Deeply affected: Women Talking

Two things I don’t do often: write a blog post just a week and some days after the previous, and go to the same movie twice. I’m doing the first because I was so deeply affected by seeing “Women Talking” I went two days in a row. The first time, I attended alone, and the second, with four friends and then out to dinner to discuss it. Both times were powerful.onesheet

This isn’t a typical review, so if you’re not familiar with the details of the film, there are many reviews (like the Guardian’s) and responses online that supply them. Nor is it about the plight of the women in the story behind the story or how consistent or compatible to “real” Mennonite life it is or a critique of casting or screenplay or anything else. These were discussions that happened in my Facebook feed before I attended, and they interested me because years ago I engaged myself with the Bolivian Mennonite women’s story and also read and reviewed Miriam Toews’ novel Women Talking, but after seeing the movie I found myself strangely disinterested in opining on any of this, for the movie affected me at a visceral, not intellectual, level, and that’s still the place it sits. I can’t quite articulate why or what about this version of the story called up such emotion in me. My friends and I certainly remembered situations of it not mattering what we thought but mine has been a place of privilege in terms of the horrific backstory here. Still, somehow I felt myself within every woman in that hayloft, as well as those like Scarface Janz who left the conversation. I did love the two older women in particular, yes, but I “knew” the women of the other ages too as the camera lingered on their faces.women-talking-hero

But I’m not sure that’s quite it either, it sounds preposterous to suggest that I understand each angle or position within the arguments, reactions, consolations, and even laughter about forgiveness and innocence and courage. About the wisdom in “it is possible to leave…in one frame of mind and arrive elsewhere in another entirely unexpected frame of mind” (August). About what to do!

Please forgive the foggy imprecision of this response. Maybe it was simply being drawn into a story that feels core in its concerns, about topics important to all of us. And for sure to women. Maybe it’s because if I wrote the minutes of my life I would set down exactly their desires too: that we want our children to be safe, that we want to be steadfast in our faith, that we want to think.

A week of bare feet, with a view

When I woke Sunday morning, “In my bed again” to the tune of Willie Nelson’s “On the road again” was singing in my head. I’d heard the latter just a few days earlier in Mexico when my son and grandson crooned along with Straight No Chaser’s cover of the song, their fine harmonies rousing emotion within me about these two in particular, but also about my whole family with me on this holiday. It reminded me of how the bus driver started each day’s drive on my Britain tour last fall with that song too, which had made me wistful as it was more of an anthem for Helmut than for me, frankly, me never being “on the road” in quite the way he was in his work and pleasures, but I was “goin’ places that I’ve never seen” in both Mexico (we were on our way back from a day at a cenote) and Britain and he wasn’t.

A jumble of resonance in other words, waking safely back in my bed with that tune, but feeling not quite home yet, remembering my feet on cool tile, then springing up to the most wonderful view, throwing on clothes to go watch the sun rise over the ocean, cup of coffee in hand, a sight especially spectacular whenever there were clouds, and then the water shifting throughout the day from blue to teal/green. A view with the best sound effects as well: the endless crashing of the waves against the shore wall of the place we stayed, the breeze through the palms, the happy noises of conversation and children at play. BCB80F50-4BAF-4E54-9D6C-69722BEF8D98

Only one week, most of it spent in bare feet, ACFE4C7E-A60C-471E-851F-BF5AEBFEE8A9but the 17 of us had a seven-bedroom house to ourselves, along with a cook and staff, and three times a day we ate together and other than the day at the cenote we were together at the house and local beach, playing the waves, playing in the sand, playing in the pool, playing games, reading, visiting. The son with a longtime habit of a bowl of cereal for night snack found the cereal in the kitchen and thereafter, we were all doing it, in cups or bowls, every evening. Stuff like that and more.

Time is time and technically the same measure, but this was time that expanded and is now rounded into a large set of memories I’ll be treasuring a long time. I’d determined to do this event subsequent to Helmut’s death, and two years later and post Covid restrictions, it was finally possible. My personal theme for the week was gratitude, and it wasn’t hard. No, gratitude this week wasn’t hard at all.


Me with my 10 grands, who range from age 1 to 21.

The lovely feel of blue

Happy new year, friends!

I’m just back from three days in Winnipeg for meetings about LGBTQ2S+ inclusion in my (nearly life-long but now former) denomination — meetings I invite you to read about at John Longhurst’s blog Time to Tell if the topic interests you — and I’m sated with the good memories of it all. With how smoothly the travel went; with the smallness of the Winnipeg airport and its lovely feel of blue (probably on account of the “Aperture” sculpture there); with the sight of the Human Rights Museum while walking to it mornings. With the museum itself, such an appropriate venue for meetings on this topic. With the warm greetings from old friends. (Is there anything sweeter than to be greeted by name?) With the Open Space process and how the meetings unfolded, in a large sense of safety, listening, and conversation. With its sacred intensity. With uncertainly about outcome beyond these days that nevertheless opened into hopefulness and even awe at what can be accomplished when people come together and explore possibilities. With the experience of belonging (the operative context for me, as stated above, being former after long-time), which registered as a longing for similar safety and inclusion on behalf of others.

Not for a minute was this about me, I’m not saying that, but I am saying these days were a gift, both in a return to where I lived some four decades and to a particular kind of participation in community. I honestly don’t lament former, it’s what’s necessary and chosen, but long-time can sometimes be a pang: as in, how does one incorporate the past without undue nostalgia or glossing over reasons for no longer fitting — for leaving, that is — but with love for what was given me in the environment in which I was raised and nurtured, in which I gave in return. It’s hard to articulate except to say that I’m glad these meetings happened and very glad that I went.