"The simplest and most basic meaning of the symbol of the Goddess is the acknowledgment of the legitimacy of female power as a beneficent and independent power."
Not long ago, a couple weeks actually, I had a day from hell. Nothing was going right and hadn't been for quite a while. I live in a small town near a river. On the other side of the river is privately owned land that has a tendency to catch on fire due to negligence of those who own it. Well, it did. This last time though it was worse than any time before it. It happened one day when I wanted nothing more than to curl up and be left alone. This day started with me sleeping in, finding out the guy I had been dating for years (on and off) met somebody else and ended with me being forced from my home. I wont bore you with any of those details though. Suffice to say my house is still standing, the guy and I are still broken up though that hasn't been without its drama (but deserves an article all its own). However, that night? That night is still something I look back fondly on.
It was a quiet night, not unlike any other. I was curled up in my over sized chair quite like I am now and was reading a book. I was just getting to the good part. The clothes were coming off, hands and mouths everywhere when I heard a heavy, loud pounding on my front door. Upon opening it I found myself staring face to face with a fire fighter instructing me to get out of the house and leave town.
Most people would be shocked, I however was not. See, earlier that day I had gone into the nearby city to get groceries. Driving home the smoke had been so thick you couldn't see fifty feet in front of your face. I knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time. As luck would have it I had just finished my laundry and in a move completely out of character (ahem) I had yet to put it away. So, I grabbed my laundry basket, scooped my cat under my arm, called my dog and headed for the car. I ended up driving half an hour to my grandparents where I immediately brought myself and my animals into the back bedroom and collapsed on the bed in tears.
Was it worry? Perhaps fear? Maybe even a little terror at mourning at the thought of losing it all?
No. It was pure emotional exhaustion. This fire was just the latest thing in a long line of horrible, terrible, no good days that shredded my emotions and left me hollowed. I'd had enough. Apparently my grandmother thought the same because not long afterwards I found myself in her car being driven to a friends place. Not one of mine, one of hers. This woman lives on an acreage that is surrounded by trees with vines and flowers growing up everywhere. Every time I walk into this woman's home I feel touched, rejuvenated. There is just so much life and love I can't help but be swept up in it.
Of course this time I couldn't see the flowers. Night had fallen and painted the sky an inky black that was strangling even the stars out of their shine. My grandmother stopped the car and told me to get out and go into the inner ring of bushes in the center of the main yard. As I shut the door the car pulled away and I was left on my own. At this point I figured what else could possibly happen to me to make this day worse? Being attacked may be a nice change of pace, so I took off towards the bushes. As I got closer there was a faint glow, almost like fire (which by now I recognized quite readily) with a minty scent.
This woman is known for being eccentric, and is pagan down to her very deepest roots. I loved her immediately. As I stepped into the protective ring of foliage I saw women. Women everywhere and of all shapes. All of these women were sitting in a large jacuzzi completely naked with a glass of wine.
This? Was a naked spa night.
As I took it all in I saw every body type: tall and skinny, short and plump, others with curves in all the right places that make you long for their bodies, and even more with a little more weight to them, a roundness and softness that called to me. The women's ages span across decades. There were those in their twenties without a wrinkle in sight and those with bodies that had been so loved and worn their stories were painted on the lines of their skin. I was quickly scooped up and undressed, given a glass of wine and plopped in the water. I learned this was phase one of the evening. As the night went on and the bottles of wine went down, the women got braver and showed more as we went from activity to activity.
We went from the jacuzzi to the cool pond that sent our skin tingling. From the pond to the lounge chairs where the only cover up we wore was a mask of crushed avocado on faces as we laughed at inappropriate jokes and comments. I watched as the moonlight painted these women. Taught skin and curves caressed by its light, breasts hung heavy as they shadowed the chests they lay upon. A silver sparkle taking to even the most dark skin. The wrinkles filling with that beam as the older women smile and laugh at the antics of the younger girls remarking there are just some places that a face mask just cannot be used to tighten the skin again.
Every woman was in her glory. Not one person was ashamed as we lay naked in the night under the moon surrounded by leaves and candles so we wouldn't trip over branches as we moved from station to station. It was a break from reality, a way to refuel ourselves for the days that lay ahead. Above all it was a safe haven. A place safe from judgement and worry. I felt something in my chest open up. I felt that I was at home, and for the first time in a long time I felt happy. As I watched the women and took part I felt it slipping away. All that anger and hurt, all the rage I had bottled over the last year, it was all gone, washed away by the water, moon and the women around. And yes, perhaps even the wine.
The experience has taught me that no matter what is happening I need to sit down and unwind whether it's in the bath or just finding a quiet spot to sit for a few moments because eventually the break down will catch up with me. Since then I also see the human body in a whole new way. These women were of every walk of life, some outgoing and some not. Yet not one of them hid their bodies, not one of them was embarrassed. It was liberating and quite frankly it was beautiful. I felt so much better walking out of that yard than I did walking in to it that I'm considering starting my own little group to do this with. It gave me more confidence than I've had in quite a while, it made me happy and that to me makes the momentary fear of stripping myself bare in front of a group worth every moment of joy after it.