Reading Mother Wove the Morning
Nine years ago, I sat in a graduate seminar dedicated to studying female writers of the English Renaissance. Our professor asked us to consider what it was like for women in England to lose the figure of Mother Mary as the state converted to Protestantism. Was Elizabeth I a comfort to them during this transition, as was her middle way in allowing people to privately hold to their beliefs? Yes, I thought so. But the question sat on the edge of my mind. This was BYU, and growing up in the Mormon Church, I had never thought about what it would be like to have a divine female to pray to, and much less to lose one. How could I imagine that losing Mary as a central figure would upset anyone?
Only years later, as I sat listening to a woman describe the mechanics of being a good mother in my faith tradition: of ironing men’s clothing, of window washing, of brushing children’s hair, did I come to realize what I had lost by not having a powerful female image to have as my role model. And only then did I begin the un-numbing, the burn of waking up to realize the sharp inner pain I had been deep-sleeping to avoid: As a woman in my church, I was a daughter in a motherless house.
My body seems to remember the anniversary of awakening to this pain, and when it comes close to the time of year when I began my feminist awakening, I am surprised that I can feel the keen sharpness of the feminine wound again. The first time this happened, I almost didn’t make it out of the dark canyon of depression to find the joy waiting me on the other side. This pain is huge. If you haven’t felt it but wonder what it’s like, I refer you to Sue Monk Kidd’s memoir on the subject. So as I begin to feel the fresh pain of my feminine wound, I realize that despite my previous awakening, all is not all right with the world and women’s place in it. I worry that if I allow myself to feel this wound again, it might swallow me up this time. I need comforting. I need mothering.
Last week I purchased Carol Lynn Pearson’s Mother Wove the Morning as part of a fundraiser for LDSwave.org and moved it to the top of my list. I read the play in one evening, and let it soothe my wounds. It has seemed to gently pick me up and lay me across my Mother’s lap. As each woman told her story of the Divine Feminine, I felt my Mother comforting me, stroking my hair, telling me She is here, and I am not alone.
This play didn’t let me off easy. The cast members don’t hide from the reality of the feminine wound. The introduction remembers the 100,000,000 missing girls and women who have been killed or left to die for no other reason than because they are female. And only then Pearson begins to weave her tale, inviting women throughout the ages to surface to describe their female experience, to talk about the glories of connecting with a God who looks like them, and to describe the wounds they have received at the hands of those who would remove the balance of the feminine from our understanding of God. One by one, these women paraded through my mind and my living room where I sat nursing my baby, telling me their stories about their connection to the Divine.
I stayed up late to finish it, even though I had to get up early for work the next morning. I placed my baby in my lap, and let him grab at the pages while I read the words of Rachel, Leah’s sister, and I laughed at her ability to turn her “curse” into a life-saving (and goddess-saving) tactic. During my son’s cluster feedings, Emma Smith told me of her journey and displayed such faithfulness and regret at the same time that she reminded me of myself. How Emma ached to ask her Heavenly Mother what it was like to experience pain in eternal marriage. And as I finished the play and felt a warm sense of comfort and companionship, I heard my sleeping baby laugh. I looked down at him as he stretched across my lap. He was laughing in his dreams. Maybe he was dreaming about his joy in his Mother who he so recently left, and maybe he laughed with joy as he realized I was entering a new dawn and remembering Her too.