For nearly 5 weeks this summer I lived upon a mountaintop at 9000 ft in Colorado in the School of Lost Borders Vision Fast and Rites of Passage Training.
We were 10 questers and trainees from all over the world, living in our tents, sharing community meals cooked on camp stoves, dodging midnight and mid-afternoon lightning and hail storms, and recounting quiet afternoon encounters with the local wildlife, (yes, there were bears afoot!)
We sat in circle together day after day sharing heartfelt stories and experiences with the land as we made our own medicine walks, digging deep into our personal healing and transformation, while concurrently holding space for training each other in the skills and art of rites of passage and vision fast. We came from all kinds of work- all kinds of experiences- from age 30-70, we all came together to celebrate, honor, learn from and grow into this work of ceremony and healing on the land.
It is difficult to recount how deep we all went, how much healing happened for each of us on personal and community levels, and how much we each grew into becoming guides in this kind of work, but it was truly life changing, and I am so deeply grateful that the opportunity to engage in this training was given to me to manifest.
My own journey with this work began in Feb 2016, when I went on my own vision fast, consequently the answer to a prayer that began with grief and tears about my life not including a child, or a family. I kept asking, if that is not going to be my life, then what is it I am to do? Vision Quest.
So off I went to the desert to fast and pray in ceremony on the land. And while that fast returned so much depth and transformation to chew on, it also called me deeper into this work with the land in ceremony, and the call intensified to go deeper. I had been considering grad school, trainings, and various other ways to go deeper, and discovered the School of Lost Borders training. 1 month in colorado, living on the land, living in ceremony, undertaking another fast, and receiving teachings and training from some of the folks who have done this work in the country the longest (hey, they even trained the founder of the organization I had worked with in my first fast!).
So I promptly added my name to the list with a deposit on credit, because it was January, and I was kind of broke, as often I am that time of year, not knowing yet how to fund the training, find the time off for a whole month, or anything else. But my heart and soul said, “Yes!” So it was. I had little inkling of how meaningful this time would become…as my life transformed before my eyes.
Fast forward to May. It was time to send in payment for the training, and my letter of intention, and now, I was 6 weeks pregnant. Was this even still possible? Could I handle living without the comforts of home while pregnant? I hadn’t planned or expected it, a little miracle blessing answer to my prayers, yet the training still spoke in my soul…it was now, or maybe never. Motherhood doesn’t afford months off…especially not when the child is young.
I wrote my letter, stating my intent to come to train, and to mark this passage of my life into motherhood in one of the most meaningful ways I could, in ceremony. But fasting? Not so fast…
The response from Joseph, the lead guide for this training was nothing but supportive in helping me craft a ceremony that supported the work, me, and my child.
As my child grew, and I became overwhelmed with the exhaustion and sickness of the first trimester. I stopped working, I cancelled classes. I moved out of my tiny apartment for the summer to save money. I went on an adventure with my partner, travelling by RV across half the country, to share the news with family and friends. I prayed the sickness would fade before the month on the land. I asked my community for financial support for the training with a fundraiser.
The time inched ever closer, the second trimester arrived, I started to feel a little more capable, and less sick. I left my partner and home, my entire life still in boxes in storage. (Somehow I managed to keep track of all my camp gear, and showed up with most of what I needed, save the RIGHT tent. More on that later.) I drove to Colorado and arrived to a primitive ranch at 9000 ft and a group of perfect strangers, all there for the same purpose.
And then reality hit- huffing and puffing and hiking around at 9000 ft pregnant isn’t that easy, eating out of a cooler in a building up a hill from your camp, to keep food fresh and away from bears, when you need snacks at 2 am to stave off dry heaves from hunger isn’t that easy. Discovering your roomy tent leaks and bows in the first midnight lightning/rain storm, while having your first true motherly panic attack about safety in the intensity of the storm wasn’t very enjoyable either. I guess I had underestimated the challenges.
But was received so gently by my colleagues, who helped me, and supported me in all kinds of ways. For me, a practice in releasing the need to completely independent, and allow myself to receive support from those around me. The first of many lessons in this journey to motherhood.
We dove deep, we drew close, we shared the medicine the land offered us in circle. I learned to release expectations of myself. I showed up for circles and skill building that pushed me easily into the most terrifyingly intimate practices with people I barely knew. We dodged more hail and lightning storms in the afternoons under tarps. I still puked in the mornings from hunger, I struggled to consume enough calories.
And the second time we had a midnight hail and lightning storm, I found myself running from my tent to the shelter of the hogan/kitchen in a panic. I lay on the futon, heart racing, the little one inside me thrashing in response to my adrenaline rush. I wept, knowing that, as a mother, I wasn’t going to be able to do the fast at all, in any way that I had hoped anyway. I dreamed I lost the baby and woke crying hysterically. Suddenly my priority was safety and self care, not the selfish need to push myself at the expense of the well being of my little one. I called home for a delivery of a THIRD tent that would be more functional in the crazy weather on top of the mountains. I told the guides I wouldn’t be fasting during my solo time.
And out we went for our personal ceremonies on the land. Each day of my solo I hiked back and forth from the kitchen where my food was, to the spot I had chosen as my ceremonial solo spot, 3 times a day, up and down the hills, back and forth from ceremony to mundane reality. This dance, this is the dance of motherhood, between self care and care of other, between the sacred duties of tending the soul/spirit and tending the needs of the physical world.
I danced my way through a self designed ceremony of initiation of motherhood, releasing the old life of a maiden, stepping into the responsibility and sacrifice of motherhood, calling on the support of the ancient wild mothers who came before, ceremonially releasing the wounds I carried around mothering.
I crafted a wheel of the four directions of wild motherhood.
I released attachments to roles and images and masks I’ve created and perpetuated in this life to prop up a bruised ego struggling to be truly SEEN and held safe.
I found the release into boredom of doing nothing (because when will I ever be bored or doing nothing for about the next 18 yrs of life- for real?)
I returned to the tribe after four days to share our stories, and danced with the struggle of not being good enough, not having done it RIGHT, and in the process of being seen and held by these souls, finally felt the gravity, meaning, challenges, and strength within me to walk this path, to guide others in this surrendering to spirit, land, ceremony and the ways it works us, subtly and not so subtly, to hold space and create ceremony for motherhood as a rite of passage, to trust deeply in the ceremony. I hold this ceremony not as an Event or Goal, but a life practice, it is the practice of living, and dying and living over and over again.
And then we sang each other home again, to our communities, our new old lives, our upcoming challenges and changes, and on and on on this path….
“Darcey, our friend, you do not walk alone. We will, walk with you, and sing your spirit home.”
•How to be A Good Human•
(From four weeks of community and solo ceremony on the land).
LOVE. Share. See. Be Seen. Be Honest. Feel it all. Laugh at yourself & most other things too. Listen to the Land. Listen to your Heart. Be of Service. Respect Life. Trust the Ceremony. Give Thanks. Believe. Hope. LOVE.