Updated: Jan 6
It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you… I feel like a Bear. Or maybe a Frog… do frogs hibernate? (They do! Watch Frogsicles video.)
Last Saturday the Forest fairies once again wove their enchanting spell, luring me outside, from the warm-and-cozy (but rather-dead-and-dreary) indoors to the alive-and-thriving-real-life world of Nature. This time I drove an hour and a half to the Angeles National Forest to meet a bunch of hikers at the Switzer Falls trailhead, to begin a relationship with falls I’d never seen, felt or smelled before.
Though I accepted the invite specifically to be in outdoors with other people, when one man after another began “chatting me up,” I ran out of polite responses and moved ahead of the group. One of the guys called out, “Rex wants us to wait,” to which I replied, “I can’t hear the Trees!”
Eventually I walked with Rex—the hike leader and a less chatty guy (he has a girlfriend) and listened as he shared about the native plants we met along the hike. “That’s yerba santa; here, smell it. That’s black sage, also fragrant. That’s a red currant; it will have edible berries in the spring,” etc.
What made it easy to listen to Rex and unbearable to listen to the other fellas? Several things. He spoke about what we encountered, in present time. The information he shared inspired curiosity and participation. By inviting us to touch Her, smell Her, be with Her with all our senses, he invited to know the Forest. He brought us closer to the Land.
At the next rest point, A-Meetup-Hike-Is-a-Singles-Bar” guy #1 says, “I read that Bears turnover rocks to eat Moths.
“You mean larvae?”
“No, I think they eat the actual moths.”
I wonder, “How do their wings survive under a rock?” and dismiss the guy.
But the Bear reference brings to mind a conversation from a month or so ago, when the weather here in LA began to shift toward winter:
My shamanic friend J said, “This season is a time of quiet, of going into the cave, the darkness, like Bear. We sit around and gorge when we need to eat less, meditate, cleanse our bodies and spirits; we need to become still, to listen.”
J is a self-proclaimed know-it-all, however, this time he speaks my truth and I appreciate the reminder. Everything in the culture says, “Hurry! Only x more days till the holiday. Buy now! On sale! Be jolly!” So many expectations. In the midst of so much bustle and hustle, I prefer the slow and steady words of another wise friend, “During a season when I usually run around like a crazy woman, I am seeing how still I can be.”
Bear yawns agreement and walks away, probably looking for moths.
Right after speaking with J, I receive a text, “Lauri is in hospice, her systems are beginning to shut down... I'm sorry to have to pass this on... ”
Lauri is an old choir friend, a “Second-to-None Soprano” for over thirty years with the Agape choir and the most positive, spiritually generous person I’ve ever met. She once “gave” her boyfriend to a gal friend, because she could see they would be more blissful together. She also never complained though she had ample reason to. A passionate dancer and skilled pianist, Lauri had Multiple Sclerosis. Her muscles slowly lost function, and she spent her final years in a wheelchair. In our most recent visits, she had no use of her body from the neck down.
Twenty-seven years ago, Lauri gave birth to her daughter on her bedroom floor, with no pain, and after which my kids’ dad cooked up the placenta (yup, with onions). She made having a baby look so easy that I had conceived my son a month later and joked that she was responsible. (Despite fervent prayers and Lauri’s divine example, my birth was far from pain-free!).
It took a full week to gather strength to visit. We’d not been in contact as much as I wish we had, and the window was closing. I wanted to show up with sweetness and cheer, instead of sadness and regret.
When I arrive, a young woman whom I imagine to be the nurse is by the bed smiling and stroking Lauri’s hair.
“She must’ve just dozed off,” she says. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Sara that when she tells me her name, I still think she is the nurse.
Lauri slowly opens her eyes. She begins talking about the wonders of herbal tea.
“It’s amazing,” she says, smiling. “People don’t realize how amazing plants are.”
“You always had a special relationship with plants,” I say. “With the earth, with magic.”
She dozes again.
Her husband comes in and begins to wake her, but I stop him. “I’ll be back,” I say, believing it’s true.
When he leaves, I touch her hair and sit in silence as she dozes off again. I whisper to her, promising, "When I dance, I will dance for you too; when I sing, I will sing for you too; and when I mother, I will mother for you too. And in these ways, we will always be sisters."
That night I come down with a fever. When it passes four days later, the illness and fatigue linger. I clear my calendar and, though I watch so little television I have to ask my son how to access it, I learn to binge-watch: Ted Lasso, Star Trek Next Generation, Will Ferrell holiday movies. The world becomes a bit surreal. Am I dreaming?
Even in discomfort and boredom, I welcome the shutdown. All desire to strive, push, force, produce has disappeared. The body knows what we need even when the mind is busy trying to outrun the world. I am becoming still, like J said.
Does Bear think about sleep, or does her body simply take her there?
Two weeks after our visit and the onset of fever, I feel called outside for the first time. I arrive late and walk uphill alone for half an hour before meeting up with the group. Halfway in, the sky begins to drizzle. Still recovering, I know this cannot be a good idea, but there is no turning back.
Four and a half hours and six miles later, we arrive back at our vehicles. Darkness is falling. When I get home, I see a text from Lauri’s cell. She passed at the same time the walk ended. So she was the fairy calling me outside, perhaps to walk for us both.
The next day I light a candle, place it on the piano next to a statue of sisters praying, and begin to play. I know she is with me. I can see her smile and hear her voice offer encouraging words.
Did her systems shut down, or did she let them go, and in so doing, receive wings?
The Solstice has passed. In the global north, a new Solar year begins, the days beginning to lengthen and the nights, to shorten. I continue to hibernate, write, visit the Forest, and walk away from men who chat more than I like (though it turns out Bears do eat Moths, up to 40,000 in one day).
It is still Winter. Can you create some cave time for yourself? Might you want to enjoy this time of invisible fertility, of dreaming? The brights lights will be here soon enough, and we will all emerge again, to lumber around, to hop, perhaps to fly.
If you are in the global south, thank you for dropping by during your summertime.
So much love,
PS What I’ve been up to!
I have been teaching a yearlong Intro to NVC (Nonviolent Communication) online through NYCNVC and am 15,000 words into writing a new book. I hope to create the 2023 offerings soon. These may include:
Women’s Writing Circle
Relating with Fire, Water, Earth, Air
I’d love to hear from you. Is there something that would make your life more wonderful? If so, and you would like to explore possibilities, you’re welcome to book a complimentary call with me here.
Also, like my dear teacher Marshall Rosenberg, I am passionate about gift economy, giving time freely within capacity and willingness and requesting that friends be generous to help me and Slinky and “pay it forward” for others. To continue this experiment, I need support from my community. If you would like to be part of my support circle and contribute to this work (and my and Slinky’s wellbeing), please go here. Every gift, in any amount, is received with love and appreciation!