Summer retreat on St.Joseph Island
During the island retreat this summer in Ontario, we set out to renew our appreciation of Mother Earth, to discern the power of Her gifts to us, and take up our responsibilities as children of this lovely Mother. The following is a brief excerpt of segment of our adventures.
On a remote Canadian island, winds from the Northwest and winds from the Southeast alternately stir the bed of ancient stones and fossils along the shore of Gravelly Point, rearranging them so that each new day reveals new stories. The stones of this beach have been in centuries-long conversation with the water that’s tumbled them on its path through the Great Lakes toward the Atlantic Ocean. More recent dialogue with the weather has now released them onto the land, exposing them to our awe and appreciation for their long journey through time and space.
Now a group of women quietly walk the shoreline, letting stone shapes and markings invite private dialogues. Each person has her own thoughts, as well as issues she’s shared previously with the others. Recently wakened from dreams of the night before, each of us looks, and listens to the stones calling us. Bending down, we pick up random stones, roll them in our fingers and trace the markings. We sometimes toss one back onto the shore, and replace it with one whose message is more to the point. Wind blows our hair, freshens our skin; the breeze helps release heavy thoughts; contentment and openness flows into the space they occupied.
Someone has found a flat piece of driftwood, and we seat ourselves around it on the gravel. Sharing our discoveries, we begin to weave a story. Inspired by an indented triangular stone, I place it on the driftwood, and begin:
“There once was a woman who had a dream one night that made her very restless. She tossed and turned, but couldn’t quite grasp what seemed just beyond reach. When she woke up, the pillow next to her had an indentation, which took her quite by surprise, because she couldn’t remember who or what might have shared the bed with her.
“What’s in danger of being lost?” she pondered. “What is it that’s missing?”
The story line passes to the next person, who describes her stone (whose markings looked like hieroglyphics) as a talisman to help guide the search for the missing element. Each person in turn places her stone on the driftwood; inspired by her personal connection with the stone, she adds a bit to the story. As the last person finishes the tale, she discovers that she’s provided herself with a major life decision
Later, we explore the lime green beauty of a maple forest, where the terrain is marked by moraines that are remnants of the lake’s boundaries of many centuries ago, going back to a time when the Great Lakes were one enormous lake. Using exercises we’d shared early in our time together to extend ordinary sense experiences, we bask in this unique light and its impact on us. We connect with locations on the island that carry the morphic resonance of this unique island set in the midst of exposed stone billions of years old – where the Canadian Shield and the Niagara Escarpment potently hold the history of earliest life forms on the earth.
We’d preceded our retreat by asking ourselves and others where in this far-north terrain people had had a powerful experience in the natural world. Coming from California, the connections were deeply surprising and marvelous to me. The unique experiences where the lakes may be frozen, and the water becomes a different entity, where conditions described as “disappearing into nothingness” offer an expansion of consciousness; they opened wondrous perceptions (and dreams) for me. Wherever we are on the planet, we are the beads on Indra’s net, each connected to all others, and each one holding its own wisdom.
Wherever we live, we hold a piece of survival information. Allowing ourselves to connect deeply with the earth at our feet, we strengthen our sense of belonging to this beautiful planet, and find there the unique gifts that nourish our lives and help us find the resources to safeguard Mother Earth.
So posing the same question to you, I invite you to share with us here a powerful experience you’ve had in the natural world – something that gave you an experience of your individual being extending past your separate self.
Please visit the website for a list of upcoming events and retreats where you can share in these experiences with our groups.