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Lying on the smooth rocks that sit in the middle of the Yuba River, water streaming around her body, Renée Wilson’s eyes are closed. She nestles into the bed of boulders, serene. At first, the rush of the water is the only sound; then her voice begins to narrate over the imagery:

“I am a woman, a vessel. The Great Mother pours life into me, and I am here to do her will. Reborn, alive, here. I am a lover, an artist, a sister, a friend.”

The footage cuts to Wilson’s hand holding onto the fungi-laden bark of a tree beneath a green forest canopy.

“She holds my hand through it all as I revel in her light,” she says, as the scene cuts back to the river where now Wilson is smiling. “She washes me clean. Joy is here for us all, and I am grateful, every day.”

A large dragonfly passes over the spot where she lies.

This is the opening of the short art film “Ode to Joy,” which Wilson wrote, directed, and starred in. She said serendipitous moments, like the dragonfly’s cameo, happened often during the making of the film. “Ode to Joy” won several awards and titles:

The film takes viewers through an experience of nature, poetry, and song. The narrative of the film is flowing rather than top-down. It winds open gently, much like the swirling pools of water or sea waves that make up many of its scenes. Wilson narrates via original poetry and creative prose, following broad themes of nature, life, the empowerment of women, and healing ways of being in the world.

“For a very long time now, the sacred feminine, divine feminine, the Great Mother, the Mother energy—however you want to name it—has been and continues to be on the back burner, repressed, shunned, and vilified,” she said during an interview with the Independent Media Institute. “We’re in a very patriarchal society with lots of misogyny, and many things that are damaging to us as humans. I personally believe we need a balance of healthy masculine, healthy feminine—and if you want to take all the labels off, just healthy people and healthy energy.”

This film, she said, intends to offer a counterbalance to the overtly masculine ways of being that prevail in a patriarchal society.

“This piece is about womanhood and femininity and whoever relates to that. That’s not just women, but whoever can relate to the nurturing energy, the destroyer energy, the creator energy, the healing energy, the power of femininity. The fact of the matter is: no one would literally be alive on this planet without the body of a woman. To me, that is sacred and needs to be respected. I wanted to put my voice in the room.”

She said she also wanted to uplift a different creation story.

“I’m just not into the stories that keep getting shoved down our throats, whether that’s the Christian narrative or any other popular narrative that is not honoring the feminine.”


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