Who is the woman in white?
I found myself on a journey to understand more clearly how to respond to a theme where my mind went…blank.
Is she the lady whose white silk blouse compliments her tailored pants as she waits for a bus on a bright, clear day? Her elegance brings freshness to the other essential workers who are waiting impatiently.
Is she the country girl whose eyelet dress ruffles in the breeze? Waiting for the light to change at a preoccupied intersection, she chats with the driver of a plain green delivery truck. Her smile gives clues to their pleasant conversation and creates a scene suitable for someone’s artwork.
Is she the businesswoman in a delicate linen blazer that compliments her polished features? She sits outside a small-town café, carefully enjoying a flavorful, melting gelato. Perhaps she’s waiting for a phone call or her next appointment.
Maybe she is the tourist whose brown tote sets off her ivory jeans and matching button-down shirt. She strikes a pose at the corner of Glover Road and 96th Street, raising memories of how I used to guard my elementary school-aged classmates who had to make their way across a perilous crosswalk at 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon.
These external examples gave me some idea of what white signaled to me, reflecting light, goodness, innocence, and virginity and carrying connotations of perfection and safety. I found other ideas that suggested white represents a successful beginning in heraldry or depicts faith and purity. But these ideas still did not answer the question.
A blank mind eventually led me to an appropriate response to my questions because, as I further discovered, “the woman in white” is a holy theme that may infer a fresh start.
The slate has been cleaned, and we are brought into a realm where nothing has been written down yet.
We resist the positive connotation of white and the hope of a fresh start because of the many actions and behaviors that seem opposite. Consider the harsh contrast of the woman in white who was placed in an asylum by those who could not live with the truth of her existence. This reality sent shivers up my spine as I considered the anguish of moral wrongs in a culture where an innocent party paid such a price.
Realizing I had resisted the positive nature of white because its purer adjectives had not been part of my vocabulary for a very long while, I turned to author Ronald Rolheiser who, in his gentle criticism of his Catholic upbringing, stated that in such an upbringing there exists an inability to make a mistake. This made clear the conflict white presented to me. White reveals our flaws, blemishes, and errors. It distances those who do not feel the ability to define themselves by its radiant character because its untainted state seems unattainable.
I have often been told that I am perfect, even by strangers who do not know me. It has, however, placed a sterile and unattainable burden on me to be able to relate and be known well by others. It is a role I assumed in my family, but it is impossible to maintain because I too am human and I too am broken.
What is required as I respond to the conundrum of the beauty and fear of white, especially as September 2020 signals an opportunity to start fresh all over again? A theology of brokenness and grace. I can know that even though I cannot unscramble any egg I have broken, God’s grace lets me live happily and with renewed innocence far beyond its scrambling. God does not just give me one chance, but another one, and another. He does not leave me on the scrapheap of missed chances and untapped possibilities. No, God’s ability to clothe me in white to show off his handiwork is far greater than the temptation to believe that I am anything other than beautiful in my radiance and redemption.
I am the woman in white.
Marcia is a single, ambitious, and courageous dreamer woman. She lives on the southern Pacific coastline of British Columbia, Canada, where flowers, oceans, and wilderness encourage her photography. Soon, she anticipates using her BA in Psychology in helping realms but, in the meantime, reflects on how creating specially crafted notebooks might inspire others towards greater hope and new thoughts about life well lived. She hopes to release her website Paper Flower over the coming year.