About five years ago, I had a panic attack in Grand Central Station in New York City. I had never experienced one ever in life and have not had one since. I had missed my train and was running around trying to find Jack, my husband, but couldn't move. I was paralyzed by the fear that something terrible was going to happen to me and the thousands of other people traveling in and out at top speed of this quintessential transportation hub. I thought the world was going to implode on top of me and that I would never make it out.
That was the moment we decided to move out of the city. First to upstate NY and now to the Berkshires, Massachusetts. Many aspects of my life changed when we moved. My brain and body literally had to detox from the constant stimulation and noise that we expertly trained ourselves to tune out. Another thing was feeling like I was starting to belong to a community. I connected to women in my area through a monthly new moon circle, I stopped to talk to people and look them in the eye, and I kept finding that friendship circles overlapped.
Not only did I realize that I could truly connect with my human allies, but the Earth and all its living beings started to become a part of my daily life and community too. I began to get to know individual animals and plants, the red squirrel that lives in the cedar tree, the jewelweed glimmering defense against poison ivy. I think that all these things are possible in a city too, its just of matter of speaking the language.
This weekend I was in NYC and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and realized how much my literacy of the world has changed after 5 years of marriage to my husband, almost 3 years since becoming a mom and 2 years of focused and structured immersion in learning the language of nature. I had a base understanding of what it meant to be in nature during my summers as a child in Switzerland and frequent trips to the country my parents forced on me. However, as I walked the planks of the bridge, the East River below, flowing in parallel unison with the road traffic, I was suddenly aware of the nature that is always all around us, but really within us all. And its really about listening to our hearts and our bodies, especially when a panic attack calls you in!
I no longer speak the same language,
As I traverse this rambling bridge.
I cannot understand the discordant pace,
My heart listens to another space.
In that place, my ears tune to the source,
But I have written this already of course.
For my birth into this dream,
Is one and the same unconscious stream.
Beaming rays of light I am now able to catch,
Thunder and flowers rolling along each scratch.
A cure to the city which brought me to panic,
And into my soul the wind flies manic.
I can no longer hear the same song,
My feet on this earth, they belong.
And yet no matter where I walk or what I say,
It's the sun I carry inside that makes me stay.
At the Wild Woman Fest last year, I had a profound experience during a ritual ceremony that a dear friend, Pooja Ru created. It was a deep dive into a wound that I knew was there, but didn't realize how tremendous it was. During the ceremony, not only was I witnessed by all of the women around me, I was literally held up in the arms of another dear friend, Amy Witmyer. I saw all of us, together, weeping for our mothers before us, and I truly let myself be carried away by the grief. However, as this wound has opened and closed on several occasions since, I know that it is part of what makes me who I am...and in that I rejoice. This video is the joint, creative outcome of this shared experience of sisterhood. Enjoy!
How often do we allow ourselves to play? laugh? indulge in simple pleasures?
Even though I have been surrounded by play through my work in preschool classrooms, I find that playfulness and humor are not always present in how I view the world. My tendencies are to follow rules, to have strict expectations and when others fiddle with those set ideals resistance sets in.
Humor and play are essential for effective learning and teaching. I notice how children's eyes light up and their inner happiness shines so bright when the adults around them are in a space of fun! And by playing games as an adult through my training in nature connection, I have witnessed a spark light up within me. My son (2.5 years old) is my favorite teacher for this right now. Finding a balance between setting healthy boundaries with him and allowing the flow of play to come in and out of our days requires constant tweaking. Between waking up in the morning and getting dressed to go out he can find so many ways to interact with his environment in new ways: pretending his toast is a train, putting small cars in a dump truck and making a pile of them on the sofa etc. It's a never ending game with life, and it's rarely linear. Slowing down is the key to the enjoyment of it all.
Play is how children (and adults) are meant to interact with the world. When we are born we slowly come to understand what is around us by manipulating objects, mimicking facial expressions and trying to move our muscles in ways we didn't know existed. Our culture has taught us that it is through hard work and deadlines that we are to create what we want. But how can we truly listen to our hearts desire if we constantly have places to be and times to meet? In essence, play lets creation, of our ideals and dreams, flow through us. Play is an innate characteristic that allows us to manifest divine love.
When I am present, senses awakened and allow myself to experiment with curiosity, I learn to smile at myself, others and the world.
I'm not one to crack jokes, but that doesn't mean I can't be playful!
A couple weeks ago, the music of the bark revealed itself to us:
With every step I breathe, I thank you.
Feet touching the soil
Delicately honoring my ancestors
The moss, the fungi, the decay
Moist dew between my toes
I thank the beings invisible to my eyes.
Wind whooshes through a lock of hair
Peepers, crickets, the symphony
Birds, messengers of the heavens
chirping to the rhythm of my heartbeat
I thank the beings that bring songs to my ears.
Lips pursed to my next meal
Tastes of sour, sweet and bitter
Dandelion, burdock, the diversity
Fire, fuel, fulfillment and pleasure
I thank the beings who nourish me.
To my sisters and brothers
Together we are whole
Fathers, mothers, one community
The stories and memories we create
I thank the beings who love and are beloved.
Sun, brightness to our souls
Moon, reflection of our cycles
Stars, forever reaching beyond
Waters, rivers and oceans
I thank the beings who guide us to ourselves.
One, all encompassing
Soft, tender, compassionate
Greater than life itself
Force driving love's creation
Birth and death within.
With devotion I call to you, thank you.