We Need Better Words

We Need Better Words

by Dunya Dianne McPherson

I walk through the cemetery on my way to the beach. I know nothing about most names carved here. Living relatives remember self-serving snippets. “My predecessor, the famous one, the infamous one, the villain, the saint.” Descendants soon forget their ancestors’ mercurial joys, the struggles and foibles, how they smelled or moved. Were they clumsy? Were they mean? Were they kind to small wild things? Their mundane lives are gone, and everything held dear, irrelevant. To me, as to most who walk in the garden of stones, they are strangers.

But my family is here as well. The graves tell a story of my grandmother’s comfort. Her husband lies beside her. Down the hill her two daughters and one son-in-law are buried. In the adjacent plot, her mother’s ashes are marked with a stone while the those of her father and baby brother, who died at two years old, are unmarked. Perhaps because her parents divorced she felt shame. Perhaps the baby brother’s death drove a wedge between the parents. There were dark murmurings about his infidelity, his alcoholism. (See? The villain.) I will never know. The ground has swallowed it all. In in the end, despite pain or misgivings, my grandmother wanted her family around her.

Garden of Stones

I Make Decisions in My Sleep

My dream last night was oddly cogent, not that its narrative was defined, only that it was apparent that I make decisions in my sleep. I tussled with the recognition that I’ve lived long enough to see things come, flourish, and go. All lives are eventually buried. In my sleep I made decisions about this…I’m not quite sure what they are but something in my being has turned over and sighed in relief.

In youth, whims and passions solidify into the mythology of self which feels real and durable. It feels true. Later, we understand that we are temporary. What was true is no longer true, or perhaps was never true. Even the substance of world wars with throngs of participants become threadbare, the horror and ideals no longer relevant. Who is passionate about such things now? The massive iron machine slows, stops, rusts. Vines claim it. Occasionally comes a Jane Austen. Austen lives on in her books, books which are so wonderful everyone is curious about her. I don’t really care if she had tea with the vicar. I hope that she enough friendship and that she made enough money to be free of disrespect…She is certainly the exception to the rule that most of us are entirely forgotten two days or two generations after we breathe our last breath, and our influence and relevance die before we do. However, before we get to forgotten-hood we enter a secret realm.

A cloud darkens the sky. We women stop bleeding and move beyond maps and charts. (Some of us go by land and some by sea.) The natural world shimmers more brilliantly. Time uncramps. How do we talk about this new existence containing less worldly ambition and more wonderment? Over and over, I look at people, smile, and, opening my mouth to speak, nothing comes out. I don’t know where I am and so what can I say about it? I say, “I love the baby bunnies!” Who doesn’t, so I am safe for a few moments. I don’t say, “I love…”

"I don’t really care if she had tea with the vicar. I hope that she enough friendship and that she made enough money
to be free of disrespect…"

Beyond the Cemetery Lies the Ocean

Beyond the cemetery lies the ocean, ever in motion, busy and lazy. Every summer day I go to its lip and wade into the amniotic fluid. I am lapped and licked, washed and scrubbed. I float in a cotton gown. The waves loosen its ties. Cloth floats around me, a billowing skin. I watch the cords meander in the water. The ocean buoys, rocks, and slaps me back into life. "Come on, infant! Cry! Breathe!" After fluttering, I land inside myself. The idea that I mean something, that I matter, that what matters to me matters to others, meanders in the water. Lifelong objectives melt in the brine. And there it is again, relief.

I remember when ‘Sex in the City’-type topics no longer dominated coffee chats with women friends. Perimenopause arrived. Then menopause. What a fantastic rollercoaster, but the silence began. We women said less, bowing to the patriarchal narrative of loss. Despite the fact that billions of people experience this powerful transition, I found myself in a quiet room, a cultural dark zone, saved mostly by the fact that having cultivated a strong relationship to my body, I could experience my experience in self-witness. I wrote about it. People read and dialogued a bit. I didn’t use the word ‘menopause’ much because it’s a glum medical word, a grumpy word unsuitable to qualities effervescing in me. Words like ‘exuberant’ and ‘fizzy’ caught my passage through that body gate. I didn’t see that poetry lying around, welcoming me to the other side. We need a better word. We need better words… about moving, body and all, into the apotheosis; about women, body and all, free of tyrannical fecundity. We don’t need words from young medical mouths or one-note men. We need words fresh from the mouths of women on the other side. Perhaps it is changing…

And mostly, what about this new consciousness sweeping through?

I am delighted that you are with me and appreciate your sharing these writings friends. Thank you!

My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America, a nonprofit organization helping people realize their human and spiritual potential by honoring their body and its movement ways using evolutionary Sufi Dancemeditation practices. Thank you for your gift. It’s tax-deductible!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

I love your writings as I think so many similar thoughts and sometimes I can not find the words anymore?never?I live in my mind and soul and reach out to those that can grasp and get me even for a little while.The mystery of life continues to unfold as I curl up from low back pain after a fun loving day putting on a yard sale.Yes the body and how it changes and challenges and I find new ways to move because it is something I always want to do.

Janice Harmon
Janice Harmon
4 years ago

Good heavens Dunya! I’m addicted…I need to hear more of your honesty & unique-ness! I understand, I relate, I am you! I am beyond grateful for my healthy body and dancing. I get to experience so many wondrous things! I vow to always find gratitude in every stage of my life.
Enormous respect for you dear one,
Jan H.

Helene Christopher
Helene Christopher
4 years ago

Thank you for this blog entry! The idea of how fleeting we are and how our stories come and go is so relevant to me now that so many dear ones I’ve known have passed. As for “menopause,” I love it so much! Your expression “tyrannical fecundity” really speaks to me. Like the Devil card in traditional Tarot, I feel I have been freed from that ball and chain of my sexuality. So much more energy has been opened up and available to me now that my thoughts are no longer obsessed with sexual fulfillment. I have always been a… Read more »

Lisa Tiemann
4 years ago

Time uncramps! YES, hah! Such a relief to reach that freedom. One of my pagan friends calls menopause/post-menopause the “crowning,” when women assume their queenly power. It’s the phase prior to “croning.”