Soul Survival 101

“The psyches and souls of women also have their own cycles and seasons of doing and solitude, running and staying, being involved and being removed, questing and resting, creating and incubating, being of the world and returning to the soul-place.” (Dr. Estes, p. 151)
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Tshusick. An Ojibway woman. Alfred Hoffy – artist, John Bowen – lithographer, Edward Biddle – publisher. 1837. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, online catalog.

Sometimes, it seems our modern lifestyle is doing a colossal amount of damage to our mental and physical health. We are extremely disconnected from nature, each other, and even ourselves. Everything is goal oriented, material oriented, status oriented, the physical is so over emphasized and all accomplishments must happen immediately, there is no time to waste. Yet all this rushing and exterior prioritizing inevitably leads to lack of self care, rejection of self knowledge, quieting of our instinctual voices that tell us when to rest and we end up chronically ill. Will humanity ever be able to adjust to modern life or make the choice to adjust modern life to favor our needs as they have evolved for millions of years. Modern life may be the death of humanity if we do not tune in to our wild sides and learn how to reconnect, care for ourselves regularly and thoroughly, and create space for everyone to thrive, especially ourselves.

     “So you can see that in a world that values driven women who go, go, go, the stealing of sealskins is very easy, so much so that the first theft occurs somewhere between the ages of seven and eighteen. By then, most young women have been to dance on the rock in the sea. By then most will have reached d for the sealskin but not found it where they left it. And, though this initially seems meant to cause the development of a medial structure in the psyche- that is, an ability to learn to live in the world of spirit and in the outer reality as well-too often this progression is not accomplished, nor is any of the rest of the initiatory experience, and the woman wanders through life skinless.” (Dr. Estes, p. 162)
     Sure, on the never ending journey of self-knowledge and development, we all get or feel a little lost sometimes but some never know or attempt the journey instead busying themselves with the exterior world. And in some places, the exterior world itself seems to be disconnected. I grew up in south Florida, where there are essentially no seasons. I never saw the natural cycle, never felt myself enveloped in the death and rebirth of nature of our essential selves. I had an indefinable and inextinguishable yearning for something I could not name or describe because I had not yet experienced it.
     I moved to New Orleans in my early twenties where they have a slight version of seasons, extended summer and a few weeks of spring, fall, and winter. I feel that New Orleans is a sort of soul home to me but it was still disconnected from the many cycles of seasons we experience here in Colorado. Just that first glimpse of seasons in New Orleans allowed me to recognize that I had a deep desire to experience a richer, more diverse taste of life. I traveled the country from top to bottom a few times and realized that I needed to be in Colorado as surely as I needed air or water. I needed to extricate myself from the whirling darkness and excitement of the crescent city and come home to the mountains to be closer to the Earth and more fully observe the infinite variations of birth, life and death in the surrounding environment.
     “We understand that the loss of habitat is the most disastrous event that can occur to a free feature. We fervently point out how other creatures’ natural territories have become surrounded by cities, ranches, highways, noise, and other dissonance, as though we are not surrounded by the same, as though we are not affected also.” (Dr. Estes, p.165)
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Canal Street, New Orleans. Mardi Gras 2016. Photo by Jesse Maclaine

Being in the city, I was constantly bombarded by noise, endless errands, non stop deadlines, 24 hours of entertainment, mobs of people, giant buildings, light pollution such that the night sky almost always appeared orange- never black and certainly never any stars. I felt like I was going mad, my anxiety was overwhelming and claustrophobic. I was in my late twenties and 9/11 was still keeping the entire country on high alert and the intensity of my need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life was pervasive and incessant. I literally felt like I was out of my own skin, over exposed to the elements and deteriorating faster and faster every day. I heard the expansiveness of Colorado’s mountains calling me home. Luckily, I got the husband on board in April, in May we drove up and found a place to rent, then in June we loaded up our four kids and our belongings and drove to our new home in Colorado. Honestly, that move probably saved my life, body and soul.

     I could not be myself in the city, not at that time. I needed to experience the physical space of Colorado, not just for the temporal effects of the seasons, but for the energetic space of fewer people and less stress so I could better explore my inner and outer world without all the interruptions and distractions, so I could hear the voices when they told me to slow down and nurture myself instead of giving everything I had to everyone else. Going home to oneself is a multi-dimensional journey but sometimes physical relocation can be very helpful.
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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Photo by Jesse Maclaine.

 

Now, I can visit New Orleans and it feels like home but in a different way than visiting the mountains or my original mother (our original mother) the ocean. All three share a similar terrifying, awe inspiring, thrilling, and captivating power, a certain ineffable mystery like the infinite expanse of the night sky. All call to me in an ancient, nearly indecipherable yet omnipresent voice which I seem to hear very clearly while so many around me seem to be oblivious. Perhaps because I spent my whole life training my ears to hear songs. I’m not just talking about  listening to music (which is in itself a singularly complex skill), I’m attempting to convey a more comprehensive, multi-dimensional sort of listening; an ongoing quest for melodies, harmonies, rhythms, words, stories, characters, archetypes, myths, legends- any component which may lend itself to any particular story I am growing at one point in time or another. My ears and mind are forever functioning as composers, poets, writers, and even comedians. When the ancient voices call to me, I hear them booming through my consciousness like thunder, inscrutable, demanding and absolutely right.

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One thought on “Soul Survival 101

  1. This blog felt like a “soul survival” for you, the writer, as well as for me. Your prose is so eloquent, and your argument for the need of such soul cultivation in nature is captivating and persuasive!

    I too have felt like CO has become a sort of soul-saving location for myself. I’ve never lived in bustling metro-areas, but while I was in the south (i.e. South Carolina and Alabama), I felt claustrophobic and diminished. My world consisted of a lot of “women shouldn’t _.” I so desperately wanted and needed escape. When I came here, I was studying medieval mysticism, and on many occasions I remarked that this place, these mountains, produced a mystical experience. I felt out of and more than my mere body, which was written on and weighed down by all of those “women shouldn’t_,” as my body was the most immediate and obvious corporeal thing to identify me as woman. Over time, I’ve come to reclaim my body, but I’m not sure that would be possible had it not been for this place. So, I think there’s definitely something to this idea of reclaiming the soul, but I think the concept of place is intriguing as an integral part of such reclaiming.

    Thank you for being so personal here!

    Like

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