I’ve struggled with what to say in today’s post because, like millions of other Americans, I’m carrying so much disappointment, anger, frustration, and more over the recent Roe v. Wade decision. I’ve also been thinking how important refuge is right this minute – places where voices can fade away and arguments be suspended to allow a breath to be fully expanded, a body to gather a bit of rest, a mind to slow down and renew its agility. We – by which I mean feminists and LGBTQ+ and pretty much anyone who isn’t an old white man or a far-right Republican – have an awful lot of work ahead. Refuge, haven, sanctuary, sanctum: these are essential to keep ourselves going.
I’ve written before about the refuge I find in my own garden and on hikes through the woods, along rivers, near lakes. There is refuge in meditation, whether it’s sitting still on a zafu or walking silently with intention. There is refuge in cooking, especially if it’s for someone else – slowly chopping vegetables, taking time with the cooking method and to smell the aromas of food cooking because to hurry through such preparation only adds to tension. There is refuge in going to the farmer’s market, mindfully choosing only what will be used and conversing with the person who grew it or made it. There is refuge in an evening glass of wine with a backdrop of birds settling in for the night and the perfume of summer blooms. There is refuge in holding the hand of a loved one. There is refuge in playing music, writing poetry, reading.
The older I get, the more I naturally slow down in the face of strife, of unrest, of dissent. The importance of taking time to gather thoughts and strength, to get the argument right, feels greater. Certainly quick reactions are needed at times: for self-defense, to stop a disaster from wiping out everything. Nuance also has its time: persuasive arguments, long-range plans. The gift of being older is more experience with just how long things really take, how a seemingly small decision today becomes a movement in a few years, how unlikely people are to change their minds in the short run, how much patience and vision matter, the backlash that happens when a system is dismantled quickly.
And so. Before I began this essay, my partner Mick and I hiked in Flandrau State Park in New Ulm, Minnesota, two days after Roe v. Wade fell. We both needed to be in the company of trees and birds and water. We were quiet for most of the hike, following it with a flight of beer at the nearby Schell’s Brewery. Later, in the middle of writing this post, I took time to walk around Como Lake in St. Paul with my daughter. Our conversation certainly included Roe v. Wade and women’s health and rights, along with other rights we are both worried about. I assured my daughter I would help her in the future if there was any women’s healthcare she had trouble accessing. But we also sat quietly at the Como Lake Pavillion, sipping beverages and eating blueberry muffins. Later that same day, I meandered outside to deadhead coreopsis and salvia, water tender herb seedlings, make the birdbath more level so not so much water slops out one side. All the while, I was thinking, thinking, thinking. Listening to the world around me and to what was inside my own head. I called my friend Luann, talked about our upcoming camping trip in Itasca State Park, and our conversation, too, circled back to women’s rights, human rights, what we as older women could do for our daughters in particular. Then I came back to this essay, still unclear about so much except my promise to be there for the younger women I know and love.
But answers will come. I’ve found a place – The Brigid Alliance – to donate funds to help women anywhere in the country gain access to the care they need. I’ve learned that there will be a Women’s March Minnesota event at the State Capitol on July 17. These are two things I can do this summer.
I have my sanctuaries that sustain me. They help assure that I can be one more strong thread in a huge fabric of human rights advocacy, the fabric that holds up women and, by extension, every other human being. Even those who disagree.
all photos by kcmickelson 2022