would Be King? Could these topics be considered mere issues of privilege? Perhaps.
Yet many of the stories touched deeply on what it is to be an aging woman in the 21st century. "Women over fifty are the invisible women in American culture," Ms. Meier reminded us. "In a society that reveres youth--and particularly young, sexy women--women over fifty fade into the shadows."
Some of the stories revealed the lasting impact that sexual objectification and predatorial behavior can have on a woman who has lived under its weight all her life, privileged or not. Yet other stories were playful, free of long-imposed cultural expectations. But always, there was an undercurrent that Ms. Golden captured in this line from her story "Frank's Daughters":
The survival skills my father taught me were designed to protect me as a woman in the world.
When it was my turn to read, I chose two excerpts from works-in-progress, fiction and memoir. Both excerpts explore how passion and love often serve as a bridge to carry us across the chasm of grief that separates us from the joy of life.
THREAD #3: THE NEXT DAY, I went with my husband John and our neighbor Gail to return an arrow that had been passed down by a relative to her husband 30 years earlier. The arrow was from the killing site of the Sand Creek Massacre, where in 1864 peaceful Southern Cheyenne and Arapahoe villages had been camped. More than 140 women and children were murdered by volunteer cavalry of Colorado’s 1st and 3rd regiments. The regiments, 675 armed men with four 12-pounder mountain howitzers, rode north toward the villages. What happened next will forever be one of the most revolting chapters in our country's history.
The massacre, according to eye witness Captain Silas S. Soule, who refused to take part, lasted six to eight hours. “Hundreds of women and children were coming towards us and getting on their knees for mercy… They were all horribly mutilated. One woman was cut open and a child taken out of her and scalped…. Squaw’s snatches were cut out for trophies.”
If you want to continue reading, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site's website urges you to do so with empathy and respect. These cultural wounds, more than 150 years later, still bleed. Most fathers were unable to protect their wives or daughters, their mothers or sisters.
Our friend Karen Wilde, Tribal Liaison for the Sand Creek historic site, met us that day at the annual meeting of the tribal representatives in Denver. We were greeted by Northern Cheyenne descendant Otto Braided Tail, whose great-grandfather survived the massacre. He asked Gail to remove the arrow from the glassed shadow box where her husband had placed it 30 years ago, but asked us not to bring the arrow inside the hotel.
In a private ceremony, Mr. Braided Tail smudged the arrow with sage. Then he prayed and smudged each of us. Gail was asked to speak about how the arrow came into her husband's possession. Afterwards everyone at the meeting shook her hand and thanked her for "bringing the arrow home." One by one, the tribal representatives went outside to view the arrow, and to blessed and smudged by Otto.
In this Rocky Mountain PBS video, Mildred Red Cherries (featured to the left), also from the Northern Cheyenne tribe, tells the story of how her great-grandmother survived the massacre. “My grandfather had just gotten with his wife and there was a horse herd. They were trying to cut off the horse herd. My grandfather whistled for his horse and the horse came and he threw a buffalo robe on the horse and she took off and she rode off with those horses…”
On the 150th memorial remembrance of the massacre, according a Los Angeles reporter, lines of Cheyenne and Arapaho streamed toward Captain Silas S. Soule's grave, paying silent tribute to the man who exposed the Sand Creek Massacre.
"He refused to fire," Otto Braided Hair told the reporter. "If his men did fire, many of us wouldn't be here today."
AND FINALLY, THREAD #4: Today, in celebration of International Girls Day, former First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Obama Foundation's launch of the Global Girls Alliance, which has a mission to empower and educate young girls. Their motto? The future of our world is only as bright as our girls.
"Think about our daughters with all their promise, with all that they have in them," Obama told Savannah Guthrie and Hota Kotb on the Today Show. "Even now, at this young age that there is something there burning in them that is dying to get out."
She is right, of course. These young girls have dreams to dream and stories to tell, and we must listen. Our culture once talked about the fire that burned in our young men. Now it is time to talk about the fires burning in our young women.
Which leads us to hashtag #ReadMoreWomen, and Michelle Obama's soon-to-be released memoir, Becoming. Many things have changed, she said during the Today Show interview, but many things have not. "The world is still a dangerous place."
Yet despite this danger, she remains positive that we are paving the way for a better world for our daughters. She continues to engage on the world stage because she believes in a better world. "We are planting seeds every day," she said.
I think the time is ripe and the soil potent. We've been fertilizing it with our blood for thousands of years.