Circle of Stones, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
by Judith Duerk

Innisfree Press, 1999. ISBN 1880913364, 1880913372.
Reviewed by Linda Wisniewski
Posted on 12/10/2001

Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Recently reissued, 10 years after its first publication, this two-volume series came from a dream the author had in her forty-sixth year, and images she had for several years prior to the dream, of a group of women who called themselves the Circle of Stones.

Ideally, these books are to be shared among real women. At the end of each volume is a reading group guide, "Deepening Your Circle," with suggestions for discussing each chapter.

Volume 1 was written in three sections. "In Search of her Mother" talks about "the universal importance of a woman's tears" and why we need to express sadness. "How it was before…" describes a possible celebration of first menstruation. "In Search of Her Self" discusses "a sense of her depth," or going inside yourself, "a sense of her feelings," about expressing them and understanding them, and "a sense of her process," about using depression as a gift. "A sense of her need" is about our overextended lifestyles. (I really identified with that one! We try to be Amazons, superwomen. We have to get sick before we stop trying to prove ourselves and start taking care of ourselves.) "In Search of Her Life," the third and final section, is about grounding, embracing woundedness, and finding one's voice.

In Volume 2, I Sit Listening to the Wind, Duerk explains that the masculine energy within women, which many traditions call "the wind," or the yang energy, is what psychologist Carl Jung called "the animus." To demonstrate the need for balance in life, Duerk uses the analogy of the "wire mother" experiment, in which hungry monkeys were given a choice between wire models with a feeding apparatus attached and a soft model with a cushioned body. The monkeys who chose the wire models did not survive as well as those who chose soft cloth "mothers." Duerk compares these monkeys to our goal-driven society. We are frantically busy, trying to mask our need for a "cloth mother," for meaning in our life, for identity. We are trying to survive with the "wire mother" of achievement by ignoring our feelings. Duerk asks, in the end, "How might our lives be different if we were helped to know that our feelings might bring truth to bear where it was needed?"

The Circle of Stones books can be read separately or together, but I don't recommend reading them straight through. Read them slowly, with lots of time for your own thoughts and notes. Keep them for the stressful times when concentrating on what you are reading is difficult. Keep them on your bedside table for comfort, support, and affirmation. Keep them on your desk for inspiration. Keep them in your meditation space for thoughtful reflection.

A woman in Volume 2 talks about getting rid of some of the books she has hoarded all her life. "I had always thrived on reading," she says, "and the world of ideas. But I knew I would never have time to uncover my own ideas of life if I were to read every one of those carefully-hoarded words." I too have always "thrived on reading." I especially love to read spiritual works by women. Circle of Stones, however, convinced me to spend more quiet time with my self, at least equal to the time I spend reading the thoughts of others.

This review first appeared in Equal wRites, published by the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Women's Ordination Conference, September-November, 1999.

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