As a short interim from my usual writing I wanted to share with you the experience of the annual Wild Women's Gathering that I and my partner Loba host each year. Hope you enjoy, and I'll be back to my normal writing next week. ~Green Blessings, Kiva
Finding words to convey the power of the 2006 Wild Women's Gathering is quite the challenge! As we relive a kaleidoscope of memories, what strikes both of us first is how deeply all we Wild Women immersed in the reality of non-linear time, the days and nights melding and melting together. Recalling them now, we can see the shifting tapestry of swirling colors, sounds and tastes. We hear the song of the river, the beating of an ancient drum....
Several women arrived a week early, to ground, to help, and to attend to their needs for solitude and counsel. What a gift it was to feel the strength of their intent, and their ability to focus on their personal work as well as be of service in many of the preparations.
One woman came from Las Vegas, Nevada, to renew her already strong connection to the canyon with several weeks of presence, learning, and service. What a joy it was to have her help with baking cakes, gathering grape leaves, stripping bundles of fresh rosemary for flavored butter and oil, making sauerkraut and pickled garlic! And help washing the many dishes we produced! Another wonderful woman, aged 54 but demonstrating the openness and spirit of a child, drove here for a quest all the way from Oklahoma in an old Plymouth van. The third came from Vermont to do "the naked-for-two-days-with-blankets-and-water-thing" as she put it (otherwise known as a Level 2 quest!). After a fast, recuperation and counsel, they glowed with presence and vitality. What a blessing! Truly all three women set an example of connectedness, generosity and helpfulness that affected everyone arriving later.
Nearby forest fires intermittently filled the air with smoke, sometimes even raining down ash on us as we danced and sang Forest Service roadblocks made getting here a quest in itself, an adventure and a challenge, and set the stage for a transformative gathering. And the distances some covered were great. Attending was an attorney and Reclaiming priestess, who came from New York. A young woman living in Olympia, Washington drove with her friend for 48 hours straight in order to heed a long-felt calling from the canyon. Others came from Arizona and New Mexico, braving the scary news reports of the fires and talking their way past the concerned state police manning the blockades.
Almost everyone that came, no matter what their "occupation", was involved in some kind of healing work. With several Reiki practitioners, masseuses, a nurse, a psychotherapist, a shamanic counselor and a Gaian healer, there was an overwhelming feeling of everyone caring and wanting to help!
In our discussions we talked about ways to rewild, to renew our connections to self and earth in order to be able to live and give from our most authentic self. We guided the group in redefining wildness as being self-willed, true to our passions, instincts and intuitions, deeply feeling, connected to the forces of all life and magic. We told our stories of coming to embrace the wild life and purpose of the canyon, and how that shift has healed the parts of us that had been hurt growing up in a culture that doesn't honor earth, womanhood, Goddess or wildness. One woman shared how much things have shifted for her since she found her home living closer to nature, and others shared of their struggles and triumphs in reconnecting to their wildest selves. We shared stories about our relationship with our bodies, and speaking about the power of what we women can do for each other in a short time of dwelling together in a wild way. Indeed, what a huge gift it was for all of us to play unashemedly in the river no matter what our different body types. We shared about our experiences with eating disorders, body hatred, not seeing ourselves as beautiful, and working to shift those patterns. One intense woman spoke passionately about her grief of not celebrating her moontime until it was over, and how much she wants to help young girls have a different experience. We talked about choosing our own families, and finding ways to establish boundaries in all our relationships, while fostering openness and healing. And about animal totems, and those animals spirits that we feel as our primary helpers.
We balanced the sharings and conversations with times of quiet and solitude, busy activities and rambunctious play! Each morning lovely singing floated up from the canyon bottom, often followed by the song of an airy flute. Some of the women went on hiking adventures, while others tended to the camp kitchen, gathered wood and got started with breakfast. It was beautiful to see how naturally the women found tasks they felt happy doing, and how easily everything that needed to happen got done in a joyful spirit. Some loved to gather plants for tea and cooking, others enjoyed washing dishes at the river, carrying buckets of water, running errands and tending the campfire.
After brunch we'd often go to the beaver pond to frolic and swim, to play catch with "mud balls", to cover ourselves in mud and act like little kids! How great to be so silly and uninhibited together, to growl and chase and romp, to drum upon the water, to drum upon our bellies and sing! Nightime was great for playing too. We had the pleasure of receiving bellydance instruction from one of our participants, who was a wonderful teacher. She got us in a circle, shimmying and undulating, and laughing like crazy! Several of the women took to drumming for us, and how magical to dance to a beautiful silver flute too! We shared chocolate tantra, and many of us ended up with our faces painted in whipping cream! One woman used her artistry to give the gift of henna tatoos that suited each person perfectly, and another led a solstice ritual that got us all involved with its beautifully land-honoring, organic creation. And of course, chocolate helped us stay awake longer, to drum and dance just a little bit more whenever we got tired... and rhubarb tapioca pudding too!
The meals were a big highlight, as always! A bunch of women in the wilderness with coolers of food is a recipe for wonderment, after all! What incredible brunches we had, featuring homemade bagels and skillet toast made from homemade rosemary-olive-walnut bread, spread with goat cheese, rosemary jelly, or maybe some smoked salmon and onions! Eggs from a participant's well-loved chicken, scrambled with gouda, sun-dried tomatoes, and kale! Watermelons and mangoes, yogurt and granola, and rice pudding – yumminess galore! And suppers were abundant with the goodies everyone brought to contribute: polenta with an eggplant, red pepper, feta cheese sauce, and kalamata olives, a roasted beet onion salad with cracked green olives and lime, red lentil soup with coconut milk! And then there was the grand finale. One of the women attending, a Gaian priestess and medicine woman working to restore and resacrament two pieces of land nearby, running a health food store, working as a healer, and making her dream of sustainability come true! She brought us enough dolmas to feed a small army, a roast pork from her lovingly raised pigs, a huge pasta salad with her fresh garden produce, and a fresh fruit ambroisia for dessert! What a blessing it was to have her radiant presence with us that so-special night, making our talismans in the pavilion and listening to her story of transformation. Being willing to face the darkness of her most hidden places in order to find the courage and strength to remake her life. What a role model for all of us in our own journeys!
As we spoke of our commitments to self in our Solstice ritual circle, it struck both of us how each woman's bravery has served us in our lives, and is much of what brought us to the canyon. Being willing to believe in ourselves, to attempt the impossible, to make promises to ourselves and to do what it takes to keep them – certainly these are some of the most important attributes of the wild woman. As we went around the circle it was so beautiful to hear the different ways the women had integrated what we'd shared in our short time together. Some would be going back to completely remake their lives – to bring an end to relationships that no longer served their spirits, to search for their true home, to quit jobs in order to pursue a true passion. Others made powerful commitments to connect to the earth and to their wild selves in tangible ways every day: greeting the sun, making sure they got some "alone time" every day, dancing, singing. Some committed to their own healing processes, to following their hearts and their vision.
For example, one special woman has pledged to herself and Spirit, not to go back to a soul-deadening job that kept her in an office and away from her growth and purpose. A big paycheck and prepaid apartment await her if she want them, but she is choosing to find a way to follow her path instead, risking income and relationships in order to do what she has to do to be her fullest self. There are so many untruths we can tell ourselves to make us feel comfortable and okay, and it’s a huge commitment to promise to do what best honors our spirit selves without all the sobering “yeah but’s.” Within a few days after the gathering, another woman wrote to tell us about all the ways that she was truly using what she got here, trusting her vision and intuition enough to make every moment of her life a conscious choice, honorably ending her marriage and setting out to magically and responsibly creating her reality and world. It would have been so much easier in some ways, for her to have gone back to the same compromises and habits, instead of remaking her life. We’re amazed how she could open and be vulnerable enough to hear both this place of power and her own flawless heart, and then actually and immediately apply the lessons.
The spirit of generosity we shared so deeply was so evident in our closing circle, an ecstatic exchange of gratitude and gifts, including lovely jewelry, handblown glass, clothes, stones and feathers, beaded talismans, an amazing bear drum and perfect bellydance hip scarf. Many tears of joy and love were shed as we went around speaking of the blessings we'd received from each other and such a magical place, making plans to do it again next Summer Solstice.
Then on to a mass group hug, and one last, glorious howl!