Speak What You Know

My 70th birthday.

From this point on I am an Ageless Goddess. I speak what I know, with authority. 

Back in the old days, (I get to say that, now) I invented the Garden Girls to accompany me on my quest to live the layered life of an artist.

What does it take to become a Garden Girl?

A desire made manifest, to discuss intimacy, passion, wisdom, and authority.

I like that word, authority: to recognize I am a competent force. There are some things I know, having lived a long life. I distinguish authority from arrogance. I do not believe that I am better or smarter or more important then others. Today, I revisit my Garden Girls. I listen to their wisdom as they explore authority.

The Garden Girls are at an early morning gathering in the woods. No one is clear as to the plan or the direction. Spider-woven fairy handkerchiefs sprinkled in grass lead the way as we follow the instructions on Honeyrose’s invitation: Listen to your intuition and breathe deeply. 

Each girl arrives in her own time. Wearing my straw hat I blaze a trail cutting away wineberry brambles. Rose, the writer, tucks red flowers in her mushroom hat. She brings dried apricots and almonds. Clove, the teacher, wraps a turquoise scarf around her neck and dons a ruffled headdress. Her gift is vanilla macaroon granola. Nettles, the gardener in a chestnut cap, arranges a bouquet of orange pansies.

Echinacea, the healer flaunting yellow in a button hat, supplies homemade croissants. Gardenia, the poet wearing a silk bandana, serves roasted dandelion tea. Lily, the silk painter crowned with yellow orange glitter, carries in paints. Lavender in purple braids is empty handed, of course; she’s the philosopher. And Artemisia, old, wise and playful in a bark beret, brings violets and greens. (The secret ingredient for achieving a powerful menopause). 

Honeyrose, the woman I am to become, says, “Our life is not our circumstances, our life is our story.” 

I gather the Garden Girls to discuss concerns significant not only to our selves but to every weed, tree and shrub that surrounds us. What I want to know is when does the voice of authority arrive, speculation end, and assertion begin?

Our altar in the woods is a large multi-level out-cropping of smooth rocks. We each find a place for the gifts we brought, then begin looking for our perfect spot to sit and speak and receive each other’s messages. As far as I can tell everyone is accounted for. 

Honeyrose reads from Sage, the thinker’s, latest letter. “Freedom is the ability to create passion,” Sage wrote. She had become a ritual queen in a colony of women up north. Rose has a picture of her back home on her own altar wearing a twisted green head band. “And our passion,” Honeyrose enunciates, “gets stirred every time we choose freely.”

“What does Sage mean ‘choose freely’?” Gardenia asks, cradling herself between trunks of sycamore trees, sipping roasted dandelion tea.

“She means,” Echinacea answers, breaking croissants in half, “we find passion when we take a risk and choose what we want.”

“When I grow up,” Rose says, “I want to be like Sage.”

“And how’s that?” Honeyrose asks. Reaching into a red velvet bag she pulls out small scraps of torn paper and places them on the altar. Then to keep them from blowing in the wind and in preparation for uncovering stories, she layers on pencils, one for each of us just in case we forgot to bring our own. 

“What is it about Sage you yearn for?” Gardenia asks.

“For one,” Rose says, “her authority. She speaks and she thinks and she lives with authority. I feel it in her words, I hear it in her tone, and when I look at her picture on my altar, I see it in her face. What I want to know is when did she begin to speak with such strength?” Using her walking stick, Rose pushes dried leaves, sticks and moss off a flat rock, creating the perfect place, with a view of the pond through the trees, on which to sit and ponder.

“For me,” Clove says, “authority begins when I listen closely to the feelings in my body, like when my heart pounds and I know that I must speak.”

Rose motions to Clove that there is room for two on her rock. They munch on granola, apricots and almonds.

“Feelings?” Lavender questions. “Are they intimate?” Lavender likes to ask philosophical questions.

“Of course they’re intimate,” Clove says. “When you’re close to your feelings you’re close to your body and when you’re close to your body you’re always intimate.”

“But first you have to listen,” Lily reminds us as she places her jar of umber paint among the gifts on the altar and lays a small sable paintbrush beside it.

“And be silent,” Nettles adds adjusting her pansy bouquet.

Fuchsia, my sensuous muse, arrives late to the gathering. Draped in feathers, she brings navel oranges. Her pink, flower-petaled drip is sensual, and her questions are always seductive. 

“Can intimacy occur without sex?” she asks, placing her oranges in a circle of small branches.

“Well of course,” Echinacea, Nettles and Clove respond quickly with authority.

“How?” I ask. “I know about intimacy in sex. That place of getting close, real close, face to face, where you can feel and smell the breath, where you can see the tiniest hairs on the stillest arm, where you can climb inside another’s rhythm, where you have no other thought but the thought of that tender moment. What I want to know about is what happens when ideas sift and filter, words penetrate the soul? Is that intimate?” Picking up an orange, I peel a slice then pass it to Clove. 

Honeyrose stares up at the trees. Her colors are brilliant, precise and in immaculate order. “When ideas sift and filter,” she says, “words penetrate your soul, the place where intimacy grows. Then you can . . .”

“Listen to your body,” Clove chimes in.

Honeyrose nods, “And speak what you know.” She affirms.

Sitting down on an old sycamore stump her voice softens. “Authority,” she continues, “is to articulate with passion—using your power tone—the stories only Garden Girls know.” Since Honeyrose is the woman I am to become, I listen very closely. 

Lily dips her sable brush into umber paint and places it on a scrap of torn paper. One by one we each make our own umber marks. In the rustle of branches I can hear the echo of Honeyrose’s edict, “Speak what you know,” as I close my eyes and see the darkness. In the light upon my eyelids leaves fall, one by one, each leaf floating as when a word comes for a poem. 

“Every time you tell your story,” Honeyrose begins to chant, “you create a stance and become the author of your life. But you must also surrender,” she emphasizes then pauses, “to the mundane. And remember. Your life is not your circumstances. Your life is your story. Your circumstances are the matter your stories come from. Author them.”

We all begin to write. 

My memoir, "The Garden Girls' Letters and Journal" was published in 2006 by Wind Publications