There once was a frightened little girl hiding behind a dense thicket of forsythia bushes, golden flowers in her hair, tear-stained cheeks, trembling, but she learned, at nine, that she could escape, if only for a moment, with her little notebook and pen in her lap. She sat, grounded by the cool earth, supported by the branches, and accompanied by birdsong she wrote fast and furious, stories about the little girl who could get away from those who hurt her, and over and over in her mind she packed her little bag, took her little dogs, and crept out in the night. Endless variations of this story she wrote, year after year, through ever darker and more terrifying nights and days, until, free at last, she knew, she had learned, that she could survive, and that the instrument of her survival was her pen and the power of the stories she had written.
As a young woman she married and had children but never stopped writing. With a baby at her breast she wrote with her free hand, while her husband and children were asleep she crept secretly into her little room where she wrote with her books all around her and a dog by her side. She sold stories and poems, wrote books, and filled journals, and her words anchored her to the world. She stayed alive, and moved forward day after day, her pen anchoring her to life, often precariously, sometimes stabbing her pen in the paper and clutching it with both hands so as not to fly away from everything and disappear. And then the day came when she did. Children grown, now alone, a woman in her middle years, she knew that she had to peel the layers of her heart back like the petals of a lotus flower and gently lift the pain, piece by piece, out of the crevices with her pen. It would take much time but petal by petal she wrote the pain free, digging gently with the nib, writing through tears, unleashing fears, and anger, despair, and, finally, as she came closer to the outer petals, she felt her heart lifting, lighter, freer, she took deep, full breaths for the first time in years, her tears coming harder now but they were tears of relief, tears of joy, and then laughter, and story turned into song, and hope, and finally into the knowledge that a door was opening before her and she was ready to cross the threshold and live a whole new life. But where would she go, and how?
She wrote the story of a woman moving through the decades from forty to sixty, becoming a grandmother, a woman more deeply connected to earth, living alone with animals in a forest, and with a light heart she wrote her way over the threshold, to the sounds of birdsong, and there were flowers in her hair, and the sun shone on her face. She put her pen down and walked barefoot out of her little cottage into her garden, fell to her knees, and bowed down to the ground that had supported her through her darkest days, to her Mother, the Earth, and she sang songs of praise as she wove her fingers in the dewy grass, and the animals gathered round her, the trilling of birdsong high in the air above her, her dogs all around her, leaning into her soft body, and she rose up, moving slowly, and carefully, not as easily as she once had, and raised her arms to the heavens. She thanked the sun and the moon and the stars, the plants and animals that had been her companions, and the words that had allowed her flight, out of her body and into other worlds. She had finally come back into her body, she was ready to live, and sixty years into her life on the earth she could once more take up her pen and write the story she would live her way into in the years ahead.
The woman threw back her head and laughed, and golden forsythia petals fell down from the heavens, and caught in her hair, and a bird landed on her shoulder, the wild animals drew near, her little dogs chased each other around tumbling playfully in the grass, and the child that she had been waved to the woman that she had become, and disappeared into mists of gold, and she walked back into her little cottage. She had found her calling and as she grew into an old woman she would live as the healer and teacher she had become, and as a cantadora she would sing her song to others, and call their stories forth from them, and help them heal and transform their lives as she had, and write their way into lives they could heretofore have only imagined.
She fed the dogs, and the birds that lived with her, made a fire and knelt on her hearth stirring a big kettle of soup. Herbs and vegetables were piled on the table, and the whole cottage was redolent of garlic and a host of spices, bread baking, cinnamon and cloves. As night fell she lit candles and bent her head in prayer, and finally she reached for her pen. She would write her way into the year ahead, and the year after that, and the years beyond. Everything was possible, her story had become her song, and her song her life. And so it would be to the end of her days and beyond. Her stories would be passed down to the younger ones who would know that their stories were sacred, and powerful, and that they must record them and pass them on. And through the generations countless children survived and men and women thrived, and the babies came and the grandchildren and the women and men grew old. We know their stories today, we tell them to our own children. And so it will go until the end of time.
The Cantadora’s life was forged in fire and healed by the balm of tales she would spin and fables she would leave behind, and when she left the earth she left with a smile and a light heart to the sound of birdsong and there were yellow flowers in her hair…