(post title totally ripped off from Aphra)
Shocking, I know, but like far too many pagans I don’t get out much. Of course, this time of year, “getting out” means a bad sunburn and heat exhaustion in 100+ temperatures. But still, I’ve always been the cerebral type, more inclined to pick up a book in my spare time than go rock climbing.
So during my visit home I decided to stop being such a couch potato. Out here in the red desert, I’ve missed the rivers and woods and rolling hills of my native state. I wanted to get out as much as possible during my visit, soak it all up.
The first opportunity I had, I went to my favorite place, the state park near my parent’s home. When I was a child it was an enchanted forest, and those hiking trails could easily take me into the territory of cross-dressing wolves and cannibalistic old women. It’s still magical to me. It’s nothing special, in photogenic terms I guess–certainly not compared to the majestic panoramas of the Southwest–but that can be so overbearing, after a point. I didn’t realize how much I missed trees–seemingly endless acres of towering oaks and maples and hickory. I’ve learned to appreciate the stark, minimalist beauty out here, but I think at heart I’m fundamentally a forest dweller. Endless skies and horizons make me anxious (I’m sure that says something about my psychology); I need the comforting, cradled feeling of hills and mountains.
And then I went spelunking.
Isn’t that just the best damn word in the entire world? Spelunking. So fun to say. I spelunked! With my Brazillian Sister; I went to Nearby Midwestern College Town, and she and her husband took me to a local cave, the entrance to a subterranean river. It goes for miles, underground, but you can only explore for about a hundred yards before the water deepens and you need gear–and experience!–to go further. But we wore headlamps and crawled all around, up into a little niche. I’ve never been in a real cave before; I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. I hate the dark, and it was of course pitch-black, and chilly, and damp. It was amazing too. And primeaval; so cold, compared to the humid warmth above, that it really struck me–can you imagine how freezing it must have been, being a prehistoric human during the Ice Age, that living in a cave seemed like a great idea? And so intensely ancient. Part of me wished I was alone, to sit and meditate. Caves are so important in mythology and pagan spirituality–the womb of Gaia, the yonic symbolism, the gates to the underworld, liminal spaces, sites of initiation and ritual. And part of me was very glad I wasn’t alone; I was hardly prepared to go alone into the dark and deal with that kind of experience. As it was, I got thoroughly covered in mud (can’t remember the last time I had muddy elbows!) and had a great time.
Then, for the last few days of my visit, we went to the lake, me, my parents, and two sets of aunts and uncles. More trees and hills, half swallowed by the lake when they dammed the river in the 30s. I never realized how very wierd this lake is; the shore is essentially the tops of huge hills and low mountains, poking out of the water. There’s a whole town at the bottom, drowned to provide electricity to the region. It’s beautiful, all the same, despite the over-development and innumerable fish-and-ski boats droning past. Polluted as all get-out, I bet, but it was water. Lots of deep, cool water, which I’d always taken for granted before–there’s always been rivers and creeks and ponds and lakes, everywhere you turn practically, my whole life, until now. I just feel better, somehow, with water nearby.
So I floated on a raft all day long, reading Good Omens (the perfect antidote to Catholic relatives complaining about their kids not going to mass and not saving themselves until marriage and how divorce is selfish), luxuriating in not having anything to do. And then I got a nasty sunburn all down my front, and about ten bug bites on my ass, and decided that this whole nature thing is over-rated and I should become a Buddhist.
Flying back to the desert, I decided this place looks exactly like Mars, if Mars had suburban sprawl. The major airport is located in what I think of as Sci-Fi Metropolis, because it seems to be straight out of a Ray Bradbury novel. But, I realized, if it wasn’t for the humans, building on top of everything and insisting on golf courses in a land where there’s no such thing as grass, this place would be just as magical as home. It still is, in its laid-back psychedic way. It’s all Fire and Air, intensely elemental in a way that home isn’t. Which is why I find it so difficult adapting out here, I suppose. If you look at my natal chart, I’m all fire and air signs, Libra, Sagittarius, Leo; so I need a more Earthy, Water environment to help me feel balanced. I still don’t know why the Universe stuck me out here. Goddess has a funny sense of humor. But I’m certainly learning from this landscape.