“In Search of Pure Lust”

In this remarkable memoir one woman’s life is set in the collective context of the women’s movement as a whole, and through Lise’s eyes we get to see the “both and” quality of her struggle to understand what went wrong not only in her personal relationships with women, but between the powerful women who inspired the women’s movement in the first place. We can only heal this wound personally and collectively if we are willing to self – reflect, ask difficult and painful questions, and are willing to take responsibility for our own actions, something that the author is willing to do. By addressing our own mother-daughter betrayals, choosing to respect one another’s differences regardless of sexual orientation, color, race, religion etc. we can finally unite with one purpose – to save ourselves and the planet…

What Lise proposes – namely that Lesbian Visionary Thinking opened the door to women re –imagining women as powerful agents in their own lives even as they became women who acted upon these visions is, I believe, truth. Lesbian visionaries envisaged a woman centered culture and created one. Many of us realize today that without a feminist standpoint, the ravages of patriarchy are going to destroy us all. We have much to learn from reading this story.

I should probably mention that I am not a lesbian. I am, however, a woman who loves other women – a woman who has struggled with the same questions about relationship and betrayal throughout her life and one who believes that every woman needs to read this book because if we are going to shift this deadly patriarchal paradigm into an eqalitarian matriarchal one women must lead the way. And to do that we have to begin to heal what is broken in ourselves.

The publication of this book is also uncannily timely because we are at such a critical crossroad – Women from all walks of life are waking up to the fact that during the last election 52 percent of American women voted for a power –driven, mentally ill, misogynist.

We must interrupt this cycle of women choosing crazy, abusive men over politically astute women who could be in the position to change the world.

Lise’s personal story is a compelling one. Ruthlessly honest, she struggles with a complex web of personal relationships. This book also helps others like me who came to feminism late – as a middle aged woman – experience what it must have been like to have women’s reading circles, bookstores, places where women gathered with joyful abandon to share ideas and re –imagine the world. The depth and breadth of Lise’s honesty leaves the reader without doubts about this woman’s personal integrity. The book is also a page – turner. I finished this deeply moving memoir which ended on a positive note feeling bereft – I didn’t want it to end.

Finally, in my opinion In Search of Pure Lust is Everywoman’s Story whether she chooses to accept it or not.

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Witnessed

It was dark

when I first heard Her

whooing overhead

bearing witness,

ushering in

the First of the

Harvest Moons.

The seasonal wheel turning towards

ripening fruit and seeds.

Summer’s Bounty.

This goddess, my mother,

is cloaked

in feathery mole brown splendor

a Sphinx flying

through the night.

S/he heralds the

Gift of Water

answering earnest prayers…

As ‘Changing Woman’ she brings rain

to soften cracked desert ground…

Greening every thirst driven plant pore.

And puddles formed

as rain barrels overflowed

And I was filled with Joy –

even before I started for

Red Willow River

under a pure white moon blossom

perched below a

down turned velvet bowl.

Hidden somewhere in a tangle of branches

She observed my approach…

And when I passed

under the Cottonwood tree

the Owl took flight.

Her wings

made no sound

when she landed

on a snag

above my head.

Steely yellow eyes glowing

Like coals – fiery

embers, Second Sight.

Presence flooded me

with wonder –

I knew Her well.

After this sudden burst of insight

I felt Her Love seeping through

this body birthed with holes.

Seen at last by my Beloved

I give thanks for

the Owl that

calls my name.

The Turning: She Rises

 

It was full moon this morning and when I walked to the river Mars and Pluto were the moon’s companions… I startled an elk in the Bosque and listened to bird song…the sunrise was muted and yet the red eye of the sun blinded me as it erupted over the horizon…

 

I am looking forward to this Turning of the Wheel because it means the days are shortening, cooler temperatures will come, and the Harvest, such as it is, will soon be upon us.

 

I am already finding grasses and the few wildflowers seeding up and have collected hollyhock stalks that are drying in the closet. The single devil’s claw has turned brown and is splitting open. Sunflowers follow the path of the sun and the Sweet Scent of Datura delights me each morning when I bend my body towards her to inhale the flower that the Hawk moth finds irresistible just as I do!

 

Last night I dreamed of a strange cottony puff – ball of a cloud that was also a spiral that was rising into a deep blue sky… This is supposed to be monsoon season but little rain has fallen and the meadow is ashen. Because rain has become an obsession I wondered if the cloud was telling me that rain will not be coming in August because it was climbing into the sky. Earth grief over drought continues.

 

However, the Spiral is also a universal symbol for the Great Goddess and because She is ascending, the cloud she inhabits may hold water that may yet fall.

 

This is the time of year when the old pre-christian religions celebrate this Rising of the Great Goddess, who brings in the Harvest as well as the darker months. This dance of darkness and light is central to the yearly seasonal round. The Great Goddess presides over Life and Death uniting them as one. There is a sense of completion that is associated with this Turning that soothes me. The scorching sun is on the wane and just knowing that longer shadows and a deep blue sky will soon replace a bleached dome and fierce white heat brings me to the edge of peace within.

 

I give thanks for my life, the gift of my precious animals, the multitude of bird songs, plants that flower on feeding hungry hummingbird babies, people I love, one woman in particular…

 

But the Water Woman in me still aches for the rain that does not fall.

 

Will She Who Rises usher in precious water to quench the thirsty Ground?

A Moment of Renewal

(author’s front yard with Russian Olive tree)

 

A brief desert rain

quenches the fire.

The fierce white heat

(of a perpetually burning star)

is momentarily overshadowed

when the Cloud People pass by.

This sky blessing leaves

each Russian olive luminous.

Wild grasses spring to life.

Fragrant Datura spirals unfurl.

Impossible lavender edges

and white moon centers

open hearts to the hawk moth…

When I step outside inhaling

sweet moisture laden

air I feel softer, more pliant

like the feathery stems bowing

low from the recent deluge.

Juniper wafts her scent my way.

Wildflowers stalks deepen their color –

iridescent emerald opens wide

eyes grown dim

from scorching sun rays.

Every plant and tree

expresses deep gratitude

for this gift from the sky people

each in her own way.

And I am thankful to be

‘Plant Woman’ participating

in this moment of Earth renewal,

for the Gift of Water

has healed my Beloved –

this Dry Cracked Land.

Cicada Symphony

Each evening

I sit in gathering shadows

listening for the nighthawk’s peet,

the owl softly hooting.

Peering into the dense cottonwood canopy

I await the symphony…

 

How do they know

just when to begin

in perfect synchrony?

Punctual to the minute,

the swell is deafening

This music of the spheres

saturates my body

with song as I breathe

into the wonder of

Nature on the wing.

 

 

Postscript and Natural History

 

Every night I sit on the porch at dusk listening to night sounds. At precisely 8:30PM the symphony begins as the arching boughs of the cottonwoods come alive with song. When it’s really hot the cicadas are so loud that when I stand underneath the cottonwoods I am transported to another realm.

 

One night they surprised me. A few drops of rain fell and instantly the choral overture began. It was 8:15 PM and this uncharacteristic early beginning seemed to have everything to do with the rain which only fell for a few minutes although the insects sang on… perhaps the cicadas too are singing to the Cloud People, praying for rain.

 

I listened to many recordings before identifying the cicadas that are singing from these cottonwoods! Mine are “cactus dodgers” that are known for their affinity for cacti during courtship because they can dodge deadly spines during frenzied mating! They are primarily black, gray, white, and beige colored; well camouflaged for the desert.

 

Cicadas in general are an order of insects distinguished by piercing and straw-like sucking mouthparts.  Worldwide, cicadas comprise about 2000 species, which occur primarily in temperate and warmer regions.

 

Like all insects, the usually dark to brownish to greenish cicada has three body parts—the head, the thorax and an abdomen.  It has six jointed legs, with the front pair adapted for digging—a reflection of its underground burrowing life when a nymph.  A strong flyer, it has two sets of transparent and clearly veined wings, perhaps its most distinctive feature.  At rest, it holds its wings like a peaked roof over its abdomen.  It has bulging compound eyes, three glistening simple eyes and short bristly antenna.

 

The male cicada has on its abdomen two chambers covered with membranes – “tymbals” – that it vibrates, when at rest, to produce its “song.”  It can make various sounds, including, for instance, an insistent call for a mate, an excited call to flight, or a hoped-for bluff of predators.  Both the male and female cicadas have auditory organs, which connect through a short tendon to membranes that receive sound.  The male produces a call distinctive to his species.  Ever faithful, the female responds only to the call of a male of her species.

 

The cicada often makes its home in the plant communities along river bottoms and drainages but can be found in many different desert ecosystems as well.

 

The cicada falls into one of two major groups, one called “dog day,” the other called “periodical.”  The dog-day cicadas, which usually appear during the hottest days of summer, hence the name, include all of the several dozen species of the Southwest.  They have a life cycle of two to five years. The periodical cicadas, which include several species, all east of the Great Plains, have a life cycle of 13 or 17 years.

 

Once one of the Southwestern female dog-day cicadas answers the call of a male cicadas and the two mate, she seeks out an inviting, tender twig or stem on a tree or a bush.  She uses the jagged tip at the end of her abdomen to gouge into a twig.  She lays eggs, each shaped like a grain of rice, into the wound eventually laying several hundred eggs.

 

Once a cicada nymph hatches, it drops to the ground, immediately burrowing into the soil, using its specially adapted front legs for the excavation.  It seeks out a root and uses its specially adapted mouthparts to penetrate through the epidermis and suck out the sap.  The cicada spends much of its time in its underground chambers.  Once grown, it tunnels upward, to near the surface, where it constructs a “waiting chamber.”  Upon receiving some mysterious signal, perhaps a temperature threshold, our nymph, along with its multiple kindred nymphs, emerges in a synchronized debut, one of the great pageants of the insect world.  It climbs up nearby vegetation, molts for the final time, emerging from its old nymphal skin as a fully winged adult, beginning the final celebration of its life.

 

The cicadas struggle for survival through their final days because they are nontoxic and relatively easily caught, especially during the final molt, and must deal with a crowd of potential predators, including birds such as boat-tail grackles, various woodpeckers, robins, red-winged blackbirds and even ducks; mammals such as squirrels and smaller animals; reptiles such as snakes and turtles; spiders such as the golden silk spider; and other insects such as its especially fearsome arch enemy, the cicada killer wasp.

 

Of course, the cicada does have certain defenses.  Once it has molted, it can fly swiftly to escape some potential predators.  The raucous male alarm call may startle some predators, especially birds.  It may occur in such numbers that it overwhelms the collective appetite of predators.

 

In perhaps its most novel defense, the desert cicada has developed an extraordinary ability to remain active throughout mid-day, when most would-be predators have to seek shelter from the desert heat.  Notably, the cicada, unlike any other known insect, can sweat, which helps it dissipate heat.  When threatened with overheating, desert cicadas extract water from their blood and transport it through large ducts to the surface of the thorax, where it evaporates.  The cooling that results permits a few desert cicada species to be active when temperatures are so high that their enemies are incapacitated by the heat.  No other insects have been shown to have the ducts required for sweating.

 

While the cicada may cause minor damage to the plants on which it feeds during its life cycle, it contributes in important ways to the environment.  Studies of the cicada in Colorado River riparian communities revealed the ecological importance of this species.  Feeding by the nymphs influences the vegetative structure of mixed stands of cottonwood and willow that occur in certain habitats.  Excess water removed from the host’s water conducting tissues (the xylem) during feeding is eliminated as waste and improves moisture conditions in the upper layer of the soil.  Xylem fluids are low in nutrients and the nymphs must consume large amounts of it to accommodate their energy needs.  Most of the water is quickly excreted and becomes available to shallow rooted plants.  Additionally, cicadas comprise an important prey species for birds and mammals, and the burrowing activity of nymphs facilitates water movement within the soil.”

 

The cicada has entered the realm of folklore across much of the world, possibly because its periodic emergence from darkness into light and song has been equated with rebirth and good fortune.

 

In one myth Cacama was the lord of the Aztec kingdom of Tezcuco who met his end at the hands of Spanish conquistadors. Cacama lives on in these winged desert treasures.

 

A Greek poet once wrote,  “We call you happy, O Cicada, because after you have drunk a little dew in the treetops you sing like a queen.”

 

An Italian myth held that “one day there was born on the earth a beautiful, good and very talented woman whose singing was so wonderful it even enchanted the gods.  When she died the world seemed so forlorn without the sweet sound of her singing that the gods allowed her to return to life every summer as the cicadas so that her singing could lift up the hearts of man and beast once again.”

In our desert Southwest Zuni mythology, the cicada outwitted the traditional trickster, the coyote.  The insect produced heat in Hopi mythology, heralding the arrival of summer, and it is “the patron of Hopi Flute societies in charge of both music and healing,” according to Stephen W. Hill, Kokopelli Ceremonies.  The cicada played a key role as a scout and a conqueror in Navajo creation myths.  It brought renewal and healing to other tribes.

Across the Southwest, from prehistory into historic times, the cicada became identified with the hump-backed flute player, or Kokopelli, a charismatic and iconic figure portrayed in rock art and ceramic imagery.

Kokopelli risked his life to lead the Ant People from mythological inner worlds to the present world, where they became The First People, after agreeing to follow the teaching of the Great Spirit.

“Kokopelli’s transparent wings have now unfolded and dried, and he is able to take to the sky.  Kokopelli’s reward is flight.  His continued gift to us is his reminder to be grateful that we no longer live in darkness.

No Tears are Shed

No Tears are Shed

 

Every day ragged

white lightening

slices through dark clouds

followed by fierce rumbling

sudden crashes –

bellowing thunder.

Is the sky on fire

with Earth’s rage?

 

No tears are shed.

 

The three drops

of moisture

reflect a deadly pattern –

of withholding

– a pitiful token

of Nature’s grief.

She is snared by indifference,

unable to weep.

 

No tears are shed.

 

The relentless west wind

rips branches from trunks

cottonwood arms crash

to the ground

torn leaves follow

in utter confusion.

Parched desert scrub crackles

under my feet.

Sage green turns dull gray

Plants and bushes withered

almost beyond recognition…

Are the Cloud People dead?

 

No tears are shed.

 

Once again betrayed

by the willful force of

– human stupidity –

the trees bow low

in sorrow and resignation.

Knowing .

Having no choice

their thirst will

drive them

to certain extinction.

The relentless

ever present torturous sun

is turning blue – green to ash.

 

 

And still no tears are shed.

Words from Barbara Mor

…& who is jesus what else

does he do    can he sing

can he plant corn    i saw

a picture of him once on

the dome of the sky looking

down dark & fierce at the

green earth   & who is jesus

what else can he do   can

he scrub floors can he make

the bread      they say  he

suffered 9 hours of pain

for the world   tell that

to any mother    what man

son of what father   king of

what desert    saver of what

flesh   can he mold pots

can he make the rain come

can he find  his way home

naked after being raped

can he wail like janus can

he burn in fire   after

2000 years of dying can he

laugh & hand Death a beer

can he smash the last

mirror  can he know me  who

is this jesus   what is

he: next to any woman’s

blood-red truth   no wound

in a man  is big enough

to birth a world   to

return an earth

so now here is our old mama   in the junkyard…

(from “A Song A Song For Tralala,” 1975-1997)

 

Comment:

I didn’t read Barbara Mor’s “The Great Cosmic Mother” until graduate school at mid life, and this book along with Griffin’s “Woman and Nature” validated every intuition I had ever had, made sense of my dreams, and helped me believe in my own ideas. Barbara’s life was difficult and she was and remains a visionary… a beacon for those of us who are attempting to survive the destructive chains of 4000 years of domination by patriarchy and a woman hating culture.