“Stay in this moment she said, don’t let the past deprive you of anything that doesn’t serve your deepest truth.” With that, Spirit Crow turned away, walking toward the purple sky of the setting sun.
Her gait was smooth and effortless as if she were being ferried by the wind. I let the weight of her words settle over me as I watched her grow small against the horizon .Of all the emotions available to feel in this moment, it was sadness that overwhelmed me. I drew a deep calming breath inward, feeling the cool of it as it rushed past my lips then flowing down deep into my lungs, the ache that had been gnawing at my core began to ease.
Her words echoing in my head
“ three nights under an open sky
leave your old self to die
find the voice that guides your heart
emerge reborn on the other side”
I smiled and shook my head as I recalled the events that conspired to bring me to this place .A chance encounter at the Fox and Hound with a stranger I would come to know as Sparrow Hart.
Our conversation started off awkward, I threw out a stock comment, “women can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em”, and waited for words of agreement –the secret password to everyman’s’ “Club Misery”.
I can still see the way he looked at me, his head tilted to one side like a curious dog, his eyes black and wide. He stared at me long enough to make me uncomfortable. Looking back and knowing him as I do now, there was no doubt he was deciding whether to leave me to drown in my misery or throw me a line.
His measured response came in the form of a question,” do you ever wonder if there is something you’re not giving that causes your woman to make you feel that way?” The pace and tone of his voice was slow, effortless and full with certainty. The question threw me. I felt anger building from somewhere in my gut, this guy had taken a swing at me without moving a muscle. Before I could think I spat out my defence “ I give her everything she could ask for, a beautiful home, a nice car, a summer cottage and winter vacations in the sun”.. I saw his head slowly shaking “what the fuck man, she’s got EVERYTHING and still she’s unhappy, there’s no pleasing her!”
If you’re truly interested in gaining some understanding you’ll need to calm down, open your mind and really listen.” he countered, then waited on my response.
“ So how is it you think you know all of this or anything at all about me”? I spilled through clenched teeth.
Again he went silent for too long.
“As a man you have gifts to give, to your woman and to the world and none of the things you just mentioned are of much importance to either”. The wave of his truth crashed into me, as I struggled for some kind of response that might rescue me from drowning in this eddy of realization. “ If that’s true then everyone I know is suffering in much the same way”, my words surprising me. It was about that time I felt a discernable shift, something had altered my perception, as if I had been dragged from my world filled with bills and lights and college tuitions and dropped unceremoniously into a room lined with mirrors. There was no place to hide and judging by the grin smeared across Sparrow Harts’ face, no reason to hide. I had no choice but to listen.
The more we talked the more I realized how superficial the pieces of my life had become. The questions he posed cutting right through my well-constructed façade and by the end of the night he had stripped me of all my hiding places. “OK” I stammered, “suppose you’re right and I do actually do feel the way you describe. How do I go about fixing all or any of this?”
“ You need to discover your truth and then live it.”
As he stood to leave he handed me a business-sized card with only a name and a phone number on it. “She can help you “ was all he said.
The length of my shadow growing in the fading sunlight pulled me into present, calling attention to my pressing need for shelter. I scanned the landscape; in front of me was an area of low scrub. There was a strand of trees a few hundred metres to my left. I set off in that direction, the cool of a late summer evening spurring me on.
The smell of decay greeted me as I reached the wooded area and the earth felt soften beneath my feet. The canopy of maples did a good job of blocking the breeze; while up above the wind rushed through fluttering leaves.
Ahead I spotted a crippled oak that had lost it’s footing in the soil and lay on its side, the victim an angry summer storm. The large rounded clump of earth and roots rose up to form a wall and half-ceiling to my future wooded home. The fading light told me I wouldn’t have time to build a proper debris hut, so I set my sights on a temporary version, knowing I’d have plenty of time to fortify it in the morning.
While scanning the forest floor it occurred to me how much of an intruder I must be to this place. Birds screeched out their calls, warning of my presence while invisible squirrels scampered noisily through the tunnels of fallen branches and leaves. I was the uninvited guest at a party full of old friends.
Not far ahead I spotted a length of timber half buried in the ground, a perfect candidate for a crossbeam. I smiled at my good fortune and thought to myself how easily all of this was coming together. I reached down to where the log met the ground, wrapped my hands around as much of it as I could, then pulled, as I did I could feel the earth around it shift as the log moved ever so slightly. Determined, I squatted bending at my knees then gave a great heave, grunting and lifting with as much might as I could summon. At the same instant it jumped free I felt my hands lose their grip and slide helplessly upward only to be halted by a jagged stub of a branch.
A jolt of electricity shot up my left arm causing me to release my weakened grip, the log finding the ground with a dull thud. I looked down to see that a flap of skin had been peeled away from the meaty part of my palm. White light filled my head, the pain hijacking all of my other senses. ”Mother fucker!” I screamed into the depths of the forest.
Instinctively I inspected the damage, I told myself it wasn’t as bad as I first thought, but that did little to calm the fear that was welling up inside of me. I knew my pattern so well by now, yet I was helpless to stop the inevitable escalation of my fear.
“I’m all alone”,
“there’s absolutely nobody to help and nowhere to turn”,
“I’m in big trouble…
“what am I doing here ?”,
My thoughts seized control and fanned the flames of my panic. Summoning what was left of my reason, I clamped my free hand around my wrist above the wound and raised both hands above my heart. The ground below my feet began to spin.
From somewhere I heard a voice, or more precisely I felt the vibration of her words resonating inside of me. “ What is it that you fear?” Spirit Crow’s face appeared on the screen that played in my head. In that moment I felt the blood return to my face, and wondered when my panic might begin its descent. I reminded myself out loud what I had learned, “The opposite of fear is awareness”, and set my mind to use the skills I had been given.
As I drew the first breath I visualized strings holding the tension in my body as if I were a marionette. I felt each string tighten as I pulled the air deeper into my lungs, filling me beyond capacity. I made a conscious effort to pause and to hold on to the “sacred place between life and death”. In that instant I felt myself gliding silently on the momentum. As if the clutch to the machine that powered life, had been engaged.
When it felt right I began to exhale, allowing each string go slack as the current of air slowly made its way through me. I focused on pushing every molecule of spent air from my body, as if they would kill me to remain.
With my bodily tension all but gone, I pulled the second breath with incredible ease. The gates of restriction had been opened and the rush of air formed a swirling vortex, who’s mission was to round up each fearful thought from my mind. My breath had become a vessel and I felt transformed as its cargo arrived at my core, fading away under the light of truth that burns in each of us.
I felt an intense rush of energy surge up my spine, every cell in its path spinning alive and electric as I exhaled.
The third breath occurred without conscious thought, and I felt strangely disconnected from my body as if I were riding on the thick current of air being drawn inward. Images began to flash in my head.
A young boy lost in a corn maze, alone and trembling with tears streaming down his face.
Then, an older version of the same boy, being shunned by his teenaged friends. His face buried in his hands, hiding in his fear.
Finally, a young man sobbing over a hospital bed, holding the lifeless body of a woman with a face like his.
The fear in each image built on the last, until I felt as if I couldn’t take any more.
Then… as I exhaled they began to blow away, like of trees being stripped then disintegrated by an atomic blast.
I could feel myself coming back from this journey, my head was light and I could feel a strange buzzing that flowed through me from the base of my spine to the tips of my fingers. Euphoria was as good a word as any.
The throbbing pain in my hand had become no more than an annoying reminder to maintain my awareness.
I took a moment to sit on my log, pulled my shoe off and then my sock, deciding it would do as a pressure bandage. I understood for the first time just how powerful and destructive a force my fear had been, here now, and throughout my life.
I dragged my wooden cross member back to the uprooted oak and lay it into place, and spent the waning moments of dusk searching for leafy branches.
My mind was quiet as I laid the last of them into place. I settled my body into my soft earthen bed, then heaved a long slow sigh. There was an easy-ness about me and I realized the “sense of lack” Sparrow Hart had alluded to, was gone now.
As this calm washed over me, my thoughts turned to Spirit Crow. The time we spent together was magical. She was magnetic in ways that I struggled to fully comprehend. The light of her truth shone from her eyes and beamed from her pores. Wisps of copper would conspire to kiss the soft folds of skin that gathered at her shoulders, as hard as I tried to resist, my eyes would inexplicably track to the magical lines that frame the corners of her mouth. More than physical traits, she possessed an indescribable quality that was wonderfully captivating.
In this meditative state I felt her spirit deep inside.
My hands were lost to the blinding darkness, as I allowed my senses to override my thoughts. Blasts of wind raced through the trees with the deafening force of a midnight freight. Tree frogs and crickets filled the moments of empty silence between gusts.
The multitude of stars reminding me I am always at home.