Seems like the dog days of summer have come early this year, because the demons have been loosed on my psyche with a special force as of late.
In less than a month, I move across the country, and in the meantime (tomorrow, actually) is a 5 day survival trip that I’m embarking upon with 6 other people with whom I’ve been training in wilderness survival/primitive skills for 9 months at ROOTS School. On the trip, we will be “set loose” in an unknown (to us, not to the instructors) woodland (rich northern hardwood, I’m assuming) and bring nothing with us but the clothes we are wearing for 4 night and nearly 5 days. We will build a primitive shelter, collect and boil water, make fire, and make primitive traps and weapons using no metal knives, only local stone that we find on site. No matches either, only completely neolithic methods of starting fire. Nearly all of the aspects of our survival trip we’ve already had some sort of preliminary or prototypical run-through of, so all that remains are the meteorological variables of Mother Nature, and perhaps our attitudes, as those are where all this creation must come from.
I signed up for the course at ROOTS because I knew I needed a space this past year where I, alone, could galvanize my power as a human being, an earthling — in a space beyond gender. That space is the woods. This is my space where I get in touch with my sacred identity. It is different from my “social” gender identity, or what I present to the world of people, to culture. In the woods I can connect with something that represents the blending of the sacred masculine and the sacred feminine. Mother Earth is also a father, and this parent-of-all is the stage on which all masculine and feminine energy collides and interacts. But the dualism of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, while very fundamental, is still more superficial than the most primary coupling of all. This is the energy of “predator” and “prey”; the eater and that that is eaten. This relationship is fractal, scale-invariant— it exists on all levels where there is life. And it even exists beneath biotic life — in chemical interaction, where some atoms have electrical control over others, and beyond life — in the birth and death of stars.
My seeking to look this binary-star of BIRTH/DEATH in the eye is not new. I have sought this, in many forms, since almost the beginning of puberty. For it was when I started to evolve sexually, that I began to want to connect — not just with HUMANS, but with ALL OF LIFE, in the tantric sense. Although of course, I haven’t always been able to articulate it like that.
**Some notes to keep in mind on this voyage of mine**
Becoming animal doesn’t mean putting on a new set of clothes, it means letting the earth put you on as her clothes.
Every once in a while, accepting your duty as part of the living body of the earth and relinquishing ‘the game’ of civilized life is, ironically, the only way to feel completely free. Completely “independent”. I put that word in quotations because, as the Zapatistas say, the only way to truly find one’s identity is through the collective, NOT through the individual alone, wandering aimlessly through a jungle of free markets.
The collective where you find your sacred mirror—a sustainable and empowering way to see yourself—doesn’t have to be a collective of humans either… it can be a collective of plants and animals… an ecosystem. Because you are a human, but you are also an animal, and so you can find community anywhere on this earth where there is life. It can be any collective of things that live and breathe, and exist in synergistic interdependence. Find a place that has that, and hang there for a while. Go hunting — not to kill things, but just to see how deep your awareness can go into the natural world. Go hunting for things that can absorb your entire being within them.
The promise of ‘independence’ made to us by neoliberalism… that is an illusion.
There are big and little ways to do this—to “let the earth put you on as her clothes”… to let her pick you up, like a hunter picks up a bow and arrow, and draw you, make you ready. You don’t have to run away to Alaska with no experience like that kid in “Into the Wild”… although, props to him — that kid had heart.
It’s like permaculture. You can do it on any scale. On 200 acres, or in a few square feet in your kitchen. I’ve done it by volunteering on a farm or with a trail crew. Apprenticing on farms for a summer. Learning to work with animals, herd sheep and drive draft horses. Enduring all the pain of not being able to control mother nature. Finally accepting it. Hiking - for a day or for twelve days. Hiding in the woods. Sitting in the woods for an hour without moving. Blindfolding myself and finding my way back somewhere. Running or rock climbing until I feel like I have a new body, running on spiritual energy. And I want more — I want so much more. I have hardly done anything. Sometimes it feels like that.
I’m still trying to figure out how to do this, in little ways, each day.
Because I don’t want the lies and bullshit in this culture to build up so much that one day I just run away to the Tundra. I’ve got to be more emotionally responsible than that. We all do.
A mere two weeks after I come out of the backcountry, I’ll be driving across the country to Claremont, CA (Eastern LA) with my girlfriend, to tackle the next adventure: graduate school, where I’ve been accepted for the coming Fall term to the Master’s Program of my dreams.
Let the Games Begin, and I hope Mother Mary is on my side... Peace.