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Is it a Place or a Space?

by Susan Eaton Mendenhall

Where is ‘place’ within the spaces we live and see?  Walls, streets, buildings give us place.  Sky, fields, and open water offer vastness of space.  Are ‘space’ and ‘place’ the same? I think not.   Space is vague, inclusive, and universal.  Place is named, determined, recognized.  Space holds dreams.  Place holds memories.

Space allows breath and breathing.  It awakens the imagination and creativity.  It invites the deepest part of us to trust and explore.  It begs for nothing.  It is the absence of ‘what might be’ that gives it freedom.  It has no demands.  Space is uncommitted, unnamed, without story and specific memory.

ABC Carpet & Home Store Red Tent

Red Tent at the ABC Carpet & Home Store

Place is very different.  Place offers suggestions by its very nature.  Place defines as it becomes a sounding board for the many memories it may invoke.  Places hold and invite stories.  While a place may be silent, the story that is recalled will be full of sound and movement, color and dynamic. Places remember a relationship, moods and feelings.

Both a space and a place that is growing within women’s circles is called the RED TENT. Draped in shades of red fabric, this is a created space to hold whatever stories, dreams, imagination, art,  and self-care the women wish to bring.  It invites all that a woman has experienced in her body – in her lifetime – to be celebrated, shared, released, and healed with the other women who also gather in this space.   Once the stories unfold, the activity begins, the rituals performed – the sacred space that has been prepared to invite the whole of womanhood becomes a place full of new stories, new friendships, memories, and renewal of life itself.

The Red Tent is a place where a woman is able to ask herself “How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you?  A place where other women, perhaps somewhat older, had been affirmed before you, each in her time as she struggled to become more truly herself.  And if the other women had helped you to trust your own becoming and quietly and prayerfully nurture it.  How might your life be different?”  (Judith Duerk)  It is this kind of question that makes a place important.  A place helps us ask life questions, look at them from all sides, and trust that an answer will arrive in its own time.  The Red Tent is a sacred space prepared for women to place their stories, lives, and questions.  “How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you?

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