Archive for the ‘Wilderness Retreats’ Category
Introduction: A Retreat at the remote Anima Sanctuary in Southwest New Mexico is usually as stirring as comforting, stimulating or encouraging honest self exploration and healthful life changes. Whether a Study Retreat, Couples Retreat or other focus, time in this magical canyon is inevitably a deepening an opening. And as our student friend Irene points out in her Retreat account below, a Retreat offers something that is vital for each person to take with them, gifts meant to be put to use enriching their lives long after they’re back home. Thank you, Irene, for sharing your photographs and your story. -JWH
MY ANIMA WILDERNESS RETREAT
A PhotoJournal by Irene
My Anima retreat, and my canyon walk, began with the company of a hummingbird sitting on a cottonwood branch next to me, peeping its loving sounds and swaying its gem of a head from side to side. Spontaneously I began to sing: Hummingbird, Hummingbird / Bird of Joy / Picaflor, Picaflor / I love you ..and on and on heartfully improvising. At times, she would look upwards and her red breast would kiss the sun’s rays. She seemed to notice the gentle rattle of falling dried cottonwood leaves. We must have communed together for an intense five minutes. I felt so vulnerable and quivered in happiness to be so close to the bird. I began to worry that maybe it was ill, but that distracting thought soon passed. I realized that it requires a huge degree of trust to be so still in front of another being. Her tiny glimmering eyes brought such joy. When she finally flew away I did not feel my habitual creation of abandonment, but rather, a source of reassuring presence.
In the canyon wind, I could hear a flute calling ever so slightly. Ocean and wind nearly sound the same. I walked through willow trees lanky and inviting. Nettle patches traced the sandy paths which brought me to grounded attention as I soon discovered beloved rose on the edge of the property by the barbed wire fence. Thorns abounded and buds were ready and three or four in bloom which exuded an aroma that peaked and crescendoed then finished off with an adagio of soft pink and a yellow corolla center and its speckles of orbiting deeper yellow moons. The thorns grabbed fierce hold of my skirt and insisted on presence! And lovingly, I unraveled myself from them thanking their presence provoking brambles of beauty interspersed among tender, hovering willow trees.
Just a few steps from the rose bush, I notice a nearly decayed carcass surrounded by a thick circle of willows. The fur tan in color felt somewhat grainy; the type of animal it was once was initially unrecognizable. There were some vertebrae, some stark white, other bones were gray where skin had dried. The fur was rough and a piece of jaw, clearly white and canine lay alongside fur stitched in with bone. It could have been a fox. This might have been just the place for the vixen to die.
My journey downriver seemed unassuming at first. Beautiful cottonwoods swayed happily on the banks of the meandering San Francisco river. Then, the river flowed between stillness and crackling white water at most waist deep but the sound to my mind stirred fear and then longing and a primal sensuality. Sometimes I did not know where the sensation began or ended.
The rock by the river was a volcanic smooth white stone. I found myself licking and kissing its smoothness and hard surface. Bodies as one, stone and I pledged to melt into one another at that moment…Sun kept us continuously present. I waded into the river, sat on the water coursing rock beds and fell into trance as zebra striped ripples caressed my virgin eyes of a sight / sense never before touched. I attempted to lie on my back in the river and the coldness coursed through me too quickly. I chose to submerse my head; and the river softly pulled my hair downstream like the green goddess algae mane I stroked earlier, a uterine pocket in the current. The algae uterine-like bloom felt like an expanded uterus and vulva which had surrendered to orgasm over a thousand years now and the ecstasy of this seemingly small river exploded into the land and flowed like the ancient lava flows of before. Polywogs of various stages displayed their development proudly from sperm-like motility to a reptilian quadruped swim approaching the stage between land and water. I sat with horsetail, ancient plants which grew in a tiny willow grove – its stalk green in color closer to sky and yellow orange stalk closer to sand. Hairs demarcated its various stages of growth and conelike spires grew at the terminal sky facing end.
I spent three nights in the womb of this very sacred land in the Gila. The silence allowed me to feel and hear the pulsating heart of the earth. I bathed in the moonlight softening my burnt face in the lodge. Rattlesnake told me to seek shade the first day not only for my tender feet but for my soul as well. Loba kindly brought me into the present with our walk to the rainwater cistern and her generous offering of her sarong to soothe my feet. I am so grateful for that moment! I learned to siphon out water and once again, Loba and her meals brought me into the sensual moment. Watercress, tortillas, monarda pesto, stew, nettles and skillet bread were some of the tastes I will never forget. Rhiannon soft knock at the lodge door in the morning was kind and how she gently hugged me good morning as she gently placed the jars of food on the table was so vividly alive. I tasted young monarda and yarrow leaves on my solo walks. The smell of the usnea on fallen juniper seemed like what mother’s milk might smell like: something primordial and familiar. It has been nearly a year since those moments and the long journey to this magical land still continues in my current home of Brooklyn.
(for more information on Anima N.M. Wilderness Retreats go to the Retreats page of the Website)
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