Following from part 4, my previous blog post.
We as community members all breathed a sigh of relief, as our nervous systems could be restored to homeostasis again, after the hostile and unpredictable guy had left the land. With that, the turn of the season became more and more evident as temperatures dropped and rain started to fall. Subsequently and one by one, community members started leaving, making their ways to warmer pastures. I, myself was considering whether I would be able to brave the winter in my two canvas tents, deep in the woods, where I am able to make fire only outside of my dwelling for some warmth. I sensed, also based on those few who stayed on the farm last winter in their A-frame huts, that in heart of winter I would most likely spend the majority of the time at the communal area (the only brick and mortar building on our premises which served as our communal cell phone charge station, lounge, bathroom and kitchen, and with three fire places, as well as a donkey boiler). As tended to be the pattern when I contemplate the possibility of leaving for the next destination on my initiatory journey, my car malfunctioned, this time around it had to do with its alternator.
With living so close to the elements and where one’s survival is literally at the mercy of Mother Nature, one tends to be aware of and rely on the weather forecast every day. For strong rainfall, trenches need to be dug or re-dug, for strong winds, cars need to be parked in clearings as trees can fall over, when strong berg winds and hot temperatures arise, fires need to be kept contained and attended at all times. And so when the remaining five of us on the farm saw the prediction of a huge storm on this particular day in May, which happened to be the day the mechanic came all the way out to the farm for a diagnostic on my car, we never expected something short of a natural disaster which ensued….
I was holding a beach umbrella over the mechanic and myself, while he was investigating my car, when the downpour got really heavy, so much so that within a matter of minutes, the trenches I dug around my camp filled with water, and I stood ankle-deep in water in my dining shelter, picking up things from the floor which were already drenched. At this point in time, the car was no longer the focus, but instead, the mechanic frantically dug furrows around my dwelling do as to re-direct the streams of water running into my tent, all the while being graced by the sound and sight of almost constant thunder and lightning.
As frightening as it was, and as helpless as I felt, I could not help but be struck by an immense sense of awe and wonder at what Nature can produce! After an hour of damage control at my homestead, I suggested to the mechanic that he rather leaves for home, as the river would be too high to cross with a car, if not already the case. I then made my way out into the storm to check on the two couples who stayed on. On my way to the communal area, our bridge had already washed away, and the only way over was a “high bridge” which consisted of a fallen-down tree lying across the river. As I made my way over the raging river, I was mesmerized by the waterfalls which cascaded down all along the side of the hill. In shock I arrived at the kitchen, with the couple there offering me a comforting, warm cup of tea. At that stage, the hydro had also washed away – we had no electricity at the communal area, and no sun for the solar panels to charge in the coming days. That night none of us could sleep, as it continued to pour with rain and the river water levels rose rapidly. The irony was not lost on me that even if my car could drive, and with only one drivable car between us five, there was no way we could leave the farm as all of the roads around us have already either washed away or were under water. I also feared for the couple’s lives whose homestead was very close to the river – the river came right up onto their doorstep that night! They did not sleep either.
The next few days, the five of us assessed and tended to the damage all around, including the dwellings of the community members who were not present, with two camps having washed away almost completely and others with serious water damage, and still others which remained completely intact. We were grateful to be alive, seeing that many others along the garden route lost their lives in the storm. We spent our time trying to dry out things in the sun which remained hidden behind clouds, in an attempt to avoid mold from growing. More importantly, we knew that is was essential to keep our spirits high, as we knew we could be stuck on this “island” for weeks, with no way of getting out in the event of sickness or injury. Furthermore, one of us was diabetic – this brother beautifully managed his type 1 diabetes condition purely through diet, which consisted of a high protein, high good fat, no carb and high vegetable intake. Seeing that one of our vegetable gardens (which we happened to expand just the previous week) also washed away, and the other garden did not yield much greens in terms of volume, I was quite unsettled, not only for us five to have enough to eat, but also for our brother to be able to maintain his blood glucose levels, with no insulin at hand… Suffice to say, we rationed our food supplies and had to supplement with food stashed away at some of the other camps, with their permission, of course. We were also blessed with an abundant supply of honey on our premises, thanks to our resident medicine man also being a bee keeper. Mother Nature also provided in the form of mushrooms – we went mushroom foraging almost every other day.
In the next two weeks – the time it took for farm workers on adjacent farms to repair the roads to some extent – the five of us each coped in our own ways, living with the evidence of so much destruction all around: with, for example, huge trees having fallen over, and seeing only remains of a garden, a sweat lodge, camps, and the path to the hydro and the hydro itself, and hiking into the mountains and bearing witness to the destruction on the vegetation all along the river. It is humbling, to say the least, and at the same time, life goes on.
We took turns in cooking for each other with what we had, and with no community hours, had plenty of time to reflect, chop wood and fetch water. What kept me sane, was ritual and a routine each day. This included having baths in my dining shelter, in a big bucket (which I happened to buy just a few days before the storm, in addition to more lighters and candles, all of which I intuited to buy, not knowing that is would be exactly what was required in the time to come). Bath time was accompanied by battery operated fairy lights, incense, organic tea, beautiful music and podcasts, and calming essential oils. In fact, this was how I calmed my nervous system on the night of the storm, when the fire in the donkey boiler kept raining out. Also, because the hydro no longer existed, we had no running water from the taps and showers at the communal areas, and so I had to wash clothes in the river and fetch water directly from the river to boil on gas for my baths, which I happily did, as it brought me close to ritual and the element of water.
Being so exposed to the elements and being in alone in Nature thought me to be relaxed, yet vigilant, like the five dogs we had living with us. Because we had only candles for light, when I walked back from my visits with the two couples at night time, the woods were very dark, and the starlit sky very bright, and with me being a woman on my own, sleeping alone in my little homestead deep in the dark woods, accompanied by the sound of owls, I came to know myself really well and discovered strengths and a level of courage I never knew I had. I also chose to undertake a San Pedro journey by myself: aside from co-preparing and blessing the medicinal brew with the one couple, while singing medicine songs, and spending some time together by the water after the three of us had a high dose, I was by myself. The journey became especially difficult during the night after a second dose, causing me to not sleep at all. Again, it was ritual and the sensual experience of having a bath which got me through the experience, and which allowed for the “downloads” to arrive.
Life “on the island” resumed for two weeks, until the roads were drivable for those with a four wheel drive to bring supplies. Sadly, the wild woman retreat I had planned to co-host on the farm also had to be cancelled. Some of the community members returned. The pictures we took, only once the waters levels have dropped again significantly, do not do the showcasing of the extent of the destruction justice. And so no amount of mental preparation was enough to buffer them against the shock of witnessing the destruction and changed landscape: a clean slate for a new story…
Finding shelter and sustenance in the darkness – the art of gathering power:
By now, at this stage of the initiatory journey, I have been stripped of my long term partner, my financial security, my health (adrenal fatigue setting in), my belongings (in having only a few items with me and running out of some products not obtainable close by), as well as of being mobile (car problems). When almost having been stripped of my life with the river coming down with such shear force, and facing other potential calamities in the aftermath, I stared death straight in the eyes, and again during my plant medicine journey (all those who have taken a substantial dose of an entheogen, can attest to how convincing the feeling of dying and the requirement of surrendering to that is on these journeys).
Fortunately, we are all “made for this”, as the human race would not have been here and have survived for so long if it was not the case – each one of us have gone through the cycle of life-death-life multiple times before, and we, as a collective, have been doing this for eons, hence so many ancient stories depicting the course of this cycle. Resurrection/rebirth, life after a metaphorical death, requires a complete death, not a half-hearted “I am just going to let go of a little bit here and there” approach, but rather, a complete surrender and annihilation of the old self. We see examples of this completely willingness to be stripped of everything in the story of Jesus who sacrificed his life on the cross and was resurrected after three days, and Inanna, agreeing to be stripped of an item if her regalia at each of the gates in the underworld, and with her corpse hung on a hook, and where she was also resurrected after three days. Once we emerge from the descent journey by being resurrected, we can show our battle scars and own the fact that we have been tempered and our souls having been galvanised - this is the fulfilment of the covenant which promises alchemy, and which does not answer to circumstance.
For me, the notion of a completely death, both during the storm as well as in the aftermath included coming to terms with pending bad weather and feelings of being desolate on the island, with being aware also of the new Delta strain reaping havoc on the outside world, and with the intense, high dose plant medicine journeys which I undertook by myself, I also came face to face with the theme of death. With so much looming life-threatening danger (yet only in potentiality) I would ask myself what the worst case scenario is and really connect with the energy of it, which, more often than not, would be a physical death. Then I would continue to ask myself if I can surrender into the actuality of that possibility: of, for example, being fine with losing all of my most precious possessions, of losing my life, of losing a loved one to death, and so forth. In doing so, in realising that there is an immortal part of me (and others) which will continue to exist, and which is here to experience whatever I am going through for the sake of evolution and love, I found refuge in the Mother Nature as a Goddess. In fact, during one of these “shadowy” episodes I actually fell down on my knees, bowing down to Mother Nature and probably for the first time in my life, experienced Her for the fecundate Goddess she is (something I would always ever just read about).
When the intensity is so high during crisis times, once receives rapid feedback of one’s feeling state in every moment, because the amplitude is that much higher. This then translates into how much tension one can hold, who/what to surround oneself with, how much time one can spend in the company of others or a particular person or scenario, how much to engage with, how much energy or emotional capacity one has to expend, and how much reserves one has in terms of one’s resources. When your survival literally depends on the moment-to-moment decisions that need to be made, the internal navigation system which is nestled in intuition and feeling-tone feedback becomes refined and more and more reliable. In other words, consulting one’s inner navigation systems when answering the poignant questions as to “is this for me?”, “what has highest priority?” and “what I am not available for?” becomes non-negotiable, as well as the following through on that inner guidance. Accordingly, I would like to emphasise, contrary to what we have been taught, that it is not a form of avoidance behaviour or a cop-out when, for example, you choose to leave the company of another or others when your body conveys to you signals of non-safety or excess, these being signs that the nervous systems is being adversely affected and needs tending. For me, tending to my nervous system involved engaging all of my senses during a bath experience, and to simultaneously and paradoxically hold two states which are seemingly contradicting in awareness: one where I am feeling afraid/lost/destitute and another where I am actually enjoying the engagement of my senses in a beautiful way.
Taken together, when the darkness comes, i.e., when life throws a curve ball in the form of huge change, the unknown, the mystery and uncertainty, there is no way to “see your way” in the dark and to know what the next step is, other than to become crystal clear of everything which you do not know and have no control over, and to shine the light on that which you do know. This requires becoming still enough to be able to hear the voice of your intuition and to be guided by the feelings and feeling tones generated in all situations. Right action arises from emptiness rather than excess, and from the slowing down of time, as well as from a state of “non-efforting”.
In this way, the darkness can be deeply restorative and afford rest, nourishment, incubation, hibernation, gestation, resourcing, and a gathering of power. In essence befriending the darkness is a process of wrapping yourself in silence and let it be a substance you can drink in, rather than a place of letting all your thoughts bounce around. As such, the period after the flood offered much refuge to me and there was a part of me that wished that life could resume indefinitely in this way, with me being sheltered from the outside, chaotic world. However, as all initiatory journeys progress, the “peace and quiet” did not last for long….
To be continued in my next blog post…