Saturday, February 11, 2012
Recreating the Village
It seems like whenever we women begin to talk about monthly cycles, the old time menstrual hut is often mentioned. Throughout history, cultures have had various traditions in dealing with a woman's monthly cycle. Some women were not able to participate in religious activities during their menses and others were sent to stay in a separate shelter during that time. In Hawai'i, this was called, Hale Pe'a. The women were allowed to have a break, being served food and water by the older women of the village. Men weren't allowed to interact with them. They were free to weave and babies were often left with another lactating woman in the village to nurse.
Always, somewhere in the conversation regarding these huts, I lament with my friends about how sad it is that things aren't like they used to be. Why can't we take a break when we have our periods and let the family wait on us, coming out of that week relaxed and even having accomplished some sort of quiet work that requires no interruption? Is that how younger women managed to weave cloth, baskets, and spin yarn? Why can't we go back to the days of the village?
How has modern American society come so far from traditions held dearly for thousands of years? I think it traces back to the way our country was founded. People came to the North American colonies for a fresh start, free from many old ways that had somehow become law. By nature, many settlers were rebels and independent thinkers, like a teenager or a toddler trying to understand their place as a person on this planet. Villages meant old ways: a new wild country meant freedom and new ways. The hard part was that in creating new ways, the wisdom hidden in the old ways was lost.
The nuclear family model of society seems to have been in part formed by the vastness of this new world. People moved to this continent alone, moved into cities alone and moved west alone. Villages based on country of origin began to form within the cities. People seem to have an inherent need for the support of of a community of people connected by some sort of common bond, with a variety of ages, skill sets and personality types to support one another.
I started thinking about social interaction in our current society. I think everything we do is really just trying to get back to the old time village. My husband loves to interact with fellow computer nerds on Google +. He calls his buddies on the cell phone when he wants to chat. I network with friends in a vast support web woven by texting, social media, phone calls, play dates for both mom and kids, church, 4H, sports and our homeschool co-op group. There are game nights and "get something done nights" hosted by a friend and by me. There are women's retreats and prayer group times.
We are created with the need for the village. We can't live in beautiful pili grass huts by the ocean, taking a break and having our mother in law bring us food in a calabash. But even if we don't have that old time Hale Pe'a, we can have a modern version of it. When I text a friend saying that Aunt Flo has come to visit and I'm ready to cry, she commiserates with me. She might offer to babysit, or better yet, offer chocolate. My husband often sees this time coming before I do, and there's this supernatural communication that happens between us when I refuse to do anything and go straight to bed, no tucking of kids. He knows it's his turn, and he's ok with it. He knows there will be a happier wife the next morning.
I think it's important to build our own village. Even if we can't live with our mom, or mother in law right next door. Even if we didn't grow up here, have no family here, or don't feel the same as anyone here. We can do it. We can find older women to mentor us. We can find people to mentor our fragile teenagers. We can find friends who will hug us when we are broken and who will listen when we want to whine. We can find the time to take a break from the insanity of our busy lives if we search for it. There is time to do those quiet and restful activities. There is time to spin yarn. The village is all around us, we just need to see it, live in it, and make use of it. Who is your village? What does it look like to you?