Ria Hartley


Inspired by Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

‘Women have died a thousand deaths before they are twenty years old. They have gone in this direction or that, and have been cut off. They have hopes and dreams that have been cut off also. Anyone who says otherwise is still asleep. All the grist for the mill of descansos […] A body who has lived a long time collects debris. It cannot be avoided. But if a woman will return to the instinctual nature instead of sinking into bitterness, she will be revived, reborn.

To make descansos means taking a look at your life and marking where the small deaths, las muertes chicitas, and the big deaths, las muertes grandotas, have taken place.

I like to make a time-line of a woman’s life on a big long sheet of paper, and to mark with a cross the places along the graph, starting with her infancy, all the way to the present where parts and pieces of herself and her life have died. We mark where there were roads not taken, paths that were cut off, ambushes, betrayals and deaths. I put a little cross along the time-line at the places that should have been mourned, or still need to be mourned. And then I write in the background “forgotten” for those things that the woman senses but has not yet surfaced. I also write “forgiven” over those things that the woman has for the most part released.

Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.

I encourage you to make descansos, to sit down with a time-line of your life and say “where are the crosses? where are the places that must be remembered, must be blessed? ‘(Estes, 2008: 365-366)

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© 2018 Ria Hartley