ladies, unguents and ceremonies
Walking amongst the ochre cliffs next to our house - les 'Demoiselles Cofféees' (the hairdressed ladies) - we came across a stone sculpture and I wondered what feminine ritual might have taken place during the night and, since he was not responding to our whistle, if they had sacrificed Oscar.....
The wedding celebrations started at Beech Hill exactly three years ago today: A white horse craned over the stable door to see the thread of fifteen be-robed women entering the studio and ceremoniously laying down their unguents. Amongst them there were professional masseuses, professional cellists turned masseuses, professional cellists turned Alexander, yoga and pilates teachers, dancers, and many more who were were simply willing to pummel and varnish, polish and plait in preparation for the my wedding day.
For four hours we sat in our kimonos and bathrobes and, over fish pie, champagne and nail varnish jobs, all the girls ever I've loved started to exchange stories and compare journeys. Pockets of relaxation and beautification practices erupted spontaneously in corners between women who had never met or who had known each other for forty years. As I lay on the massage table, having my cheeks packed in clay, my toenails turned the sea-lavender colour of my bouquet, my hair drenched in Ayurvedic oil, my callouses scrubbed with a Neal's Yard orange paste, my spine aligned and my forehead soothed, all by hands that had taken care of me over the years, I looked at these glowing faces involved in this age old ritual. Like a creature about to set sail on an unknown voyage, I knew that they were my tribe and that wherever the wind blew me or whatever crude seas I might ride, they would always be by my side.
I had had another experience of quiet ritual amongst women in Morocco - ten of us airing cous-cous, painting henna designs on one-another's feet and weaving together in a Bedouin tent. Sadly it was under less than fortunate circumstances with the footsteps of their abusive men almost audible from the mountain passes. However, similarly to me on my way down the aisle to meet my prince, a world was created, just for a few hours, apart from the linear melody of a life. Whether the melody be harmonious or discordant women are capable of creating a safe haven outside time, outside the tension between man and woman where the feminine can rest and replenish itself; the drone of one's own kind.
As my friends departed and wished me well, I gathered my cream organza wedding dress and sparkly sandals together and made my way over to the farm where Julia had made me up a bride-to-be's suite. I knocked at the door with a perfectly relaxed hand, only to find that no-one was there to welcome me. (It turned out that Julia's daughter had returned earlier and, unaware of the ceremonies that were going on, had locked me out!) So I walked back to the studio accompanied by two Tibetan spaniels, sat on the step listening to the bleat of the sheep, got out my very first IVF injection and plunged the needleful of hope into my thigh. I made up a bed on the sofa and lay awake all night. Though sleepless I was not restless, the sense of fifteen beloved arms still bearing me away into my new life as Julian's wife.