There is a chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves, one of my most treasured books, addressing the need of the soul to return home. I have always, and probably will always, be intrigued by the notion of "home", including the idea(s) that it is not a physical place (though it can be) and it most likely also is not one's literal home of house or town or family unit or general place of upbringing (though I suppose it can be). The latter attribute is becoming ever more important, with the loss of my go-to 'notions of home', since my mother died in May. Already emptied of its contents, soon her house will be sold- the one I grew up in- and with it all purpose for going back to the east coast- to that 'hometown'- will be gone too. Periodically I wonder, what will going "home for the holidays" mean for my brother and I now?
This chapter in WWRwtW addresses just that: the need for the 'home of the soul'. It is told through the archetype of the seal-woman who marries a land-bound human, yet whose soul ultimately needs to return to its home in the sea. Ironically, skimming through the book on Monday night inside my tent in the woods with a view of the sea, this is the chapter I stopped on, or some might say, it stopped there for me.
Let's just say it was timely.
What I have begun to acknowledge, and to honor, over the past few years is that my soul's home is in nature. More specifically it is in the woods. My soul needs the trees around, the variations on 'green' (I have even had a dream entirely in shades of green, but that is for another post), the myriad of mosses and leaves, and glimpses at wildlife existing undisturbed, or as it should.
After two prior but failed attempts to take myself on an overnight walkabout through the woods of Ecola State Park alone, my soul's urging this time was persistent, determined. I have had some fear surrounding the idea of backpacking and camping alone and had managed to quell my soul's urging with a day in the nearby park, a few hours at the beach, or by packing in all my time in nature in to my three weeks in Alaska, where companions for overnight trips abound. Not to mention, egoical, societal excuses are easy to come by to justify why not to go...
Mine sound like-
...But I have phone calls to make and errands to run and my day off is the day to do them
...ugh, the gas money!
...I'm tired- I want to sleep- I am not motivated enough to pack my gear or plan a trip or get in the car or....
...I could spend the whole day at my studio- and then the whole day gets whittled down to an afternoon spent staring and fussing and not creating much at all.
Even the soul has limits. Intuition knows when the time is dire. Clarissa Estes in the book encourages : "...be brief but potent....[say] 'I am going'. These are the best words ever. Say them. Then go."
So, I performed my most daunting feat of strength this week- backpacking alone. I went into the woods, pitched my tent, prepared my dinner and sat with myself and a deluge of stars and the sound of the waves crashing and the chill of the fall air. Alone. Al-one. All one. Then I woke up and hiked and observed and talked to wildlife, and breathed deeply and filled my creative well in my soul-home. All alone.
My textural impressions, my color palette inspirations, my well-filling bits:
And with the recent experience of going into the woods with ecologists, I found I was able, still, to see the forest with new eyes and insights. I know now why some trees do this:
Estes says "solitude is not an absence of energy or action...but is rather a boon of wild provisions transmitted to us from the soul. In ancient times...purposeful solitude was both palliative and preventative. It was used to heal fatigue and prevent weariness. It was also used as an oracle, as a way of listening to the inner self to solicit advice and guidance otherwise impossible to hear in the din of daily life".
So, the best advice I can give, and abide by, is that when at once you are world-weary, take your soul home...and go alone. Perform a feat of strength.
[* silly-anecdotal-human-moment: for about 29 years I thought the word was 'honing', as in to hone in on something'. I always had this visual of the infamous pigeon, I now know to be called the HOME-ing pigeon, as a television cartoon, dive-bombing a particular site HONING in on it, and taking it out that being its sole job ...turns out its actual purpose was just to return home.... to be able to 'remember the way home' over long distances. I get that now. My own Oprah-esque "a ha! moment" sometimes the obvious escapes me but not forever! wouldn't mom be proud...]