“The ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the other: the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”
~ David Whyte from Readers’ Circle Essay, “Friendship”
To you my dear friend, who opened my eyes to love and service: “I would like my life to be a statement of love and compassion
And where it isn’t, that is where my work lies.”
~ Ram Dass
This year, I started a journey of self-discovery and away from “community”. I wanted to discover why community is so difficult for me and what is “wrong” about my own approach to it: why what seemed to work so well for others didn’t work at all for me? Was there a “tribe” out there I still needed to meet? Or was all a lost cause? I wanted to face my own privilege, assumptions and perceptions, be challenged to the core, learn about my role (if any) in all this…
Earlier in May, I offered myself as teacher assistant for Starhawk and Williams PDC and Earth Activist training. I was hit by the humbleness of each one of the participants and their authentic eagerness to help. Their caring enveloped me with pure love, and yet, I felt lost and unable to reach them…I made a daily pilgrimage to the pond where I talked to the trees and the water. I shared my pain: I was no longer human, or maybe I never was. I wanted an end to this “form”, tired of trying and never fitting in. I was only at home when lying on the grass, close to this magic pond and these trees…
Two weeks ago, I participated on a soulcraft workshop called “Coming Home to an animated world”, run by Bill Plotkin and Geenen Marie Haugen from Animas Valley Institute. Together with a group of ~30 others, we explored our relationships with the other-than-human world, the mystery and our many selves. We were sent to the woods for hours on our own with only a water bottle and a whistle, sometimes during the night. I experienced many things but the main one was this: I was already home, I have always been…for some reason, I developed fear and discomfort from being in the wilderness, most probably culturally-induced by those who see nature as different, separated, “other”. For them to continue using, abusing and destroying nature as if we humans had some special entitlement, it is convenient to sow this fear and feeling of discomfort.
I went into the woods by myself and fund a magical place, a clear made of stones at a grove facing a lake.
I woke up at 2 am, the perfect time to experience the awe of the Milky Way above me.
Every morning, I would sit and read at a human-designed pond and food forest, full of dozens of dragonflies and hummingbirds, more than I’ve seen in one single place ever. I met two dragonflies who were my companions everyday from day one: one was red, the other was blue, I couldn’t but chuckle by the meaning of this: I had to choose, would I choose blue (comfort, mainstream life?) or red (wild, discomfort, raw reality, engagement)? The last day when I went to the pond to say bye, they both appeared in front of me in a déjà vu, both standing exactly in the same plants they were the first time I saw them…
“When you find yourself cocooned in isolation
And cannot find your way out of the darkness,
Remember that this is similar to the place
Where caterpillars go to grow their wings.”
I found a dead red-naped sapsucker on the fields and I cried my heart out for him…I found him after an exercise where we were to recall all our patterns: the people and characters we admired, the stories that touched us when children, the repetitive or special dreams that stayed with us for years, the stuff we were passionate or obsessive about while nobody else in our family was, the events and attitudes that wounded us the most, the books and movies we would re-read and re-watch…I left the room in distress, asking myself how all this would help me to find my place, my role, my tribe, how deepening into the patterns of loneliness, longing, anxiety, fear, rejection, being an outcast and a rebel, seeing the world through magic and fantasy would help in the bigger picture…I took this little and fragile being and carried him into the woods; I told him my story, my patterns, my questions, I made a small cradle: he didn’t deserve to be buried, long time ago I learned that death gives way to life, death is beautiful and bountiful…and I stayed there for hours until I had no other choice but coming back to the human world.
When I was back, I found a hummingbird trapped into the high ceiling and skylight leading to my cabin: a powerful metaphor for my own life, this hummingbird could have flown by itself down and under the ceiling to its freedom, but he kept crashing into the bright glass of the skylight (we finally saved it using a net)…who would “save me” and what’s the meaning of the net? Where is my tribe or “net-work”?
I came back to the human world knowing that I belong more to the woods than to the city. What passes for “community” is a bunch of insane rules where each one hides the killing and destruction they are responsible for (me included). I came back knowing more than I did when I went in: that nature is in deep pain, the trees and the land talk about it every single day, as do the birds and the dragonflies. I came back knowing there are many who care and suffer the same or even more than I do, than each does what they can, but it is never enough…I came back to see the indulgence and entitlement and the horrible insanity of this world we have created, where is “normal” to “own land” and fly away whenever we choose to wherever we want to while others starve and lose their habitats and livelihoods…a culture where our own comfort and “safety” are “guaranteed” over the shoulders of other humans or on the killing and destruction of entire ecosystems and their many inhabitants, who have exactly the same birthright to life than we each do, but seem as if they don’t…
I came back to the blue pill Matrix, doomed to continue trapped in this place and crashing into this skylight through which I can see the sky and the stars…I came back to die alone in the fields, just to be found by my soulmate too late: am I already too old and broken to be what I am?
People were talking about spirits and fairies they encounter, I had nothing to share except for real red cedars, hummingbirds, dragonflies and dead sapsuckers. The Mystery of the world is shared with me through other means: I’ve seen it in real hugs and elusive kisses; in birds and flowers and the magic of trees; in the stubborn resilience of “weeds” and fungi; in storms and wildfires that kill, clear the path and carry a huge message; in the impossible beauty of other people’s emotions and inner power, in the threads that connect the poetry of Rumi, Rilke, Mary Oliver; in Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects; I see the Mystery and the potential of the big swinging of the pendulum that pushes our consciousness boundaries and abilities to evolve…
It is said that dragonflies where once dragons, they can live in a larvae state for years before they undergo they transformation. They can also cross oceans with their tiny bodies and resists storms.
In almost every part of the world, dragonflies symbolize change and change in the perspective of self realization; the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.
The traditional association of dragonflies with water also gives rise to this meaning to this amazing insect. The dragonfly’s scurrying flight across water represents an act of going beyond what’s on the surface and looking into the deeper implications and aspects of life.
“For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the door sill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
~ Jalaluddin Rumi
I have been awake for 5+ years now, occasionally closing my eyes when reality hits too much, too painful, too deep.
Update: in my last trip, documented here, I found a quiet light green dragonfly attached to a leaf of grass that had survived the night storm. We thought it was dead, but it was not…is never too late, even after the worse of the storms…