As part of the masters program I am participating in we are in the middle of intensive classes right now. One of them is a spiritual direction class taught by my friend Lorna. She is leading us through some Ignatian prayer exercises and we began the class by recalling a memory that happened while we were preparing for this module.
Because I live local to the university I got to play this past weekend instead of having to worry about packing and traveling like so many of my fellow students. On Saturday my family and friends joined a tour of the Passamaquoddy Bay to see the whales, seals and local sites. It was a joy to introduce our kids to the 60' fin whale just feet from our boat and see the joy on their faces as they connected with such beauty.
My favorite part of the trip was after that though when our boat found The Old Sow whirlpool. The thing about the Old Sow is that you have to be at the right place at the right time, and we were. It was a moon tide, and we were there at high tide and it was like being a potato in a big boiling pot of stew. Our boat sat atop the swirling, churning water, surrounded by the chaos. The convergence of the bays meeting the ocean while the tide changes churns up the water unlike any other place in the world. It felt somehow prepared by God. I knew it was special. I didn't know why, but it's promise stayed with me and I knew that it's richness would pull forward and unpack itself in a profound and powerful way.
This was the memory I recalled in Lorna's class. I don't know why I chose it, or rather why it chose me, but I spoke of it there and have been chewing on it since.
For those of you who know me personally you may know that I struggle with food addiction and body image. You also know that I love a good metaphor like little else in the world. I figured these things were somehow tied together but I couldn't really noodle them out. I have thought about it during any moment of free time I have found these past couple of days.
The first thing I began to think about was the name "The Old Sow". As a large woman I am very sensitive to animal names used in conjunction with fat people - cow, pig, whale. Sow is a word deep with cruelty in my language memories and I tried to think of all of the reasons that it might have been used to name this geographical phenomenon.
We used to live next to a pig farm for a season and I am very familiar with the vivid sight, smell, violence and noise an "old sow" brings to mind. Very little of it was positive. I began to sit with the emotion that word brought to my mind. My body has been feeling so old to me lately. I look at my hands and feet and see the skin's elasticity is retreating and I am left in my weight loss with more wrinkles and less beauty. I catch my image in the mirror when changing and understand it's not just my hands and feet that are showing their age. I begin to connect with these words on a cellular level. Old Sow. I breathe. I know. I feel my age and my body around me.
Much of the scars my body bears come from birthing my beautiful children. Nursing them to life and growth. Kind of like that old sow. She has been faithful to her vocation. She has given herself well to her place in life. She has fulfilled the call on her life well. Birth. Nutrients. Protection.
And then I remembered the wildlife we saw at the whirlpool. This place was one of the richest places on earth for the whales, birds, seals and porpoises we saw surrounding us. That Old Sow was feeding everyone. Life was continuing to churn and grow because of that Old Sow. This fertile place was continually a place of life, a place of bounty.
I remember back to a word that was spoken to me before we moved here. I called a friend who had been dear to me and was mentoring me in our last church with excitement to tell her of our decision to move here. She said "Oh Heidi, you don't want to move to New Brunswick. New Brunswick is barren."
That word hung around my neck for months. You see I had 9 years of infertility, an infertile woman understands barren. I have lived through barren years and greatly feared more. I remember finally mustering the courage to talk about this one day and it was then that I decided then to give that word back.
New Brunswick has been the richest, most fertile place we have ever lived. I am constantly amazed at the depth of soul, the beauty that surrounds us and the abundance of riches we have received since we have lived here. The Old Sow reminded me again of THIS place. This place where my feet walk, where I am placing down roots. It is life giving. Is sustaining. Is nurturing and mothering to me.
The Old Sow speaks of the feminine to me. The mothering and grandmothering that I have so longed for in my life. The place where so many things converge, join and journey on, just like that place in the water.
This place, this person, this body, this soul - rich, fertile, life giving, bountiful, abundant, feminine, maturing, deep, changing and faithful.
This is the place I will feed and feed others.