I love the fall, this season of harvest and abundance when the fertility of the earth nourishes us. I love the golden wheat fields in August giving way to apples, pears, and eventually squashes. Even as the days get shorter, I love the colors in the leaves, the crisper air, and the feeling of coziness and slowing down. Today is the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall, and so I thought this image of the goddess Ceres was fitting to share. She’s clothed in rich red with her breast bared and arms filled with an overflowing cornucopia. Ceres was a Roman goddess of fertility and has been identified with agricultural fertility as well as fertility among people. I found this painting while researching fertility. So no, this isn’t a post about how wonderful fall is although I do love the fall. Instead, it’s another meditation on fertility and endometriosis inspired in part by this painting.
I’m no expert on these things. I just know that the image appealed to me. I was struck by her overwhelming bounty and yet she’s alone in the painting (no, I’m not counting the parrot or monkey). Her breast is bared and yet there’s no child in her arms. She gazes upward but I can’t read her expression. It could be peace, it could be generosity, it could be longing. I project my own feelings onto this painting and see an image of myself reflected. My life and my heart are so full. I am sad right now, but overall I have been so very blessed. I feel overflowing with my own bounty and love. I feel made to be a mother with a womb to create life, breasts to feed my child, arms to hold my children. And yet there’s no child in my arms. It’s something I can’t yet comprehend.
Sometimes when I think about my endometriosis, I think of it as an overabundance of womb. There are theories that part of what causes endometriosis is an excess of estrogen. The estrogen that makes me a curvy and beautiful woman may be dialed up a little too high in my body. The disease endometriosis manifests as excess endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus. The word endometrium itself is derived from endo-, meaning within, and metra, or womb. This lovely rich tissue that normally lines the uterus awaiting a fertilized egg to softly land and implant leading to the growth of the placenta, umbilical cord, and everything a new life requires. With endometriosis this lovely tissue goes overboard and can be found outside of the uterus, growing on places it doesn’t belong like the outside of the ovaries, bowel, and other parts of the pelvis. This can form cysts, scarring, and cause all kinds of problems. My case was severe. I had what’s called a “frozen pelvis” because of the adhesions stuck everything together. Sometimes I think of it as if my womb was just really overzealous. So I see Ceres’ bright red garments in this painting and it makes me think of the blood and tissues that go into creating life and that, in my case, are part of what prevents me.
Image: The Goddess Ceres and Symbols of Fertility by Abraham Janssens.
Text Copyright Snowdroplets 2015