A Birthday Medicine Walk

A Birthday Medicine Walk
by Michelle Katz

This year, for my birthday, I intended to be in deep relationship with myself and to be in the ritual of acknowledging a new year in my life while marking all I learned in the ending of the past year. 

When I woke up I saw the earth dusted in white and snowflakes quietly falling upon the surface of all things.  It was the first real snow, a going-to-stick-around-for-a-while-snow, of the year! The blanket of white and the gentle snow whimsically floating from sky to earth, filled me with awe and inspiration.  Each flake felt like a blessing.

Following the usual morning rituals of dog cuddles, yoga and meditation.  My best pup and I bundled up and headed out!  The Santa Fe road during a winter snowfall are not an invitation to hurry to your destination, but rather a summoning to slow down, especially when driving right into the storm.  As with all ceremonies, I watch myself feel fear and uncertainty about my choice to move in: I need new tires on my car and who goes for a medicine walk into the heart of a snow storm?  But then I remember one of the main elements of initiation, The Ordeal.  Of course we face fear in moments of transition, when we are about to embark on something that is not easy, something that challenges us to the very core of our life, something that teaches us about living and dying.  I moved through the many slips and slide of the road with on-coming traffic and depending on tires and breaks all the way into the quiet woods.  The woods presented its own challenges: solitude, silence, arduous steps with much consciousness, and a cold you can feel from your bones outward.                                                                                                                      

I stepped into the woods, with intent.  This year I claim pacing, remembering the pace of nature and the pace of my inner nature.  I have been unusually busy the last few months, demands of work and people have been dominant and so often I have adjusted myself to meet the needs and demands of my surroundings, forgetting my own pacing.  I have felt myself suffering in health, diet, consciousness, and relationship.  And for My Birthday Medicine Walk, I wished for nothing more than to remember myself.   

The whole day revealed itself in the theme of knowing my pace.  From the speed of driving to the movement of snowfall.  I walked slowly, stopping often.  The sounds of my surroundings were telling me the tale of my intent.  Snow falling, the plants and rocks receiving it, footsteps on freshly snow covered earth, the silence behind it all.    

Valleys called me to sit and watch from deep within and mountain views beckoned me to take perspective and overview of the past and the future to come.  I sat in the snow and the remembering began.  I felt myself slow.  I felt my heart beat meet that of the snow landing on pine needles and branches.  Then came the woodpecker, creating music, working for her food, connecting with the rooted wood, circling the tree trunk, and moving with her intent.  Her beat was not anyone’s but her own, she performed for no one but herself, she created her own rhythm and danced to it.  Memories of the woodpecker came to me, all the ways I have met this being in the last 8 years of my life and all the lessons I have been taught through our encounters.  It was no surprise that we met each other again on this most auspicious of days. 

I then watched my pace and my dance move throughout the day, the speed of going uphill versus downhill in the snow, the pauses at the top of the mountain versus in the valley, or among rocks versus around trees.  I watched myself powering uphill at times, going slow and steady at other time, and stopping frequently to take in the sights or hear the birds or feel the snow land on my face.  I watched myself running down hill in the snow with joy and or tip toes as to not slip shaking hands with the pinions on my way.  I knew my pace, I felt it, and lived it in every moment.

This is what I carry into my next year.  I finalized my day with the acknowledgement of another element of initiation: friends, my community, to share in the celebration of my birthday.  In in this practice, I am ready to embrace the year to come. 

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