Tania Pryputniewicz II
Radiating Color: Mirror Daughters, Tarot Archetypes, and Web Mothers
Empress: Butter, bees
Mud between toes, child at breast
Still craves own mother
—from this year’s Tarot Haiku practice, Empress week
The Mirror Daughter
“Radiate Color,” reads one of Suzi Banks Baum’s half-inch by two inch hand-painted writing prompt cards, the one I draw from the hat in Beginning Blogging class as yet another airplane unleashes from the runway to soar over the roof of Inspirations Gallery in Liberty Station, San Diego, where we sit generating new content. Cerulean circles, a purple spiral, and sunset lavender strips border the prompt card in my hand.
On the drive to class I strained to think my way out of the annihilating panic of watching my 14-year-old daughter struggle across fronts. I know better than to equate my equilibrium with hers, but lately what’s up for her triggers reactions I fight to mask. Inside this adult frame of mine, a child self–a mirror daughter precisely my daughter’s age–wicks up the emotions. There’s little time to stop and address this alarmed self in the churn of living given the need to function as the adult, chauffeuring my daughter to school, her activities, her doctor’s appointments, managing house and bedtime routines for her younger brothers and on to the next task…and the next….
It feels as if we are drifting, my daughter and I, mobius, from sunlit portion of the sea towards the ocean floor. When descending, as I learned while free-diving with my husband, the deeper you go the more intense the pressure on your lungs. You pick up speed, gravity gracing one with a sense of calm in the best of scenarios.
My daughter’s behaviors and particulars belong to her—just as these simultaneous relivings of my past between eighth and ninth grade belong to me. The tearing in half of the family fabric: my father sinking down on the bed next to me on the anniversary of his marriage to my mother with a bouquet of flowers meant for her she’d never see. His primer rough knuckles and the way he scuffed absentmindedly at his thumb til it bled as he told me they were getting a divorce—the green and red wet rubber bands binding the bouquet’s cut stems. My brother in love with a new girlfriend. My sister too young to understand. My mother choosing between three suitors.
As was true back then, all I can do is witness: I see you, Mirror Daughter, waiting in the periphery, and there’s room for you at the table while I mother the girl I gave birth to, the one I sit beside with her separate set of griefs, worries, overwhelm. We are seeking the help we need, assembling a team for us, and I’m taking tangible steps on my daughter’s behalf.
The Tarot Archetypes: Empress and Emperor
Simultaneously, I’m studying the Empress and the Emperor in consecutive weeks of reflecting on the first six Majors with my Tarot students. I’m frustrated with the Empress. How many times, while giving a Tarot reading have I explained her, you know, as the Earth Mother, abundant, radiant, bursting with life it self. So why as a mother am I unable to haul up that warm and fertile confidence? That wild faith of early motherhood–rooted in the womb’s ability to carry a baby to term–erodes as the years unfold and I face the fierce and lovely ire/despair/elation that forms teen girl grappling her way to young woman.
Later in the week, I’ll dream I’m sheltered in the arms of a lover, steadily hurtling feet first towards the bottom of the sea. As we descend, I realize my fear has little to do with how deep we go, but more to do with gauging accurately how far down I can go and still have enough oxygen to get back to the surface.
This is the most accurate body metaphor I have experienced for what it feels like to parent a daughter. It is also the most accurate body metaphor I have experienced for what it feels like to write about one’s core pain. I do it, I descend; I fall in love with the peace and hurtling stillness, the quiet calm, the pressure on limbs and chest a welcome anchor.
But there are yards of water overhead to traverse in reverse to get to the lid of the sea.
You can’t always know how far it is to the very bottom. You can only guess. Does it mean you shouldn’t risk it? Of course not. But every swimmer knows: you never go alone.
So I don’t. When the Mirror Daughter surfaces and the Empress fails to soothe, I turn to my tribe, in person, and online. Writing, collaborating, reaching out. Sorting through my poetry movie collaborator Robyn’s beautiful images, searching for the ones that nail the day’s litany—today, Mirror Daughter, Water Mobius, twin Auburn Seed Pods, Girl Surfacing. Images and phrases merge in this healing mobius of collaboration, sometimes image first, sometimes words. Named, thus loved, brought into the open where they can be explored outside of the charged moments of living. My collaborators then, are also at the table while I mother.
I lean on blog posts like this one Suzi wrote: What Do Mothers Make? Connections, in which Suzi writes frankly about her relationship with her daughter. When Suzi writes she sometimes finds it difficult to “locate [their] common heart;” or, “I once felt as woven to [my daughter] as my own skin,” I breathe easier. As I do when I read Barbara Rockman’s Mother Writer: Boon of the Parallel Journey, in which she writes in relation to her two young daughters, “I couldn’t get around so I wrote through, wrote into, claimed them, claimed them as they had claimed my attention, my breath, my endless frustration. I wrote our lives.” What a relief: I’m not exploring the seams of intimacy alone.
Driving back home from class, I observe the moon. And the morning star below. I think once more of Suzi’s writing prompt, “Radiate Color” and I imagine that if I can breathe in that phosphorescent luminosity of the moon, it’ll counter that dark hurtling feeling. I’m not afraid of the ocean floor, but I belong on the surface, under the sun.
Though I have yet to meet Suzi in person, her brave artistry and generous friendship mean she’s part of my life, so present on many levels that I dreamt about her while writing this post:
I’m standing on a station platform beside a train. Everything in the dream appears in black and white. Just inside the window of the train, on the table between passenger seats, I see a fan of colored pencils, the only color objects in the dream. Suzi, wearing warm and woolly-layered scarves about her neck, is in motion towards the train; we wish to board together. I hesitate, wondering if she’s moving on alone. But then my eye returns to dwell on the waiting colors on the table. A sense of the peace and joy of creating together returns.
Safe passage, then, is my prayer, for mothers and daughters everywhere, for Mirror Daughters and Web Mothers mothering other mothers. And gratitude for the bounty of trust that comes with taking the risk to create despite fear. Thank you Suzi for the gift of Laundry Line Divine and the gift of the creative and bolstering exchanges that transpire as a result of writing here.
Bloggers in the Textroom: Alexandria Peary Defines a Lineage of Female Mentorship ; in her scholarly article Peary draws parallels between the literary stewardship afforded nineteenth-century women writers by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the monthly periodical Godey’s Lady’s Book, and the ways women writers are using blogs to support one another’s writing and writing process (specifically VIDA’s Her Kind, She Writes, and the blog I co-curate at Mother Writer Mentor).
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Tania Pryputniewicz is the Managing Poetry Editor of The Fertile Source. Co-founding blogger for Mother, Writer, Mentor, Pryputniewicz teaches workshops including Transformative Blogging, and blogs at Feral Mom, Feral Writer , Tarot for Two, and at here. Her debut poetry collection, November Butterfly, was released by Saddle Road Press, 2014. Her upcoming classes include Intermediate Blogging, offered through San Diego Writers, Ink and a Tarot and Writing course, The Wheel of Archetypal Selves: Lovers to Strength, offered through Story Circle Network.