When was the last time you played in dirt and didn’t care about getting dirty? Or walked/run/danced in the rain? Or used starlight to guide your walk home?
Recently I’ve done all of these things and it’s been a revelation. For the longest time I was conditioned to stay indoors during times of rain. I distinctly remember not wanting to get my hair messed up by the rain — btw, my hairstylists have all surely been medicine women because the rain ALWAYS comes after getting my hair done. When I first installed my dreadlocks, I remember thinking: I don’t care about the rain anymore. I’ll get rained on and it’ll be fine. I started going without my umbrella to and from the car when it would rain, but I still didn’t spend much time in the rain. When I committed to walking 3 days a week with my accountability partners, we had the discussion… what’s our rainy day plan? Each of us had had struggles with broken commitments to ourselves, so it was important to speak to this early. We decided that, as long as here was no thunder, we were all in rain or shine. Now, we live in Houston, so rain is inevitable. And it rained. And I realized that I have no gear for rain. So I just said, well, I guess I’m going to get wet. Note to self: buy rain gear. So we went on our walk and it was really nice! I wondered when it was that rain somehow had become a problem. I am ALWAYS wet after our morning walk — it’s just always with sweat. And so we walked and enjoyed the rain. In fact, it nudged us to go a bit faster than usual.
While at my retreat in the Catskill Mountains, I had an opportunity to play in dirt that evoked such a sense of childlike wonder, it even startled me. I remember exclaiming:
I feel like I’m 8!
I marveled at coriander growing on the vine (which I tasted… the flavor of cilantro burst in my mouth!), the sweet, earthy smell of goldenrod, and the vibrant amaranth whose brilliant red color beckoned for my attention every time I passed it. With the help of a synthesizer, we listened to plant music — essentially the plants energy. The synthesizer picks up the movements of plant and plays its song. It was like hearing God’s voice. I couldn’t hold back my emotion of connecting to something I’d never considered before.
We would harvest some items that we would enjoy on our plates later, and that we would use to make vinegars to take home with us. To that end, we had to learn some basic rules of taking from the earth. Rule #1 of wildcrafting:
✨ Don’t take more than you need; harvest in a way that one could not tell you’d been there.
And I considered: how many other ways have I taken more than I need — either from a feeling of fear, lack, or gluttony…? And so I committed to asteya — non-stealing — that very day. Taking too much is stealing from the earth and from others as we’re all sharing all of creation at any given time. I also committed to no longer looking at food as my nemesis. It is from the earth, it is sustenance, it can be beautiful, and it should be enjoyed.
Finally, I rediscovered faith in release. The Catskills are a source of great, rural beauty, unmarred by light pollution. We had to enjoy a bonfire to give thanks with our offerings to Mother Earth and also to release into the fire that which no longer served us. And so we did. My friend and I lingered longer than the rest, which meant we had to find our way back to the farmhouse without our guide. We decided to have faith in the stars and in the woods that had been a source of food for us for days. We couldn’t rely on the moon because it was the day before a New Moon — darkness engulfed us, and trees and garden bushes were in shadow. We trusted. Oh, how we celebrated when we made our way back without the use of our phone flashlights. Something had clicked — that, which sustains us will protect us, too.
I pondered how disconnected we have been from the loving embrace of Pachamama. I’ve found myself connecting with her more lately, and I’m learning to be more responsible with her fruits. Spending time in nature reminded me of a wildness in myself that just wants to be free and barefoot and foraging as I stargaze and marvel at shooting stars, the Milky Way and the shadows of the bushes that would sustain us during the day.