Photo credit: Pawel Czerwinski
On her thirtieth birthday, two years after her marriage, the woman fell in love. So powerful was the experience that she felt like she had walked through a veil into radiant Beauty. She was watching the sun set on an ocean beach when it happened.
It was a beach she knew from the past. She had sat there before. Then suddenly, everything was different. She was surrounded by something so beautiful she could not even describe it to her husband, who sat beside her. Still, she could feel it more clearly than anything else -- in the golden shimmering light, in the mists, in the ocean's song. In that moment, she knew she would never be the same.
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I was fifty when I first heard
of ancient goddess cultures,
cultures that knew the earth
as sacred Mother.
Looking back now, one year later, she is stunned by how much her life has changed, how much she has changed. Her husband is nurturing and supportive of her changing. He sees her growing into her own beauty -- feels her aliveness. But sometimes it seems to him that there is "someone else" present in their relationship. And there is. For the woman has come into sudden new relationship with the earth -- and herself.
In this first year of her new journey, her ear has opened to the "voices" of earth. She senses the animals that teach her: wolf, perhaps because she moves so rapidly on her path; owl, because she draws deeply from ancient wells of wisdom. She also hears the songs of the creek and the magic of stones. And she yearns to spend more and more time in nature.
Shortly before this sudden opening, she had quit the work that she had once thought would be her career. It had become meaningless to her. The question foremost in her mind was "what kind of work is there for me?" Since that time, she cannot keep up with the reading and the classes that intrigue her. She has begun studies in Shamanic counseling. For the first time, she is excited about her path.
A Personal Involvement
I hear others tell this woman's story -- only it is their own story, as it is mystery, too. James Redfield, in Celestine Prophecy, points out that seeing this Beauty, the aliveness in nature, is an initial gateway of spiritual growth. Michael Tobias, in The Soul Of Nature, reminds us that nature means "to be alive". Aboriginal peoples wonder how we could have forgotten so deeply.
There is, however, a re-membering happening that is very powerful and more and more frequent. Sometimes I think earth is singing more strongly her "siren song" because she is dying. Other times, I think we are hearing her because we so need healing. Either way, something that has been starved very deeply within us begins to heal at this moment; we are reconnected to the source of nurturing.
My own story began, like the young woman's, at a time when I was married to a man I loved deeply. Perhaps this foundation gave me permission to do more inward exploration. Or perhaps it highlighted the yearning that still was there, the part of me that reached for something more.
The Journey Deepens
I was fifty when I first heard of ancient goddess cultures, cultures that knew the earth as sacred Mother. I had a Master's Degree from a respected college. I had been told such cultures did not exist. Now the evidence was everywhere: I read Merlin Stone, Marija Gimbutus, Mary Bolen, Barbara Walker, Starhawk, and many others. The knowledge moved through me like a great force. My feminine root began to open.
I joined women's circles and learned of my own heritage: how to ground my energy in the earth and feel my body as a tree of life. I learned how to create earth rituals. Often, I felt as if I were simply remembering -- remembering something I had known long ago. As I opened to my feminine heritage, women friends became more important in my life. For the first time, I shared trust and intimacy with women.
Falling In Love with The Goddess and with Beauty
Recently, I read that when heterosexual women "fall in love with the goddess", it is often through the doorway of other women. To women in patriarchy -- whose relationships with other women have often been based on comparison and competition -- this new opening, the experience of intimate relationships with other women, is like a sudden and unexpected wealth.
Falling in love with beauty is an ecstatic experience of enormous proportion. At the same time, when this experience is not within your cultural and personal mythology, it may shatter everything you thought was real and cast you into a period of very rapid change.
Joseph Campbell tells the story of the hunter in Celtic mythology who becomes entranced by the beauty of a white stag and follows it deeper and deeper into the forest, until he realizes he is in a totally new place, and the stag has disappeared. The story lends an image to Campbell's popular Truth: follow your bliss. It also illustrates the abruptness of transformation.
Finding yourself in "a totally new place" forces you to learn a new language, sometimes to learn new skills. It is a time of reshaping your relationship with most everything -- your self, your family, your partners and friends -- even your work. I don't think Campbell quite tells his audience the amount of life-change "following your Bliss" creates -- and that the integration of the experience may take years.
I was one of the lucky ones who grew up in Oregon when wilderness still existed. I spent long childhood days playing in forests, in creeks and along ocean beaches. I had been touched by the magic of nature early in my life, but in the 1940's and 1950's when I grew up, earth ritual was heavily repressed in my culture -- it simply was unavailable to me.
When I began practicing ritual at age fifty, that childhood love of earth that was still within me was given a voice, was given a "language". The sense of separation I had acquired as an adult, began to disappear.
My favorite place to do ritual was a beautiful beach on the North Oregon coast. To get there I drove two hours through mostly clear-cut mountains. I was continually in the presence of great beauty and great destruction.
I had begun to hear within myself, as poet Thich Nhat Hanh says, "the sound of the earth crying". In my ritual, with my prayers, with my heart, I had begun to ask: "What can I do to help heal what we are doing to earth? What can these hands do?"
Answers Come In Many Ways
Answers come in many ways. Sometimes, for me, they come first in dream and then, deja vu floods through me when, later, I walk into the reality. And so it was this time. The dream came to me twice over a period of several weeks.
In the dream, I was speeding down a freeway, when, suddenly, I turned left down a country road. I drove until the road ended. I got out of my car and walked into a beautiful rainforest. In the dream, I walked along a path. I walked past my own home. It was lit with soft lights, warmth, and magic. As an outsider, I walked on. I passed the shed. "Animals must live there," I thought. Then I started descending, down a passageway into a subterranean chamber deep within the earth. I was there to hear a lecture. A woman was speaking on "squaring the circle", on bringing something new into form. I knew I was to listen.
This dreaming came in the winter of my 54th year. That March, while waiting for my motel room to open up on the coast, I decided to just drive around for awhile. It was too stormy to be on the beach. I drove down the highway, turned left down a country road, stopped my car at the end of the road and walked into the rainforest I now call "Wanderland."
People sometimes ask me how to find "their piece of land", thinking that my relationship with this forest was something I consciously sought. It was not. Ours was a "chance" meeting. Still, I had no doubt from the moment I met her that this was it. Nor did I doubt that I had an answer to my question -- "What can these hands do?"
Wanderland is part of a small island of still living rainforest, surrounded by rapidly expanding clear-cut in a state where clear-cut "leaving two trees and two logs per acre for the wildlife" is accepted as the normal relationship with the earth (Forest Practices Act, State of Oregon). I did not know, however, how much work of the hands there would be, nor did I know, looking back now, six years later, how completely this relationship would change my life.
A Chance Meeting
Not long after I walked into the forest, I sold my comfortable suburban home and moved from a 2,000 square foot house to a small shed in the forest that friends and I had built by hand the first winter, after the tent rotted.
I had been cast back into a day by day, primary relationship with the earth -- "homesteading" much like my ancestors who came to Oregon three generations before. Only this time, it was more like "dreamsteading." The work of preserving the "seed" of a living rainforest had begun. We called our project Wanderland Rainforest Gardens.
"The shaman," says Gary Snyder in The Old Ways, "speaks for wild animals, the spirits of plants, the spirits of mountains, of watersheds. She sings for them. They sing through her."
At this time when the earth is in danger, many voices, the voices of ordinary people, are opening in a shamanic way. Called by their love of the earth, they speak for the animals, for the rivers, for the forests, for the watersheds. Called by the need of the earth, they step out of old thought-forms of separation to create new relationships, relationships born of the experience that they, and the earth, are one.
Excerpted with permission. ©1995, published by The Attic Press,
1907 SE 39, Portland, OR 97214.
Using her own personal experiences, Gwendolyn shows the reader how to become aware of our personal symbols, dreams and soul. We learn the language of mythology for self-expression to reconnect with our soul thereby growing and becoming whole. Through seven chapters (Gwendolyn calls them movements) we learn how to find our persona, see ourselves as an overview (an "eagle's eye" view) and find our seed essence. Further, The Spinning Wheel teaches us to reconnect with our gifts in our memory banks, see our potentials, and become in tune with our universe. The Spinning Wheel is filled with insight, advice, wisdom and encouragement that is written with love in both prose and poetry. The exercises that author Endicott offers include writing, drawing, coloring, abstract shapes and dialogues - - but most of all, thinking. And that is the true beauty of this marvelous book . . . it shows the reader how to think, remember and understand who we are and what we can be.
About The Author
Gwendolyn Endicott, MA, has been a teacher of college classes and workshops for forty years, with specialties in Mythology, Native American Literature, Women’s Studies, and Writing. She has offered workshops in Earth-based Spirituality for the last twenty years, creating Wanderland Rainforest Gardens as a home for her teaching. In 2010 Gwendolyn was ordained as a Priestess of Isis through Crossroads Lyseum , Tuscon, Arizona. Gwendolyn is a storyteller and the author of three books. For more info, visit http://wanderlandrainforest.org
Video/Presentation with Gwendolyn Endicott: I Fell In Love with a Rainforest... (Acceptance Speech for Ferdun Award)
For Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this speech, click here.