Grief is a sacred journey

The Estrogen Empire Strikes Back: Seneca Falls Women’s March, 1/20/18

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(Photo: Jane Segelken)

We drove along the west side of Cayuga Lake toward Seneca Falls, NY, the site of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park where the first Women’s Rights Convention met in 1848. One year ago, Jane and Roger and I drove to Washington, DC for the national march. This year, we stayed closer to home.

After parking, we waited in a long line for a shuttle. Tears rolled down my face as I watched people board school buses. This sea of women, men, and children had awakened too early on a Saturday morning, pulled on winter boots, grabbed their pink hats and signs, and showed up.

Elaine and Jane (Photo: Roger Segelken)

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time we entered the bus, hot salty tears flowed down my cheeks. A man younger than my sons offered me his seat. “No, I’m OK,” I said. “I’m OK. I’m happy.”

He motioned for me to sit down with a pleading smile. His girlfriend’s eyes begged, “Please sit down.” Accepting myself as a white-haired elder who couldn’t convince them weeping was a good thing, I sat. Tears kept coming as we drove toward the park.

Others peered into my face with concern. “I’m OK,” I mouthed looking at them through wet eyes, smiling and bringing my hands together in prayer position over my heart. “I’m happy.”

If it hadn’t been noisy and crowded, I could have explained my complicated feelings. I was happy to be there. After having a feverish flu the week before, that wasn’t a given. At the same time, I ached for the suffering of this beautiful earth, for her swimming, winged, and crawling creatures, for the displaced and hopeless, for humans, ancient trees, and clear water. My heart longed for a positive future that felt a little closer because we’d gathered together to demand justice and equality.

As speeches blared over the PA system, I watched signs and searched for friends. Everyone was hungry for connections. Old connections. New connections. A sense of community.

“I’ll hold my sign high,” I wrote in a text to close friends who had driven separately. “The one with the Goddess’s hands holding the earth. Maybe you’ll see it.”

With Roger, Jane, and friends who found my sign at the march

From behind, someone yelled my name. They’d seen the sign and joined Roger, Jane, and me for the march. I fell in love with so many signs, especially one that said “The Estrogen Empire Strikes Back.”

I thought about how estrogen works with oxytocin to soften our hearts toward the suffering of others. To make us long for touch, bonding, and affection. To encourage us to care for and protect each other. To build community and human family.

I was moved by young woman with pink-hatted babies. I was moved by elders who came in wheelchairs and walkers. I was moved by men who weren’t afraid of pink and stood with women. (Thank you, Roger.) I was moved by the gentle police officers and how few of them were needed for this gathering of 15,000.

This is how Estrogen strikes back—with hope, hugs, and concern for the suffering of others.

Photo: Roger Segelken

As we hiked back to the car after the march, my friend heard someone yell from a gas station, “You’re a bunch of weirdos.” I remembered being a weirdo for standing against the Vietnam War and, years later, for supporting our national forest from development. I remembered being a weirdo for opposing gas storage near Seneca Lake, for standing against nuclear war and for universal health care, and for believing that everyone should have a vote, healthy food, and education.

 

Through the eyes of patriarchy, estrogen may look weird. To my eyes,  it’s healthy, healing, and edifying.

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With gratitude to Seneca Falls, for hosting this large gathering. Did you take part in a march near you? What was your experience like? Or did you see marches on the evening news? Do peaceful protests give you hope for our future? To read about traveling to Washington, DC on Jan. 20, 2017, see Giving Hope a Seat between Anxiety and Grief: Women’s March on Washington. 

For a moving video about the march in Seneca Falls from FingerLakes1.com see Women’s March, Sights, Sounds, and People from Saturay’s Historic Event in Seneca Falls.

 

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30 Comments
  1. I’m proud to say I know you well enough. I would’ve taken my one look at you and started crying too. No words either. The littlest things bring me to tears. Some folks wonder how you can cry and smile at the same time. My favorite movies are the ones that bring me to tears. It’s a long list.

    • Dennis, friends who know me like you know me know I weep–when I’m happy or when I’m sad. I also weep when I’m angry which meant I had to learn to argue my case with Vic with tears flowing. He didn’t mind. “Your tears tell me you care deeply about something,” he said. Yes. Whatever the feeling, if it’s intense, my eyes respond.

  2. Dear Elaine, Thank you for sharing your beautiful day and great photos from last weekend’s Seneca Fall Women’s March. It looks as if there were many inspiring home-made posters made, “Listen to your Mother” says it all really! I love your blogging title, its pitch perfect!

    I found myself nodding as I read of your complicated feelings that day. Your happy, flowing tears spoke great volumes when and where language failed. And as a reader, I found myself (amongst many I’m guessing!) weeping along as I soaked up your warm, heartening words.

    Coming together en masse seems to awaken our desire to deeply connect with others. I believe most of us wish to be seen, heard and accepted and feel that great sense of belonging within our community, our world too. A big cheer to you, “Sister Weirdo” and all that you are! Love and blessings, Deborah.

    • To Deborah, my Sister Weirdo. There were many marches in the US, but our government was too busy being dysfunctional to notice. Or they notice and keep quiet. The party in power doesn’t want to look at the women voters organizing everywhere. We’re preparing for the next election. The numbers were astounding from Los Angeles to New York City. Last year, at our little Seneca Falls Historical Park for Women’s Rights, there were around 9,000. (I marched in Washington, DC last year, so wasn’t one of them.) This year the local police said 15,000 came. They did a great job putting out good vibes and moving us around on buses to avoid dense packing and traffic congestion. It felt spacious with room to move, breathe, take photographs, hug, and weep. Thanks for your sweet comment and for making me laugh.

  3. I too would have been choked up Elaine had I seen the support evident from the word go. I felt that way last year in March (I think) when people of all race and creed and age walked the streets around the country. I did also, a short way away from where I live. Thousands of people, walking/marching in opposition to the corrupt government. No violence of any kind, just warm smiles, holding placards, SA flag-waving (I’d made my own), whistling, drumming, high-fiving, hooting from those in cars (though very limited as the streets were blocked). Peaceful protests, demonstrating that we the people will NOT countenance this government. The powers that be were horrified at this very peaceful protest. They would have sworn that anticipated violence would have kept us away. I reckon just about all of us had a good shot of oxytocin flooding our systems. Your heading is so great ‘Estrogen Empire Strikes Back’! !I feel an estrogen/oxytocin rush just reading your post thank you!

    • Susan, it’s wonderful when we can join together in protest and hope without violence or fear. This is what democracy is supposed to be. I wasn’t afraid one time in Seneca Falls. I’m sure the air and bloodstreams were filled with oxytocin (and its ally estrogen). I’m glad you liked the title. I decided the woman who wrote the sign would forgive me for using her title. I saw more of those signs when I looked on line so was sure the title didn’t officially belong to anyone. Our government tries to deal with women’s political power by ignoring or making fun of us. Neither approach is working. Women are standing up, organizing, and voting. It’s all quiet and nonviolent, so it may be hard for some to recognize this as political power. They’ll recognize it in the voting booth.

  4. It’s amazing how all of us weirdos manage to somehow find each other, isn’t it? Trump has been a big lesson for us in how bullies may get “their way” for a time, but it is an unsustainable situation. The weirdos work like water–sometimes slowly and gently, over time and sometimes like a tsunami. But one thing never changes: we work best together.

    • I love it, Kara. You can imagine how many negative comments I’ve received from Twitter men suggesting all of us weird and vocal women should leave the country. I laugh, but it’s also painful to see how polarized we’ve become. Here’s to all the men who show up to help us keep the water flowing.

  5. So estrogen is basically the hormon that triggers compassion!… I had no idea and what a beautiful finding… in the context of your post.
    Very moving, my friend. I thank you for being part of the march, a reminder of what we have achieved and of all our strives. As Lana del Rey would say: “Change is a powerful thing. people are powerful beings” (the song is called Change, and it is so powerful. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7XXYGOLriA ) Sending love! <3

    • Aquileana, I didn’t go into hormonal details because I’m no expert but estrogen and oxytocin work together (along with testosterone) to regulate a woman’s fertility and reproductive cycle. After menopause, estrogen levels are lower but still support a woman’s body, bones, and various tissues. Oxytocin and estrogen enhance and balance each other. There’s lots of complicated info about this out there on the web. Beyond what I can dig into at the moment. I need to talk to my friend who is a doctor to understand more, but estrogen is certainly the hormone that brings sexual maturity. My hearing is too poor for me to check out the song, but thank you. We are changing… There’s no way around that fact.

      In estrogen cycles and changes over a woman’s life, I think of the Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. They all have an essential role.

  6. Yay, for all the women (and men!) who showed up here. As I read your moving post, I recalled a statement from Garrison Keillor, probably during his monologue on Prairie Home Companion, that went something like this: Women are better than men, less apt to let hormones rule their lives, like us testosterone-driven men. He has since fallen from grace, so it seems. Yet I miss his Writer’s Almanac these days. Matriarchy? Probably not a bad idea!

    Actually, I believe hope, hugs, and concern for others can transcend gender. I hope you are feeling better now. You certainly do look chipper in your pink cap and visor with sunny rays falling all over you.

    • Oh Marian, it made me sad to learn that Garrison Keillor also had a sketchy past. It’s hard to know what or who to trust. He had it right about the hormones, I think. I have two sons and loved my husband as my dearest and most supportive friend in this life, so I’m not interested in excluding the masculine or picking on them. I think we could all use a little balance between Matriarchy and Patriarchy because it’s been unbalanced in one direction for too long. This morning I read about the lack of marriage age laws in Kentucky (the issue is soon coming up for a debate as I understand it) that allows a girl of any age (12 or 13) to be handed over in marriage. This sort of thing seems like a clear place where Matriarchy would have something to say about protecting young woman from abuses.

      As you may have noticed, I’m far behind in all my reading (and writing) and have been for a while. I’ve had a virus with fever twice in the last month. I’m also moving my mother-in-law to a good local nursing home because of financial realities and also because she needs more professional care and I need to not feel responsible for everyting. There is so much to learn and so much to do. I’m grateful for all the help I’m getting because she’s still a hospice patient, but she’ll be taken off hospice service in March. This is a sad time and a depleting time for me, but I hope, in the end, I’ll have more space in life and she’ll have better care. She doesn’t get what’s happening even though the conversations about this and evaluations take place with her there. Ah, memory loss…

  7. Yes, I do understand and replied to your comment on my website. You are being taxed to the limit, no need to lament. You are doing this alone, mostly, and it’s very draining especially when you don’t feel well.

    P.S. It seems just totally WRONG for hospice service to be discontinued under any conditions. I hope someone will advocate for you and your mother-in-law.

    • Marian, as you know from a comment on your blog, Hospicare has been wonderful and they’re a huge help in making this transition happen from providing wheelchair transport to working out the necessary change in doctors to providing volunteers and helping me with mountains of paperwork and decision making. Sad to say, my local son is in Hawaii. We had no idea this would happen so quickly, so I advised him to keep his plans to play at a music festival there. He’ll be back in about a week, so I’ll have more family support, but I have a close friend who’s like a little brother helping now and have more people I can call on including the health aides who’ve helped Virginia many years.

      In New York State, and I believe everywhere, the rules to make someone hospice eligible have grown tighter in recent years–which is silly since hospice support is cost effective and helps patients live longer. In any case Hospice support won’t disappear. We’ll go back on Palliative Care services until she qualities again and they’ll keep an eye on things. Fortunately, the nursing home is skilled with a strong hospice philosophy and approach. Somehow we’ll get through this. I expect it to be my number 1 task for at least another month. We haven’t begun filling out Medicaid forms but that’s bound to be fun. The nursing home provides expert help, so that’s a plus, but all of this lands on my shoulders. So far, the shoulders are holding well.

  8. Dear Elaine, ‘Weird’ and wonderful wisdom from you! Your tears are sacred water, the electrolytic elixir that blesses all souls and quenches the thirsty earth. You write beautifully, with urgency, fortifying all who have the privilege of reading your work. I am deeply grateful to be one of them and am inspired by your heralding of hormonal harmony.

    • Your comment makes me smile, Ellen. What a wonderful prose poem! We’ll name it Hormonal Harmony. I notice how much more awareness there is–both good and a little badas I received a few “why don’t you leave the country if you don’t like it here” anonymous twitter comments about this blog. Nothing much, but some are angered by the many who are speaking out. The urgency is becoming alarmingly clear–so may we keep joining together to bring about a more harmonious and healthier world.

      Thank you for providing the most supportive writing circle I can imagine. I’ve written through many a rough spot there in the last nine years.

  9. God bless the weirdos Elaine. I’m so proud of you for joining in the March. If I lived in the US I’d be marching every opportunity, if not leading. I pray it won’t belong before the US is freed from being a hostage to a meglomaniac narcissist. The world is watching and the world knows. He’ll be gone soon enough and the world will forgive.

    • Debby, I hope it won’t be long. It feels as though things are closing in on many fronts, but the Grand Old Party is moving to destroy as much as they can while they can. I’m constantly surprised by the resilience and slipperiness of the man in the White House, but he’s a vehicle and path for the desires of other oligarchs, so they continue to support him. The turning is so damned slow. It amazes me he’s still there. I hope we get out of this with a minimum of destruction and a maximum of clarity.

      • Amen Elaine. I follow this cult very closely. I may be Canadian but Canada has always seemed to get the fallout from whatever happens in the U.S. Besides that Benedict Donald is keeping me from coming back to the beautiful US that I too love. Let us pray! 🙂

        • Benedict Donald–the best tag I’ve heard so far. Canada has seemed like the sanest of countries since the Vietnam War when Vic and I considered moving north. I know Canada has her own problems and dark history, but compared to the US, you’re the model of rationality. Yes, we will keep praying and I’ll keep marching, calling, and writing. Things are unraveling, but this White House guy is slippery and has endless money and other thieves behind him. All these words said with a prayer and a sigh.

  10. Lovely post, Elaine. It’s heartwarming to see stories from all over the country (and the world, thank you Susan Scott) of democracy in action. People coming together, united in our desire for peace and justice and equality of opportunity. And united in our love of and fear for our planet. I marched here in Vermont, grateful for the sunshine.

    • Thank you, Janet. It was a lovely day for so many of us. Thank you for marching in Vermont. Yes, love and fear. I seem to feel a lot of that combination these days. Susan Scott helps me broaden my perspective and remember that her South Africa has been dealing with political chaos and corruption for a long, long time. May there be peace at home and in the world. May we remember we’re part of one human family.

  11. I think I should have been there. Your story may be what brings me closer to going the next time there’s a women’s march. I get the chills just reading about being there. Cheers!

    • Robin, it’s a joyful and hopeful experience to join with all those smiling faces and creative signs. I hope you’ll be there next time.

  12. Thank you for sharing so many pictures from the Women’s March you attended. Not only does it look like it was fun to attend, it’s also nice to see so many people coming together and finding common ground.

    • Thank you, Lydia. I can take photos while I weep–unless I’m sobbing and shaking the camera. 😉 I was dripping that day, not sobbing. Since I can’t hear over the PA systems, I watch and notice interesting signs. It was such a sweet, generous, loving, and hopeful group. Last year, there were 9,000 at the March in Seneca Falls (I was at the march in Washington, DC last year). This year 15,000 people gathering and working locally to get out the vote and run good candidates.

  13. I would like to go

    • Alicia, I assume it will happen again on Jan. 20, 2019 in Seneca Falls. I imagine the Seneca Falls gathering might become a yearly event for women’s rights because we can’t fall asleep at the wheel. By then your knee will be completely healed and ready for a hike. Off to Seneca Falls. Men and children welcome, too.

  14. “The Estrogen Empire Strikes back” is gorgeous ~ as are you, gorgeous soul. Blessings on all of your work, and on your life, dear Elaine.

    15,000 and growing: Yes!

    I feel fertile cultural learning is evolving through this current suffering. May we feel connected to sisters and brothers through the world.

    Blessed be ~ May it benefit all beings.

    • Thank you, Pat Louise. Along with you, I hope and pray this time of intolerance and suffering is a learning experience that ultimately leads our country to more social justice, compassion, and acceptance of all as brothers and sisters.

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