Thursday, August 21, 2008

Soul Places

I still don't have a computer. Well, technically, I have a computer; I just can't use it because it makes me sick. Yet I find it quite liberating, actually. I'm remembering those summer days when I used to sit under one of the big old oaks in our yard back home with pen and paper in hand and I'd just write. One book a year. I loved it. Me and the trees and all those tales.

I'm still not ready to write again. No one character has flown into my imagination and stood with her hands on her hips and said, "Do you know shorthand? Cuz I got a story to dicate."

It may happen.

I went away for a week to a training. I told you that, didn't I? It was an unexpected surprise. After the workshop had started, the teacher called me and said come on down! So I did. I've worked with Sandra Ingerman before and was charmed with her down to Earth way of seeing the Visibles and Invisibles. I was impressed by her compassion and desire to learn and teach what she knows in a non-dogmatic way. Anyway, I wasn't supposed to be able to go to this workshop, but then she invited me when they found an extra room in the basement of one of the houses at the retreat center. (Regular readers might vaguely remember I attended the five day Medicine of the Earth in Santa Fe a couple of years ago when my friend Barbara and I drove there.)

I quickly packed Sunday night and drove to Damascus the next morning. Once there, the workshop organizer took me into one of the houses I had never been in at the retreat center and we wandered around until we found room E in the basement. My sense of smell was gone so I had to rely on her to tell me whether it was moldy or not. She said it wasn't moldy, it just smelled musty, like a basement. I wasn't sure there was a difference, but I told her not to worry about it and I hurriedly tried to get set-up in the few minutes before the workshop began. I plugged in my hepa/VOC roomaid filter. It was so cold and dark in the room and rather desolate-looking. I mean, come on, it was in the basement and I am not a fan of basements.

But who cared? I was there! I went to the main house where the workshop room was. I looked around the circle. Where was I going to sit? Forty-two other people had already crowded around. But I found a spot. Later it turned out I was sitting between two of the four people I knew.

For most of the first day, Sandra talked about the mechanics of "soul retrieval." Most indigenous people believe that illness has a spiritual cause. What medicine men and shamans did was go into the spirit world (or that place where you can interact with the Invisibles) and find out why a person was ill. Many illnesses involved "soul loss." They believed that trauma or shock could cause part of a person's essence, vitality, or soul to get lost. The shaman's job was to bring the essence of the person back, so that she was whole again. (We learned about this in Faery Doctoring, too.) Shamanism is based on results. If a shaman or shamanic practitioner—as those people who do healing but who aren't indigenous healers are usually called—doesn't get results then no one came to them for help.

I love being in these circles with people who are trying to figure out the world. I love being in circles of people where I can talk about hugging trees and talking to the Winds, Clouds, Mountains, Rivers. It is so relaxing to be amongst people who see the world as it truly is: Alive! Responsive! Communicative!

Strangely enough, I slept during this week of training. I went into my cool little dungeon and fell right to sleep. This was extraordinary! The first night, I dreamed we were all in the big room together, all the people in the workshop, and Sandra raised her arms and we raised our arms, and then we dropped down to the floor and slid toward the center until we were all touching and linked and our bodies created a beautiful colorful mandala.

Many things happened during the week. We worked hard. Every time I go to one of these trainings, I'm amazed at how difficult and tiring and invigorating the work can be. We worked from 9:30 a.m. until about 10:00 p.m., with breaks for meals.

A German couple were in the house where I was staying. The man attended the workshop; the woman was on her vacation. They had lived in the U.S. for five years and they were looking forward to going back to Germany. Finding community and friends here has been difficult for them. They said they'd meet someone, like their neighbors, and the neighbors would say, "Great to meet you. Let's do dinner or something." And then my new friends would say, "Yes, great. Tomorrow?" And they'd try to set a date, and nothing would happen. I said, "Don't feel bad. Generally speaking, Americans don't really know how to create community. I have the same trouble!"

My favorite times were sitting and talking. One night three of us were left around the altar, talking about writing and publishing and wondering when we'd get up and go to bed. After the fire ceremony on the last night, I walked around in the dark with one of the women who had come from Germany for this workshop. She was disappointed that everyone had scattered right after the ceremony. She wanted to stay up and sing and dance. She wondered if something was wrong that everyone left afterward. I explained again that most Americans have a difficult time being in community—and also, it was hot. "We are a tired people!" We stopped at a moonlit meadow and listened to the coyotes howl. When I joined in the howling, the coyotes stopped! Oops! That same night, I went back to the house and talked with the German couple.

For the most part, the weather was great, especially for August. By Thursday, however, the screw had turned, and it was about 100 degrees out. That was also the night we did the fire ceremony, inside because of the fire danger. Inside the house where I was staying. It was hot inside and out that night, except in my little dungeon room. My room was divine, and I was so grateful they had given me that room.

On the last morning, someone was asking me about my writing. As I was answering her question, she and another woman started teasing me about how I seemed to be unsure of my writing, how I almost belittled it. I was embarrassed. I told them I didn't usually do that. I was a champion for my work. But lately, I had been unsure. I was very uncomfortable with the conversation, and I soon left and went back to sit in my cool little dungeon by myself. As I sat there eating a boiled egg, I said, "Okay, Kim, you're always complaining about not having community. What the hell are you doing sitting here alone?" So, I left my comfy dungeon and went back to the dining area. I sat with a couple of friends.

As usual, I was one of the last people to leave when the workshop was over. I took a couple people out to the big Old Doug fir on the property. It is old growth, probably 600 years old. Can you imagine? Some of my favorite times at the workshop were spent with trees. Sometimes I think that the answers to absolutely everything is in trees.

Now I'm home. Within hours of being home, I learned they were going to spray the blackberries across the road at the school and the area outside the office where I work once a week in Vancouver. The next day after I got home, a little rat dog chased me into my house. All my triggers were being...triggered. Coming home is always the challenge—to bring what I've learned into this place. To walk in beauty everywhere. To create sanctuary everywhere. To be an Old Mermaid wherever I am.

Sometimes I feel so lost. I have moments when I feel at home. When I feel whole. That is something. That is a grand thing.

Other times...

After I got home from the workshop, as soon as I could, I went out into the woods with Mario. A few feet from the threshold into the forest, we spotted a single shoe. Mario and I looked at each other and one of us said, "Oh look. A lost soul."

It seemed like an image out of a dream, full of symbolism and depth of meaning. I stared at the shoe for a long while. Then I left it on the path for someone else, just in case they needed it, and I walked deeper still into the forest.

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