The Art of Living Wild
We set out from the retreat house as the temperature hovered around one below zero. The winter sunshine filtered through the cracks of the skeleton trees, and we walked across a quiet barnyard, past a red barn and trickled into single file as our steps faded into the snowy trail into the woods. The occasional cry of a hawk, the squeak of the cold snow underfoot and the muted whisperings of the winter forest were the only sounds piercing the air. Our breath left our bodies in clouds of white vapor with every exhale, and we drank in the deep clean cold like a tonic. We skirted the edge of a deep ravine, climbed over old tired logs and stopped to listen to the spring fed creek, still full of life and green watercress on this frozen day in January. We took the path up onto the edge of the site of ancient burial grounds, gazed across the frozen oak savanna and headed back down into the ravine toward the rushing water. The waterfall, even in the depths of winter, called out in welcome as its water cascaded in icy blasts that we could hear as we approached. We pushed our boundaries with a precarious crossing, picking our way one at a time over a thin rock bridge that boasts step drop offs on either side and gasped in amazement as we looked up from our foot placement and into a wall of blue and green ice that forms each year as the ground water seeps and flows downward, freezing as it goes. The waterfall crashed, the creek water ran, the sun sparkled brightly on the ice formations, and we marveled in the beauty and power of the wild tapestry before us. We thought briefly about wading in the crystal clear water, and then we thought better of it and continued on our hike, fueled by a new kind of energy that comes straight from the core of the earth.
This hike was a part of a weekend retreat called “The Art of Living Wild: A Journey into the Wild Feminine” that my soul sister Melissa has been developing after years of studying Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run With the Wolves. She has invited me to be a part of creating this experience and offering it to women, and I’m so honored to be able to bring my gifts in compliment to hers.
In addition to the frosty hike, the rest of the weekend long retreat was spent in yoga, in breath work, in meditation, in visioning, in free form dance, in enjoying nourishing food, and in fellowship. It was a weekend of celebrating the wild nature that is deeply rooted in every woman and of giving voice to the desires that call from the soul. It was a weekend of telling the story that needs to be told to move into the life that is ours to live. It was a weekend of claiming the right to choose the things that call instead of the things that beckon; to claim the clarity that listening to the deep and quiet and fiery and passionate parts of ourselves can offer. It was a weekend to put aside the stories of anxiety, of fear, of constriction; to put aside the stories of want and pick up the stories of need. It was a weekend to acknowledge the beauty and strength that we all have and don’t always let ourselves see. It was a weekend to leave the cage behind to remember how to howl and sing just because we can. Because the world needs our authentic, wild voices now more than ever.
The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt. One of the most important discriminations we can make in this matter is the difference between things that beckon to us and things that call from our souls.
Dr. Estes writes that “Nature does not ask permission.” She’s right, of course. Nature just is, authentically and without apologies. That waterfall that we hiked to didn’t ask anybody if it could thunder down the side of a hill and carve a deep ravine into the landscape. This weekend was an opportunity to take a cue from mother nature herself and stop asking for permission to be. It was a time to remember that what is enough for us will always be changing but the fact that we are enough will always be truth.
Living wildly is an art, and one of the most beautiful pieces of work one can ever undertake.