The Gaian Path 1.1
by Kiva Rose
Medicine Woman: The Gaian Path
“They know wilderness, not as something other, but as an intimate part of themselves. And they know how to listen to its voices: whispered on the wind, written in stone, painted on streams and dappled in the shadows of aspens and pine, choreographed into eagle swoop and coyote call, traced in sand and snow by paw and talon, tail and scat.”
“To practice magic is to bear the responsibility for having a vision.”
The Medicine Woman is walking alone into the early dawn, gathering the healing plants, bits of animal bones, seed pods, glittering stones and strips of bark. She is caressing each steady rock and unfurling leaf. She knows this land as her body and tends to it as such. She is an extension of this place as the place is an extension of her own body. Her hair is still wet from the river and is tangled with twigs, sand and flower petals. Her skin is as marked and scarred as the cliffs that jut from ancient earth. This volcano-born canyon is her home and she has been here a long time. Her quiet steps are evidence of this, with not a bird disturbed. No matter the color of her skin, she is native. The medicine she carries is for so much more than simple healing... and it is from the land. This land, the canyon that she walks through.
We are each medicine women to the degree that we consciously and creatively contribute to the wholeness of the world, taking responsibility for being cocreators of our evolving universe. While some of us may seem more adept than others, as humans and as especially as women we are born to be sensitives and empaths, and to act on what we feel. It is our voluntary assignment to aid the connection between the disparate parts of our own selves, between each other and the Earth... to heal what can be healed, resist what must be resisted, learn the lessons inherent in our mistakes, and apply those lessons for the good of more than our narrowly defined selves. To live and give wholly, and to wholly celebrate!
Later the Medicine Woman returns to her lodge, where a tall woman with dark hair waits for her. She will smudge the woman with the sweet smoke of sage and instruct her in the activities of the next day. Tomorrow the young initiate will gather wood and stones, preparations for her first sweat and quest. The Medicine Woman smiles at the memory of the fierce young woman, a counselor at a woman’s shelter, who is determined to heal her own wounds and to take healing back to the women she works with... admiring her stubbornness and passion. She silently prays that her student will uncover the vision of wholeness and healing she is seeking. The Medicine Woman turns from the brilliant orange and purple cliffs back towards the hill her lodge rests upon, as the sun begins to pour over the canyon walls.
First and foremost comes reconnection. While the medicine women is actively a healer, she heals by casting light on every aspect and part, and helping to draw those parts back into participatory oneness and active balance. Sometimes she works by giving comfort, other times by disturbing and alarming, or exposing our dangerous illusions and painful wounds. As we see again and again here at this wildlands women’s center, there may be no stronger for tool for bringing us back to our authentic, needing, empowered selves or the planet we’re extensions of than a hotter than usual sweat lodge, and the a mind-quieting and heart-opening leap into the cold river water.
The tall woman with dark hair has her knees curled up to her chest, her body resting on a bed of blankets and leaves between an ancient ponderosa pine and a quartz studded boulder. She appears to be almost asleep, but not quite. She is, in fact, intensely awake, incredibly aware. She is waiting for her vision and for the star sprinkled dark of a New Mexico summer night to cover her. The last night of four spent without thought, without words. She is seeking out her own medicine, her connection to herself and Gaia. She is questing for her wildest and most complete self. And although this is her first quest, she will make the pilgrimage back into this sacred wilderness many times. She quests not just to find herself but also to maintain herself, a way of keeping earth, spirit and self in delicate balance. She will take her newfound knowledge back into the city she lives in, back into her community, back to the women she daily counsels.
The medicine woman in all of us draws sustenance, vision and power from the Earth herself, Gaia, and always through a particular place. It may be a sacred canyon, mountain or grove that she pilgrimages too regularly, or the ground beneath the city pavement where she walks. Likewise the lessons come not as free and easy handouts but as hard learned experiences and hard knocks. We become medicine women not by already knowing all the answers and having it all together, but by doing the day to day work of rising to our challenges and profiting from our mistakes. We see the world clearest not with abstract thought but through the eyes of uncontrollable laughter... and the veil of our tears.
Tears will fall to the thirsty ground during the long night as she battles fear and self-doubt. She will hold onto Medicine Woman’s words reminding her to be both gentle and stern with herself, to cling stubbornly to her dreams and her growing sense of self . She will press her face against the puzzle piece bark of the ponderosa pine and find deep comfort there. She will howl loudly with a heart that is strangely both aching and elated.
I can feel the tears as I write this, hot on my cheeks. My demons have been the self doubt and self sabotage that results from a life of abuse. Of thinking that everything I do needs to be instantly perfect. I don’t come to teaching easily, and I’ve only now fully accepted the value and responsibilities of the medicine that came out of both my life’s hard moments and tender rewards. The gifts we offer through our classes and writings come from the Earth and this canyon, but also from the willingness to learn from and deepen from what hurts... not just the suffering in our own lives but the suffering of the homeless child, the clear-cut forest or toxic beach. The love we give, the wisdom we share and this crazy joy that we feel, all pours from a vessel stretched wide by our honest pain.
Kiva Rose is an author, poet, herbalist, student of the Wise Woman Tradition and codirector of Animá Botanical & Women's Sanctuary. She writes the Wild Maiden column for SageWoman magazine, and her work appears in numerous regional publications and literary journals. Kiva’s home is an enchanted river canyon in the Gila wildlands where she co-hosts women for Gaian teachings, wilderness quests, internships, retreats, the annual Plant Spirit Medicine Gathering (May 12-14) and Wild Women’s Gathering (June 17-21): www.animacenter.org, PO Box 820, Reserve, NM 87830.
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