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Returning to the woods is a calling. I went to find a place where the body could speak, where the lure and drone of words spoken by the living ghosts could be quieted and the voice of the land speaking in the rustling of leaves, and the song of the birds could be heard alone, not competing with the aggression of human voice. The body speaks in heat, in cold, in stiffness, in light, in the gritty texture of soil against the naked flesh of soles. She speaks in feelings, in myth, in ways of seeing and listening that change us. That to hear her call, is to be changed, to fall into a web of being with knowledge beyond human language.

I camped above the ocean, looking down on the crescent of beaches below. The ocean laps against the beaches and I am quieted for a moment. It is in the quiet that the earth can speak. It is in the quiet that undoing takes hold. The Great Mother asks me to give my hearts to this undoing, to hold taut the thin drum made of animal skins against our firm boundaries of heart, that we feel the anguish and love of each moment, against which she can expound her teaching, beating out the songs, the rhythms of our days, the echoing resonating outward in wider circles, giving life. It is in the quiet that the heart recalibrates and the drum song of a steady rhythm returns.

Why so much more motion? The layers of rhythms, of the heart, the breath, the waves beating on the shore woven together are symphonic. Isn’t it good to let the days slow to a trickle and let the body surrender to its deepest longing? What is it about aimlessness that terrifies the human species? I’ve come here to Sky Camp to let the quiet blow away the dry leaves that have accumulated around the tree trunks within. I turn on the news and see images of children fleeing war, with no home to return to, parents lost. I either let it burn through in the present, or it leaves a dry husk of leaf waiting for feeling, on the heart’s topsoil.

The days have piled up this kindling as if preparing for a bonfire. Words upon word, images upon images, build up like thin branches of dry wood to the base. Worries like fallen leaves in a perfect layering in preparation for flames, so when the match lits, the fire grows out of control. When the flame is too large, my body seizes up and searches for refuge outside itself, forgetting the only home it has is here. There are too many refugees of body, who walk through their days with no home within, where the body hurts from the accumulation of unwept tears, and so live like ghosts hovering above the poisoned ground of the earth as the human body. There is no place to go.

I go to the land for a controlled burn, where the quiet creates a boundary that holds the edges of the fire. I heard that for fire season in California, they dug fire lines and burned before they got too dry. They burned all around the edges of the wilderness, that when the fire sweeps through, it has a boundary. I come to places devoid of human chatter to build a fireline of silence where I can set an inner match and let it burn out to make way for the present.

I see signs of fire around the campsite. A fire seared the land here two years ago. The campsite just reopened. There are charred logs, blackened with soot. The plants are small and shrubby. Mugwort grows in a clearing and I put some in my water bottle, and taste the fragrance of dream medicine.


The last 3 paragraphs in particular reach very deep. Wishing you more long retreats, and pen and paper to bring back “souvenirs” for the rest of us. Especially for those of us for whom a long retreat is out of reach.

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