Island artist Margot Datz and mermaids go hand-in-hand, or fin-in-fin, as it were.
Speaking before a gathering of 25 Vineyard women, most of them business owners or managers, at the Old Whaling Church on Tuesday night, the author of A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids, drew upon her metaphor of choice to bring attention to the challenges faced by the modern woman.
The hour-and-a-half-long program, entitled “Re-Energizing in the New Year,” was part of a workshop series sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Network. Ms. Datz based her presentation on a similar workshop she presented last year at Kripalu, a yoga retreat in the Berkshires.
Taking the audience through a vividly described account of her own struggles with maintaining a balance between the demands of family and career and the needs of her own heart, soul and body, Ms. Datz stressed the importance of being in touch with “the inner mermaid,” that is, the feminine persona. A landlocked mermaid, cut off from a “source of nurturance, from the sea,” as Ms. Datz described it, has lost touch with her sense of self.
“Contemporary culture polarizes,” Ms. Datz noted, making it difficult, particularly for businesswomen, to maintain this sparkle.
Key to finding balance, she continued, was developing a support system of friends; after all, as Ms. Datz described it, “We are all wresting, basically, with the same stuff.”
Underscoring the point, Ms. Datz’s program was peppered with mini-workshops from members of her own personal support system. Christina Montoya engaged the group in two sessions of “Tail Whispering,” leading the audience through a series of movement exercises to better stay in tune with their own bodies. Artist Marjorie Mason spoke about her experience becoming acquainted with the power of color.
“I was tickled pink that so many women turned up,” Ms. Datz said after the program. “This is kind of an unusual event; it’s reaching out in a different direction” than many women’s network programs, with its focus on strategies for the individual rather than the business. “For me, it felt more intimate” than previous workshops.
“It’s hard to take risks in this community, especially in January,” she continued, referring to the smallness of the Vineyard’s winter community. “You’re taking chances and revealing yourself...there is no anonymity here.” Fear of being judged or cast aside leads to women “cutting off their tails,” and not being true to themselves, as Ms. Datz described the phenomenon.
“I thought it broke down walls,” said attendee Danielle Bailey, a women’s network board member. “I think once you put the [stresses of the day] behind you, then we all can be comfortable enough to let go — because we’re all in a safe place.”
“I thought it was going to be inspirational for January,” attendee Meg Athearn offered. “It definitely helped.”
Sister-in-law Robyn Athearn said she was “wishing we could do more things like this.”
“We’re all in this together,” she continued. “It made me think of my mom and Meg’s mom and wishing they were here, and then I wished we’d brought more of our friends here. I have a feeling it would be good for lots of women to be here.”