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"Women Nurturing"- by Joceline Deschambault

This is a scene from my novel, Marie’s Pledge. It speaks to me of the beauty of when women tend to another in their midst.

The small lion was intricately carved. Marie ran her thumb slowly around him, along the length of his body to where his tail was wrapped around his left side. His eyes were open and as she lifted her palm up so that his eyes were lined up with hers, she had the sense that he was going to open his mouth and speak.

“Who are you?” Marie whispered.

“I am the guardian of the temple gate.”

As he spoke, Marie was transported to a magnificent cavern and she found herself in absolute awe of the space. The walls were covered with tapestries; woven images of women gathered together. One scene was of three women sharing a picnic lunch of pomegranates, figs and grapes. There were goblets adorned with emeralds set out before them. The women were dressed in beautiful flowing robes of pale pink, soft green, and a deep azure blue. The love between them was palpable and as Marie looked closely, she could see, in the distance, a man on a tall black horse looking at them with great longing. Seeing him took her breath away and she reached out to touch his image with her index finger. She felt herself being drawn into the tapestry toward him and stepped back, not so much in fright but with a knowing of, “not yet.” Her breathing became shallow and choppy and she knew she needed to walk on, to turn away from his gaze.

The tapestry to the left was filled with fire, a huge bonfire reaching up to the sky, and the women, there were six of them here, were standing on a hill, hands joined, with tears streaming down their faces. Marie sensed that the tears were not ones of anguish but of joy. As though all that was being burnt in the foreground was a letting go, a destruction, of what was done with. The women were dressed in traveling clothes, with leather boots and long dark blue woolen cloaks. As she watched, each one reached up and pulled her hood up over her head. This was a goodbye and Marie instinctively clasped her hands in homage and bowed to them.

Marie stepped back and looked around. On the far wall of the cavern, she spotted a smaller tapestry. It looked to be about the size of the Mona Lisa and she smiled as she walked towards it. To Marie’s amazement the woman in the image had a strong resemblance to the old woman from the mountain.

Old Maude was standing alone in a clearing, holding a newborn lamb to her breast. Her head was adorned with a circle of roses, deep blood red roses, and around her right arm was a bracelet of golden rupees. She did have that Mona Lisa smile but that’s where all similarities ended. Behind her was a copse of trees, tall evergreens and in their shadows, Marie spotted wolves and unicorns. They appeared to be not flesh and yet not quite ghost either, as though they were in the process of becoming; of taking on physical appearance. There arose within Marie a spark of recognition: as though, she knew them, these wolves and unicorns; as though they knew her.

Realizing that her strength was waning, Marie turned to look for a place to rest. In the center of the cavern was a pool of aquamarine water and all around were cushions in tones of gold and silver. There were plates of meat in a sauce and she headed over to rest and replenish her body.

The meat was ever so tender and quite spicy. There were no forks or spoons and Marie reached in with her fingers and fed upon this delightful meal. It was then she realized that she was not alone. There were others in the cavern. Six women, six naked women and they walked towards her, carrying pitchers and towels.

“We are here to tend to you.”

“Who are you?” Marie asked as she quickly stood up and looked around. She wondered who else could see them, but they were alone.

“Who are you?”

The one closest to Marie smiled and responded, “We are of you, your sisters. Come, let us tend to you.”

Before she could react, they surrounded Marie and reached out to undress her. She wondered if they had ever seen jeans and sweaters, but they had no difficulty in stripping Marie of her clothes. They led her down the stone steps into the pool till all were at waist height. The water was lovely and warm and smelled of hyacinths. Using the pitchers, the women, sisters, scooped the water over Marie, wetting her hair and began to shampoo and rinse. Soap was threatening to run into her eyes and Marie dipped down and immersed herself in the water. She could feel the sisters moving aside as she swam underwater with a sense of ease she had never known. It was as though the water cradled her, and all past anxiety of being underwater disappeared. When Marie surfaced it was with a huge smile on her lips, feeling clean and warm; renewed.

One of the sisters reached out for Marie’s hand; they stood and once again the water was at waist level. She was led out of the pool and wrapped in a soft white cloth. Once dry, the women indicated Marie should lay down and they rubbed scented oils onto her. As they massaged Marie’s body, the women began to sing. The words were unknown to her, but she somehow knew they were singing of how they adored her. And she felt it, felt their love, a palpable energy flowing into her.

When they were done, the woman who had led Marie out of the pool, placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and then they all gathered their supplies and walked away. Marie laid there with her eyes closed, soaking in what had just happened.

After some time had passed, she stood up and got dressed. Her clothes felt alien to her somehow and at the same time she sensed she was returning to herself. It was time to head out.

As Marie walked out of the cavern, there was the lion, stretched out by the entrance. Not the little carving she had found in the jar, but huge and real. She hesitated when she saw him, but he let her walk past without incident. He looked over at Marie as she passed, and she heard him say,

“I am the guardian of the temple gate. Always here to protect your coming and going.”

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