Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Friday, May 25, 2007

Call me the wind...

“Call me the wind, I will blow with the fury of a hurricane; call me the sea, I will lap the shore with gentle tongues; call me the earth, I will shield the seeds in my womb,” intoned the priestess as she raised her arms over the fields where the people had just finished planting grain for next season’s harvest. She sprinkled water from the sacred spring over the soil, a miniature rainfall, the drops glistening in the sunlight, casting fleeting rainbows as they fell from the ornate vessel she waved about.

Creta had been working with the other children just as hard as any of the grownups, breaking up hard clumps of soil, poking holes with the digging sticks, burying the seeds saved from last year. She was hot and tired and dirty and thirsty, and she watched the water fall from the priestess’ hands and licked her dry lips. She thought about going for a swim in the river and slaking her thirst under the waterfall that cascaded over the lip of the escarpment into the pool where she and the others splashed and dove and barely listened as the priestess concluded the ceremony that would guarantee a bounteous harvest in two months’ time. For Creta, two months seemed like an eternity.

Later she found herself at the pool under the waterfall, splashing and diving, dunking her friends, laughing and cavorting, letting the rushing river pound her head and shoulders as it leapt over the rocks above, massaging the soreness from the muscles she had strained while cultivating earlier that day. There was to be a feast that evening, and the children had been admonished to be clean for it.

As Creta pulled herself out of the pool and reached for something to towel herself off, her friend Sora stopped in front of her and said, “Creta, look!” She pointed at Creta’s thigh, and she looked down, seeing a rivulet of bright red snaking its way down to her knee from her crotch. “Oh Goddess, no!” Creta cried, staring at the blood. “It can’t be, not now!” She burst into tears, and Sora backed away, for all the children knew what the onset of menses meant.

Creta gathered up her clothing, wrapped herself in a robe and picked her way down the trail back to the collection of houses, careful not to get dirty again. Her head was swimming with what had just happened. This was so unfair. She wasn’t ready to become a grownup yet. In her own mind she was still a little girl, afraid of thunder storms, sleeping curled up with her kitten, playing with the other children. Now the matchmaker would start looking for a husband for her. A husband! She was barely 13 years old! What did she want with a man? She wasn’t ready for a husband, a home to look after, children of her own. She was still a child herself.

There was no way she could keep what was happening to her a secret. All the others at the waterfall had seen it. Her mother would know immediately that something was wrong. What was she going to do?

She had to stop walking at that point, feeling an ache in her lower back that had nothing to do with all the bending over and planting she had done earlier that day. Her lower abdomen was tight was pain and she wanted to cry. This was so incredibly unfair!

Eventually Creta came to her own house. Her mother was busy cooking over the fire pit outside the door, humming to herself, stirring a pot, tasting carefully, and throwing in pinches of this seasoning and handfuls of that. She watched her daughter approach and noted the tear-streaked face, the uncombed hair, and then her eyes caught the tell tale flash of red, and she understood.

“Oh, Creta darling,” she crooned, and dropping her spoon, opened her arms and gave her daughter a hug. “It’s started, hasn’t it?” she asked, knowing the answer already. Creta wept afresh into her mother’s shoulder. “I don’t want to grow up,” she sobbed. “I don’t want to!” “Shhh,” soothed her mother. “You don’t have to grow up just yet. These things take time.”

At the feast that night, the other children did not talk to Creta. Her friend Sora would not meet her eye, and none of them would sit with her. She had never felt so alone. Instead, she sat next to her mother, afraid that everyone knew, that just by looking at her they could tell that she had passed that threshold that separated the girls from the women. But once the food was served, the blessings spoken and the eating begun, she started to feel better. She even joined in the dancing afterwards, as the musicians played their flutes and drums under the starry sky.

Already she was starting to feel different, as though this wasn’t the end of the world. Just as the soil had received seeds today and would give up a harvest at the end of the season, she too would become a bringer of life. It wouldn’t be tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe even the next year, but eventually she too would be like the earth, and shield seeds in her womb.


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