Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Thelma, Louise, Kali and I

Filed in Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stories, voices :: December 21, 2010

I started resisting the reverb10 prompts  beginning with last Friday’s: Lesson Learned.  There was nothing wrong with the prompt, but I decided to take the evening off from blogging to watch Thelma and Louise, which had risen to the top of my Netflix cue.  I hadn’t seen it since it came out in 1991. Yes, it’s been nearly twenty years, and Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon got together earlier this month for a Vanity Fair photo shoot to commemorate the anniversary next year.

I remember my sense of exhilaration, of triumph, nineteen years ago when the friends clasped hands and drove Louise’s green 1966 Thunderbird over the edge of the Grand Canyon.  Last Friday night I couldn’t stop crying.  When I got up Saturday morning, I thought maybe that day’s reverb10 prompt, Try, would offer a way to write through my reaction.   No.  I planned my Christmas Eve dinner, wrapped presents, stewed about the movie, avoided the blog.

I kept thinking about a few scenes and pieces of dialogue:

Thelma expands despite moments of sexual awakening that immediately turn dark–dancing with Harlan turns into rape and lovemaking with JD turns into robbery.  She says to Louise near the end of the movie, “I feel awake ….  Wide awake.  I don’t remember ever feeling this awake.  Everything looks different.  You know what I mean?  I know you know what I mean.  Everything looks new.  Do you feel like that?  Like you’ve got something to look forward to?”

Louise, whose rage from the past results in the shooting of Harlan that sends them on the run, strips down to her essence.  Looking in the rearview mirror, about to put lipstick on, she instead throws it out the window.  Later, she takes off her jewelry, not only her rings and bracelets but her earrings, and trades them with an old man for his hat.  By the end her adornments consist of the hat, sunglasses taken from the locked-in-the-trunk trooper, and torn strips of cloth around her neck.

The awakening and the expression of righteous rage seem to leave them to no alternative other than death from the law or death in the canyon.  Of course I could only cry.

Saturday night Mr. Z and I kept his five-month-old grandson.  As I held the baby, I was aware of the pure potential in his body.  I was moved again, not only with love but with potential rage at the thought that anyone might ever hurt him, might ever see him as anything other than beauty.  Where did this come from?  It seemed to be connected to my reaction to the movie, but how?

Sunday’s prompt, Healing, found me, again, with nothing to say.   In the desert of the movie and my thoughts about it, the possibility of healing seemed remote.

I shopped for Christmas Eve groceries and baked cookies.  I read Julie Daley’s post on Authority and watched Chameli Ardagh’s Tedx talk on the Fierce Feminine.   A light began to come on.  I began to understand my feelings.  If you have stayed with me this far, I hope you’ll take the time to read the post and watch the Tedx video if you haven’t already.  I really can’t do them justice here.

Monday’s reverb10 prompt, Beyond Avoidance, was a little closer to what I was thinking about–the irresistibility of the truth.  I watched clips from the movie and the Tedx talk again.  Then I got it.

Thelma and Louise have unleashed Kali with the shooting of Harlan.  Chameli Ardagh says, “Kali is so in love with truth that she is not willing to compromise an inch.  Kali is married to truth.  And with this explosive expression of fierce love, she enters the battle….  She wins the war.  But at this point, she can’t stop.  It is as if she is drunk on blood.  So she continues to destroy, intoxicated.”  The only remedy for the continued destruction is, for Kali, the intervention of Shiva, who “lays himself with his vulnerable belly exposed, and he welcomes her, in the midst of her darkness, he meets her right there.  And just as Kali is about to step on him, she wakes up, and she’s back, and the world is saved.”

Thelma and Louise have access to Shiva energy in Hal Slocumbe and Jimmy, but it comes too late.  They are too far gone in Kali to do anything but destroy everything in their path, and ultimately themselves.

When Kali is with Shiva, Ardagh says, “Shiva is presence itself, the capacity to stay present….  Shiva is the promise of choice….  Kali without Shiva is destruction.  Kali with Shiva is medicine.”

So Kali without Shiva results in Thelma and Louise, shooting Harlan, blowing up the tanker in the desert.

But Kali with Shiva is (back to me) the only way that I can be present with my protective love of Mr. Z’s grandson.

Ardagh concludes: “Where are we, the human mothers? …  We’ve been so well-trained to live in our rational mind, so when this very natural response arrives in us, we immediately move to the rational mind, and we begin to think,  ‘how? who am I to stop the war?’ And then very soon we collapse in hopelessness, and then we skip this step, just this step.  Of course we don’t know how, but I believe that just in that step, in that fierce expression of feminine love, there is a power, a power that will open doors, a power that will show us possibilities that we don’t know before we take the step, and I believe that we are called to visit Kali, visit the fierce expression of feminine love….”

So on Tuesday night, in response to today’s prompt, I give this advice to my Future Self of the next moment and the next few days and the next few months and years: Invite in the medicine of Kali and Shiva.


  1. MrsWhich

    Very nice bringing together, thank you! We are all dancing around this bringing together of the rational and what has been relegated to “irrational” but is fundamental. We will change the world, one thought at a time.

  2. Julie Daley

    This is beautiful truth, Angela. So beautiful how you;ve woven together pieces, then sat with them so they would illuminate something within you, a knowing. This beautiful baby is such a teacher for us all…to trust the primal knowing that is present before ‘rationality’ tempers it. Perhaps irrationality is the gift…

  3. Square-Peg Karen

    Kali AND Shiva – my word, I NEVER thought of this. I’ve gone-Kali (in my mind-emotions) and I’ve gone hopeless – never the blended togetherness of Kali AND Shiva — ohmyword, I think you’ve given me something huge here.

    Thank you so much, dear Angela!!

  4. Christine

    Lovely way to address all these prompts. Each prompt is like a little ripple and a piece of this bigger puzzle.

  5. Dian Reid

    I love this post, Angela. I love how you’ve connected Thelma and Louise and Kali and Shiva … well, how you’ve shown the inherent connection between them (us) all.