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Jane M. Engleman
When I first heard about the new Women’s Day at Painted Brain (Tuesday, 11-5) I wasn’t much interested. After all, I’ve been working for a year now to develop an inclusive community for people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. And where will the people go who do not fully identify as women, but who are still feminists?
However, the more I think about it, the more excited I am. I am all about CENTERS. I was raised on the Navajo Checkerboard Rez in New Mexico; I’ve been a guest in small round rooms with no windows and a stove pipe leading out through the roof. These round log cabins, hooghans, are inward; there are no windows. They are small so everybody has to sit close in, all facing each other in a circle. There is the aroma of dust and pine and sage. The door faces to the east so that when you come out in the morning you catch the first light of day.
Nowadays the Dine’ use these hooghans mainly for ceremonies, when the medicine man re-creates the cosmos and the universe across the dirt floor in colored sand. The person to be healed sits in the center of the traditional hooghan; the medicine people sit close just inside the circle. When the long chants are done and the great fires outside have been quenched, the people, the Dine’, go home strengthened from having been part of the healing community.
Women and our stereotypes could do with healing rooms and healing spaces. Its seems we have been tagging along our men to square boxes for a very long time. If there is anything that a room for women could accomplish, it would be a celebration of our personal uniqueness. When we refuse to acknowledge the accomplishments of women, as mechanics or doulas or politicians, pilots and kindergarten teachers, we do not see that details are as vital as the bigger picture, that social welfare is as essential to national security as bombs.
Paying attention to detail, and coming together to nurture ourselves for one day a week could be a very fine thing. Eventually, I hope we can develop a space for women that allows for a space for children. Whenever there is a discussion of women, there must be a discussion of children. Women in the workforce are casually expected to set our children aside in order to accomplish the goals of the industrial machine. What about an art space that would allow for women with no economical means to hire babysitters?
At this point, I am unable to attend Women’s Day at Painted Brain. Mental illness has done a number on me. My psychotropics have caused my weight to soar. I am understanding the exquisite disability of poverty. I am unable to go to the dentist or the podiatrist. I have no car. Consequently, I am only able to make the two buses and two trains to get here once or twice a week. Sometimes it feels like I am walking on bare bones. So this hooghan has a larger audience, in addition to the small rooms at Painted Brain. Maybe in a few months we could start another chapter somewhere.
We can pay attention to the small room of healing, and we can pay attention to the feast and the fire, and we can pay attention to our lives empowered as women with the mission to bring festivity and wholeness again to this broken, broken country. Thank you, Angela Tuckerman and Brette Tell for being medicine women for women.