Today was the 7th day in my training to guide vision quests and rites of passage. I love these days for a few reasons. 1. Coming back to the same land that I’ve now seen through some seasonal shifts has begun to reveal the different facets of this place like the different faces of a lover are revealed over time. The way the light falls at a slant in October, the way the fog drifts deep through the grasses in spring, these are things I am beginning to know about this place and that intimacy feels precious and unique given my city rearing and fair weather backpacking tendencies. In reality I’ve spent relatively little time here, yet these monthly snapshots have engendered a powerful sense of belonging in me. As I lay in the grass this afternoon I felt more at home than anywhere I know. I’m filled now with land lust for the time when I will experience a corner of this earth even more deeply, through to each bone and every curving corner of my own body.
While here we’re asked to spend some time alone with the oak covered hills, in the fall leaves, the green grasses, the irises and dried brush. We’ve gone out during rain, sun, tempestuous winds, and a calm so still I was frozen in peaceful ecstasy in the elbow of an oak for hours. I slept high up in that tree in the afternoon summer sun and I wrote and sung a song that no one else heard, I crunched awkwardly over hillsides without paths and moved like light through the trees- barely touching the ground. This land has been the perfect metaphor and stage for me in all my changing needs and desires, and it has always guided me effortlessly to the wisdom I’ve needed.
The 2nd reason I love these days is that each time I return to a small group of people with whom I have only shared deeply intimate conversations. Conversations about things I don’t talk about with other people, the gentle vulnerable parts of me, my unworked through pains and traumas, startling discoveries of personal truth, and the unveiling of deeper and deeper layers. It’s also a place where I have experienced, without inhibition or doubt, my power, my strength, and the beautiful flow of love from my core. These people know me perhaps better than anyone in my life, and love me truly, as I do them, for how deeply we’ve let each other in.
While this circle has seen me both high and low, and my life tends to be pretty awesome I was recently made aware (via my writing group) of the bias of my writing, and people’s writing in general. The assertion was that people in general don’t write about happy people or happy things, unless something terrible is going to happen to them or unless they want to make you feel bad about yourself. Sure every story has it’s moments, and many end on a happy note, but not before some poor sod has been dragged through the existential muck. I realized that this more or less holds true for me as well. I write about my broken open moments, and not anywhere near as frequently about those moments of perfect bliss. Thus our assignment for this week was to try to write about happy people, or a happy person, with nothing going wrong.
But I don’t write fiction… so here’s my day today
I set out from the house knowing that I was headed away from where the others were headed. I wanted to get to the sun, and the glorious hillsides that would be baking in the advanced afternoon. The path emerged as though it was being created in that moment for exactly the desire I needed fulfilled. I walked up through the yellow dry grass, vaguely concerned about ticks, though not enough to really monitor my gait or my pants. The path seemed to head right up towards a barbed wire fence, which seemed strange because the land on both sides belongs to Mike and also obviously because it was my path, and I didn’t really feel like climbing over a barbed wire fence so why would it be there? Anyway, I still felt that this was where I was supposed to go so I stuck with it and at the fence the trail turned to the right, went 20 ft, and moved through a section of the fence that had been removed. *Maybe* this trail was here before I had the idea….
The feeling of slick Oak leaves and Madrone bark sliding and crunching beneath my feet and the warmth of the air evoked all the yummy senses of fall experiences to come: family dinners, pagan ritual carving of faces into pumpkins, inside activities with friends, lying in bed listening to the sound of rain, playful cuddling and oversleeping with lovers, and the drinking in of the fragile fall sunlight post the bustle of summer. The fall sun can make a whole day feel like afternoon, a slowed pace and an inexplicable desire to find a porch to occupy.
I turned a switchback and looked over my shoulder to catch some sun on my face and saw only glitter in the air. Between me, the sun, and the back-lit oaks the air thickened and breathed, squirmed and swam with golden threads floating in and out of visibility. I stood transfixed while the flaxen fibers filled everything with some sort of quiet magic, a still and earnest seeming clarity about the universe at a level below, beyond or without words. Some sense, some humble, pure, quiet, unostentatious truth.
The air was so still I had no idea why and how the threads moved that way, but they did.
Anyway- I continued walking on the path, though part of me wanted to head up the hill in the direction of the sun, up under the limbs of some previously unappreciated oak tree that’s sat anonymous in this forest since it was an acorn. Go sit and admire the crook of its limbs, the arc of its canopy. But my gut had me on the path so I stuck to it…
It was a very minor conflict, but my job on these walks is to listen to myself and move following what I hear and feel so I was paying attention to this minor inner conflict between the sun over there and this path right here that was taking me to the other side of the ridge. I became aware that walking with this tension made my core muscles feel stronger and it struck me that strength does not develop by simply willfully toughing out hardships or making some hard decision, but rather the willingness to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when the path is uncertain, doubtful or scary. I don’t think this is any great wisdom, or any new wisdom at least, but at that moment it filled me with a sense appreciation for myself because this has been one of the lessons I’ve been choosing to learn recently. If a decision isn’t obvious, instead of forcing it I’m sitting in the uncertainty and the unknowing. I’m walking along the path asking the question, what is this new place? Just being in it without making it into something old and familiar.
Each step on the path I was feeling this tension, this desire on one hand to be on the other side in the sun and the greater sense that I needed to stick with my path and some even deeper knowing that this path was eventually going to lead me to everything that I wanted. Walking with the tension felt good to my body and a tenderness began to flow in me.
So here goes the part about the happy person with nothing bad happening to them, this is my happy ending today.
You know at least part of the end: the part where I continue walking and eventually the path leads me up and over the ridge into the most beautiful glorious sunlight I’ve ever seen and a golden field of white gold grass. From atop the ridge the green hills below are rolling off into the haze. As I walked out into the sun I literally shed a tear and felt my throat constrict with joy for how beautiful it was. In everything was clarity, warmth, and beauty, an extravagant beauty, the most sincerely beautiful view of hills and forests a person could want. As I walked into the sunlight I felt beautiful myself, filled with light, and one of the deepest and most powerful loves for myself I’ve ever felt. It was like everything in my being clicked and I just felt like in each step I was making love to myself, this moment, this place and this life. I strolled to the edge feeling sensuality emanating from my core as the wind moved my hair and the sun sank into my skin. I lay on my jacket on the ground with a piece of summer-dried grass in my mouth and thought to my self “I love myself and I think that I am awesome.”
I love my body right now, I love how I feel in my body, I love being touched and I love feeling such love for myself that I don’t need anyone to touch me right now to make me feel sexy and delicious. I love how my mind and my heart work together, I love what I’m doing with my life, I love my weaknesses and vulnerabilities, I love the people I’ve chosen to surround myself with. I love to laugh, and I love my sense of humor. I love how witty I am, damn I’m funny! I love how good I am at most of what I try to do, and I love how spectacularly I can fail with enjoyment. I love that I can forgive the people who have been a part of the moments that have hurt the most in my life. I love that the power of my yearning for love is pervading more and more of my life. I love that my devotion to love, for myself, my partners and others is the most important thing in my life. More important than any job or success will ever be. I love how letting go into that love has been opening me. I love how I can cry in front of strangers. I love my ability to change myself. I love my ability to commit to my dreams and goals and follow my own intuition about how to achieve them. I love that I can reassess and let go. I love that I want to love people so fiercely. I love that I’m willing to question my own thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs. I love that I’m committed to living true to who I am, and getting better at knowing what that means in every moment. I love that I’m choosing to put myself in unfamiliar situations and I love that I’m choosing to develop a love that is strong without need for approval, security or safety. I love that I can love myself in the face of all the mistakes I’ve made. I love that I can release other people with love. I love my spirit. I love that I’m trying to build a society that is large enough to contain all of what we truly are, all that greatness and all that terribleness, with complete love. I love myself so much, and I think that I am *freaking* awesome. I love that it feels more daring to say all of this out loud than it does to fess up to my deepest fears, I love that I’m doing it anyway, and I love that it feels juicy, joyful, sweet, devious, and deeply, deeply satisfying.