I thought of this quote today because my 90 year old mother has been crying a lot lately, and when I ask her why, she says she wants to die. Like the mythic Sybil, she’s in some kind of stasis — neither really living nor finally dying. She spends most of her days walking around her rooms — walking and moving objects and dropping used kleenex like breadcrumbs. While she walks, I sit, busying my hands with crocheting. I’d rather be reading, but I don’t like being interrupted when I’m reading, and she interrupts frequently —
…where is my money? …where is my brother? …are you my mother? …where are my glasses? …where are the men? …are you going dancing? …is it raining?….. ..what should we have for supper? (this last asked an hour after we had supper)
If I run over to my computer to check email or such, she is in her doorway, calling “Elaine….Elaine!” I’m stuck an audio clip from The Graduate.
Back to Sybil. Several years ago, I blogged a piece about Sybils and such that I still like and am reprising below. Interesting enough, while googling for additional information about Sybil, I happened upon a wonderful blog that I had never seen before. It is written by a woman who is indeed a kindred spirit. I will have to find the time and go back to read more of her posts, many of which echo my sentiments exactly.
Meanwhile, here’s my old post about…
Cybill Sibyl Symbols
I am an old woman with a deck of cards
A witch, an Amazon, a Gorgon
A seer, a clairvoyant, a poet.
I have visions of becoming and
I dream in female
–(Barbara Starrett, 1974)
I adored the character that Cybill Shepherd played in her ’90s sitcom. Raunchily relevant in menopausal splendor, she laughed a lot –mostly at herself — loved largely, and dreamed in female. The Lady of Situations.
Sibyl is another gut-grabbing female, one I first encountered the first time I turned to the first page of T.S. Eliot’s “Wastland.” (I still have verses from that epic endlessly looping through my brain: Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant/ has a bad cold nevertheless/ is known to be the wisest woman in Europe/ with a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she, / is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor (those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!) / Here is Belladonna, the Lady of Rocks, / the lady of situations.)
For I once saw with my own eyes the Cumean Sibyl hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked her, ‘Sibyl, what do you want?’ she answered, ‘I want to die.”
The quote which prefaces T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland,” “NAM Sibyllam quidem Cumis . . .” is taken from the Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter, a Roman of the first century B.C.E. The Sybil is a prophetic character who, when granted a wish by Apollo, asked to live for as many years as there are grains of sand in a handful. She forget to ask for eternel youth, however, and is confined to a bottle so as to prevent her body’s disintegration….. The Sibyl, then, is a bit of a paradox: she strove to live eternally yet ended up in constant danger of decay and pain. Her quest for eternity was a failure that Eliot finds terribly important yet terribly dangerous. His goal is not to end up like the Sibyl, but to free her. (quoted from a link that is no longer active)
Cybill and Sybil, symbols of women with strong voices — strong with meaning, with intention, with visions of constant becoming — with guts full of female dreams and hearts used to surviving great tides of sorrow. A lot like the many women bloggers I know and love.
The road I drive into town is edged with farmland. During first days of autumn, I pass so many signs of endings — fields of corn stalks the color of caramel; acres emptied but for the baled rolls of hay; wayside strips of sunflowers, heads bowed low with their burdens of shedding seeds. I am, these days, envious of endings.