In a few weeks, I will give birth to an eight year-old -- or that is what self-publishing my first book feels like. When first conceived, I thought the path to publishing Goddess on Earth would be fairly complex but straightforward. Instead, it took me to unknown lands, introduced me to wondrous individuals and in general, carried me on a great adventure.
Eight years ago, suffering during a night of insomnia and depression, I picked up Jean Shinoda Bolen's book Goddess in Everywomen and couldn't put it down. Though thoroughly enthralled by the subject matter, one of the Goddesses seemed to leap off the page and speak to me. Her name was Demeter, the Greek Goddess of the Bountiful Harvest.
Demeter was a nurturer and a mother (as I was), and when Hades (the Greek God of the Underworld) abducted her daughter Persephone, she was devastated. Demeter's grief caused the land to became barren. While reading this myth, I saw myself reflected in this universal archetype. With this knowledge, I felt strengthened and empowered: I knew that I would eventually crawl out of my cave and return to the world of light, creativity and passion, just as Demeter had done when Persephone returned to her for six months out of the year.
My journey had begun and I began photographing women as Goddesses to see if sacred myths spoke to other contemporary women. I wanted to explore how resilient, complex and multi faceted present-day women were -- just like the goddesses of ancient myths. I chose women of all ages and from all walks of life, and for some, the idea of their lives resembling a universal archetype was a new and thrilling concept. The choice of sacred myth wasn't necessarily easy, or straightforward, but it always revealed deep personal insight.
When I first approached Jodie Evans and Dana Balicki from the political organization Code Pink about a portrait, Jodie immediately identified with the fierce Hindu Goddess Kali. For Dana, it was a personal moment of truth -- she believed in change and transformation, but had to dig deep to find the raw anger and rage necessary to embody the bold, giver and destroyer of life: Kali.
Ultimately, each woman became my teacher. The fearsome herbalist Susun Weed -- embodying the sacred myth of Baba Yaga -- taught me to face anger and fierceness -- and survive. The athlete Karin Buchholz -- the Goddess Victoria -- showed me that I could hold my own with a formidable competitor. The extraordinary actress Olympia Dukakis -- portraying the Sumerian Goddess Inanna -- taught me to look at all of the flaws in my work straight on, and to go deeper until I got it right. And from the midwife Dierdra McClary -- Venus of Willendorf -- I learned to love my body, for it had carried and given birth to my son.
The last portrait I made for the book was of my mother embodying Meng Po, the Chinese Goddess of Forgetfulness. Although, suffering from dementia, her beautiful testimony spoke of what she has, not what she has lost;
" My memory is not what it used to be. But my life is rich with daily, weekly, yearly experiences with my husband, my children, my grandchildren and my friends".
From my mother I learned that while growing older certainly is hard, I can embrace every moment fully and cherish all I have; a supportive husband, a thriving son and, a community of women who have given me sustenance and guidance along the way while creating this book.
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, this journey brought home the realization that some answers were also within. Through this inspired process of healing and discovery I now have more confidence in my abilities as a photographer and recognize the drive and tenacity in myself to see this project through to its completion. I have come out of the darkness and into the light, blessed with more strength, creativity and passion than I could have ever imagined before I began.
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