For years I have placed pomegranates around my house: here and there, on windowsills, on my desk, on my altar. They are reminders sparked by a story Rachel Remen tells about a woman who shakes her fist at Godde for giving her a pomegranate when she explicitly asked for an apple. “Where is my apple?” she rages. “Give me my apple!”
For me, the apple represents things I’ve wanted or thought I was supposed to want. The pomegranate is the life I have been given instead. I don’t mean to imply that I played no part in choosing or creating it.
Too often, I fail to appreciate and embrace the exquisite pomegranate of my own life. I search fruitlessly for apples, pick apples never meant for me, cling stubbornly or fearfully to apples that have never made me happy—and never could.
Given pomegranates’ resonant power in my life, my heart jumped in the aisle of Terrace library last week when I found Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor (Viking, 2009). I love it when a book falls into my hands and I know beyond doubt it will contain a needed message. This one held many.
It was Sue Monk Kidd who introduced me to the poetry of David Whyte through his poem “Sweet Darkness.” I recognize Kidd and Whyte both as purveyors of commas in my journey toward myself. In Traveling with Pomegranates, Kidd writes:
Journeying is the predominant means of developing one’s self in this culture, not the habitation of place. It has been true of me. Always the seeker. Yet at this phase of my life, when I look at my house at the edge of a marsh, I want to learn how to be in it. I want to behave like a finder as much as a seeker.
Such has been my journey since LW and I found this farm. I have always been and still am a seeker, but mine is a journey inward, not out into the world.
In Traveling with Pomegranates, Kidd describes how she unearthed her deeply buried desire to write fiction. It’s a fascinating glimpse into her process of expanding a vision of swarming bees into a novel. Kidd writes that when the idea for The Secret Life of Bees came to her,
it felt inspired, but knowing how capable I was of doubt and how cold my feet would get I wrote a note to myself: Sue, this is a really good idea. Before you dismiss it, remember how you felt when it came to you. If it hadn’t been for that note, the idea would have never survived.
That anecdote alone is worth the price of admission.
The main story line in Traveling with Pomegranates is a Demeter and Persephone enactment/exploration. I relate to Persephone. Like her, I spend my winters underground. As a mother, I also relate to Demeter. As a daughterless mother, though, I have felt like only half the myth applied to me. I am the daughter of a mother, but I will never be the mother of a daughter. Kidd, in her part of this tale, nudges me to remember the daughter I birthed—and continue to birth—who is my younger self. Just as importantly in the autumn of my life, Kidd’s journey of self-discovery spurs me to dance with my Old Woman self.
I loved this story of a mother and daughter travelling, inward and outward, together. I treasure the little travel diary my mother and her mother kept in 1971, when Mom took Nana home to England for the first time in 45 years.
Neither was prone to self-reflection or comfortable writing her feelings, though. After ten days of jotting down notes about their doings, they abandoned the diary. The last entry before they gave it up is in my grandmother’s hand, and it contains this sentence: Off on the train again, this time to Newcastle to see my sister who is blind. This was—to me—a most emotional time—I will not dwell on it.
Something I appreciate about Traveling with Pomegranates is the willingness of both mother and daughter to dwell in her body, thoughts, and emotions while giving the other space to dwell in her own. I learned so much about myself from the personal connections each woman makes with the ancient myths and sacred places they visit together in Greece, Turkey, and France.
I recommend this book to daughters, mothers, travellers, writers, seekers, and those who journey and stay put with pomegranates.