Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't get the bends...



Last night I dreamt of water. I was deep sea diving with a group of people. There was a submarine underwater that was going out of commission despite it being in good condition. This was confusing to me but I went ahead and put it in it's watery grave beneath the ocean none the less. After it had been placed in it's spot, I continued deeper into the ocean with my cohort. We swam down a long deep tunnel. There were mosses and coral growing on the sides of the tunnel. There were fish and eel swimming around.

The further deeper I got in the ocean, the darker it became. It was beautiful and eerie in the mysterious depths. At some point pretty far beneath the surface, my oxygen tank began to have problems and I was having trouble breathing. I realized that I needed to resurface as soon as possible. I began to panic as I realized that I didn't have enough oxygen to reach the surface. I tried to calm myself and stop myself as I knew I couldn't swim directly to the surface or else I would get the bends. As i fought the urge to swim as quickly as possible, I felt a presence with me holding me down, not allowing me to surface too quickly. It was a comforting presence. I couldn't see it--it was as if it was right behind me but when I turned I saw nothing.

I struggled with breath but knew I would be safer if I paused here and trusted.

***

I awoke grateful to be back in my room with an abundance of oxygen around me. Seems like a fitting dream to have the day before one begins graduate school. Admittedly, I am feeling quite nervous about starting school tomorrow. It seems like this huge undertaking--3 years of study, a whole lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of love, a lot of trust. I think the trust is the key piece of what I need to lean into right now.

It's been quite a journey getting here. I have felt called to ministry of some sort since I was a teenager. It's been hard to imagine how to answer that call in our Christian dominated society. I've stepped up in the pagan communities I'm involved with, Reclaiming and Free Activist Witch Camp (now known as Free Cascadia Witch Camp). I've stepped up at the Wolf Creek Naraya, a dance for all people. I've stepped up in local smaller ceremonies. I've stepped up at UUSFserving as a worship associate. I've stepped up in my activist communities with Pride at Work,SEIU, and worked as a faith based organizer at SFOP.

All of this work has felt like an answer to this call. I'm so grateful for these communities and the ways that they have held me and continue to hold me on this journey.
I am grateful for the beautiful and the challenging things that they have taught me.
I am grateful for the ways in which these communities have helped to shed light on the next step of this journey.

It feels like it's been such a journey getting here but I think that's how everyone feels when they begin divinity school. I applied to a UU seminary three years ago. I was accepted. I deferred for a year and ultimately decided not to go because the school was extremely expensive with very few financial assistance options and I was working with a story about myself that I was too much of a freaky queer pagan to have any place in seminary. So I went to South America to support the Mapuche struggle to reclaim the land of their ancestors instead. I came home and went to the mountains to study plant medicine with some incredibly gifted elders, Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes.

Somewhere along the way,

listening to the story of the elders who have blessed my life
sitting with the plants as my teachers

listening to what was in my heart

I realized that I needed to try again to make seminary work.

So I applied to the Pacific School of Religion --a Christian school, but one that is becoming known in some pagan circles as the place to go if you want to get the credential needed to "pass" in the mainstream world. (Pass meaning getting a job as a chaplain or in some sort mainstream community institution)

So I applied, and I got in, and with generous support from the school, I begin tomorrow.

*gulp*

And so here I am. Dreaming of loosing my breath as I dive into the deep end of this ocean.

I've been looking over the classes required for the MDiv. It seems like there's more Christian classes than when I looked the first time. That part makes me nervous. I'm not a Christian and aside from the Catholic baptism I received in order to placate my grandparents, I never have been. I've taken two years of Sunday school about the bible, when I was in elementary school.

Is it any wonder I'm dreaming about the depths of the ocean?

I went to visit the school campus this week and wandered into the school's museum, and who was there on the wall but Harry Hay, one of the founders of the radical fairies and a collection of images from an exhibit about a reclaiming witch camp! The photo was part of an exhibit about "Alternative Queer Spiritual Communities". I figured if ever there was a sign that I'm on the right path, this has got to be it.

I've just got to remember to breathe and that moving too quickly, no matter how scary things seem, might give you the bends.
And so I ground into my heart
to listen.

I move slowly and
and I breathe.

Harry Hay in his later years on the walls at PSR.
The reflection of the old church windows shows above his head.



Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Rainforest is Crying


Last night I was awoken to the sound of trucks--large trucks and heavy machinery barreling through the forest. I was called to this place through a dream. Well to be more exact I was called here through Witchcamp first and then a dream.


We were going to have this years Free Cascadia Witchcamp in the Elliot State Forest. We ultimately did not for a number of reasons. A large part of it was due to the sudden and tragic death of a sweet sister born of the roots of the earth. This years camp was also larger than expected and we were anticipating a group larger than the site in the forest could hold.


Two nights ago, as I lay in the safety of a bed,

the safety of a home,

the safety of my lovers arms,

I dreamt of this place.


The forest came to me that night.


In the dream, I was walking through the woods on a path. The forest was teeming with life. Sweet dappled sunlight shone through the trees as I walked through a rows of giant ancestors. There was an active under story--with ferns, oregon grape, and trillium among many other plant friends. Birds squawked and sang and animals scurried along.


I was simply walking as I took in the magnificence of this ancient place. I felt the ancestors of the forest nourish my spirit in the dream world.


I remember taking a breath. A long deep breath--drinking the sweetness of this place into my lungs.

I continued walking.


The forest shifted.

The tall trees became stumps.

The understory disappeared.

The dappled sunlight grew strong and glaring, imposing heat, drying up the moisture.

The birds stopped singing.


I was overwhelmed by death.


I awoke from the dream with the memory of the magnificence destroyed close to my heart.


And so I came here.


I knew I was driving along the forest before I saw any signs. I felt my heart drop and heavy sadness take over the land amidst the warm setting sun. It was late when I turned onto the unmarked but proper road to enter the park. The sun was low and the night quickly creeping up.


I left Portland late yesterday and so I didn't have time to stop for a map. I kicked myself for not trying to at least, look at a map of the park or some sort of directions before I got here. The park is relatively small and does not have big entrance signs or maps posted along the road like many parks. So I followed my gut and turned off on a small dirt road to look for a place to pitch my tent before the dark set in.


I admit, I was feeling nervous--maybe even a little afraid. It was already pretty dark and I had no idea where I was going to sleep. When I'm solo backpacking I'm not usually worried because the barrier of the woods feels like protection from the creeps and boozing men you sometimes encounter closer to the roads. The heaviness of the energy in the forest was impacting me. I could feel the fear of death among the creatures in the forest.


The first stars were emerging when I finally found a place to camp. I pitched my tent, brushed my teeth, and got into my sleeping bag as quickly as possible. I fell asleep admist the dark swirling energy.


I awoke in the darkness to the sound of trucks--large trucks and heavy machinery barreling through the forest. I laid awake in my sleeping bag listening to the trucks until the sun began to emerge.


At sunrise, I took down my tent, loaded up my car and followed the trucks. They led me up an isolated logging road, twisted and curvy, the road climbed high into the mountains. They led me to a site where logging of this ancient forest has begun.


The Elliot State Forest is the largest original coastal forest left in Oregon. According to Cascadia Wildlands, it's the "only place in only place in the Pacific Northwest where vast tracts of virgin rainforest are being razed." The forest is home to a number of threatened species of owls and other animals. In the 1990s there were significant struggles to protect this forest. Concessions were made by the forest defenders with the agreement that the land would be protected for generations. Those agreements are being broken and an amazing group of activists are fighting to protect this ancient, sacred, place.


Can you help save this site of original coastal forest from being destroyed? Please take a min and write to those in positions of power and ask them to halt all logging and protect this sacred place. Clicking on this link will take you to a site where you can submit a letter.


Below are pictures from what I found driving up that logging road.


It is with a heavy heart that I share these images with you.


But I have hope amidst the heaviness that this forest will be protected.


May we not close our eyes when we witness suffering.

May we open our hearts and be moved to action.

And may our actions touch the hearts of others to support the healing of our communities and our sacred mother earth.


Aho, Ashe, and Blessed Be.

Logging trucks descend with the bones of the forest

A new truck arrived about every half hour

Site in the Elliot State Forest where logging has begun