Myths and Writing as a Vision Quest

Writing about myths is our Women’s Writing Circle prompt for January. Using this quote from Rumi – “Unfold your own myths” – write about how you or a character in your work-in-progress recognizes a myth in his or her life and “unfolds” it as a path forward.  

Photo by Dave Meckler on

In a recent episode of Yellowstone, one of the main characters, Kayce, goes on a vision quest.  He has no clue who he is but understands that he’s been held back by the myths of “right and wrong” instilled in him by his family and society. After he served as a Navy SEAL and returns to his father’s ranch in Montana, he ponders what is “fair and unfair”, what is “just and unjust.” He chews peyote, and fasts for four days and nights, and the visions under starlit skies and sun-drenched clouds come in both terrifying and beautiful ways: a Native American woman dressed in white leather and beads…his murdered brother, blood pouring from his mouth. As one vision fades and then another emerges a wolf watches over him, his spirit guide symbolic of courage, loyalty, and strength. When the four days end, we are left wondering what it all meant. “So, what did you see?” his wife asks. “The universe,” he says.

I think of the lotus I saw blooming in a copper barrel outside a squat hut near the Annapurna trail of the Himalayans in Nepal, which I visited several years ago. It starts its life in the mud and despite its hard beginning, it blossoms from its murky surroundings into something unimaginably beautiful and pure. Imagine that anything is possible, that black is pure and beautiful, and that we are surrounded by the magical every day. The worries, the bitterness, the less-than-hoped-for fade away, and if we’re lucky we find the “universe”. As a friend once said to me. “Most of our journeys, at least in the beginning, are cloudy and muddied. So, the task becomes to imagine the beautiful, which leads to serenity.”

If we are to survive this life, we move away from the things holding us back, derailing peace. That’s why I take a lot of artist’s dates, as Julia Cameron calls them, those fun getaways, and the little treats for myself that spark inspiration and independence. The only ones on this “date” are me and my creative self…like going out for lunch as I did last week to a rustic farmhouse turned café where the gouda and broccoli quiche was rich and creamy. If only we could string together these days of fun, pleasure, and renewal, one after another, I think, as sunlight streams through the window with a view of translucent winter grasses. My “quest” to rediscover who I am and what matters to me often resides in those moments of aloneness and simplicity. I think about the myth that if you work hard enough, you will be successful. What is success? Success is finding peace within yourself. I know that now. Or those happily ever after’s that never really existed? Only loss and death allow the adult to emerge. I think about that well-worn narrative of the perfect mother as respectable, no mutiny, self-sacrificing, reduced to a symbol and deprived of her freedom. I think about the myths, the choices that led to embracing a certain life I live, one both conservative and creative as a woman alone. If I write about it, the storyline emerges. Writing is a vision quest, after all, an unfolding of myths.

Is there a myth holding you back? 

“Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”

“Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.” ~ Buddha

Happy New Year.

Published by Susan G. Weidener

Join me as I share reflections, always with an eye toward the challenges and struggles we women encounter and embrace in both creative and personal ways. My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, was selected as a 2011 editor’s pick by Story Circle Network. Its sequel Morning at Wellington Square has also achieved critical acclaim. A Portrait of Love and Honor, a novel based on a true story, is centered around a story of two people, Ava Stuart and Jay Scioli, who are destined to meet and Jay's commitment to honor following his years at West Point. My new novel And the Memory Returns continues the story of Ava Stuart who begins asking herself those questions so many women face as they age. What had it all meant? Where does she go from here? In 1991, I joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a reporter covering news and writing feature stories until 2007. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, I started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia, which meets the second Saturday of the month at the Chester Springs Library. I live in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania with my Yellow Lab, Lily.

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