Sailboats and rabbits, lions and lambs

In her poem, “For Strong Women,” Marge Piercy talks about strength as something that fills and moves us, “as the wind fills a sail.” That description brings to mind an illustration from the beloved Margaret Wise Brown children’s classic, The Runaway Bunny, in which the little bunny declares that he will become a sailboat and sail far away from his mother. If he does, she replies, she will become the wind and blow him where she wants him to go. Clement Hurd’s delightful illustration shows the little bunny in the form of a sailboat, his ears the sails that billow full with the breath of a mother bunny-shaped cloud in the sky behind him.

This notion of strength as a force that moves us and moves in us is complex and not altogether comfortable. We cannot control the wind, in direction or velocity. We can make good use of it, if we are prepared to do so when the moment is right, but we are not its master. This in turn reminds me of the Strength card in the tarot, which traditionally depicts a woman and a lion. Often the woman is shown astride the lion, riding bareback and without bridle: another image of being moved but not being in control. The woman’s lack of control, however, does not mean that the situation is out of control. The scene is usually peaceful, conveying a bond of trust between the woman and the lion. Strength is not a matter of control, but a matter of respecting and working with the forces in our lives that are greater than we are.

Finally, I remember that old adage about wind and weather, “If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.”

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