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This was posted to the Toteg Tribe list on 10/13/04

When I was little I used to love to go outside and explore. For a while I suspect Mom and Dad were very concerned about me going out into the cowfield, that had a little woods by it. I remember riding my bike into that little patch of woods, and just being. It was wonderful.

Eventually Mom and Dad, who worried about me doing that, convinced me it was dangerous to go out like that.

Trick was, they taught me to avoid the scary forest with its scary snakes and other hazards. They didn't teach me how to spot and handle them. I was taught to play in controlled environment, and imagination was OK as long as it too was controlled. Sports they understood. Just hanging out in the woods led to "but what were you DOING?" So what I was taught in essence was to avoid that opening up, that simple being and sharing without words or thought, that overwhelming wonder. It didn't get my homework done anyway, and they didn't know where I was, so there's two black marks against it.

I remember my stuffed toys were always an issue. I always felt a spirit there, each one had a personality, a reality to me, that was brushed off as "imaginary friends." The only way I could bear to part with them was to donate them so another child could share that spirit... though I understand now that they were probably destroyed. Was I touching a spirit that was there? Was there something in the dolls that was destroyed, or was I touching Spirit *through* the toys? Is there really a difference? Still, in being taught to throw things away - pens that had served me well, whose cartridges could be replaced but it was cheaper to buy a new pen, and other things - was I slowly made immune to the spirit in these things? Was the disposability of things a way of desensitizing me to the idea that something that existed would no longer exist? A way of teaching me not to wonder what happened to the spirit there, because the spirit "didn't exist?"

I doubt it was intentional on my parents' part. I expect they'd tell me to get my head examined if they were to read this. But it is in these ways that we are taught that some things are safe - those under our control - and safe means disposable when something "better" comes along. We are taught that everything is disposable when it's time to "upgrade" and then wonder why people behave the same towards other people. We are taught to ignore the spirit in these safe things, because that spirit is what reminds us that no it's not all in our control. Then we are taught that those things outside our control - woods and things that aren't tamed - are to be feared and avoided, or revered and held above everything else - but always something separate. Mind you, I'm speaking for cityfolk like my parents were, who moved to the country... but I don't think Mom ever left the city in her head, and apart from being able to plant some of his own food, I really don't think Dad ever left the city either. Not in their heads.

I envy those children who were taught how to get around in the forest. I envy those who were *allowed* to run around there. Because my heart is in these Eastern Woodlands, and I feel it every time I go out to the woods with an open spirit. It's harder for me to feel the spirit in this building, but it too is part of the feel of the land around here. Just because the trees are gone now doesn't mean they're really gone, especially here were 10 years ago this was still forest.

Here in Atlanta one thing the city planners have tried to do, at least in the suburbs, is not lose the feel of the woods. You can drive through large stretches of "controlled-access highway" and see nothing but trees on either side - despite the presence of a huge shopping mall not far from the highway. Greenspace has been interspersed throughout. I think that's affected the city spirits here, because they're still mixed in with a little bit of wilderness as well. There's certain areas of the city where if you fly over you wouldn't know there were subdivisions under that tree cover. And yet the city spirits are not where I resonate. I guess it's because my fondest memories growing up were from when we did live out in the country, and I took my bike to that spot where I could jump over the fence into the cow field and wander around the creek, pet the cows, "just being nature's friend" to quote a country song.

I remember very clearly the day I realized I'd lost it. I was outside looking around wondering what to do. I remembered that I used to come out and be totally lost, and really enjoyed it - I remembered the feeling, but I had no idea how to do it anymore. I remember thinking I'd forgotten how to play, and moving my arms in a circular motion, over my head then out by my sides, because that was the only way I knew to express the feeling I could remember having had once, but could no longer find.

I found that feeling again today, walking on the path by the pond. It's almost the same feeling as the storm, the same sharing with the forest I've only inconsistently been able to bring up. As I walked along the path I saw holes in the fallen leaves and pine straw, and reached out to say hello to the residents. Something tells me they were mice and snakes (Depending on the particular set) but I have no idea how to prove that. I saw no tracks, not that I'd have a clue what the tracks were if I did see any. I heard something as I was crossing the bridge splash through the top area of the pond, where it's more swampy and decaying than the pond itself, and stopped and looked, wondering who was there. Not what, but who. Small but significant difference, I thought to myself. I continued on the path and took it to its end for the first time, and met several new trees, no idea what they are since I didn't have my field handbook on me at the time. One particular needle-leaf with short spines that shifted from almost white at the end of the branch to a light mint green near the trunk was stunningly beautiful, and I told it so. I looked out to the parking lot nearby and realized people could have heard me, but for once I just didn't care.

I stopped and introduced myself to other trees and vines that caught my attention, and felt them say hello back. There was an intense feeling of us all being part of the same thing anyway, but... there's no words to describe this other than joy. Not "I got a raise" joy, not "I got something I always wanted" joy, none of that kind of thing was relevant. Just *joy.*

And what struck me, when I realized it was what I had lost, was how ridiculously difficult I had made it for myself not to recognize this over the last 20 years. I've mourned that loss since that day, and never realized that these moments are the same as that. And I've made finding these moments so difficult for myself, because I thought it should be. I convinced myself it was difficult, and thus forgot how to just *be* because I was so busy trying to be *something.*

I write this out now in case I lose it. I share it with you, in hopes that you can help me remember. 

It's funny. I remember telling Joe that while I really felt a connection to The God, I didn't really feel one to The Goddess. Now sometimes I cry for love of Her. I'd wish I could tell him, except that I expect if I turned my head and look I'd see him laughing at me saying "I told you so, silly girl."And his laughter is part of the Joy of it all.

-Jaelle 10/13/04

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