Two years ago, I participated in a women’s wilderness retreat. That experience was a stepping stone onto my true path, and I feel the need to describe my experience there in order to give you a sense of why this work is so powerful and important to me.
When I arrived at my retreat, I was nervous. It was my first time camping in years, and my first time camping “alone”. I was also nervous about the format of the retreat. The first day was for setting intention and holding council, followed by a fire ceremony. The next morning, we would wake up and cross over the threshold into solo time on the land, fasting from food in silence. On the third day, we would be brought back over the threshold, and hold council in honor of each other’s stories and experiences before processing how to integrate our experience and take it back into the world with us.
Immediately, I was struck by the synchronicities among the women in the group. Our intentions all resonated so closely, and we had had such similar experiences. With those women, I felt more seen than I ever had before. I was able to open myself up and be raw and honest with them just after a few hours together. I met two fellow budding therapists, and it felt so good to be around people who spoke my language. That night during the fire ceremony, the mood shifted to a primal one as we sacrificed our old ways of being to Grandmother Fire. I had never felt myself go so deep within before. It felt like pure feminine energy inside of me, something I had always previously struggled with expressing and was now luxuriating in. Our guide recited a poem, The Journey by Mary Oliver. This is the poem with which one of my teachers had opened our first class ever. That night, I had a dream that Native American elders were preparing supplies for me and my fellow questers for our solo time the next day.
The next morning, we stepped into a circle of stones one-by-one as the guides saged us and prayed to the spirits for us. We each embarked on our solo journeys on the land, heading in different directions. I knew I wanted to find the redwoods, as they were the trees I had felt the strongest connection to throughout my life. As I walked down into a canyon I noticed that the trees seemed to be reaching out to me, guiding me. “This way! You are on the right path.” they said. I saw seven redwoods in a circle and recalled what my dad had told me once: redwoods grow close together because they hold each other up with their roots. I touched each of the seven trees and the word “sisters” came into my mind. I thought about the seven women I was on the retreat with, and sent them love. As I continued walking, I saw a deer in the trail.
She stopped and looked at me, and I looked at her. We held each other’s eyes for a while before she finally walked away, and once again I heard the word “sister” in my mind. I heard water and found a waterfall not too far ahead. It was barely flowing due to the drought, but I was able to find a large flat rock in the middle of the shallow water and lay down on it. As I lay there, I noticed the huge trees swaying above, and the image of them peering down at me as I lay in a cradle came into my mind. “We love you so much,” they said. I felt overwhelmed suddenly by the magic of it all, by the feeling of sisterhood I had felt with the trees and the animals, by the sense of being cradled by the rock and lulled by the river and watched by the trees. I fell asleep on the rock, full of gratitude, joy, and wonder.
My solo time on the land was full of moments of connection like the one described above. I was fully open to receiving the messages from nature and I felt fully loved and part of something like I had never experienced before in my life. As an adoptee, I had very much felt like I was always on the outside of things- family, friendships, even myself. The joy and love and peace I felt filled me such intense gratitude. I felt rooted and grounded in myself in a new way. I felt like I had found a home in my body and a family in nature and like I was finally connected in the way that I had wanted to be my entire life. I felt that by embracing my wild woman, I had been able to connect to mother earth and for once, fully feel the love that she held for me. I knew that I wanted to share this love with others.