I was writing an article when a sharp crack slammed through the house. I jumped out of bed to identify the frightening sound and found nothing. It wasn’t until I was in the bathroom that I saw that the floor had separated from its molding. Frightened out of my wits I crawled into my cellar to discover a supporting beam had collapsed. Others would follow. I was leaving for New Mexico in a week.
Frantic, I called around to find a foundation contractor, and cancelled my plans to go south. Why was it that every trip to New Mexico was preceded by omens, bad news and now a crisis? PTSD struck and I was walking on air. Uncomfortable with the person I found I managed to get the foundation propped up temporarily and left thinking I had someone who would do the work in the spring…
I arrived in New Mexico to a horrific jungle that had once been my garden, spent three weeks clearing a path to my front door (ending up with bloody hands from hand cutting and ruining two pairs of shears) eventually untangling and clearing an indescribable mess. Not one person had warned me… My closest neighbor would come over on some pretense or another and stand there watching me work in the intolerable heat of the sun never offering assistance. I succumbed to altitude sickness and 90 plus degree heat becoming ill within a few weeks. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was not welcome here, although some acquaintances appeared friendly enough. One friend was kind enough to shop for me in Santa Fe, a city I could not go to on my own because of severe dyslexia.
So began my winter in Abiquiu. In time I adjusted to my isolation, took deep pleasure from my pre-dawn walks to the river, listened carefully to messages I received from the cottonwood trees and bare winter ground. Friends, I thought I had, disappeared. But I was no stranger to loneliness and had resources like my writing, occasional brief visits from my neighbor, and my love for Nature.
The previous summer I had been diagnosed with emphysema and I noted that the high altitude was affecting my breathing keeping me too aware that at some point this disease would kill me. I continued to long for the scent of pine and the clear air in Maine and burned balsam oil to deal with my breathing issues.
It wasn’t just that the foundation of my house in Maine was collapsing… there was a relationship between the state of my little cabin and what was happening to my aging body.
I chose to spend time in the present appreciating what I could. Sunrises, trees, early evenings and winter’s ground supported me. I felt deep gratitude flowing. Of course, gratitude is ephemeral and one cannot force it, so some days I simply endured, stuck in either the past, or the now, more terrifying unknown future.
During the fall I had frightening dreams that were personal and impersonal in content. I consciously worked with dread relying more and more upon the present moment for relief from fear.
I reached a point in my writing when despair finally overcame my ongoing attempts to educate people about the abuse of the Earth. I had been an advocate for so many years, and it seemed to me that my life’s work had come to nothing.
At the winter solstice I had an extraordinary reversal occur after listening to a Native storyteller tell an audience that humans as a species had run out of time. When I heard these words, I felt like I had been struck by lightening. As the searing truth severed years and years of false hope that I had clung to in my need to save my beloved Earth I let go; felt my entire body lean into a peace I had never known. I had done enough. It was over. I was free.
At first my dreams were jubilant, their meanings crystal clear. Humans were an expendable species whose arrogant selfish behavior would lead to their demise. – my gratitude knew no bounds.
In one dream I held a clear bubble in my hand. I quickly opened the sphere to allow the contents to breathe and when I did I saw the most amazing scene. There were thousands of animals, birds and trees of all kinds scattered over magnificent emerald green ground. I was stunned, riveted, and it took me a few moments to take in what I saw. This was a whole new earth waiting to be born! Then I saw an ark. An ark? But this ark had no people, just animals birds butterflies worms – all manner of living creatures streaming out of its center. Mesmerized, I peered into the sphere. This earth was free of humans and their destructive manipulation. I awakened weeping with joy.
In a 2nd dream I was walking through the Bosque in the pre-dawn hours when I had a vision. My beloved dying cottonwoods had disappeared but in their place were giant pinecones that had become trees that were securely rooted in the ground. They were already 5 feet tall and growing very fast! These weren’t ordinary pinecones; they were crane –cones, cones like those that I had picked up at the Bosque del Apache (Cranes are spirit birds for me). “The trees will live on; they will just change forms” a dis-embodied voice told me.
I awakened feeling a profound sense of relief because I loved all trees and had witnessed such heartrending tree destruction by logging and burning, and in Abiquiu, I lived with dying trees that were succumbing to desertification.
For a month I stayed in what can only be described as an altered state of consciousness – ecstasy. My whole world had shifted. I began to write about trees and couldn’t stop. The primary emphasis was no longer on advocating for the life of trees but rather to invite people in to examine trees as remarkable living beings four million years strong! I wrote and wrote and wrote with joy in my heart.
When my dreams suddenly turned dark again at the end of January I was baffled, unsettled. Trees were losing their bark; there was a new threat on the horizon. Two dreams haunted me. In one there were just the words: a malware virus will strike. In the second, bugs were flying horizontally past my window. As is my custom I wrote P for precognition across the top of the two dreams and let them be. My unease turned to raw fear; I was convinced that something was coming.
A month later the C/virus slithered into awareness through thin air. I recalled a troubling dream I had the previous November about a giant multi-colored python that was snaking its way down the river and bearing down on us. I awakened knowing that whatever this was it involved the culture. Beyond that nothing. In retrospect it was easy to see that the presence of the menacing serpent was the first warning…
The time was also approaching for me to return to Maine. I had trouble sleeping; my plans to fly suddenly took on ominous overtones. My neighbor who planned to accompany me on the flight told me that he didn’t want to fly under the circumstances. I called my doctor for a recommendation: do not drive. With emphysema I am in the highest risk category, and I was aware that the disease had worsened during the winter. We would drive instead. I needed to see my doctor (New Mexico is not known for its medical expertise I had learned the hard way). I agreed though with some reservations… We were fortunate to make the trip safely by taking extreme precautions.
Arriving home so early in the spring was joyful. The first frogs were singing, the birds I so missed in Abiquiu were here in abundance and are still arriving as of this writing. We had a couple of spring snowstorms that bowed the evergreens, covering them in delicate white shawls. My woodland paths turned into a fairyland forest. I dug and manured my vegetable garden and began to reclaim my grass-choked perennials, a job I continue to this day. Because it has been cold the leaves on the trees are unfurling craftily. They know enough to pay attention to the unpredictable moods of Nature. Spring greening has begun…
Now it is mid May and foundation issues are still looming. The contractor backed out. So far I have not been able to find someone to do the work, although I have made inquiries. In this area people are very responsible about the C/virus so the threat is lessened. I am very grateful that our town, not to mention our Governor, has been put laws into effect that will help protect the people if we do our part. Unfortunately, this C/virus is creating a Catch 22 situation. People have to work so the restrictions will have to be lifted at some point, and when they are we can expect a resurgence of the virus and more deaths.
I think it is becoming clear to some of us that the virus is changing the way people can relate to one another, and that this change is not temporary. Yet I rarely hear anyone mention that if we had paid attention to Nature, respecting her needs instead of mindlessly using her as a disposable resource that we would not be in this position today. Humans unleashed this virus by their actions, and now we are beginning to take the consequences.
The future has become uncertain. The artificial socially constructed cultural reality that people call “the real world” is an illusion that is breaking down as Nature claims sovereignty.
I personally am no stranger to fear having endured PTSD for almost my entire life but this virus has added another threatening layer. I am also dealing with the reality that I suffer from a terminal disease. I know it, but I am only in the early stages of feeling it. One day I shall wake up and be unable to breathe my sweet mountain air… Because of the C/virus much needed tests I need have to be put off, so once again I am walking on air.
Meanwhile, my strategy for dealing with fear and uncertainty is to take refuge in the present. Fortunately, my love for Nature provides me with a seemingly endless resource… the next unfurling leaves and flowers – bloodroot and wild violets, the songs of birds – the drumming of the grouse, the bittern’s guttural call – the orioles whose luminescent coats are brighter than the oranges they sip nectar from – emerald green mosses, tufts of lime green grasses, peepers singing at twilight all remind me that each day is a gift – and that it’s up to me to be open to receiving what is offered.
Last night I participated in an online conversation with a number of other women all of whom were writers like me. Again and again I heard words about the importance of being able to withstand this slowing down, the benefits of achieving a state of stillness, and how participating with Nature allowed us to enter that state during this very difficult transition.
Words to Live By.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.