If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
|If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: An indefinable mixture of poetry, myth, biography and a call to arms for a change in the way we think and live. Beautiful and thoughtful.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: August 2019|
|Publisher: September Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
I normally say that you can tell how much a book means to me by how many pages have corners turned down. Perhaps an even greater measure of impact is setting out to buy my own copy before I've finished reading the one I've borrowed. I want to avoid clichés like 'powerful' 'inspiring' 'life-changing' – although it is definitely the first two and only time will tell about the third – but clichés exist for a reason and I'm not sure I can succinctly put it any better.
Instead let me tell you in more mundane terms what this wonderful book is.
It is a collection of poems. Every chapter starts with a poem.
It is a collection of folk tales. Blackie retells the Celtic tales, but puts them in the context of the lands in which they originated and also in the context of the world as it is now (or was until a few months ago), and leaves us to see why we need to come back to them, to interpret them again for ourselves, for who we are and where we are.
It is a life story. If Women Rose Rooted is subtitled a life-changing journey to authenticity and belonging, but it isn't a how to do it book, merely a how she did it book. Life-changing wasn't a one-off occurrence for Blackie. She made her mistakes; it took her a long time to learn the lessons she might have spotted quicker in others' lives. She changed her life several times over on her journey, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but my reading of it is that every change is for both better and worse, every change is a step on the journey and we cannot miss out any of our steps. Each stage has to be taken in turn, no leap-frogging allowed.
There is so much in this book that resonates with where I am in my own life journey, but equally importantly, there is so much that doesn't – which is why I need my own copy. There are things I need to remember and to revisit. There are things that I need to re-interpret to see how they might fit into my world, before I discard them.
From among the many pages I turned down, here are few random sharings.
Early on Blackie sets out her stall with Most women experience major change in these middle years: physical change or professional; social or psychological; changes in our family and our relationships To which I respond: check, check, check, check, check and check. All of the above in a frighteningly short space of time. She talks of unhappiness in our jobs, rage, grief, contemplation of our own mortality, We question who we are, who we might have been, who we might become. We question our spiritual values and our material values. Yes, and yes, and yes again.
Elsewhere she speaks of feminine journeys as being pilgrimages rather than adventures. The Greek heroes sailed off on adventures, but the Celtic equivalents (heroes and heroines both) set off on peregrini, what she calls wonder-voyages, to the magical isles. Anyone who has listened to even a fraction of my mid-life experience unfolding will know how much this resonates.
Then later, we're told that the pilgrimage isn't just about uncovering our gifts, but developing the resources to use them. She speaks of the pilgrim walking her way back into being. It is a metaphor – only for some (many?) of us it isn't. It is a literal truth. Whether it has been the foothills of the Himalaya, or the Andes, or the banks of the Yare, I know that I walk to see what I will find, but even more so to find myself alongside whatever that turns out to be. We walk our way (back) into being not just on one journey but through the accumulation of them.
We're only half way through when Blackie tells us that her passion is to empower women and inspire them to get their work out there, so that the world is full of our vibrant voices, creations and dreams. Our world needs all the colour and innovation we can give right now. Now, even more so than when she wrote those words, that must be true.
One of Blackie's many starting points is myth and legend. She makes the valid point that we're brought up on the myths and legends of the Mediterranean – the Romans and the Greeks – which are (at least as handed down to us) largely male-centred stories. But she is writing and I am reading from a different tradition, one closer to the northern lands, and the Celtic myths are more often (albeit not always) more female-centred, less focussed on the gods, more closely tied to the land. There is an attraction in all of that, given the challenges we now face.
Her fundamental argument is that women have most often risen, insofar as they have risen, by assuming the male approach, playing the system if you like, but if we are to save the world as we know it, then women need to rise differently, rooted in their own strengths and working with the male not in competition with it. We need to encourage the "female" and not deride it. She talks a lot about community and "the ordinary sacred" and rooting our selves in the land.
Oh yes, and it just happens to be very beautifully written.
If you like this then I think you will also love Into The Mountain, A Life of Nan Shepherd by Charlotte Peacock. You might also find Fifty and Fabulous: The Best Years of a Woman's Life by Jaki Scarcello thought-provoking.
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