I wanted to rest in the loving arms of a strong man and weep, about nothing in particular. Just relax, release, and allow the tears to fall. All of them. Covid tears. Death tears. Breakup tears. Mother's tears. Aging tears. Just tears.
Then a friend who lives in a forest, in a land far, far away invites me up for a visit. I've visited him many times over many years, but this time I tell him that if I travel that far I will want him to hold me. He could be That Man for These Tears.
A couple of weeks later I dream under towering Pines and Oaks, my lungs restored by a night of fresh Forest air. I sleep till about 4 a.m., then see through the branches the stars at their brightest against a predawn-black sky.
Morning meditation is mediocre at best, no real sense of connection until the end, when I pray:
I ask only for knowledge of divine will and the power to carry that out.
The prayer is like the knob on an old-style radio; it tunes until all static disappears and I am dialed in to the Station of the Divine. This feels so good that I repeat one or two additional prayers with the same message, basically, Thy will be done. I'm available. Send me.
I have no idea where I'm being sent, but I hope it is into the Forest. When I see my friend to make plans for the day, he says he wants to take a long hike up a mountain. Well. I am a dawn or dusk hiker and do not walk midday with the sun overhead. Ever. I've never been able to do it without feeling depleted, and I tell him so. But then something says to add that I'm willing to try. So we agree that if either of us wants to stop, we will, and then we rummage through the kitchen, pack food and water, and head out.
As anticipated, the trail is all uphill. Mountains are like that. My friend carries most of our provisions, including all of the water. He needs to stop every twenty yards or so and is visibly winded, but insists that he wants to continue. Though this is considered a relatively short hike, the hourly chime on my phone goes off four times before we reach the top. I don't know which surprises me more: that my companion continues without complaint, or that I do not break a sweat and do not tire. At all. Something is afoot. Something special. I begin to suspect that this morning's prayer is lifting me into a different world.
We reach a clearing and rest a bit. My friend is leaning toward heading back. I fall silent. I haven't yet found what I came here for. Or it hasn't found me. While I care about my friend, I have an appointment. Something is waiting. I don't know what it is, but I know there is something or I wouldn't have made it to the top with so much ease. (I haven't even peed in four hours, which any middle-age mother of two will tell you is impossible.)
"You want to go to the meadow... Well, if that's what you want to do," he says. We walk a little ways, then, listening to a pain that is slowly developing in one knee, he says, “I don't think it's wise for me to continue, as each step is actually two; but if you want to explore, I've got about thirty minutes in me to wait.”
“Okay! Yes, I will go to the meadow.”
Feeling buoyant with joy and sweetness, receiving such support from my friend and surrounded by all this beauty, I start off on the footpath, practically skipping. But I don't get far. In less than a minute, I see Her. Off to the left. Her trunk wide, sturdy, strong with age, countless nights in the Forest and days reaching for the Sun. I look up at her canopy and hear the words, "This is the overstory.”
I walk toward her and place my hands gently on her bark and, far too ignorant for one who loves Trees so deeply, think that maybe she’s a baby Sequoia. In the moment all that is clear is that I need to sit with her before going on to the meadow, before going anywhere.
My body slides down onto the needles and soft forest floor, back leaning tenderly against the bottom of her trunk. Gentle silent whisperings direct me to shift my position ever so slightly, so that we are in full contact. Once in place, the water falls. Tears and weeping and more tears. At first I feel self conscious. Will my friend see me, hear me? But I don't look in his direction. With no words, no story, the tears fall. All of the tears. I am being held.
I don't know where the tears come from. Is it the fires burning the Sequoia National Forest? The possibility that she'll be next? The horrors in the news? Or the personal losses of the past year? Again the gentle direction: Just cry. Let the tears fall.
Eventually the tide subsides. I reach into a pouch, then sprinkle a pinch of tobacco between her massive roots, a tiny gift, like a toddler presenting her mother with a dandelion.
After sprinkling more tobacco in front of her, for her children, not yet fully aware that I am one of them, I circle her trunk, touch her skin again, peering into the deep crevices of her years, and then look up into her canopy. “Oh, please come to me in my dreams where the waking mind cannot get in the way.”
Altered, profoundly altered, more like “altar-ed,” I take photos that don't come close to portraying her majesty, power, and beauty. This is why I don't do drugs. I don't need them.
The phone shows that it is time to go find my friend. I have an impulse to call out to him, to any man who might be passing by, to ask, to command with the power of a high priestess the sexual service of any male in her realm, that he make love to me—right here, right now, and ground this shamanic energy moving through my body and being. Sigh. In this other world, the one most people call the "real world," we are not on Avalon. We are in a National Forest, where such an act is illegal and I am not above the local laws. So I simply go to him, raw, face streaked with tears.
"Are you okay?" he asks. Sweet mortal. If he only knew.
From my hip pack, I pull out a white cotton hanky, the one with butterflies on it, butterflies embroidered years ago by a woman who sat quietly stitching beauty into a tiny square of cotton, and I blow my nose, grateful to this sister I’ve never met for helping me to keep snot from running everywhere.
"Hold me," I say, and he does. "Strong," I say, and he does.
Then I eat some chocolate and, as the Sun sets, we make our way down the mountain.
When my friend asks, “What happened?,” all I can say is, “I just met my mother.”
That night I awaken in the wee hours again, this time remembering that I had forgotten to be present to my dreams. As soon as this thought forms, a presence fills my body, my being: her presence, a presence I can only describe as a cross between "being a Tree trunk" and "Mother," and I learn that this is what it means to be truly loved, to be fully accepted, to be held.
Over the next few days, as the experience integrates, more awakenings occur. My mom lost her mother when she was still a teenager, a few weeks after I was born. We were babies together. I have no childhood memories of her holding me. Tears landed in my pillow. As an adult the arms that held my tears belonged to lovers or my kids' father; men fulfilled the need to be held by someone bigger, stronger than myself.
The Mother Tree, who, Google Images informed me, is called a Ponderosa Pine (by those who give names to other beings) gave me the gift of what I'd always longed for.
We often do not know who or what will meet our needs. Sometimes we don't even know what our needs are. With listening, and a childlike heart, sometimes the giver calls us and carries us to their fulfillment.
(Hugging a sister... cousin... brother... ?)