Looking through old files I came across this essay which I wanted to share. It’s at least 20 years old
but I think it still has some worth. Enjoy.
THE POLLEN PATH
The Navajo call the way to heaven the pollen path. In my cosmology, the pollen path is what women follow. In previous generations our choices were not much more. Without luck, talent, good fortune, wealth, we bore children until we stopped menstruating, sentenced to the pollen path.
In 1960 The Pill was released, the most reliable form of birth control the world had known and one which gave women control. Biology suddenly was not destiny, at least not in the old way. The woman decided or she could if she wanted to assume control of her own body.
The times called for a new metaphor, a new mode of thinking and there had to be an analogy for women to fasten on, a change in the way we thought and what we accepted as our destiny.
Fairy tales (folklore) directed to the education of women hold the combined advice of our species, tell us how to act.
Boys go on quests to become men, but women don’t need a quest to tell them when they pass from one phase of life to another, their bodies let them know.
If you enter the world of fairy tales, the world of the primordial feminine, our roles are quite limited. Good mother, good daughter, saint; bad mother, bad daughter, wicked witch.
For girls, the most popular Mother Goose Tale is “Little Red Riding Hood.” She travels through a dark forest to take food to her grandmother who is ill. The woods are dangerous and wild and her mother warns her “not to loiter, nor run and don’t forget to say good morning prettily without staring about you.” So the mother has warned her about her manners and her actions, but not about the real dangers of the woods. Red Riding Hood is innocent (or stupid) and the wolf tricks her. And isn’t that what our ignorance does? Isn’t this how young girls are abused by men, by giving them trust and having them drop seed and run off. Should we blame our mothers because they didn’t warn us, being overly concerned with how we behaved according to the standards of society – smile, be nice, say thank you, nice girls don’t do that. Passivity wins.
In the 40’s men who goggled, ogled after women were called wolves. Now they hang around bus stations and tempt runaways from the country. The updated moral of the story is, the woods are dark and deep and don’t expect a passing hunter to rescue you because those manners your mother insisted on only make you vulnerable.
The collective advice of woman to woman down the centuries is the same: beware of the wolf who will be polite and then eat you up, subsume your personality, give you no room to grow. That’s the theme of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Even if your mother doesn’t tell you, this is the voice of female culture giving you the news.
You might be like poor little Cinderella – passively abused by any and all while the absent father does whatever he does. Realistically, wouldn’t she say, listen dad, this woman is a terrorist. No, she whimpers in her corner, knowing that passivity pays. But wait, a miracle will happen – love. She is rescued and lives happily ever after. And that would be a miracle. That’s why Pretty Woman is such a loathsome movie. It encourages a way of thinking that is doomed, an evolutionary cul de sac.
Snow White, the beautiful child, is taken to the woods and left for the animals. She is rescued by seven dwarfs. The dwarfs – Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy, Happy and Doc – represent unrealized emotional states that she must internalize before she can survive: unconsciousness; temper and moods; stupidity; passivity or inability to articulate; and the sneeze, the burst of inspiration, intuition; delight; and the wisdom of the body. These archetypal feminine traits (represented by deformed child-men) have to be recognized in ourselves, and not projected on the world, if women are to really raise their consciousness. The understanding of the self is the beginning of wisdom.
Once Snow White had adopted the dwarfs or been adopted by them, she learned what she needed to know and so was able to survive against the terrible threat of the Mothers, the old wives, the dreadful power of the negative feminine archetype, the witch, that yin force that wants to keep us in the dark cave of the past.
Why is “Beauty and the Beast” so popular these days? This tale tells you what to do with a husband after you get one. All is not happy ever aftering. You have to tame the beast. That male directed need for sex must be controlled. Teach him to eat with a spoon, drink from a cup and put the seat down on the toilet. This is not a tale of passivity. You are given by your father to another man. You must live with him for the rest of your life. What should you do? Tame the beast. There is good advice here. How you do it now, that’s the question.
Comedy is female. It ends happily in marriage. The community celebrates its own continuance. But that was then. That’s not how female dramas end anymore. The shotgun wedding is a thing of the past. What has emerged is the unwed mother – the fifteen or sixteen year old raising her baby alone. Single parent households headed by women are more likely statistically to exist below the poverty level.
And now that these little Sleeping Beauties have been awakened sexually and the world has sprung to life, who will they live happily ever after with? Where’s the tale about the righteous mother who sends them off to college with a plastic container of birth control pills and a reminder about STDs. Where’s the metaphor for living alone with a colicky baby and never enough money?
For many, many years, these tales contained all the archetypal advice women needed to survive. Not any more. Self sacrificing role models are not in the best interest of women, but served the culture. Movies and television took up the role as distributors of cultural legacy and though they deny it, give us our role models, our views of how women should act. They are sluts or squares, groupies or superwomen, the sluts and the groupies so much more interesting than the squares and the superwomen, always portrayed as steely manhating bitches. We have to determine what messages we get from our culture and whether or not those messages are in our best interests. If good and bad are so hopelessly muddled, if saint has become so dull we aren’t intersted, and witch has become an exciting possibility, where can we look for a way? If we can’t sort our way through, the dwarves will live homeless under decaying bridges, determined to be trolls, to exact tolls.
If biology is no longer destiny, if self assertion is to be as strong an emotion as love, we must find new tales, new adaptations to tell our daughters how to live.
When I was ten, I woke up. I realized I had been asleep all my life until that moment. I wanted answers. No one understood me. Why are we here? I asked. To do god’s will was the reply. What is his will? That’s what we must find out. And so I trailed around those who supposedly had answers in a small circle like a bitch chasing her tail.
I would have odd dreams – unimportant events – opening a package of crackers. Suddenly while opening a packet of crackers that dream would return to me with such strength, the hair on my neck would actually rise. There were physical manifestations. I would try to explain. No one understood. When I finally heard the words deja vu I knew instantly from felt knowledge. I was relieved that this had a name. You read to know you’re not alone. I wanted to stand up in class and tell everyone about the packet of crackers, but I knew that was useless. I knew that my true thoughts were not to be shared because they would only pave the way for ridicule because that’s what we do about things we don’t understand. We fear it or we laugh at it.
When I was 18 I worried that there was no change in my consciousness and in 8 years something should have happened. I was always like this or I will be always like this, I thought. Since the day I woke up, I have been me. I never mentioned it. It was too personal, too private to share. I did not entertain the thought that some of us never wake up.
I was standing in a dark parking lot in the middle of August. I had just graduated from high school. It was raining, a fine misty rain and you could hear it falling like a sigh in the dry goldenrod and weeds. Wraiths were rising from puddles. I was waiting. I knew I was waiting, for a sign, for something, for the cellophane crinkling on a packet of crackers. I knew intensely that she was out there sighing in the weeds of summer – the she I would be; the she, who if she wanted, could call back to me the answer I needed – what I should do; who will I be? I almost had the answer, her voice chocolate, bitter, rhythmic, almost a singing.
The door to Izzy’s diner slammed shut. I could hear the juke box, Clyde McPhatter singing “Unchain me, unchain me” and headlights cut the dark route 6 – 11 above the valley, tires swishing through the rain. She was gone. I thought about her there and felt her presence in my chest sometimes, but never came as close to knowing the future as that night when I stood in that parking lot half way between the Blue Bird Diner and the White Swan Inn.
I saw this meeting in retrospect as a story and I could look back to the ten year old, to the poor dizzy girl contending with her deja vu and see it play out as a narrative.
A young girl called Henny set forth into a dark field of second growth shrubs and tall weeds and her mother had told her not to speak to strangers, ever. However, Henny’s mother often gave her bad advice, silly advice for she was a silly woman.
An emaciated wretch with knobby bones sticking out, covered with rags and filth, jumped out and demanded food. Her hair was white and matted and stuck to her scalp. “Feed me, Henny,” she whined.
Henny looked in her basket and found a book – Robinson Crusoe – she gave it to the old woman who scuttled away into the dark stand of sumac trees where deer slept.
Years went by. The next time Henny saw the woman she was wearing a cape of goatskin and a cap of woven straw. “More,” she demanded. Henny gave her a book of poems by Dylan Thomas.
The last time Henny saw the woman she had made a house out of books and wore a cloak of crimson velvet and her hair was a rich reddish brown sticking out in a halo like rays of a dark sun. The woman took Henny’s hands in hers and kissed each cheek and out of the basket she had made that never emptied she brought forth a strawberry, tart and sweet, and put it in Henny’s mouth. When Henny came home and looked in the mirror, she saw that she was what she had seen. She had made her own future and it was sweet and tart, and would last as long as she needed it to. And even when she was old, she would gather the little ones and tell them about the woman she had made, the wild thing who dreamed what the deer dreamed and ran through the weeds without future.
We all follow the pollen path for part of our lives, but at a certain point, we converse with those dwarfed tendencies in ourselves and learn their secrets. We control our moods and meet with the future in the wilderness. Who will we be?
We are the first generations to have a future. We have to use it well. Those children behind are relying on us to provide a way to be in the world. This is evolution and it is too important to be entrusted to people who sell time for money.