Traveling with Pomegranates drew me into memories of my own crisis over aging. Turning fifty had been the hardest birthday of my life, and Sue Monk Kidd, as she reached the same passage, articulated many of my feelings about that milestone. Becoming an "older woman" stirred a new level of awareness of her mortality, of the loss of her children as they became adults, of a need to simplify and intensify existence, and especially of a deep longing for renewal in her creative and spiritual life.
As Kidd was pondering the changes she felt in herself, she was also observing and aching over the distance that had grown up between herself and her daughter, Ann. After a trip to Greece during college, Ann thought she'd found her life's work in the passion she felt for the place and all the history and beauty it embodied. With the youthful assumption that her passion would translate into a career that she loved just as much, she applied for graduate study in ancient Greek history. When she was not accepted, the rejection she felt cascaded into depression. All the self-doubts she had hidden away seemed confirmed, and she withdrew as she floundered, isolating herself while she struggled to find her path.
There could not have been a better time for a mother-daughter trip to Greece. As they traveled, the women looked hard for understanding of their own growth and in their searching, found much more than they could have predicted. My own daughter spent a semester in Greece, and one of the most potent moments in my visit to her there was a simple walk through the Plaka in Athens. After enduring the long pain of our emotional and physical separation, when she tucked my arm in hers to walk together in the Greek fashion, it was akin to the return of Persephone from the underworld. Spring, I felt hopeful, would return. There was a discovery budding in us that would bloom into a new way to be together.
The story of Demeter and her stolen daughter, Persephone, is perhaps the most compelling of mother-daughter myths, describing the loss and renewal necessary for a young woman's independence. When Sue and Ann visit Eleusis, the site of Persephone's return, and share a highly symbolic pomegranate, they begin to rediscover themselves and each other. As they continue to travel together, including a later trip to France, the two women explore a broad range of goddess images, including Athena, Joan of Arc, and the Black Madonna. They mine the rich symbology of the divine feminine, and of their own daily lives, as they explore the changes they face.
And they do each find their way, gaining confidence and comfort in their chosen work and in a deeper and more equal relationship as women. Writing this book together, looking back on events of a decade ago, their joy and trust in each other is clear.
My own daughter has bloomed into her womanliness and wisdom, and I delight in her now with much greater freedom than when the burden of parenting was heavy upon us. Traveling with Pomegranates gave me the gift of seeing our passages with fresh eyes. Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor have written a book that allows women of every age to explore the flow of their lives, and that gives strong archetypal figures the chance to speak their truths to us again. This is a story to share with maidens, mothers and crones. And one that could offer insight to interested men, as well.
Sue Monk Kidd is the award-winning author of many novels and memoirs, including The Secret Life of Bees as well as The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. This is the first book for her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, who demonstrates that she has inherited her mother's talent and found her own individual voice. They both evidence an intelligent, articulate and thoughtful approach to women's experiences with work, relationships and spirituality. Learn more on Sue's website and Ann's website.
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