The Shimmering Grace thing popped up again a few days ago, and as always, has left me totally amazed. It’s a little story.
In our library here at Rose Villa where I now live, I “just happened” to see a book entitled The Wisdom of Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature by Gerald May. Except I only saw the title, picked up the book, and brought it back to our cottage. Because, drum roll, I am planning to go to Sitka, Alaska next week for 6 days, together with a group of friends who also live here. We are all attending Sitka’s Summer Arts and Science Festival. I jumped in because One, I promised myself that I would see Alaska before I die, a promise I made several decades ago. And Two, I am longing for wilderness, for old growth and water and rivers and wildlife and silence. For the healing power of nature. Yup. I crave it and need it, and can no longer get there by myself. This seems doable to me. Mostly. Aside from my terror.
Here’s May’s first paragraph. “I am sick now. The prospect of my death is continually before me. My body is frail, my energy always at the edge of exhaustion. At the same time, I am wilder than I’ve ever been before. My soul basks in wilderness, and I am grateful.” O my. He is speaking my language.
He goes on. “Wilderness is not just a place; it is also a state of being. If happiness means being happy and sadness means being sad, then wilderness means being wilder.” Well, okay then! “This inner wilderness is the untamed truth of who you really are.”
And here’s the shimmering story. I suddenly figured out who the author is. OMG, as the kids say now on Twitter. Gerald May was one of my greatest teachers. He wrote a number of books, two of which are classics now: “Will and Spirit”, and “Simply Sane”. Gerald May is now dead, but was a psychiatrist and a spiritual director, one of the very best. Eloquent, creative and willing to see through all the jargon into the soul of our work. And share. He was my guide and my companion for years in my own practice.
I had no idea that he had written another book, before he died. And a book about wilderness at that. What a gift. Thanks, Shimmering One.
About the terror. You see, it’s a group of 11 people, all elders mostly able, and one sweet young staff person who will herd us where we need to go. The trip on Friday will be 8 hours, including 3 airports, countless people, and lots of noise. I am so frail now and so sensitive to all inputs that just the idea of this is overwhelming. Solutions are unfolding, much like climbing Mt. Hood. Instead of crampons and ice axe, I will be using a Bose noise canceling headset, and also an old iPod that I can plug in to my brain. I’ll bring my own food. And so on. I have a long list. Nothing is really simple anymore.
Once at Sitka, there are other nightmare logistics. Breakfast is from 7 to 8 AM. That just makes me laugh. I don’t do anything at all much before 9 AM, and generally don’t plan to get anywhere before 11. I can’t. So I’m bringing my own breakfast and teas and pray for a kind kitchen person. My writing/poetry workshop is from 8:30 to noonish or so. Again, not going to happen. I hate to disrupt groups and teachers, really hate that. So I may have to forgo the workshop completely. We’ll see how it goes. I’d be happy, actually, to be on my own the entire time. Lots of forests, trails, totem poles, river walks, the ocean, boats, a little village with shops. I could happily just be there and hope people leave me alone. Talking exhausts me now. And then I collapse, and the idea of collapsing there, without Eric, is beyond terrifying. You have no idea. I’d rather face a grizzly bear.
Every waking moment now I am battling the voices that tell me to stay home, and forget about this venture, with long lists of all the shit that could go down. Voices that are both wise and also crippling, which makes it hard to discern. What keeps me going is just the felt sense of being there, in nature, and letting the healing happen. I need it. It’s calling me, like the mountains used to do, a visceral pull.
Please pray for me. I am so frightened.