There are times when my life feels like a movie. Some things happen that are too surreal to be true and can only be fully appreciated and tirelessly recounted by those who shared the extraordinary turn of events (Else, they are met with a tepid “Hm, really? How interesting.”). These things have been called by many names: chance, coincidence, serendipity, happenstance, luck, magic, miracle, God… I simply say, it’s Wild Woman.
I first learned about Wild Woman from Bernie Nepomuceno (President of Holy Angels University in Pampanga and one of the foremost Jungian psychologists) whom I met when I was working for the secretariat of Sophia, the Association of Women Presidents in the Philippines. She gave a workshop on the Wild Woman, drawing from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. Bernie gave a beautiful name to what I already know deep in my gut. Estes writes: “When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life.”
Estes doesn’t use “wild” in the sense of being “out of control” but rather in its original sense which means “to live a natural life.” When I think about the natural (feminine), I think of it’s opposite, the human-imposed (masculine). And this brings me to the enduring dichotomy, where the feminine is characterized by softness, creativity, intuition, and complexity, while the masculine is characterized by hardness, logic, data/evidence, and straightforwardness. It doesn’t take much to recognize what our society and culture values more. At the cost of our physical, psycho-emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, we have accepted this duality and its bias towards the masculine, and suppressed everything feminine. Learning about Wild Woman helped me reclaim what has been quieted. Jeanne Achterberg says, “When the feminine emerges, life is honored.” I find it utterly true.
I believe it is Wild Woman herself who brought proof of her existence at about the same time that I learned about her — I met and fell in love with a man who was open to her influence without knowing her name. I find this rare in most men who wouldn’t risk being anything but rational. Not him.
Back when we were still getting to know each other and liking each other more, I was still uncomfortable with physical expressions of affection in public, even the innocuous hand holding. I know most men would be frustrated by this. I know he was frustrated with me, especially after this particular movie date where we watched some romantic flick but there was hardly any whiff of romance between us. He was really frustrated that night (and later admitted that he was practically ready to call it quits). The next morning, he woke up feeling inspired to do something different. We met up for lunch and he beamed as he showed me a set of “cards” (they were really the back of receipts). He wrote “hug,” “hold hands,” and “kiss” on them and explained that if we couldn’t actually do them then at least we could exchange cards, and then he handed me a “hug” card.
This is one of the characteristics of Wild Woman – a playful spirit as manifested in creativity. The other two characteristics are keen sensing (intuitiveness as opposed to being fixated in plans and structures), and a deep sense of devotion. It is difficult to clearly define who or what Wild Woman is and so I prefer to offer Estes’ beautiful poetic description of who she is (See italicized text towards the end of this post if you’re interested to read more). Wild Woman after all speaks most fluently in the language of poetry.
I would like to indulge in two more encounters with Wild Woman. One time, that same man who made the “cards” accompanied me to a book shop and we chanced upon “The Book of Answers”. It was the kind of book that you could ask any yes or no question, flip it to a page and it would give you an answer. He took it and said, “Well, I have a question in my mind.” He flipped the book and the answer was, “Make it up as you go along.” He laughed so hard. He wouldn’t tell me what his question was so I grabbed the book and asked, “Is what I am thinking right now his question?” I flipped the book and it said, “Unquestionably.” It was my turn to laugh. Now he couldn’t bear it because he was curious whether or not I really knew what his question was. We finally got each other to admit what we were thinking. His question was whether he should ask me to marry him. This is an absurd question to ask at this point as we have just known each other for about three months and saw each other in person probably less than the number of fingers.We have never even kissed! It turns out that we did marry each other within a year and “Make it up as you go along” is still one of the best marriage advice we hold on to. We realize that we can only plan so far and what works best for us is when we are present to each other, we listen to the wind and our gut, and are willing to be drawn into the wonderful unknown (which reminds me of my previous post on Improv and the magic of saying “Yes”).
Our most recent encounter with Wild Woman was at the Minnesota State Fair. We went back for the third time (see earlier State Fair adventures on the previous post) on the last Saturday as the band Journey was going to play that night. Naturally (being a Chinese), we didn’t buy tickets and had no idea what time Journey was going to play after the warm up bands. So we went around the Fair, eating our way and visiting the attractions we missed on our first two visits. By the time we finished touring the shops in the Grandstand and found a nice spot with assuredly good audio, we could hear the audience scream: Journey was finally on! We sat on the floor and listened to the opening songs together with other Journey fans who were as Chinese as I was. There were two songs in particular that I wanted to hear but after almost half an hour of songs unfamiliar to me, we started to get hungry again and decided to go for dessert. Just as we stood up, the unmistakable guitar intro for “Faithfully” came up. How lucky can one get? We left after that to get dessert and to see the Midway with its nostalgic carnival atmosphere (i.e. bright lights and rides, noisy barkers, ring toss, balloon darts, break-a-plate, etc.). I felt tired quickly after walking around (at six months pregnant) and told my husband that perhaps we should head home and that I was sorry we couldn’t stay for the fireworks. We decided to take the Skyride (an aerial lift). As we made our way to the Skyride, we saw a crowd looking towards the Grandstand – from where they were standing, they could hear and see Journey play! So naturally, we gravitated towards them and just as we approached, Journey played the other song I was waiting for, “Don’t Stop Believing.” I had goosebumps. What were the chances that I would hear the only two songs I wanted given that we didn’t sit through the entire concert? After enjoying the song, we headed to the Skyride and as we were lining up, it was about 10:30 p.m. The line for the Skyride inched forward and my husband said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see the fireworks when we are up there in the air?” But he dismissed the idea saying we were leaving the fair too early. For the past nights, the fireworks usually went off at around 11 p.m. I said sorry to him again for missing them as I knew that was one of his favorite things to watch but I was really beat and wanted to rest. Finally, it was our turn – we were ushered into our lift and just as the ride took off, “Boom!” – the fireworks started. I screamed, and laughed, and cried. My husband was so wide-eyed and widemouthed he looked like a five-year old. Throughout the entire ride, we were incredulous at the perfect timing, enjoying at eye-level the fireworks that were as big as we will probably ever see. What are the chances? It is just one of those things one would love to plan but is obviously impossible to, and yet when it happens, it feels like it was perfectly orchestrated.
Later when we got home, my husband got an email reminding him of the six month anniversary of the passing of our dear friend Ruby (to whom this blog is dedicated and after whom we named our daughter) that very day. We couldn’t help but think that Ruby was looking out for us. See, I didn’t mention that right before going to the Fair, my husband and I had a huge fight but we still decided to go. We think Ruby (who is somewhat of a Wild Woman herself as many people at her memorial described her as Pure Love) choreographed this perfect evening for us and we were open enough to receive it.
…She is the Life/Death/Life force, she is the incubator. She is intuition, she is far-seer, she is deep listener, she is loyal heart. She encourages humans to remain multi-lingual; fluent in the languages of dreams, passion and poetry. She whispers from night dreams, she leaves behind on the terrain of a woman’s soul a coarse hair and muddy footprints. These fill women with longing to find her, free her, and love her.
She is ideas, feelings, urges, and memory. She has been lost and half forgotten for a long, long time. She is the source, the light, the night, the dark, and daybreak. She is the smell of good mud and the back leg of the fox. The birds which tell us secrets belong to her. She is the voice that says, ‘This way, this way.’
She is the one who thunders after injustice. She is the one who turns like a great wheel. She is the maker of cycles. She is the one we leave home to look for. She is the one we come home to. She is the mucky root of all women. She is the things that keep us going when we think we’re done for. She is the incubator of raw little ideals and deals. She is the mind which thinks us, we are the thoughts that she thinks. …
She lives in the green poking through snow, she lives in the rustling stalks of dying autumn corn, she lives where the dead come to be kissed and the living send their prayers. She lives in the place where language is made. She lives on poetry and percussion and singing… She is the moment just before inspiration bursts upon us. She lives in a faraway place that breaks through to our world.
People may ask for evidence, for proof of her existence. They are essentially asking for proof of the psyche. Since we are the psyche, we are also the evidence. Each and every one of us is the evidence of not only Wild Woman’s existence, but of her condition in the collective. We are the proof of this ineffable female numen. Our existence parallels hers.
Our experiences of her within and without are proofs. Our thousands and millions of encounters with her intra-psychically through our night dreams and our day thoughts, through our yearnings and inspirations, these are the verifications. The fact that we are bereft in her absence, that we long and yearn when we are separated from her, these are the manifestations that she has passed this way…
Estes, C. P. (1992, 1995). Women who run with the wolves: Myths and stories of the Wild Woman archetype. New York: Ballantine Books, pp. 11-12.