Scorched Earth

When I think of home, I think of fire. The consuming blazes that leave the rolling hills in patches of blackened fields. I grew up in California, where fires often overtake the landscape.

On long road trips through the CA mountains, it’s not uncommon to see charred soil, and the crisp black skeletons of trees as far as the eye can see.

I feel like my homeland now.

Scorched earth.

A tactic used in warfare where everything in site is set aflame. Whole villages burned, artilleries destroyed, preemptively cutting off enemy supply lines.

I’m angry.

For myself whose father walked out on me, whose stepfather berated and belittled me, whose male peers groped and grabbed at me. I’m angry for myself that resigning myself to those things was the best possible way to survive them.

I’m angry for my daughters, who will have to learn as I did (under great threat of danger), never to walk alone at night. Who must navigate the constant flood of unreal images of women in lingerie on every street corner, grocery store, and coffee table as they try to make sense of their own very real, perfectly normal, growing bodies.

I’m angry for our country. That as women in this country, we must listen to apologists on the left and on the right excuse rapists in both parties. I’m angry that for most of us, that is salt in a very open, very real wound.

And, I’m angry for our world. That, disproportionately it is women across our globe who live in poverty. Women (and girls!) who are abandoned, beaten, tortured, raped, silenced, and oppressed. I’m angry that we live in a world where we allow it. I’m angry that as you read that, you’ll nod in agreement, not be overcome by shock and outrage.

But, tonight I went to an auction for an organization called Open Arms a nonprofit organization in Seattle that provides doulas for women in need throughout their pregnancy and for two years postpartum. They serve single women, women in poverty, and refugees; pregnant and desperately in need of support so many of us, myself included, take for granted during birth and beyond.

Most of the women at the event were the doulas themselves. Doulas, who after their own experiences of pain, and fear, and abandonment trained to become doulas themselves, often volunteering many hours of hard labor, to make sure no other woman in our community would ever, ever feel that way. Over 100 languages were represented among them. Women of every faith were among them too. Young and old, able and disabled, black, brown, and white. These women had come together to serve those in greatest need in our community. And lives continue to be changed for the better.

As I heard the stories of each and every woman I spoke with tonight, each of them started with pain, fear, isolation, brokenness, abandonment, and hardship. One woman, pregnant at 16, had been left by her partner and kicked out by her parents. Another fled domestic and community violence in Somalia, and arrived here single and pregnant. One woman, just 18, had just had her baby, 2 months old now. She spoke of fearing no one would be with her in the hospital, and no one would be there to help her care for her small child- until these women stepped in.

I felt so much sadness, and wonder, and awe as listened to them, not just because of what they’d been through but because of how they’d overcome it. As a woman who myself is raising 4 children, and who at times feels impossibly lonely and afraid doing so, even with all the support in the world: I was awestruck. I saw courage. I saw kindness. I saw power. And I felt a true desire to stand among them- not as a woman who is embittered by a world that often feels like it’s against her, but as a woman who is empowered to change it.

Fires rage in Southern California, true. But that same landscape is home of balmy, cooling eucalyptus and fresh, zesty citrus trees; fatty creamy avocados and ruby red sugary-sweet strawberries. What most people don’t know is: the fires ready the soil; seeds don’t settle, many plants don’t grow, without the blazing flames. The salty earth and water, the soothing, salvy trees and fruits all bring healing  in spite of (and sometimes even because of) the fire. What grows is enough to feed our whole nation, even our whole world.

Just like that blackened soil…a soft, tender root of new life is growing in me.

Last night I saw why it is women who are being systematically oppressed and destroyed. It is women who have learned to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. Love WILL win. It is women who are leading the charge to change the world.  I want to be among them. 

And I wept all night with joy and gratitude.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

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