Common Rituals

June 17, 2013

My friend, Annie, has said that she is so much a creature of habit that she always welcomes a rut. When life sometimes falls into a daily sameness, she is comforted by it's predictability and coziness. Annie has one of the most colorful personalities I know, full of bawdy humor and the occasional possibility of a totally shaved head. Annie isn't boring, it's my opinion (after a few years of applying my own leanings toward amateur psychology), but rather, she simply has a reverence for ritual and ceremony, especially those traditions that have historically fallen to the women of a community.

There are so many people in the Thistle community who have taught us about the beauty of common rituals. Annie washes loads and loads of t-shirts for our paper studio. Babs and Gayle are teaching us the communal art of quilting. Fiona has taught us about the ritual of teatime. Marcie and Fran teach us that caring for our bodies can can be sacred time of healing, and as it becomes a ritual, every step can be a prayer of gratitude. Regina, one of the graduates of the very first group of Magdalene women, teaches us that if you "keep coming back," your sisters will carry your bags for you, and that knowing when you are too tired to carry them alone is a great gift. Lisa taught us that the person who grabs up the most unappealing volunteer jobs can harvest the greatest benefits of servanthood and hospitality.  

Our dear friend, Francie, has taught us about the rituals surrounding childbirth and women supporting women, so it was very exciting for all of us when Becca was booked as the keynote speaker at the annual convention of American College of Nurse-Midwives here in Nashville. The midwives allowed Thistle Farms to have a sales table at the event and it was the most successful sales event that Thistle Farms has ever had. They collected sewing supplies for our sewing studio and welcome basket items for women who are new to our community, filling an entire car down to the floorboard and up to it's roof with gifts of support and friendship. 

No one midwife did this alone. This was a loving example of how volumes of stories about simple kindnesses are written one word at a time. And isn't it absolutely the nature of the midwife profession to see the holiness in the smallest things? 
On the last day of the midwives' gathering, Regina went to the convention center to accept the gifts that the midwives had gathered for us. Before she accepted these gifts, an award had been given to one of the midwives for years of gentle service to her profession. In a place filled with such goodness, it only makes sense that the woman who received that award was the woman who, 20+ years ago, delivered Regina's first son. Sandwiched between that first meeting and this last, these women both carried universal stories of womanhood. Stories of giving and receiving, happiness and heartbreak, and the rituals that carry us though those stories, making us all the same.

Many thanks to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and all who teach us the joys of tradition and ritual, peace to you as your carry on your good work.  

By Stacye Wilson
Thistle Farms Volunteer Coordinator

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