Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Quickening

Firmly clenched within the hollow of winter’s unyielding fist, I find solace in the promise of lengthening days and sparkling ice that clings like diamonds to tired, bare branches. In the morning, when the sun explodes from innumerable glittering crystals, I know that it is worth every shivering moment. It is impossible to duplicate this beauty. Sun, ice, trees, clarity.

I owe much of my comprehension to blue jays and morning glories, as I tried so long ago to duplicate their blueness on my palette. I came close once and then I discovered that imitating nature has its own set of rules. I am grateful and accept that like all colors, blues are simply an idea. It works.

I realized this morning that I forgot to make a snow angel this winter. I write about them and talk about them, but did not bother plopping into the snow to actually make one. Early last winter, I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to make one that I actually made at least three, maybe more. I think I made a flock.

This is the first time in four years that I have been in New Hampshire for most of the winter. I am wired to prepare for it, survive it and then celebrate when it is over. I always said that there is nothing compared to ‘spring fever’ for one who endures a long New Hampshire winter (living atop a mountain).

The fear that I had of howling winds as a child has subsided, but the respect still remains. With the exception of my crunching snowshoes, the woods are silent. I stop to acknowledge stories told by tracks imprinted in the snow. The account of the Eastern cottontail rabbit being chased by a coyote has unfolded at least twice this year. You know the ending. Tracks don’t lie.

Sometimes I think that if I follow the tracks that I might catch up. My heart beats hard with a blend of anticipation and courage. What if I come face to face with a bobcat or moose? Why do I continue? I can’t go on and I can’t not go on. Each step is deliberate and I think of how I will respond if I meet one of these legendary characters whose footprints I inhabit.

I rejoice at the sound of chickadees, nuthatches and the others. Hairy woodpeckers chirp and fly hastily from one treetop to another. I squint and focus on a male as it clings and does a downward, spiral dance on the trunk of a dead ash tree.

The clothesline sags from the weight of a string of full, abandoned birdfeeders – ghosts from the not so distant past. I offer various seeds; keep them clean and do all the right things. No takers. Everyone has their theories; mine is based on GMO seeds. The birds are on their own now. I understand. I miss them.

The sun is nearing the ridge and the white birches bend slightly in the quiet wind. The snow – once edgy, white and fresh – is softening under March’s reign.

The blur of gray ice and expired snow merges with a chorus of invisible rushing water. My pinkish overcast world quivers in the midst of the quickening – the rebirth of spring, which waits patiently in the womb of Our Mother.

Photo: Courtesy of

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Girl Ends Woman Begins: Removing Barbie from the Equation

There is a fine line between girlhood and womanhood. Determining when a girl transforms from a maiden to a woman is not as simple as when she begins menstruation. Biologically, that may be true, because at that point it is possible for her to become a mother. However, that is not enough.

A significant overload of hormonal influences (both physical and social), bombard the general population in our Western culture; studies indicate that the onset of womanhood is progressively occurring earlier. We know simply by turning on the television – if that is part of your world – that the advertisements, programming and daily news confirm the message of the importance of women as sexual beings. Fashion choices, magazine covers and ads along with most contemporary music suggests the same; a woman is only as good as her body and willingness to exploit herself, even if it means being sick to attain the image.

Combine this social atmosphere with the lack of a stable nuclear family, poor role models, little or no supervision, one parent families, and hormones in animal products present in most diets, and the line between girlhood and womanhood begins to blur.

One of the key factors in slowing down our exploding misogynistic society is to honestly invest time and guidance in our daughters. Of course this is true with our sons as well, but this piece is about girls.

My first suggestion is to ban Barbie Dolls. When children play with dolls, they are role playing. Most of us are aware of Barbie's unrealistic body. Her vital statistics have been estimated at 36 inches (chest), 18 inches (waist) and 33 inches (hips). According to research by the University Central Hospital in Helsinki, Finland, she would lack the 17 to 22 percent body fat required for a woman to menstruate. 1

This image is almost impossible to attain, and in attempting to do so is an invitation to eating disorders. I preferred Barbie’s little sister, Skipper. It was not easy to go against the masses when many friends and relatives insisted on giving my daughter Barbie Dolls. By the time my daughter got her hands on Barbie Dolls of her own, she was about eight years old…not great, but better than three, four or five.

I was aghast when the interactive Barbie Channel recently popped up (uninvited) on my Dish Network Guide. Out of curiosity, I watched it. It is an animated music video featuring a sexy, frilly Barbie with her friends and dog, who also happens to portray a sexy image. It is a nauseating pink cliché of what everyone should steer their daughters away from at all cost. It is a clever marketing tool designed to lure children to beg their parents to purchase the program so that they can “interact”. The message perpetuates the idea that you are lacking if you do not have access to this channel. The sleazy marketing tactic is that anyone (children) can access the channel to see the videos, but you must purchase the actual program to be able to play the games. In all fairness, like other pay channels, it should be blocked entirely unless the subscriber wishes to purchase. They are smart and hooking the children. Parents who cave in to this pressure are either too wrapped up in their own lives by allowing this sort of activity to replace quality time together or ignorant by believing that their child needs to have whatever is dictated by an outside marketing source.

Parents must step up to the plate and filter this garbage. It is an insult to our beings and the wrong road for our daughters. Before investing in programs like this, take the time to investigate. Ask yourself the following questions:

Will my child learn from this experience?
If so, what will she learn?
How much time will she invest in this activity?
Does it motivate or inspire positive thoughts and actions in everyday life?
What is the message?
Will it provoke clarity of thought?
Am I caving in to a marketing ploy for a temporary fix?
Do I agree with the main/ underlying philosophy?
Am I being selfish with my time by plugging my child into an activity that will keep her occupied and out of my hair?
What is the emotional cost?

The idols in question when my daughter was an adolescent were the Spice Girls and a young Brittany Spears. It was a bit easier for me without the constant pressure of public school; we were a classical home school family. However, we were not isolated or in a bubble at all, and my daughter was exposed to the negative outside sources that we must all sift through on a daily basis. I actually listened to the Spice Girls and was impressed by their musical talent. If you can set aside the visual sexual image and listen, they actually have great composition in many of their pieces. I had a problem with their obvious sexual message aimed at little girls. (They sold lollipops; you cannot deny that young girls were their prime targeted audience).

Sex sells. We have little girls in school, malls and on the streets wearing inappropriate/provocative clothing and make-up. Television shows – “Sixteen and Pregnant” glamorize teenage pregnancies. Unsupervised internet social sites and texting make communicating at an otherwise awkward stage easier and more accessible. Information that cannot be stated in person (face to face) can be communicated with ease on the computer or cell phone, igniting potentially risky behavior. None of this is news.

The importance of being an advocate for your daughter is vital. If you cannot protect, guide and love her, she cannot do the same for herself. We must teach our daughters to respect and honor themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. It does not mean that we turn them into ruthless warriors, slaughtering the gentle side of femininity.

We want our daughters to be strong, independent and free thinking, yet not at the cost of their true feminine selves. This way of being will insure the transformation of the individual girl into a self assured woman who understands that if she honors and loves herself; respect and wisdom will help to restore the collective feminine soul that has been disintegrating universally for thousands of years. We will find peace in the balance.