A canoe of her own


Divine Light, by Baron Arild Rosenkrantz

The Woman Who Walked on Water, by Jan Richardson

She couldn’t remember
how long she had been riding
so low in the water,
waves lapping over the edges
of the vessel that defined her limits.
And she couldn’t recall
at what point the oars had become
one with her hands,
their pattern ingrained on her palms.

It was not premeditated,
but when she heard that voice
calling over the water,
she let the oars slip
into the darkness
and she set off across the waves.

A canoe is a vessel of transport. Some say a human body is too, that is, a vessel of transport for the soul. Most days she would say she is one who believes this is true, moreso that her soul is enfleshed, one-with this body of hers. What happens to one, happens to the other… desires, empowerments, desecrations, grief.

She has also heard it said that it doesn’t really matter what meaning we make of things, that it is the meaning-making itself that brings peace.

She also wishes that sometimes she could just let something be what it is without ‘meaning-making’ it to death!

But she wants to believe that this newfound infatuation, this longing for a ‘canoe of her own’, carries meaning, that the pouring over of plans and specs, of cedar strip vs skin-over-form, of beam widths and rocker heights, of the ways that form meets function, is not just one more distraction to fill up the emptiness of that deep well of desire in her, to keep her from touching the raw place. She wants to believe that canoe-building might also be soul-building.

Like when she hit that place in herself last summer, a place that felt like sheer desolation – she knew then that if she had to dwell in that wasteland for the rest of her days, she’d rather not hang around at all. She knew then that if she wanted her body to carry her out of that place and into the places where it felt most alive, she’d better start loving it, nourishing it, stretching it….filling it, strengthening it, celebrating it. For the first time in her life she entered into a real relationship with her body that was not about control, shame, or protection, but was rather about honor and love-making. About One-ing.

And her soul felt the shift….. or had her soul done the shifting?

Now along comes another sort of vessel of transport seeking her attention. Certainly there is something here about choosing the shape of the vessel that will carry her across this passage, not one, as the opening poem states, whose imposed pattern has ‘defined her limits ‘.

De- fined.


She wants to name her own shape, a shape that is unlike that which has been imagined for her by her culture for her gender. Nor does she want a man-sized canoe . She wants to claim her own limits. What ‘shape awaits in the seed of herself?’ *

Where does one even begin to look for such a thing?

What exactly is a canoe? A self-propelled, open, primitive boat….traditionally covered with bark or skin. Its very nature is inextricably bonded, both in imagination and in practice, to wilder-ness. Of course, there is something here about passage over the water, and, since her obsession is centered on a solo design, there is something here for her about her deep need for solitude (a room of her own!), for autonomy and self-agency.


Still, all of these seem like a means, not an end, and she cannot imagine the destination, the purpose of the journey. Where is she going? Empowerment for what? Oh, maybe the journey itself is the purpose. She knows only that she longs and something in her begs to listen to that longing.

Once upon a time , she believed this was all ego, this ‘Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ a yearning for identity that had never had a chance to form. She allowed that belittling belief to dismiss and dismantle her yearning as narcissistic, self-indulgent.

Dis-mantle – remove the mantle of the sacred from it.

Mary is frequently imaged with a mantle of blue draped across her shoulders. She, who believed herself worthy of bearing the divine in some way into this world (or said another way, that her humanity was capable of ‘making visible what remains hidden‘*) is not merely decorated and adorned, this blue represents the intersection of her humanity (red, earth) with her sacredness (purple). The throat chakra is also associated with the color blue. It lies just above the heart and is typically associated with skillful and compassionate life-giving (often physical) expression of self into the world, which includes the communication of one’s needs.

Recently she re-discovered Maslow, Erikson, Plotkin, Jung… Gilligan, Woodman, Estes… Hinduism even.. Indeed it seemed there was something profoundly human about a sacred longing such as this at her stage of life…. or was it that there was something profoundly sacred about a human longing such as this. Gilligan speaks of the transition from’ goodness to the truth that she is a person too’. Maslow speaks of self-actualization, Erikson-personal integrity. Plotkin-mastery in the grove of elders. Estes- Untie the strong woman. The hindus go into the forest to disconnect from their former roles in the community in order to reconnect with who they are, which they later bring back to the village. Stripped free of the trappings of their old civic identity (Jung would say ego-identities), they return as beggars with their gift. Each one of these and more describes a passage, a transition into a sense of embodied purpose, a coming to know oneself deeply in order to give oneself deeply. One of the theories even stated that at this stage of development persons ’are free to search deep within themselves and release all the pieces that were hidden away (pushed underwater?!) during their responsible adult years. It seems that one of the uses of this enormous ‘freedom’ is to become more of who you are. In fact this becoming who you ‘truly are’ is one of the great tasks of this stage of your life.

Can she allow herself such freedom? Believe it is a sacred journey upon which she is being called? Trust, without understanding, the soulfulness of such foolishness as this?

As her body’s call to strength and vitality was an echo of, and echoed by, her soul, she accepts that her preparedness..body and soul.. has led her here, to this. Perhaps the vessel of her body could carry her to the edge of the water, now she is to enter the canoe, let it carry her across. To where? She doesn’t know, but she can trust her soul, paddling stern, will steer her in the right direction.

Hmm, something feels right about that relationship of bow paddler to stern. Body to soul. Life story to soul’s. Of course, she has learned, as she has become a better paddler that there is a communion that takes place in the setting of a course, in the paddling of a tandem canoe. It is not always the stern that is in control of the steering. Especially in fast moving water, or water that meanders in sharp turns, it is often the bow paddler who does the steering, and the stern responds. And both, together, paddling assuredly, providing power, move the boat across the water.

Body and soul.

She knows not the dimensions of her canoe, yet. She knows only what it feels like to enter it, to push off from the shore, to feel the power in her stroke, the grace of her communion with it. It feels a bit like dancing when she trusts it. She likes the image of dancing on the water.

But, of course, she does know the shape of her canoe. It is shaped like a yoni.**

yoni-mudrasolo passage

*see David Whyte’s poem What to remember when waking .

**A yoni is a place of union and of birth. Yoni is Sanskrit for ‘sacred place’, or vulva, gateway to the womb. It is the shape created when two circles intersect and cross over on another. Mary is often depicted in iconography and in stained glass inside this almond shaped opening, this place where the divine and the human meet and are one.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carolyn
    Oct 24, 2014 @ 13:02:01

    Wow, Vicki. Great insights. I had some of these feelings when I was planting the magnolia tree in my circle of trees. I felt a great kinship to myself as tree planter and it has stayed with me over the years. Your canoe making feels like that to me. It will be great to celebrate with you its completion.



  2. Tammy
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 21:09:15

    Vicki, this is the icon picture I chose out of the “deck” of mary cards you gave us many years ago at the “Mary, Mary” Advent retreat in E-town. As seems to often happen, our travels seem in sync. Thank you, once again you put my wandering into words.



  3. emmaatlast
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 22:34:41

    tammy, I had to go diggng for this icon because I remembered it but didn’t seem to have it anywhere. it was difficult to trace down. I thought all of the icons I’d brought to that retreat were entitled ‘annunciation’, but this one wasn’t. I’ve framed it so that it could assume its rightful place on my altar.
    So good to hear from you.



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