My room at Brigit Rest was once someone's office and it was full of books. There were books of poetry, theology, and folklore from many places around the world. I found one book with stories from Africa and checked it out in case I might find a story from Malawi. No such luck, but still. Lots and lots of stories explaining why things are the way they are.
And then there were books by Patricia Monaghan, who co-founded Black Earth Institute and helped to create Brigit Rest. There were two boxes of books under the desk, one marked "Books in which Patricia appears," and the other marked "Books by Patricia." I was especially interested in that box. It contained The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, a treasure trove of goddess stories from cultures all over the world. Published in 1981, there had apparently never been anything like it before. That is the year I graduated from Vassar. I wish I had known of this book then. It might have helped me a lot.
In the same box were various collections of Patricia's poetry including Homefront, Seasons of the Witch, and Dancing with Chaos. A memoir travelogue, The Red-Haired God Rising from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit, and a how-to book, Magical Gardens.
I opened that last one to a random page and found this: "Abuk, mother goddess of the African Dinka people, lived in a magical garden, where plants spoke to her and told her how to tend and harvest them."
That got my attention, seeing as how I am on my way to Malawi to build a children's reading garden. [In a future post, I will tell you the story of how the idea for this garden came to be.] I scribbled some notes about how to create a garden filled with meaning. I am open to all information on this matter. My intention for this garden in Malawi is that it be designed and built to reflect what the children, parents, and teachers in that place want it to be.
And if this garden is magical, it will be that way because we listened to what the ground there told us to do. If it makes reading a more enjoyable and meaningful experience for children and families, my work will have been done. I don't have to know everything, or even anything in particular. I just have to listen, and to bring people together who can do the work. Fortunately, there are quite a few people there who are also committed to making this garden happen. Together, we'll figure it all out.
That is the spirit I will go with, trusting that the right information and people will come forward at the right time. The Goddess is going with me. I think so. I feel like she found me while I was sleeping with all those books at Brigit Rest. Now she is watching over me and the garden that is yet to come.