I was once an extroverted girl who loved loud Motown concerts and learned every dance on American Bandstand. I liked singing, acting, and jiving with friends, my husband, and our sons. I loved concerts, opera, and plays but, in recent years, complex sound hurts my struggling ears.
With well-learned lip reading skills, high-tech hearing aid equipment, low background noise, and patient people, I communicate well in most situations. Well enough that I have to remind friends to move their hand away from their mouth or face me when they speak so I can read their lips.
In the world of honking horns, crowded restaurants, blaring loud speakers, and cash register dings, I’m trapped in a cacophony of exhausting sound, struggling to read a speaker’s lips. No matter how satisfying the social interactions, I’m grateful to return to my quiet world.
I once felt close to Athena, but she’s a goddess of civilization and the political and social world where I struggle now. I imagined a move to town after my husband’s death, but I’m happiest on my land with easy access to the forest. It’s not what I expected at this time of life.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the world of nature is ruled by Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology). Looking back, I know she’s always been beside me, but I hardly noticed how I counted on her and needed her to be an independent women who knows how to protect herself.
What does Artemis teach me about aging and being alone? How is silence an opportunity rather than a curse?
For Artemis, Nature is the holy sanctuary. In her wild temple, I’m at ease and most myself. Under big trees and on the trails, I touch a hushed world of bird songs in the canopy and gurgling streams. I carry a small notebook to capture intuitions that emerge on the trail.
Artemis has a complicated and sometimes fierce history, far beyond the scope of one short blog. I’ll share only one relevant story. Artemis was a daddy’s girl. She asked her father Zeus to grant six wishes: to remain a Virgin Goddess, independent of any man, to be the Light Bringer or new moon, and to own a silver bow and arrow and wear a knee-length tunic for the hunt. She asked for women, girls, and hounds as companions rather than a husband and children. She wanted the Wilderness as her holy place, not a temple made by men. Finally, she asked to be a midwife and protector of women, children, and animals. Zeus agreed to each request.
(image above): Diana of Versailles or Artemis of the Chase, wikimedia, Leochares, ~325 BC
I don’t hunt with a bow, but shoot with my camera. After a long marriage, I adapted to life without a male partner. I know the joy of women friends and dogs. In my Artemisian wilderness, the sky is dark and moon and stars glow bright. In my forest refuge, I never feel vulnerable or alone.
Artemis, I ask you, “How does an extrovert become an introvert? How does a woman learn to thrive on her own? How does a lover of music live in silence? How does a mature woman find a new target for her silver arrows?
Protect me from my limitations, Artemis. Help me enjoy life’s banter, even when I miss the jokes. Help my eyes support my ears. Let me watch the new moon set, the sun rise, the leaves quiver in the wind. Let this muted world be enough.
“Don’t try so hard,” the Goddess says. “Let the focus shift. Flying words are soon forgotten. In writing and in quiet conversation when lips can be read and ideas slow down, your words stay strong and true.
“I’ll protect your quiet world, the forest, and the wilderness where you’re at home. I’ll guard the gift of silence where you do creative work. When you leave your sanctuary for the noisy world, I’ll wait for your return.
I’ll walk with you and write with you. I’ll help your silver words fly straight.”
I’m working on a long piece about Artemis, so this is just a taste. Do you remember fairy tales or mythological stories that still guide you in adult life? What’s your relationship to silence and solitude? For other articles I’ve written about Greek goddesses, see Home with Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth or Descending into Darkness with Persephone. For a rich and reliable website of Greek mythology and beautiful images, I suggest you visit this site hosted by Aquileana.