The Women’s Tree

by Carol Hess on April 16, 2011

 One day, as I was leafing through an ancient National Geographic in a doctor’s waiting room, I gasped out loud.  The other patients glared at me, and I smiled apologetically.  

But I couldn’t help it.  I had just seen a photograph of a village in Africa, and I knew that place.  I had walked between those mud buildings.  I had sat under that tree.  I had drawn water from the river just over the hill beyond camera range.  Only I hadn’t. 

I had indeed lived in Africa in my twenties – first two years in Burundi and then three years in Kenya.  But Burundi and Kenya were hundreds of miles from the Dogon village in central Mali depicted in the National Geographic photo.  

It didn’t make sense that I knew that village, but I did.  And I knew that tree, every single branch of it.  It was called The Women’s Tree.  It was where we gathered every afternoon before we began to cook the evening meal.

After the long, hot walk to the river and back, it felt so good to bury my feet in the cool dirt under the tree.  I can see the pattern the light brown earth made on my black feet and the tiny puffs of dust I stirred up with my toes.

I can hear the flies buzzing around my head and the shouts of the children playing at a distance.  I can smell the burnt charcoal from the previous night’s cook fires.  I can feel the hot river breeze blowing through my close-cropped hair.

It was a life dominated by women.  I was always in the company of women.  I worked and sat and talked and grieved and laughed and birthed and cooked and swept and bathed and nursed in the company of women. 

I miss the community of that lifetime.  Much of my life this time has been an unsuccessful attempt to recreate the same sense of connection and belonging I felt every afternoon under The Women’s Tree.

I don’t think I’m alone.  I think there are many of us who are seeking to create community and the sense of connection and belonging that come with community.  We’re looking for our own Women’s Tree, our own gathering place.

And that’s my vision for this blog.  I would like Star Polisher to become that gathering place – that sheltering tree where you feel you belong, that sense of community and connection for which you’ve been looking.

Each of us is going to come to this blog with a different agenda.  I’m working on self care and adopting a healthy lifestyle.  That’s the part of my star I’m polishing right now.  Maybe you’re working on the same thing, or maybe you’re working on something completely different.  It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that we connect.  That we create community.  That we slow down, spend some time together, share some laughter and tears, get to know each other.

That’s my vision for Star Polisher.  What’s your vision?  What would you like to see this blog and this community become?

by Carol Hess

12 comments

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Sandi Amorim April 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Carol,
I love this vision of a gathering place to share our journey of polishing! I used to think that if I could just get the polishing right the first time I wouldn’t have to keep at it. Now in my 40’s I know that polishing is an ongoing practice – like yoga, meditation or martial arts. It is a practice that feels so darn good and having a place like this to come and check in is a gift. Thank you.

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avatar Carol Hess April 17, 2011 at 2:15 am

You are so right, Sandi. Star polishing never stops, and it does indeed feel “so darn good” — especially when we see our light and the light of others getting brighter and brighter. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe in our star, much less see its light. Other times it’s difficult to look at the incredible brightness of our light. And that’s when it’s so important to have other star polishers to turn to. Thanks, Sandi, for joining the conversation.

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avatar Rebecca April 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm

So beautifully put! I share your vision and you can count me in!
With much warmth and friendship
Rebecca x

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avatar Carol Hess April 17, 2011 at 2:16 am

I’m so glad you’re going to be sitting under the tree with me, Rebecca. :)

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avatar Ana April 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Indeed the women’s connection is powerful and beyond borders. Wherever I am in the world I feel it. We have the gift of connecting with others, mainly with other women. I also applaud your decision to focus on yourself at this point. The interesting thing is that we focus on our self care we begin to care more about others and transcend ourselves. That’s when true service and true connection begins! Bravo Carol!

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avatar Carol Hess April 17, 2011 at 2:23 am

It’s so great to hear from you, Ana. And thank you for stopping by while on your travels. Yes, isn’t it amazing how women seem to be great connectors no matter where they live, what nationality they are, or what language they speak? Love what you had to say about the path to true service and true connection. Someone once told me that my biggest lesson was to learn that it is only through service that we achieve true freedom. I think you are saying the same thing in a different way. So glad you are a part of our conversation here, Ana. Safe travels.

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avatar Catherine Bruns April 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I’m so right there with you about womens’ community (just wrote my own post about it). I love the idea of a womens’ tree and being in community. Right now I’m polishing my spiritual mission and how that is reflected in my biz.

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avatar Carol Hess April 17, 2011 at 2:26 am

Ah, great minds think alike, Catherine! :) I’m going to go read your post right now about women’s community. We will be so excited to see how all your polishing turns out. Keep us updated, okay?

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avatar cindy April 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Carol – I love the idea of the Women’s Tree – and could see it becoming not just a virtual gathering spot here, but also a physical one – an active movement out into communities to connect women with other women. Not sure how that might work – just top of mind enthusiasm here. P.S. Love the way you write.

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avatar Carol Hess April 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

Hey there, Cindy. So glad you stopped by Star Polisher. I LOVE your idea of taking The Women’s Tree out to the communities and creating a physical place/way for women to connect with women. In fact, now that you mention it, I’m remembering several years ago a woman from my town approached me to do exactly that. She phrased it differently, but that’s what she was talking about. Hmmm.

I don’t know how it would work either. But I’ll definitely remain open to the idea and see what turns up. Thanks for planting the idea in my head. And if you get any inspiration about the hows, let me know. Wouldn’t that be an amazing project to work on? I get goosebumps thinking about it.

P.S. I’m glad you like the way I write. I can never read/hear that too often! :)

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avatar Nikki August 18, 2011 at 9:03 am

Carol, adored this post. I love the evocative images, smells, and sounds you create with simple words: stirring up puffs of dust with your toes, the shouts of children playing, the hot river breeze.

You’ve really hit on something about our desire and need for community. I’m trying to cultivate the same thing with my blog, too. There’s something so sacred about time shared with other women. We’d do well not to forget that.

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avatar Carol Hess August 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Thanks, Nikki, for taking the time to read this older post. I had a feeling it would speak to you. You are so right — time spent with other women is indeed sacred. I think we all need more of it — both in person and virtually. I look forward to getting to know the community you are creating at Resonate: Live a Significant Life (http://www.nikkigroom.com).

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