Dear Sor Juana,
The birds have been so loud lately, tweeting and twittering from well before dawn (that’s the rooster up the road who has no respect for human’s sleeping patterns – another reminder of our place in nature’s chain) right through the day. It is in the mornings though when I am lying in bed, squirming my body awake that a frenzy of squawks, screeches, coos and whistles find their way to my ears to welcome me to the day. Moving from dreams to an awake state is something of a birth every day with these mid-wives of the air calling me out.
Between gin and tonics on a summer’s afternoon, I recently learnt about doulas, those women who accompany other women who are with child. My teachers were two unmarried women from different cultures enthusiastically promoting the value of doulas. I have since discovered the word comes from the Greek and means slave, which somehow drew me to your life Juana. Apparently you arrived into the convent with a slave of your own, that your mother had given you. Maybe this woman was your spiritual doula? What it must be to have a doula, a faithful witness to be there providing assistance, supporting, holding, comforting, coaching without judgement … to say nothing of the cooking and cleaning she would have offered. This woman with no name, Juana, you sell to your sister – it seems to me she has the protection and patronage of the women in your family. Being passed from one woman to another, from one generation to the next, the witness, the faithful keeper of stories and secrets.
You called yourself a slave, as a way of defining your humility and your service to your beloved in the court, Her Ladyship the Vicereine, Marquise de la Laguna. When we hold close and long to be belonged, to be owned and fully at the service of one we love, the source of that passion surrenders us to slavery.
It is an error of the tongue
when that which is called imperial
and mastered, and of the dominion
appear to be the slave’s possessions.
“My king” declares the vassal,
“My prison” claims the prisoner,
and the most humble slave
without the slightest offense can claim her master as her own.
Thus when I call you mine
I am not in the least pretending
that you will be adjudged to belong to me,
but solely that I wish to be yours.
translated by Dia Tsung.
I am reminded of the depth of love can bring any of us to slavery. Love of a person, the divine, nature, our vocation … all might lead us to that …. And if we find ourselves with a doula along the way so much the better. I am nourished by the purity of Satnam Kaur’s voice who sings of a slave being drenched in the fragrance of the Lord and in doing so has been died a deep crimson – the perfect colour to choose for passion.
Blessings to the slaves and doulas in our life mid-wifing blessings each day
and blessings to us when we are slaves and doulas to our passions and each other.