I sat on the floor with several beautiful things from the forest spread in front of me, telling a small group of people the story of the last hour walking, tromping, stumbling and meandering no great distance on a hillside in Sonoma. Since I was young the forests and mountains were destinations of purposeful movement – always on a trail towards the next place. I’d never gone into the forest and allowed curiosity to guide me in a quiet unfolding into deeper presence with my surroundings.
The assignment was to hold some questions, and to bring something back, some object, or symbol, either physical or otherwise expressed, to share from our short quest. Though I asked the questions of myself, I kept being distracted by the place, the contrasting sensations of searching for perspective and finding obscurity, feeling like clarity was asked of me and unknowing was where I was. Was my job to seek or to receive? And did receiving require one to actively seek? I thought I wanted a boulder covered in lichen with a view of the hillsides and their steam rising pulled by the sun from the clinging ground to the tree tops. Yet here I was, looking at the intricacy of a neuron like green growth on a branch and wanting to share my sense of how exciting this small thing felt to me, the secrets it whispered about the universe, its delicate liveliness. I saw the shape of a badger and a bear holding her young in a bright orange piece of heart wood. I saw only two small flowers that seemed so fragile, rare and full of desirous hope for spring, while on the crude ground were broken branches, mud and a brittle crust of snow sitting still. The top of an acorn was a small basket. The yellow color of the small conifer seeds, the fractal like quality of the oak branches and the mosses; everything spoke art, quietly living its design, perfectly patterned, structured for purpose and beauty, and expressing unequivocally its interrelation with the family of other forest lives, woven and weaving themselves together in life and death.
I heard the sound of water bubbling as though in a brook, and I searched the ground for it, but the sound was coming from underneath the ground close to the surface, as though the earth itself had claimed the stream so as to speak through it’s murmur of deeper mystery than I can say…
I didn’t feel like I needed to explain why that was inspiring awe and child’s pleasure in me. I crawled through a fence and stumbled around over hillsides and between trees and moss covered rocks. I followed three deer and let them lead me towards more forest. I laughed at myself, wondering what these people would think when I returned with a pile of little glimpses, pieces of branch and sprigs of green, new seeds and old husks. I knew that it wouldn’t make sense but that was the only thought I had about it- the possibility of judgment or lack thereof were no more than passing thoughts to me so inside of my own experience was I.
Yet these new friends saw more in me than I expected or thought possible… they saw my love, my fascination, my way of being, they noticed how I saw color, and they saw the sadness underneath it all that I didn’t see. I didn’t see it at all. But when it was said something clicked and I knew it was true. I tried to explain it, but I stopped. In that woman walking though the forest that was me, looking for the bigness but being drawn into the small and minute, there was a sadness to the movement. Perhaps I have come to feel that regardless of who I share my loving reveries with they don’t see me in this way- see me with my tender loving eyes, my detail, my design, my ways of being and loving. There has been a resignation to feeling that my innermost thoughts and experiences would never truly be shared with others, or appreciated.
Even though sadness is not an emotion I identify with, I felt really, fully, seen, for one of the first times in my life. and in that moment another possibility opened and I saw myself different. He wasn’t afraid of my sadness, he didn’t need to fix it, he didn’t want me to explain it, he just saw beauty, and sadness, and let me be who I am…and these days since then I feel beautiful, delicate and gentle, and at peace in my world of subtlety and small beauty. I feel seen because I let myself be myself there.
I don’t really understand what those words he spoke have done to me, I can’t explain why what he saw in me settled into me, sated something, touched a profound desire that still goes unnamed and not understood. Part of me wants to be able to explain it because I am so curious about how I work and how what happened was a mechanism I’d never experienced before. The other part of me doesn’t want to talk about it any more after this, just to continue being in this slow natural unfoldment into an unknown part of my own self.
Two days ago as I had told my story to those seated around me I mirrored and reflected on my own processes. I do this in my journal and have for years, so I’m practiced at it. Last night at my Aunt Kelly’s I was feeling into this new space that has emerged in me after that small and profound experience and I realized that because of my own process I have trained myself to see a lot more subtlety and texture in people than perhaps they are used to others seeing and acknowledging in them, or perhaps even aware of themselves. For the first time I realized what a gift and a responsibility this is. How vulnerable or scared that must make people feel sometimes to know that I’m perceiving some of their innerworkings without fully understanding them as people and why they’ve grown to be that way. How particularly hurtful that could be in the times when I haven’t held that complexity with love and acceptance but rather with judgment or the desire for them to change. Though I’ve loved people dearly I haven’t always been able to see and accept their complexity, their strengths and weaknesses as though they were both beautiful manifestations of their desire to live, love, and get by in an imperfect world.
I hold myself to a high standard and am critical of myself too, but I have done the same towards others who weren’t necessarily looking for that. In this gentle light of something opening inside me I realize I need to be stronger for others. I need to use my ability to perceive depth and subtlety to get to the beautiful core of a person, not stopping at the way it’s manifesting now in behavior, but the deeper need that people communicate through their actions. This is the doorway to people feeling loved, understood, and ultimately ready to move on from certain ways of being after being acknowledged.
I think this lesson will be most dramatically felt for me in my intimate relationships- where that intimacy can make both more vulnerable to and invested in the other’s opinions. For me I can play the victim in certain relationship dynamics, and that may put a good man in the position of feeling like I’m not seeing him for who he’s trying to be, but in the worst light of a persecutor. For most sensitive men this would not be a pleasant experience, especially if that man happens to be working on holding himself in integrity with women. Thinking of that now I feel so much more sensitive to the need of the men I’ve been with to be seen… What a gift to hopefully be able to support the wonderful men I know in a better way.