Like flower growing from rock
the world is full of tiny, perfect mysteries.
Secrets of heart and soul and landscape
taking root in hard crevices
in impossible silence.
that all one needs
is a crack in stone
and a seed of possibility…
One spring evening during my year-long woodspriestess experiment , I went for a walk through the woods with my husband and daughter and we discovered something that delighted and thrilled me. It was rock with a small, perfect flower growing out of it and it was a powerful symbol of what I learned from my time in the woods.
As I described in my last post, in 2013 I embarked on a year-long spiritual practice of “checking in” every day at a sacred place in the woods behind my house. I committed to spending at least a few minutes there every day, rain or sleet or shine, with children or without, and whether day or night throughout the entire year. My idea was to get to know the space deeply and to come into a full relationship with the land I live on; to watch and listen and learn from and interact with the same patch of ground every day and see what I could learn about it and about myself. As planned, I maintained my woodspriestess practice throughout 2013, eventually spending approximately 330 days in the same place in the woods and learning a great deal in the process.
Over the course of my year-long experience, I entered the woods in many different ways: angry, disappointed, sad, joyful, satisfied, tired, hopeful, prayerful, celebratory, creative, grieving. And, I left each day with a sense of inner peace and stillness, of quieted mind, restful body, and connected soul, if only for a few moments. I learned that it is okay to feel spiky, that it is okay to have a lot to write about and not a lot to write about. I learned to do it anyway. I learned about the value of this daily time as a spiritual practice. I learned to move it forward in my day, to spend longer at it, and to make it a top priority. I learned to pay attention and discovered that I can always see something new. I learned that lessons come from sometimes the most surprising and unwelcome of experiences. I noticed what shares the earth with me, the things that fly, the things that crawl, the things that walk. I bonded with the trees. I recalled that rocks sit around developing powers and wisdom. I composed words I went on to use more publicly and in ritual. I wrote a master’s thesis, a book, two ebooks, and hundreds of poems and blog posts.
I realized that the spoken poetry of the forest is its own gift, its own language, its own way of exploring the world around me and that sitting on a rock with a recorder instead of at a computer or with a notebook, unlocks something creative in me in a unique way. I meditated on the crone, the maiden, and the mother. I asked questions about hopelessness and despair. I listened. I received answers. I discovered questions. I came to a more full understanding of my own place in the tapestry of life. I blessed many sculptures. I prayed for strength, safety, and guidance. I asked for blessings on my work, tasks, and rituals. I rehearsed weddings, practiced songs, and drummed up the sun. I was ragged and I danced. I was forlorn. I was buoyant and exuberant. And, I watched it all. I saw winter drift towards spring and then back towards winter and then back towards spring again, coasting into summer, becoming abruptly fall, dancing with winter and then dabbling in fall again, before settling into winter once more. I actively witnessed and engaged in that invisible web of incarnation; consciously touched my thread in Her weaving. I listened to my breath, felt my pulse, watched my thoughts, and gazed at the sky. I held space. I held hopefulness. I held children. I created art. I was moved to tears. I laughed. In this microcosm of the planet, I touched eternity. I tasted truth. I listened and was listened to. I saw and was seen. I was witnessed into being and I witnessed so carefully. I am a woodspriestess.
“As long as the Earth can make a spring every year, I can. As long as the Earth can flower and produce nurturing fruit, I can, because I’m the Earth. I won’t give up until the Earth gives up.”
“This little patch of earth and this little pile of stones; I can wash the dust off my face and skin, but this earth is in my bones”
– Ralph McTell
“…A big rock is a good place to sit and worship, looking out at the world. That feeling you feel, when you see the woods, the ocean, a flower, is the first-fruits offering of worship. The natural world, not the [human]-made world, provides us the right proportions, the right perspective. By naming that for your children, you claim worship as a common human experience…”
–Gina Bria (The Art of Family: Rituals, Imagination, and Everyday Spirituality, p. 73)
“Rocks are very slow and have sat around from the beginning, developing powers…Rocks can show you what you are going to become. They show you lost and forgotten things.”
–Agnes Whistling Elk to Lynn Andrews (quoted in Carol Christ’s essay in Reweaving the World, pg. 69)
On my way back home from the woods one evening, I found a rock lying right in front of me on a patch of moss like a gift of sorts. I don’t usually take things from the woods, but I felt like this stone was for me to take and so I did. I made it into one of my goddess figures and when I went back down to the woods with her in my hand, I had the strong sensation…this…this is my statement of faith…
Molly Meade is a priestess, writer, teacher, and artist who lives with her husband and children in central Missouri. She is a doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College and the author of Womanrunes: A guide to their use and interpretation. Molly and her husband co-create at Brigid’s Grove and she blogs about theapoetics, ecopsychology, and the Goddess at WoodsPriestess. Her new Womanrunes Immersion ecourse begins on the summer solstice and an online Red Tent Initiation program begins in August.