I should start by saying that not all of these articles will be so long. My goal is to write much shorter articles, but this one just asked to be shared. After writing September’s blog on Autumn, I began to muse about what is this darkness that we are all so afraid of? What are we trying to avoid? Why do we stay so busy? Why do we fight the waning light so much? Of course, this darkness means many things to each of us, some very different and some very much the same. I decided to share what began to reveal itself after last month’s writing as one example of my own personal darkness.
A series of recollections that coalesced into a pattern began to emerge. I remembered a summer, now long past, when my family and I took a road trip to the Grand Canyon, and Lake Powell. I was just 10. I found Lake Powell particularly powerful in place and spirit. While there, I suffered horrific nightmares, something I am generally not prone to, nor have a history of. I dreamed of Indians, a powerful chief and others of a tribe. Their fierceness was overwhelming and while nothing untoward happened to me in those dreams, the sheer raw energy of these people, of this chief particularly, was terrifying to me. I had no basis for relating to this kind of force. Looking back I could see and feel that these were people were fully immersed in life and death… they knew things, things our culture does not embrace or even acknowledge and it frightened me. I woke up screaming several times and it was only until my father held me that I was able to fall back asleep. (Yes as many of you remember I had a wonderful father)
Years passed and during those years, I would travel to forested areas, whether for vacations, or family trips. Again this same uneasiness would visit me. The trees were so big and the wind was eerie whistling through the trees. This was a powerful, and foreign language. And I did not understand it.
Then I went to Wyoming and slowly began a lifelong longing and love for a wilder life. I horse packed into Yellowstone deep into grizzly country. Each time I went I reveled in the sheer beauty and at the same time was terrified of what could happen in that raw land. Many a night, while camping, I lay awake certain I would be devoured by a grizzly. But with each trip, something began to change. Yes this was a primal force but it was also incredibly nourishing. The quiet, the meadows, the peace and the magnificent beauty of such places were a sanctuary for an exhausted soul. I came home renewed for many months with each trip. The power and impetus of my first blizzard made me nervous. It was so big, so overwhelming… but the beauty of it was inescapable. And little by little, I began to trust in nature and the wild ways. This was a system that was in total balance. The beauty along with the primal. Magnificence married to violent weather, struggles for life, all in a dance.
Once I accepted this (and we live in a culture that often not only denies the laws of nature but tries to manipulate those forces of nature) life began to change for the better. Tentatively and slowly I began to inhabit my own wild side. The beauty, the joy within me as well as the darker sides, such as the right and even the need to feel anger or resentment. Allowing and observing a whole range of feelings. The times I felt and looked the most beautiful were the times I also tapped into and felt my own wild spirit. These were the moments of radiance and truth that shines from a soul. A wild spirit is not supported in our culture and it took decades for me to make friends with it. My journey was to learn from this wild spirit and to engage in a new trusting way with it. But oh how I feared this wild place for such a long, long time.
Facing it, learning from it, and ultimately reveling in it ultimately changed my life in so many ways. I relocated to a place without friends or family. I uprooted a successful practice in order to find balance in my life. All of this enormous change because I trusted this wild voice. Now I live under the Milky Way and the sky is vast. Bobcats and mountain lion roam here at night. In the mornings deer come to water at the pond. Coyotes howl and raise the hair on the back of my guest’s necks, but I just smile and feel at home. The wind is fierce and the weather determines every daily activity. Last winter there were 110 miles an hour winds and I crawled into bed begging the wind to stop. I was sure that when I woke up the roof would be gone and I would be staring up at an unending sky. Lightening has come into my home and blown out my printers and phones. The thunder that rocks this house also reverberates in my bones. But the beauty of place and the seasonal shifting light is indescribable. It is a balm for my soul. I have found an internal resiliency with all of this force and beauty. There is something to admire each and every day… such as the butterflies that rest on my sunflowers while on their annual migration. The resident Canada Geese that mate on my roof in the spring. Constant change, with something new, beautiful and fleeting every day. I have learned to withstand great hardship and still feel the beauty.
Out of the darkness is born the light. Whether for us as a human race or the birth of a star in the galaxies. A fetus incubates in this dark hidden mysterious place where life takes hold. This is how Nature creates new beginnings that lead to a new way. But we can never get to those new beginnings unless we are willing to rest in the darkness. To face our fears in a completely non-judgmental way. Just to be. And from this place we incubate new insight with newly revealed truths that direct us to a creative yet different way. A way that calls to us.
Darkness leads to personal transformation if we are only willing to listen.