Grief is a sacred journey

Giving Hope a Seat Between Anxiety and Grief: Women’s March on Washington

Sign at San Francisco March by Genesis Grey

Sign at San Francisco March by Genesis Grey

Women, girls, kids, and men in pink hats and scarves jammed the Washington Metro subway. A joyful and determined pink mob pressed together and helped each other find a place to stand or sit. Each stop added more marchers, more posters, more pink hats and scarves, more excitement.

The day before the Women’s March on Washington, I’d driven seven hours south to a Maryland suburb with friends Jane and Roger to spend the weekend with their friend Grace. Grace arranged for us to join her neighbors the next morning so we could travel to the march together.

Jane, Roger, Grace, and me

Jane, Roger, Grace, and me

The group from Grace's neighborhood

The group from Grace’s neighborhood

Metro stations near the march were closed because of crowds, but Grace’s young neighbors knew alternate routes. As we got closer, it was hard to see, hear, or move. To stay with our group, I kept an eye on Grace’s pink hat. I wore images of the fierce Egyptian lioness goddess and protector Sekhmet—a different kind of pussycat.

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Waiting to get ina Metro car

Waiting to get in a Metro car

 

Tibetan nuns and teenagers offered me a hand up on a wall for a better view. A man about twenty stood beside me with eyes beaming kindness. Tears of sweet joy dripped down my cheeks.

Police officers leaned against their parked flashing cars and beamed big smiles. Some wore pink hats. I saw barricades and traffic control, but didn’t see a sharpshooter or a tank. Peace and hope ruled, not flyovers. The Washington Police said there had been no arrests. Not one.

Photo via Joan Jacobs Brumberg

Photo via Joan Jacobs Brumberg

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Since I couldn’t hear the speeches over the PA system, I listened with my eyes. The crowds parted for a man with a stroller. Then a white-haired woman with a cane. Young mothers held babies against their hearts. Joyful girls carried homemade signs and hats.  No one looked afraid or hopeless. I thought of antiwar marches in the 1960s and climate change rallies in recent years, but I’d never seen a love fest like this.

With half a million others, my heart offered Hope a seat between Anxiety and Grief.

Photo by Jane Baker Segelken

Photo by Jane Baker Segelken

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These people cared. They said “No!” to rage and prejudice, selfish greed and “alternative facts.” A young woman’s sign said, “I had been taking MY FREEDOM for granted.” The crowds in DC and Los Angeles, in Memphis and Denton, TX, in Seneca Falls, NY and Boston weren’t taking their freedoms for granted anymore.

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boston introvert sign from Laura Mignery

Sign from Boston via Laura Mignery

After the rally, police canceled the original parade route because of crowd size, so protesters moved away from the National Mall in many marches through city streets. Following Grace’s hat, I heard loud persistent chanting and saw everyone looking up. I followed their gaze to see the entrance of Trump Hotel. No one threw a rock. It would have been easy, but it wasn’t that kind of day.

We had gathered in peace to protect democracy and social justice. We gathered to protect women, children, minorities, and those excluded from the American dream. We gathered on behalf of the Earth and our future. Thank you, America, for refusing to take our messy democracy for granted.

***

Sehkmet

Sehkmet

On Sunday’s drive home, we talked about what to do next. What one thing felt passionate, possible, and positive? When I got home, I found a message titled Ten Actions for the First One Hundred Days. It’s a great place to begin. Thank you to the Women’s March on Washington (and Everywhere) for organizing, inspiring, and recognizing this as only the beginning of hard work ahead.

For a post about my first anti-war demonstration in 1967, see Civil Disobedience against the Vietnam War at the Peace Bridge. For an article about the last time I went to Washington, DC for a climate change demonstration in 2013, see Standing Up for Mother Earth.

36 Comments
  1. Dear Elaine, Seriously wow! Thank you for sharing your Women’s March experience. I also enjoyed the photos of you and all those other Warrior Goddesses too! I don’t know where to start, my heart is just bursting with pride, eyes brimming with happy tears. Oh begin with the Cat the soul whispers!

    So having read the other posts you mention, I can see that Sekhmet, Pussy ‘ear’ hats and Vic’s bell are all deeply connected to the mystery, and symbolism of the Cat herself … whom Von Franz wrote a brilliant book about called, “The Cat: A Tale of Feminine Redemption” which is my favourite MLVF book!

    How wonderful it was to read, of “eyes beaming kindness” and “tears filled with sweet joy!” As I watched the news coverage here (UK) my thoughts turned to both you and Jeanie, knowing that you were taking part and hoped that I would be reading about your experiences a few days later. Aha! So this is what feminine redemption in full flow looks like! Just awesome!! Blessings, Deborah.

    • Thank you, Deborah. It was a wonderful moment–and it’s hard to hang on to hope when I read the news. I can only hope we remember and awaken. When I’m with young women, even a young clerk at the grocery store today, I tell them how inspiring it was and how important that women show up on behalf of ourselves, the earth, and those who are trampled and left behind.

      I know von Franz’s book and love the story of the cat. It’s one of the fairy tales we’re considering for future exploration in my women’s mythology class. It seemed the whole world smiled on the march, but our hope and positive intentions don’t penetrate the politicians in power. I’ve never seen such a cold-hearted group of white elite taking pleasure in threatening the world. So, as always, we’ll write letters, talk together, sign petitions, and march. And we’ll wait to see what happens next

      • Women must be freed, they have been treated as second class
        Citizens for far too long .

        • I agree, Kenneth. Teaching women the ways they are not being treated equally is a slow process. I have great hope for the young women and men. There were so many young ones at the marches all over the world. They’re the ones who can usher in big change, but peaceful change takes time. I’m trying to be patient and take one small action each day. Today, another letter requesting compassion from the man who moved into the White House. So far, I haven’t seen one sign of kindness, but it must be there somewhere.

  2. I love it love it love it. I got a jump start on my own writing. …miss you

  3. Thank you for sharing the experience Elaine. I wished I could have been there, and I said to myself that for sure Elaine will post about the experience in her next post. <3

    • Here I am, Debby. It was thrilling to be there. Now for the big job of keeping Hope alive.

      • It’s a mountain to climb Elaine, but hope is always there. United we stand is in full force across the world. God bless America. <3

        • Hard to know what’s going and who has the power to do what or stop what. We will see. We will see. Meanwhile, lots of introverts are acting up and saying what they think.

  4. I would love to suggest we use this time to get the ERA passed.
    For starters.

    • At the Women’s March, I loved seeing women dressed like suffragettes with signs saying, “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this sh*t.” We ran into the same kind of resistance with the ERA. I’d love to see it passed. I also enjoyed this article titled “You are not equal. I’m sorry!” The author writes about inequality and thanks the women who came before who fought for the vote, education, birth control, etc. https://medium.com/@dinachka82/about-your-poem-1f26a7585a6f#.rc2y95xa8

  5. I loved all the positive photo’s shared on Facebook from you and other women I know who participated. The female principle, so often ignored in our patricidal society, showed such a good example.
    There is one thing I recently started doing Jean Raffa her post about the inner couple reminded me of it) and that is to visualise my inner couple each day. In my mind’s eye I see my inner male, strong and attractive, and my inner female, graceful and with sparkling eyes. I let my inner mind enjoy the energy between the two of them. I think both of these strengths need each other. In Trump you can see how ugly and out of balance a male-driven relationship is (that poor lady of him, yes I know she chose him and she got a lot of advantages but my goodness she looked so lonely and miserable).

    So thanks for representing me out there. I was there in spirit.

    • Thanks for your comment and for sharing your daily visualization, Susanne. I hope it’s clear in my writing how much I enjoy and love men from friends to helpers to my sons. If my husband Vic were alive, he would have gone to Washington with me. I think it’s essential to cultivate an inner and outer balance of masculine and feminine.

      Many comment on how miserable the new First Lady looked, so I assume we’ll see her looking cheery in the future. It was possible she was simply overwhelmed and trying not to cry.

      The Women’s Marches all over this country and the world were joyful and inspiring. So much patience, kindness, love, and hope. I loved that so many young people came. I count on them.

  6. Thank you, Elaine. Your title for this piece is perfect! It perfectly describes what I’m still working on. Thanks for modeling what it looks like to tolerate the tension in the middle place. Jeanie

    • Jeanie, I worked on this piece until 5 minutes before post time. (I know you’ll understand.) I wrote and did the layout the day before when exhausted from the Washington trip. My focus was on my many positive photos. I woke up early the next morning knowing I needed a different title and a changed beginning. Oh no! This messed up the layout, so I had to redo that. For the title, I had the right image, but wasn’t satisfied with the wording. Up it went anyway. Another experience of letting go of perfection.

      Being there filled me with renewed hope and a stronger stance in that middle place. Despair gets me nowhere. I’m fueled by hope and trust.

  7. I love this Elaine and such wonderful photos. You captured some beautiful moments. Marching filled me with such hope too. I just put out a poem today about the election, resistance, and marching on Rebelle Society.

    • Thank you, Heidi, for reading this and for taking time to make a comment. So many of us gathered beautiful moments and buckets of hope. I was glad to share mine. I’ll look for your poem at Rebelle Society. It’s a wonderful site.

  8. Hi Elaine, I don’t know what happened to my comment – maybe I wrote it on my ‘smart’ phone and it didn’t take … I always like to come back and read your response back …

    Well done for making the time and considerable effort to attend the march on Saturday. To do this with loved ones and others in peace and solidarity for social justice and democracy makes my heart melt. And to the men who attended, they have my admiration too.

    Yes, troubling times ahead – women rise not only in times of adversity but when these times of adversity are upon us, our strength is humbling. May the work continue –

    • Ah, the mysteries of electronic communication. Thank you for trying again, Susan. I don’t try to manage my blog or website on my cell phone. Too much goes wrong when I do. So I respond to you and write from my lap top plugged into a docking station with a wide screen.

      Washington was inspiring in so many ways–and I hope we can hang on to that inspiration for the hard work ahead. I’m not sure what can be done except to write letters, contact representatives (the US representative from my district is an oil company man who loves Trump, but I have great state senators), flood them with mail, protest and march, sign petitions, talk to neighbors, and hold on to that positive spirit of love for each other and the earth. I keep thinking of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ line: “We are made for these times.”

  9. Thank you for your work and your story. Keep fighting, I’m right by your side! This is a whole lot of work already but I’m dedicated to keeping the momentum going! I also have started a blog series “What Now” with very easy actionable steps anyone can do from anywhere to protect our rights at jessejunkocreates.tumblr.com

    • Thanks for reading and taking time to comment, Jesse. I don’t have a tumbler account, but just followed your link and found your blog series “What Now.” I’ll spend time looking at the details. At the moment, I’m working on the 10 Actions in 100 Days which I posted at the bottom of this blog. I will do at least one thing every day. Yesterday I sent a letter to the occupant of the White House protesting his undoing of environmental safeguards. It’s a hard time to stay positive, but it feels important. The marches filled me with goodwill and hope, so I hang on to those images and feelings.

  10. Great post and photos, Elaine. I’m so impressed that it all went so beautifully!

    • The numbers were wonderful, Joan, and the lack of violent incidents or even one arrest reflected the loving feeling of the day. It’s difficult to talk about politics with those who disagree, but I don’t want to give up my own freedom of speech. These are unusual times.

  11. Thanks for being there, Elaine. And for transporting me to the march through your words and photos. Yep, lots of work to be done. So glad it was peaceful and joyful. Cheers!

    • It was wonderful to be with the good feeling and peace in the midst of the chaos of these times–like a high protein healthy meal before a long hike up a mountain. Fortified, energized, and ready. I have to keep feeding myself hopeful food.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story! I was with you, via Kanab, Utah. I was blown away by the loving vibes and at first thought it was unique to Kanab. Then when I got back to my RV I began connecting with other marches and marchers and realized it has been a national phenomenon. Wow. Amazing. Let’s keep the positivity as we attend to the 10 in the next 100 days. Blessings!

    • Thank you for being there in Utah, Charli. Isn’t it amazing that people marched in Utah and Texas and Mississippi? I’ve only heard positive reports except for a few who felt overwhelmed by the crowds. I also heard complaints about the hats as a symbol and grumbling about the way the marches were organized or disorganized. I understand that it wasn’t perfect and nothing is, but so many people showed up for democracy and social justice and human rights and the environment and our future. As more and more pink hats got on the Washington, DC Metro, my heart felt fuller by the minute, even though I wasn’t wearing a pink hat.

  13. It’s great to compare notes with you on a day I’ll never forget either, Elaine.

    Can you believe it was only a little more than a week ago, and already there if so much more to protest?

    I love seeing these pictures again. They fill me with hope and energy.

    • I replenished myself in the forest yesterday where the trees don’t talk about politics or ask me to sign petitions on their behalf (although I already do). A phone call to Paul Ryan’s office before breakfast and before a vote on Affordable Health Care. Yikes! Now on to immigration. What will be next? We haven’t heard details of the environmental chaos that will be unleashed. It’s hard to understand any motive other than destruction of a fragile system that held together for centuries despite all odds. Yes, the photos fill me with hope and energy, too, but there is also pervasive grief. Be strong, Shirley, and continue on with the good work you do.

  14. What a great post. I especially appreciated the positivity flowing through your words. We live in dark times, but there are a lot of people working to change that. 🙂

    • Thank you, Lydia. I’m trying to be constructive because I think it’s the only way to get through this without violence. Instead of attacking, I want to articulate the values I stand for and what I think my country stands for. As it says on the State of Liberty, “…Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I believe in that!

  15. Thank you, Elaine. I was only there via live feed – as I was at the community meeting on the #AntiMuslim ban here convened by Ilhan Omar – but it was so heartening to me to know you were there. And Regi too, I understand. Action steps are getting into my task manager, I have alerts set up from my MOCs (though they are blissfully not part of the problem), and we are resisting here in Minneapolis.

    • Thank you, Paula, for taking time to send encouraging words and for being part of what’s happening in your community. The marches inspired, but the persistent work is in the kind of community meeting you attended or the groups gathering to send letters and messages to congressmen and senators or churches that decide we’re on the wrong path. As a young man pointed out on FB today, we would have turned Jesus away. I don’t know what MOC stands for, but it’s good news that Minneapolis is organizing. There’s plenty of work to go around.

  16. Elaine –I only saw this post now but I marched in Toronto (in a crowd of 100,000!) and the feeling was the same. Everyone is welcome at the table.

    • Thank you, Susan. I love knowing you were in Toronto. I loved the sign that said “So bad, even introverts are here.” We could now say, “So bad, even Canadians are here.” Thanks for the support!

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