by Nancy King
When a group with whom I was traveling entered the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara , Turkey, they headed for the Mother Goddess exhibit. Even hearing the word “mother” makes me tense; mine was good at making apple pie but never learned the recipe for loving and nurturing, associated in most people’s minds with the way a mother ought to be. And since I’ve never been beautiful or powerful, I don’t go out of my way to seek images of goddesses—never saw one with whom I could identify. So, when the group went right, I went left, agreeing to meet them at the bus.
I wandered around, looking at the world-class collection of Hittite culture, impressed by antiquity but not fully engaged until I saw her and stopped. I literally could not move. I forgot where I was. All I saw was the small gold statue in a glass case. She called to me. She demanded my attention. Unlike other Mother Goddess statues I’ve seen, one more voluptuous than the next, this Hittite Mother Goddess had skinny arms and legs. Her hands, which rested on her belly, expressed resignation and vulnerability. What was her power over me? Why couldn’t I stop looking at her? I laughed at my foolishness. She was only a statue in a glass case. My feet weren’t glued to the floor. I could move. I could catch up with the group. And yet, I couldn’t. I stayed, Transfixed. Spellbound. Unable to move.
My instantaneous, powerful connection to the skinny earth mother mystified me. She wasn’t beautiful. She didn’t seem extraordinary. She had no compelling history that identified her as a goddess. Yet I had the weird sensation that I knew her, that she knew me, that she wanted me to tell her story. I would have stood there for a much longer time, staring, when two visitors jostled me, breaking the spell of the Goddess. One of them told me that my tour group was leaving. Uncharacteristically, with an impulse I didn’t understand, I raced to the Museum Shop and bought a small copy of the Hittite Mother Goddess statue before I ran to the waiting bus.
As I sat in the bus, oblivious to the bouncing and jostling, the other members of the tour group, and the landscape, I kept thinking about my strange encounter. I’m no poet but words formed in my mind; they were too insistent to ignore. I wrote them down as though they were being dictated to me from an unknown place in my heart.
She stands, naked.
Arms placed on her diaphragm.
Eyes cast down.
Large ankle bracelets.
The left higher than the right.
Holding her in place.
In her place.
In no place.
She stands, patient.
Waiting for her fate.
Accepting what will come.
What is to be.
Her only defense is grace.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the Hittite Mother Goddess. Secretly, I thought of her as mine. I asked people on the bus who had bought books about Hittite culture to look up her story but there was no information about who she was or how she came to be a Mother Goddess. When we arrived at a pottery workshop and store that specialized in Hittite reproductions, once again I had the eerie sensation of being pulled out of myself, out of my life, into a time and place not my own. Mesmerized, I stared at a woman who was painting intricate, colorful patterns on a huge plate—the brush was so fine I could see only a few hairs. As though in a trance, I bought six cups, a tray, and a decanter, ignoring how incredibly expensive they were, ignoring my budget, ignoring my usual practice: look, enjoy, move on. It was as if I had to have each and every piece, despite the cost of buying and shipping them home.
Once home, I cursed myself for my foolishness. I didn’t need the pottery. Why had I wasted so much money? I looked at the little statue I’d bought and asked, “Why did I buy you? Why did I buy your pottery? She seemed to look through me and say, “Wait, you’ll see.” After about a month, the Hittite reproductions arrived. Once again I felt drawn into the patterns and colors and shapes. I placed the little goddess statue with her poem on the tray and she seemed to smile. I frequently found myself looking at her; I even, I’m sorry to admit, started talking to her. Each day I reveled in the intricate beauty of the pottery, the dignity of the little goddess stature. Wine tasted better when poured from the decanter into the wine cups. When I toasted the Hittite Mother Goddess, my foolish expenditure didn’t seem foolish; it felt like acknowledgement, like an offering. Reveling in the pleasure of using pottery designed by people thousands of years ago, I felt connected to unknown ancestors in a faraway land, in a faraway time.
And then . . . my cat, chasing some vision of something, leapt onto the top of the cabinet where the Hittite pottery stood, knocking over everything in her path, leaving shards of two cups, the rest miraculously whole. I picked up the fragments, remembering how expensive the cups were, yet I hardly thought about the money. As I carefully moved the Hittite Mother Goddess statue, the four remaining cups, decanter, and tray to a higher place, I realized that my connection to her and the pottery was spiritual, not material. Breakage could not break our bond. I felt grateful and fulfilled, connected to a goddess and her culture, thousands of years old.
I thought about the blessings of travel. Not only do we have the opportunity to see new countries and sites, meet new people, and experience cultures different from our own, we also have the possibility of discovering missing pieces of ourselves in startling and unexpected ways.
Nancy King's book Morning Light deals with some of the issues that arise when dealing with a catastrophic illness. You can read the first pages of her novels: A Woman Walking, Morning Light, and The Stones Speak. on her website: www.nancykingstories.com. Her books can be purchased from her website, The Trip Shop, on Amazon.com or ordered by local bookstores.
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