Sunday, January 10, 2010



Bas-relief I created depicting three Goddesses

From the Temple of Sulis Minerva to ancient Greece: Athenas, Aphrodisia, Egyptian Ma’at …

Woman Re-Membering emerges.

Bas-relief with mosaic tile

Is there a memory of something primordial begging to emerge from our beings? Do our cells contain a remembrance of some far off time, a time when we were a matriarchal society? If this is true, how can we activate that memory?

In her new book, Woman Re-Membering, Lizbeth Clay invites you to explore your female integrity. She says,

“Your body is your greatest teacher to awaken you to inner essence and integrity that wants to be unveiled and known. I invite you to take time each day to breathe deeply into your body, becoming receptive and alert to its inner depths and intelligence that seek to guide you. If it feels true, state your willingness to be in greater alignment with your body’s wisdom and truth. Ask your body to deepen your understanding of who you truly are. I suggest you keep a journal of the growing dialogue.”

Woman Re-Membering

Close-up of large stoneware clay planter

Lizbeth also states,

“Remember, listen and lean into your inner environment with your senses, feel into the pulse of your inner space. Do the same with your external environment; open yourself to your surroundings, listen and lean into the elements that give you life. Stretch into the reality of water, wind and earth. Breathe of the sun and the moon. Open your nervous system to the rich biodiversity that sustains you. When moving throughout your day, take time to connect to the larger elemental reality that surrounds and holds you…"

Life size stoneware clay wall sculpture

As I read through Woman Re-Membering, I started thinking of the strong women who have made a difference in my life – women who were not afraid to take a stand, women who were not afraid to show their love, women who embraced their existence as women.

My great grandmother, Elizabeth Dillon

One of these women was my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dillon. Elizabeth came to the United States from Wales during the potato famine. She had a strong sense of family. When her daughter, Kate, lost her husband in a mill accident, Elizabeth took in Kate and her four children, one of whom was my mother. And when her sister died during childbirth, Elizabeth took in her sister’s son and raised him, too. Elizabeth believed in expressing herself by following her dreams. She sang with a Welsh singing group named the Cymafa Cannu.

My grandmother, Kate Smith

Another strong woman was my grandmother, Kate. After her husband died, she and her mother raised my mother and her three sisters. Kate worked hard to support her children. When circumstances required, she did whatever it took to bring in extra money. At one point, for example, she worked as a janitor, scrubbing floors at night in a dance hall so that one of her daughters, my mother, could have dance lessons. Kate never wavered in her commitment to raising her children and spent her life doing whatever she could to provide for their happiness and welfare. (She did not like to have her picture taken so I was unable to find a very good one for this post.)

My mother, Margaret Jane Galloway

My mother, Jane, was probably the strongest female influence in my life. She had a way of looking at life that enabled her to see the humor in almost any situation. As a consequence, she could tell stories drawn from her daily experience and that of her friends and acquaintances that left us all reeling with laughter when we heard them. She was also a liberated woman before that idea was as popular as it has become over the last 30 or 40 years. Even as she raised my brother and me in the 1950’s, she believed that a woman should always work outside of the home. She said that a woman should never give her power away by not having her own income. Mom was also a strong believer in physical fitness for women before it was in vogue. She was very athletic and believed in exercising the body as well as the mind. Many pictures of her show her standing on her head.

One of many photos showing my mother and her famous headstands

When my life handed me some challenges that otherwise might have overwhelmed me, I was able to draw on the examples of these strong women to find my own courage. Their example helped find the strength to nurse my mother through the long, agonizing decline of Alzheimer’s disease. It helped keep me going through periods of near hopelessness when my elder son, Charlie, developed a serious health problem at the tender age of sixteen. And most recently, it has helped me weather the emotional roller coaster of cancer when my elder daughter, Kelli, developed multiple myeloma. After months of treatment with suboptimal results, we traveled to Richmond last year where Kelli underwent a stem cell transplant at MCV. Even though she has done well since then, every new round of tests causes another round of anxiety; and I’ve found that calling upon the memory of these strong women from my family’s past gives me the strength to face the next round of challenges, whatever they may be.

This is an old photo of Val, on the right, and yours truly at one of the many art shows where we exhibited our work.

I have also chosen friends who are strong. Although I could mention many, I want to focus on one in particular, Val Padar. Val raised her younger sisters when their father died and their mother was hospitalized for a prolonged period and then died. She has led a life of no compromises and stands firm in her convictions.

Stoneware clay sculpture

As I relate back to Lizbeths book, “Woman Re-membering” I am drawn to her invitation:

“Read the following statement and if it feels true for you, breathe its essence deeply into your body.

“I turn to the Primordial Female Deep and the Mysteries contained there within. I invite my archaic dimensions of be-ing to guide me in the Female Way so I may impact the elements that have long undermined and (dis)ordered me. I wish to greater inhabit the deep and subtle levels of my be-ing so as to flourish my female essence. I desire to dance in my truer ground and potential as a woman. I open to the Primordial Female Deep that lives within me!”

I am also reminded of a verse Val sent to me of her own dance. Val said the verse she wrote, “The Dancer,” came to her as a stream-of-consciousness revelation. She was aware of nothing but the dance.

The Dancer

“I put on my favorite “Soundscapes” …I walked into the living room. The sounds of Enya filled the house, the sun streamed through the windows, the crystal I hung created prisms on the deep orange rust walls. The floors looked like soft glass, the shades of the stain wrapped the whole room in warmth.

“And then she appeared. As she drifted back through time, her body slowly remembered. The music and knowledge spoke to her. Combining elements of modern dance, tai chi, free form movement and ballet, she glided across the floor. She was the sun, the floor, the air. Her movements flowed seamlessly as she danced down the hall and back around to the living room, round and round. She was one with the moment, with the music, with her spirit. She was ‘The Dancer.’ “

Val’s verse has instilled in me a desire to create a sculpture relating to her experience. I cannot think of a better title. Watch for my post about this sculpture in the future.

One of my Goddess Ceremonial Necklaces being lifted from sand, as though she were being dredged from antiquity

In Woman Re-Membering Lizbeth states:

“Know this…
Your heart knows the secrets of your soul
Of who you are
What you can create

“Let this calling slowly reveal itself within you.
Believe it. Nurture it
and you will Re-Member your self!”

I think that Lizbeth is onto something; and I think that part of what our hearts know about who we are and what we can create comes from the example of the powerful women who have touched on our lives.

For those who may wish to purchase the book, you can find

Woman Remembering
Reclaiming the Soul and Instinct of Our Femaleness
An Ecological Treatise for the Emancipation of the Female Force
By Lizbeth Clay

Goddess vessel I created while in Italy

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  1. Wonderful post! How I wish I could have heard Cymafa Cannu. Does Jim have any song clips you could add?

  2. I'll ask Jim. In addition to his opera, I'm hoping to add a composition Cam and his friend Nakisa are preparing. It will be a piano and violin piece. I'm not sure how to do this yet but I will figure it out.

  3. What a wonderful family resemblance :-) I look more like my father, but I suppose there is something similar with my mother... at least my sister looks like my mother and people say we look similar. I don't know :-D

  4. Did your mom teach you how to do headstands?


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