I like the expression "keeping a season," which according to Sarah Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book Romancing the Ordinary, A Year of Simple Splendor, refers to the "traditional ways people in the country restored their bodies and nurtured their souls by honoring in their daily rounds, the rhythm of the natural world." p. 43. One way I do that as fall turns into winter in these November weeks is to get out my shawls.
Sweaters may come and go from my wardrobe, but my shawls
remain. My clothing size may change, but my shawls always fit.
I wear a shawl when I am reading, when I am meditating, when I am napping, when I am watching tv, when I am writing. I wear a shawl over jeans and turtleneck, over pajamas, instead of a robe, and sometimes I even wear one when I get dressed up and go out for an evening. When we flew to Paris, I created a cozy and quiet space for the overnight trip by wrapping myself in a shawl, and when I go on retreat a shawl goes with me.
Shawls I Know and Love
Over the years my collection of shawls has grown, but there are three that have become icons in my life.
One even has a name, the Joaneth Shawl. My dear friend Joan knit it for me in the early years of our friendship. As someone whose hands are meant for clicking on laptop keys or stirring batter in a bowl or holding hands with a grandchild, but NOT for sewing or knitting or painting or other creative hands-on gifts, I am in awe when someone gives me something they have made. This multi-colored, earth, sky, and water-toned shawl, my Joseph's Coat of Many Colors shawl, of softest yarns is layered with love and connection. Over the years this shawl has stretched and expanded, and I can wrap myself in it twice over. In many ways that is what has happened with our friendship, too.
A second shawl is one that the writer Natalie Goldberg sent me many years ago after I helped her organize and publicize a writing workshop she did in Minneapolis. This shawl with a rougher texture in purples and reds with touches of turquoise makes me think of open air markets in the Southwest and draws me closer to the guardian angel an intuitive once told me sits near me when I write. His name is Tony, and he is Native American.
The third shawl was a Christmas gift from my husband one long ago year--a generously sized and rich colored Pashmina. Another woman might think it too luxurious to wear everyday, but not me. I wrap myself in its Burgundy-wine density and feel worthy of it even when wearing flannel pajamas.
The Warmth of Shawls
Along with the physical warmth of wearing a shawl, I feel its emotional and spiritual warmth. By wrapping myself in a shawl, I nurture, protect, and comfort myself. The shawl creates sacred space, especially when I sit at my desk to write or when I close my eyes to meditate.
When I wear a shawl, my personal vestment, I almost feel as if I am wrapping myself in wisdom. I imagine myself as a woman of wisdom, a crone, and I am glad to meet her.
Becoming a Crone
Marion Woodman in Coming Home to Myself, Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body and Soul describes a crone as "the wise older woman who has lived long, suffered loss and pain, survived to tell the truth to herself (and others if they are ready to hear), laughed with kindness at herself, learned to let go of expectations, and forgive herself, and others for their shortcomings." (p, 136)
The Crone has seen enough
to be able to separate
irrelevance from essence
She has neither time nor energy
to waste on superficialities.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. in her delightful and wise book Crones Don't Whine, Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women says it is time to reclaim the word "crone," from the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale images.
To be a crone is about inner development, not outer
appearance. A crone is a woman who has wisdom,
compassion, humor, courage, and vitality. She has a
sense of truly being herself, can express what she
knows and feels, and take action when need be. She
does not avert her eyes or numb her mind from reality.
She can see the flaws and imperfections in herself
and others, but the light in which she sees is not harsh
and judgmental. She has learned to trust herself to know
what she knows. (p. 4)
I was given each of these shawls before I reached the Crone age. In fact, when I received the shawl from Natalie Goldberg, I was still the mother of school-aged children, oh so long ago, but perhaps I was already striving to be a Crone. Perhaps, I was a Wisdom Gatherer, which is what Sue Patton Thoele calls the stage between Mother and Crone.
In this phase, our souls invite us to mature in spirit,
acknowledge and build on our unique gifts and
talents, and glean wisdom from our experiences
through thoughtful contemplation.
The Woman's Book of Soul,
Meditations for Courage, Confidence,
and Spirit, p. 174.
All this may be a lot to ask of a shawl, for I know I have a long way to go before I live up to the attributes of a Crone, but somehow wearing a shawl reminds me to honor the wisdom I have already acquired and to stay open to all that is yet to come.
An Invitation to Comment
Are you a Crone? What does that word mean to you? How are you living your life as a Crone?
Do you have a clothing icon in your life?