This post is definitely going to mention menstruation. You have been warned.
First of all, any woman who hasn't read The Red Tent yet really should read it. The part I want to take out of it is the portrayal of the tent in which women had to stay (we're talking Biblical times here, as well as some rules that carried over into Orthodox Judaism) while menstruating or giving birth because they were "unclean". The author paints a picture of a tent full of women sharing wisdom, secrets, and rituals. There is magic and love, bickering and gossip, life and death--you know, the basic life of a woman.
So as I came off my period last week, I started to think about my own red tent. Mine is a virtual tent at the moment, with women coming and going, sharing wisdom and gossip, the mundane and the holy. I've gathered precious friends, old and new, to join me in my tent when I am in need of support and when I have my own hard-won bits of wisdom to share. The most common visitors these days are Buzzy, Bitsy, and Chihuahua.
Buzzy has the most in common with my life situation, even though she lives a million miles away. Her grounded common sense balances my flighty and emotional nature, and I like to think that I sometimes help her find magic in the world. She is strong, stable, and will talk about ANYTHING with me. And I mean anything. There are sacred things shared in my tent, and intimate details of love and partnership are exchanged. Sometimes I truly love technology--I would not have met her if we had lived 100 years ago. I love her.
Bitsy lives in a magical place, surrounded by all sorts of women who pass her love and knowledge, which she is kind enough to pass to me. We have both been alive for the same amount of time, but the pains of her labors have been mighty. She has found peace for which I strive, and joyfully shares it with me. She joins me in my flights of fancy, adding her own creative flair and artistry. Bitsy spends her days healing and caring for people, not thinking of her own troubles before she has lifted a friend or family member. I am humbled by her dedication to love and willingness to grow while being lashed by storms. I love her.
Chihuahua shares a long history with me. We have both grown in similar ways, learning to love more and defend less. I was there when she lost her first baby, and she packed up her babies and left hearth and home to be with me when I lost mine. We lived together for four years, supporting each other, bickering with each other, cooking and shopping together, and quietly loving each other fiercely underneath any disapproval or irritation. We live near each other again, after years apart, because we really do belong in the same tent. We might disagree vehemently, but if an outsider attacks, the claws come out and we stand as one. She has become a sister to me, with all the ups and downs that come with family. I love her.
It is vital for women to have a circle of sisters, friends, or soul mates. The connections can be loud, quiet, strong, old, new; survival of woman requires them. While I would love to be able to retreat to a hut or tent while I am menstruating and hormonal, I know the arms of my sisters are open to catch me when I run into them.