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Chapter 4: Grandmother Moon

April 4, 2013

Fatima sat on a low cushion.
Their leader was Helen, a beautiful woman with a kind face and intelligent eyes.
“You don’t have to be an actual Grandmother to join us,” she had said. “We welcome you.”
Fatima wasn’t an actual Grandmother. She wasn’t even a mother.

A Grandmother is a mature, independent woman. She is wise. She offers guidance. She leads by example.

There were three other women in the Circle. They had been shy of one another at first, but Helen drew them out. Trisha had two daughters and four grandchildren. Alice had two boys and a girl, all grown up, with her first grandbaby on the way. Maya was a free spirit. Her sons were in Australia, chartered accountants both of them, not ready for wives or children – they rarely spoke. Helen was a full-time Grandmother. Her daughter was dead and the babydaddy was – away. She didn’t say where.

Only Fatima was entirely childless. Twice married, never blessed. She had not been diagnosed with anything, but it wasn’t the sort of thing you went to a doctor for, to her mind. Allah dealt with that side of things, not doctors. You fell pregnant, or you didn’t. You carried a child, or Allah took the child. You brought sons into the world, or you cared for your sisters’ children. It was no business of the doctor-man.

“Would you like to sing?”
Helen looked around the Circle expectantly. The women shuffled and looked uneasy.
“I will show you,” said Helen.

It was something like a mantra, something like plainsong. The words entered into you. Grandmother Moon, who has loved and lost, Grandmother Moon, guide us to peace. Grandmother Moon, who has lived so long, Grandmother Moon, guide us to peace.

They talked about the menopause, and how it made them feel to lose their fertility. Fatima said – I have no fertility. I have lost nothing.
Even so, she was a dried out woman now, just like the rest of them. No milk, no blood.
“Just tears,” said Trisha.
“Yes,” said Fatima. “We’ve always got those.”

Afterwards, she wanted to stay. More precisely – she did not want to leave. She had never met women like these.

A women called Lena joined as leader and a few other women filtered in. Younger women, mostly. Trisha stayed. A tiny wee thing who called herself Pixie, all grubby hair and nose-rings. And a fading blonde, mutton dressed in patchwork fairy-wings – Miriam. Others too, but Fatima lost track.

The next session began: Finding the Goddess Within.

Lena began to talk. She spoke in a low, hypnotic voice. She spoke of the Goddess in everything. In all that lived and bore fruit. In the rocks of the earth. In the stars that shone through the cosmos. She bade them picture the moon as a slip of a maiden, ripening into a full-bellied queen and then gliding away into the next world.  The Goddess will touch you. She will guide you. She will fill you.
“Will she embrace me?” This was Kelly: a thin, scared girl in a fat, purple cardigan.
“Yes, she will.”

“You have such auras!” said Lena. “So many colours.”
Pixie was magenta, but tinged with a sad yellow. She confessed that she knew it. Her boyfriend did not respect her. Did not respect the Goddess within her.
The others nodded, understanding.

The aura inspection went on. Fatima lost interest, and she caught Helen’s eye. Held it.

Helen moved to sit beside her and took both of her hands. She said nothing, but held on for a long minute, and Fatima looked at her and didn’t know whether to feel uncomfortable. Helen’s eyes were deep, sad, embracing. Perhaps she was the Goddess. When at length she placed a tiny kiss on Fatima’s cheek and left the tent, Fatima felt a small desolation. She felt the kiss, light and damp, and tried to pay attention to the auras. She lifted a hand to touch her cheek.

Afterwards, there was a guided meditation.
Fatima felt at odds with herself. She was Grandmother, yet she was not. She was Woman, yet she was not. She was Goddess, yet she was not.
Perhaps, after all, the answers were not in a tent, in a field, in this woollen English place.

Helen returned just at the end of the workshop, as Fatima was leaving, and pressed something into her hand. As she walked away she saw that it was a bundle of leaves, tied with a purple ribbon. She lifted it to her face and inhaled. The ribbon was satin, fine, shiny.
This is another woolly English thing, she thought.

“Hi!” said Lena. Fatima had found her Earth Ministry banner. “It’s Fatima, isn’t it? You were in the workshop earlier?”
Fatima nodded. She browsed through the trinkets. Some of them were quite pretty. There were  tiny drawstring bags, hand stitched. She found a little patchwork one with a blue elephant on one side and a red one on the other. She liked it.

“Do you know anything about herbs?” she asked, looking at Lena sideways as she fingered the patchwork.
“What do you want to know?”
Fatima paused, framing the question.
“Someone gave me something. Some herbs. I just wondered if it – meant something.”
Lena took the bundle. “Sage,” she said musing. “Sage is cleansing. We burn it to purify.”
“To purify what?”
“Whatever is clouded. Mind, spirit, home.”
“Oh,” said Fatima, thinking – so what does that mean?
“It smells nice, too.”
Does Helen think I smell?
“The purple here – it stands for balance, for peace.”
Fatima nodded. “I see.”
“Is there something in your heart that is keeping you from peace?”
“I don’t know.”

She did though.
It was the iron smell of her seven miscarriages that kept her from peace.

That night she returned to the fire circle.
Later there would be drumming, and rowdy youngsters, fire-jugglers maybe. Noise and excitement.
But now it was settling into dusk, a time of chickpea curry and rest.

She took the sage bundle from the patchwork elephant bag. She stared at the flames, feeling the smooth ribbon and the prickly sage against her fingers. Eventually, she made up her mind, turned her eyes to the bundle and drew out a single sprig of the sage. She held it for a moment, hesitating, and then leaned forward, dropping it into the fire.

She watched it burn. Her eyes followed the smoke up into the darkening sky, and there was the moon.
Big bellied, but gliding towards the next world. Grandmother Moon.

She heard the approaching song of the Hare Krishnas and realised she was hungry. She stood up and left the fire, wondering if they had cake.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2013 11:56 pm

    Wordcount – 1124
    Prompt – (1) Grandmother Circle (cont.) (Squash Blossom Fibres) and (2) “a half burnt sage bundle with a purple ribbon found in her bag” (Cabin Goddess)

    Please suggest prompts for Chapter 5 in the comments!
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

  2. April 6, 2013 12:15 am

    chai

  3. April 7, 2013 4:00 pm

    Perhaps rebirth. It seems that the idea might give Fatima peace to think that the next turn of the wheel she could be mother and grandmother. Though it could also cause unwanted questions about what she had done to deserve her current state. Just an idea. Well written.

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