Third in a series of three.
Settling back down into my chair in the corner, I began to read Becoming Flame, a book authored by BlogHer’s own Isabel Anders, an associate of Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time.
Ah! I thought. Some light reading. Something to take my mind off of the heavy, HEAVY spirituality of the Co-op. Surely this thin little book wouldn’t take long to read. I figured I could finish it in the two hours I had to wait for my ride to arrive.
Just taking in the back cover gave me pause, however. Reading, “What could be more natural and timely than…A poetic exploration of the large and the small issues of women’s life – nested, braided, interwoven, never fully unraveled – in precise language that retains the mystery but awakens the soul? “
I was taken aback and could only utter, “Huh?”
Becoming Flame is a book that is so rich with poignant
twists of common sense, it is hard to take in much at once.
Just as the Co-op had toyed with my sense of time, whipping me back and forth between 1975 and the present, the book began to play with my sense of spatial constraints. This thin little book began to grow, until I was, like Alice down the rabbit hole, shrinking and becoming insignificant next to it. The prominence of the pint size behemoth began to consume me. Like a scholar who studies to discover how much they don’t know, I began to flip through the book, trying to take it all in at once, hoping to contain it as it continued to enlarge up and out of my hands and mind.
I tried to devour the pages, reading as fast as I could to get a sense of the largeness of this little book. I thought that if I could measure it, I could control it, keeping it within the bounds of what I could understand. I was undone, myself however, as the book held firm, whirling and expanding while I was carried on high in a vortex of feeling, insight and expression. My chair began to raise off the floor and swirl around carrying me up into Isabel Ander’s feminine domain, the vast group experience of women, the shared ancient knowledge passed down from Mother to Daughter.
With my head in danger of touching the ceiling, Becoming Flame became much like a fine wine. I couldn’t just drink in the knowledge, but had to sip each phrase, acknowledging the bouquet, and swirling the shared images in my mind’s eye. Here, I realized was a book of deep thoughts to be savored. Collected vignettes of dialogue exchanged between a mother and daughter, putting into words things that, for the most part, usually go unsaid.
As I read Becoming Flame, the spiraling vortex of the
UofMD art student, Jenna Parry, painting on the wall
merged in my thoughts with the verbal images
presented by the book.
In her Introduction to Becoming Flame, Isabel offers that she has studied “the profound evocative legacy of Hasidic dialogue, or of a rabbi or holy man debating truth with his disciples.” She shares she intended to “…employ the same conversational form, drawing from my experience as a women and a mother, and in a similar manner to convey some essentials of feminine collective wisdom, focusing on the process itself, as wisdom is ‘kneaded’ and ‘made’ like bread.”
The title hints that the wisdom offered by Becoming Flame is enigmatic as is all knowledge and spiritual enlightenment. All great words of wisdom are not easily understood, digested and internalized without great study and sacrifice
“What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?,” a disciple asks his master. The Holy One answered, “When you have knowledge, you use a torch to show the way. When you are wise, you become the torch.”
So, we learn that words are not wisdom, but the transmutation of words, shining by the light of each person’s soul and collective experience, are wisdom. The words are reflected by the soul and become flame and the soul itself, in transmuting the words into wisdom, becomes flame.
Women, each one standing on the shoulders of the mother
who has come before, create an endless column of female
humanity rising from promordal history without beginning
and up to the present as described in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola
Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run with the Wolves.
Reading Becoming Flame jarred my psyche and my soul. I began to wonder what IS IT about collective feminine knowledge that is so deep and hard to understand at first read? The last time I had such a profound experience in reading, needing to separate each phrase, sometimes each word, for study and research was when I read Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book on the best seller list for 145 weeks in the early 1990s.
I began to think that while world history, written by the sword, rather than by the chalice, is raw in its power, feminine collective history has been intuitive, felt deep in the soul rather than spoken with the overt command of those conquering in the physical. While common knowledge has been spoken and written in the marketplace, in government and in the destructive councils of war, feminine knowledge has been more commonly shared during life moments and at the hearth, while creating soul, mind and body.
And so, Isabel Anders has written of the intuitive wisdom of women as they patiently intone knowledge to their daughters, an intimate sharing of the true light, love and continuance of their being. This collective feminine knowledge prepares women to live on the physical plane where the spiritual is merged with the physical and where intuition cannot always complete with the heavy burden of opposing physical strength.
Rising from primordial history, generations of
connected women, come forward to mentor
contemporary mothers and daughters today.
And why is unseen intuition considered less effective as a modality of strength? Waiting to speak can take great strength of character and willpower. So can the strength of focusing on the mundane everyday creation of body and spirit.
I am always perplexed by people who say they don’t have time to cook and eat together as if anything in their day is more important than feeding the body that cradles the soul. It is the mundane that creates and sustains life. Each physical body recreates itself every six months. To do so requires incoming foodstuffs of specific metabolic vitamins, fiber and minerals, therefore a meal is the elixir of life, holding the spirit in physical form.
And so, as an example of one of Isabel’s many diologues between a Mother and Daughter, here we read them speaking to the everyday of food preparation:
The Daughter wondered that the Mother could spend so much time
lovingly tending the fire, stirring the soup, and baking the bread.
“Do you not tire of such mundane tasks?”
“This substance.” the Mother explained, breaking bread, “makes
possible the ‘alchemy’ of life. Through it the roughness of grain
is transformed into the fine constituents of Being…
How can this be called mundane?”
The Daughter said, “all of our work is so material, kneading
dough, plowing the garden, tending the fires without and within
…It is difficult to believe in the Unseen that surrounds us,
even on nights crowned by burning lights in the heavens.”
The Mother replies, “But, your own breath teaches you that there are
interim states between spirit and matter. The elements that are
not seen: the wind, your breath, the Spirit that moves among us,
show themselves only in their effects. Therefore, which is more real?
The Sources or their effects?”
…from Becoming Flame.
If you have an interest in Isabel’s book,
hover your mouse over this link:
Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom
Jenna Parry’s original work, Nebula Painting #1, has been used in situ and as a component of the accompanying two dimensional assemblages.