At first she walked without thought, mind caught up in languageless reverie, body exquisitely attuned to every sound, scent, touch of living plant against her skin. Feet and arms bare to ground and air, though toughened by years of work and exposure, Caela moved into this landscape bare of expectation.
Scurrying, hiding creatures, peering out curiously slowly came to understand that she could be safely ignored. Walking into a rhythm in tune to the forest sounds, she could feel the music. She could feel very alive, a creature in this natural world without guide, constraint, responsibility or companionship of human kind. Not thought, instantaneous panoramic realization of another level of being outside of society, inside the ecology of the forest. There is a restfulness to shedding roles. There is an energy that comes from rhythmic movement, a relaxation from moving in tune to the natural music of the moment. Habituated ways of sensing, of perceiving, of thinking can silently fall away. Without preformed valuations, what is speaks for itself.
Moving through purposeful actions as if in meditative ritual, Caela felt herself getting caught up in a quietly graceful dance, each movement blurring into the next. Bright sun star shining into rippling water, trees standing their ground as branches play with breeze, rustling scratching chirping squeaking creatures playing out their destinies, dramas, simple cycles of life.
Darkening forest, ebbing, flames, tired body ready to sleep. She found her way to a nearby sheltered grove noted in her earlier brief exploration. Having improved it for her purpose in rudimentary fashion, Caela lay down upon the soft forest floor and relaxed into dreams.
They had assembled in ghostly presence. Shifting positions, faces, garments, props, several of these dream ghosts bespoke her, as if acting out a morality play, vagabonds in the woods begging for favor. The ground around her shifted as well, quaking, dream sand turning quick, sticky, flimsy, unstable. Yet she was not falling through, but with this slow-motion molten panorama. Voices, figures fashioned of old friends, memories, and memories of what had never manifested past dreams and musings, continued their performances into the changing scenes. Too amazed and swept up to notice fear or her own reactions, Caela dreamed unlike any dream she had known before.
“Somebody called me. Was it you?” she asked of each ghostly presence. They all had their stories. These became a song of endless verses. When she awoke with the morning light, Caela was still singing. The feelings evoked by the dream lingered. Still dreaming, she resumed walking, perceiving multi-layered forest imperceptibly interweaving with the many layers Caela had never realized she contained.
Caela felt the memory of tears. She wanted to give comfort.
Opening her heart to these long festering injured spirits, bespeaking her in their desperation to be heard, feels natural, an outgrowth of who she has always been becoming. The forest and its spirits accept her love. They love her in return, not as a representative of her kind, but as her own unique entity. The seed growing in her since her birth is flowering. Multiple gradations of coloration, complex heady perfume, this flower, this Caela, is as beautiful as they come. Human hag, old, wrinkled, grey, yet what she projects transcends such definitions. Walking, traversing light and shade, consciousness as well moves. First cause, first principle: keep moving.
“Something vital was taken from us. We don’t know how to respond. We are wounded, unwhole. Tell us, healer, how do we reconcile? How do we grow new hearts, neural pathways, create what we need to feel alright?” Caela too felt severing losses that had overwhelmed her, wrenched away good lives, those she most depended upon.
“Did you grieve?” A grey solitary ghost came forward with open palms, tears dripping down her cheeks, thin, wan, faint, but with intense presence. The forest became a sanctuary, a shrine, a temple of worship and sacrifice. A dark pit slowly manifested, a well for sorrow. Each ghost contributed tears, wrenching sobs, wailing, whatever they could give. Caela felt herself dancing around the pit, drawn irresistibly into the music of ghostly crying. Coming into her notice, she saw her longed for long dead loved ones among the ghosts, crying with her over her loss. Slowly, hypnotized, she moved toward their circle. They embraced her, an ectoplasmic affirmation of love, dispelling sorrow. But what of those other wounded spirits? How could they be healed? Were Caela’s deeply embedded wounds so easily healed; or was this uplifting but part of an ongoing process? If we can be ever moving in the direction of healing, no matter how slowly, Caela was thinking. Silently smiling in the center of the pain, the wonderful gifts of intertwined lives leaving behind forever what has grown into who we become, better because of the beauty imparted. When we can let go of the pain and be who the totality of our interchanges and experiences have created, will that be a new kind of wholeness? Could this tentative resolution be useful to the forest’s spirits?
The well of sorrow metamorphosed into a peaceful pond in which graceful gliding silvery creatures glinted in the sunlight. Caela sat upon a convenient large smooth stony surface enjoying the solitude and warmth.
This forest, so far from human, seemed to understand and take joy in her. She felt welcomed as long wandering kin, with so much to catch up on. As she walked again in the sunshine, she openly shared her memories as the forest, too, shared its stories. They found common nonlinear, nonlingual, imaginal, perceptual language. Was this how it had been in that mythical garden of Earth, the Eden for which this planet had been named by human invaders? Was there a time in the early history of man when he and the Earth had been companiable kin? Could that kind of relationship be formed here, now? Could there be a reconciliation, a healing? What is this primal wound that keeps humankind from wholeness, integration with life?
“Why do your people divide? Not just here and there, spatial separations, but even within? Mothers and children separate to expand living. Death separates, but renews — feeding the whole. Yet your whole rebels, rejects connection. No, some connect. But not the whole, not seed to root to stem. Even a healer can still be divided. You have strong presence, strong awareness and integrity of self. You are separate from your kind, also because of your own conscious striving to wholeness of self. How is this? To what purpose? Feel your way along the division, healer. Can you weave it whole? See this spiral dance? Reattach your shadow as a companion of play, and dance so sweetly, so free, complete in every movement, every moment, in living embrace of music vibrating eternally. These are your pictures, your words, imbued with that which is love calling between us.”
As other loves had implanted their brightly precious cuttings through Caela’s being, she now accepted this growing loving friendship with sentience not of her kind, nor of the world her ancestors called home. What is home but where we learn to be and feel alive?