As the moon rises over the volcanic cliffs, the canyon fills with the glad howls of twenty re-wilding women. A fervent activist all the way from North Carolina, seeking inspiration to fuel her work. A mother, taking an opportunity to nourish herself the way she usually tends others. A Florida business woman, getting in touch with her needs, her dreams, her playfulness. Elders, and youth, marking their transitions with a Solstice week next to a winding river. Each seems to sense that they are welcomed by an ancient spirit, encircled by a protective river, and soon we are feeling safe enough to take the risk of expressing and embodying our truths. Self consciousness gives way to the magic, as we’re empowered by what we’re able to give… and as we so appreciate what each woman gives us in return.
For thousands of years, women on every continent have set aside special times to be together, not to separate from men, but to enjoy the special trust and bonds of sisterhood. To commiserate, and celebrate. It is no different for the women gathered in the canyon this day. The "Wild" they celebrate is not being "licentious" or "out of control" as dictionaries claim, but being one’s authentic, responsive self…resting, sharing, learning, savoring and reveling. Their brand of wildness is being in touch with their hungers and hurts, needs and desires, moon cycles and life rhythms.
Like everything else in nature, the Wild Women’s Gatherings have unfolded according to where we’re "at" and what we hunger for, the experiences and wounds and hopes that each person brings with them. The wildflowers bursting with color, the shade of the gnarly oaks and the coolness of the water are all unplanned but somehow perfect. The kinds of delicious wild greens we add to our meals depend on what’s growing at the time. We move through one powerful experience after another, with the only certain direction being deeper.
Form magically follows the energy as feelings are expressed, situations change, and intentions and needs are revealed. No matter how attached we are to our plans beforehand, it’s especially potent whenever we can respond to opportunities, whenever somebody expresses something deep or something significant and unexpected happens. The way water-striders skate across the surface of the river, make us think about doing the seemingly impossible. Wild-foods pizza baked over coals on an antique shovel demands and gets our presence, informing us through our eyes, and tongue and nose. A spontaneous moonless hike turns into an opportunity for all of us to exceed our imagined limitations, how much we can really "see" without our eyes, and the ways in life in which we’re really "in the dark!" A swim in the river planned to get us out of our minds and into our wilder beings becomes the seed for sharings about self-image and shame. A certain vulnerable story comes up, and a circle about bodies and self acceptance shifts to the difficult subject of relationship, and the difference between codependency and the interdependency represented by everything around us: the river nourishing the cottonwoods and willows, the willows providing a home for the insects and birds, the lion needing the deer and the deer needing the grass, the water, and each other!
When humans all lived closely with the natural world, in tribes that were like big families, self confidence and self esteem came a lot more naturally to us. From a young age, we were given responsibilities and challenges that served as rites of passage. Our confidence grew as we learned to haul water and find wood, identify plants for food and medicine, start fires without a match, tend to our sick and enliven the tribal fires with our stories and wholesome enthusiasm. At home in the natural world, we felt a deep connection to all that surrounded us, and we prove that it is possible for us to feel that still.
When the swimming and dancing are done, the tears of sharing are all soaked up by the ground, the songs and laughter of women continues vibrating off of the crimson cliffs. One by one the women pack up, and wind their way down the canyon towards their cars. I watch until they are out of sight, waving like the wind swept pines. In the wind’s stirrings I can feel the movement happening in these sisters’ lives, growing and flowing wilder than ever!
This year’s Wild Women’s Gathering will be June 29-July 5. For information, write Box 688, Reserve, NM 87830 or visit www.animacenter.org.