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A Place at the Fire
Joyce Wakefield

When I was a child, I lived in an atmosphere that was cold and dark. My family was scattered by circumstance, mental illness, and a sense of secrecy and isolation from the rest of the world. You simply didn't talk to anyone else of what was going on in the house. Aloneness and Loneliness were to linger as themes through the births of my sons and through three marriages.

For me, pain has been the impetus of my growth. It has been the touchstone of any progress I have made. In l988, my life circumstances were so painful that I began to look for answers outside my own experience. More importantly, answers outside my own intellect. My heart hurt and my spirit was tired. Help came from a Higher Power that I never claimed to understand, but in its light I so love to stand. The direction led to a recovery program that I was sure, at first, was not the place for me.

Ten years later, I have a place at the fire of a group of women that sustains me, feeds me, and brings me a laughter of the most sacred kind. I never cared much for the sisterhood of women - never understood it, experienced it, or trusted it. I believed somehow that "you women" had some answers, some instructions of which I would never be a part. But, inside, the pain ignited a spark of something I cannot name except to call it my Truth. This spark became my own personal "Hound of Heaven," and led me to these women. The spark flared into a place for me at the fire of sisterhood.

What It Was, What It Is

We are very different, you know. Different generations, backgrounds, likes, and family circumstances. We are of different hair colors, heights and tastes. I happen to be the youngest and am referred to lovingly as the "weird baby." We get together on Tuesdays for a few hours in the evening, and we are one.

We build our communal fire around one or the other's dining room tables and we bring food and coffee and our stories. We share the week, the men, the children, and the dreams. Ah, the dreams we share! We are the matriarchs in a time-space we carve for ourselves, and our fire is healing and power. We are refreshed and renewed, lightened and joyous - we leave with more than we bring each week. In some sacred fashion as old as women, the one that we are together fuels the individuals that we are alone.

We are not unique. I hear stories from others, now. From women in real time and place and now, through the media of cyber space, from women all over the world. As with the old Goddess cults, women are learning the value of shared community. Not just as wives and mothers, not just as daughters and sisters and employees and volunteers - but as women, together, laughing, sharing the healing that is an inherent part of life. We do this in groups of three, five and hundreds.

We bring our logs and twigs, our lumps of coal and peat and we sing to each other. Our songs are the fabrics of our days and the hopes of our forever. We are bawdy and reverent. We are helpful and sometimes angry. We are wounded and confused. The times we share are as varied as each of us. But, when the moment or hour is done and we go once more to our lives, we are more alive, more joyous, and more powerful than ever. Our songs now reach out to the others in our lives - to our men, children and other friends.

We go to work now, to class, to homes, to stages all over the world and what we take that lingers is the smile. Our step is lighter and freer, we remember the solutions of our sisters and we work from there. I am aware, now, every minute I choose to recall, that I am not alone. I share in this ancient ritual of women. That is my place at the fire.

Artwork "What It Was, What It Is" by Brant Kingman
Visit his web site at

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