Room to Be Wild Part 2
As a child, a reoccurring nightmare was to find myself in a white room of padded walls bound in a straightjacket. My crime, they said, was that I did not understand the difference between what was real and what was imagined. I could not be trusted to behave or keep my tongue and so I was shut away. In essence, I would not be tamed. I was scared, always so afraid in this dream that I could never find ground. Every effort was spent on reminding myself that I was okay and I had not lost my mind. Sometimes the dream would morph into the trickster Wiley E. Coyote who tried to catch a ball, a symbol of solid knowing, but just when he thought he had a good grip on the ball it would slip from his fingers, circle all around him, return to his grasp only to slip away over and over again all through the night.
About this time I read a book called The White Mountains in which tripods had taken over the minds and will of all people. The main character awakens to his individuality but must keep this knowledge of his true self hidden from the electronic impulses that the machines used to control the people, as in the ancient figure of the Golem, until he could find a reliable escape route. This book further embedded a fear of becoming programmed and the loss of self, both wild and free.
By the time I was a teenager I developed the suspicion that the current Orange County culture was suppressing the heart of my wildness and individuality. I remember asking my best friend if she thought I was an authentic person or whether I had succumbed to an asleep, sheeplike mentality – the true zombie apocalypse. She said I was about as unique as I could be given where we lived. My gritty, earthy personality eventually turned to a search for my Native American roots. I was dismayed by my conquering Spanish blood and wanted to find something that felt more real and deeply connected to a rock solid core that indeed connected to all life and the goodness inherent in the world.
Then I met Uncle Jimi, a Tongva spiritual leader, and he invited me to an Ancestral Walk, where the people of the Tongva and Acjachemen tribes held ceremony at several sacred sites along the Orange County coastline. We began at the ancient site for the village of Panhe, tucked into a beautiful valley where a crowded state campgrounds lead into what was now a world famous surf spot. As we stood under the shade of a tree waiting for the rest of the people to arrive he said, “We are so loved by Our Earth Mother that she will continue to provide and give her love no matter how far away we, her children, drift from her. She will always provide this shade,” He pointed to the canopy of leaves with a large hawk feather that was wrapped in leather and decorated with beads. “Her love is unconditional and forever.”
This imagery of being shaded by an omnipresent tree with deep roots that offered protection and love throughout eternity regardless of how far away I strayed endeared me on a very deep level to the spirit and soul of the land. But it wasn’t just a matter of this particular parcel of land. In that teaching moment, I understood and felt the power of Gaia as a sentient being in love with her children. Just like a mother’s arms will hold firmly around her children even as they thrash about trying to discover themselves and their place in the world, so too does Mother Earth hold us. In that moment a deep desire and commitment to be worthy of that love was planted in my heart, almost like a chivalrous knight who would earn the honor of performing on behalf of his fair lady. I would apply the best of my skills on behalf of the Mother who was bestowing me and all beings with such loving affection, sustenance and protection.
This image of a tree aligns with The Giving Tree, a classic childhood book and one of my favorite stories. There is a young boy who loves a tree and she loves him. He scrambles and plays all around her as a child. As he grows older he visits the tree sporadically and mostly to take from her. But she is always loyal and gives whatever she can, changing form to suit his needs. She remains completely dedicated to her beloved until in his final days when he returns to her and recognizes the love that never left. I find great comfort in the stability and solidarity of the tree and I unified in love and a deep sense of family. I am drawn to tree lore and the stories of them as standing people. They are my guardians, my friends, my family.
(And for those who are listening, you will hear Gaia speaking to you even in your dreams – it’s called terrapsychology.)