Walking the Wound
by Michelle Katz
Twice a day, I find myself walking in the arroyo by my house. I often think nothing of this as it is the best access to the wilderness near my home, where I can walk daily. On one of my walks recently, I began to ask myself about this routine that I participate in without second thought.
An arroyo is a water carved crevice that is dry most of the year (when there is no rain). This crevice provides a place for water to flow during the monsoon season in the desert, it is a unique feature of this arid landscape. As I began to examine this more closely, I realized that I choose to walk in the place where the earth is cut. A wound place. Not once, but twice daily, I engage in this practice. I make a small decent down a little path, walking deeper into the earth, immersing myself where walls of soil and dirt and root surround me, where shadows deepen and change sharply as the sun moves across the sky.
I think about how every rain carves this arroyo deeper, the water that flows through is a womb like substance-- thick, wildly unencumbered, with an emotional energy. Its ability to get into every little crevice speaks to its impact. Roots and rock are exposed in this place. Sands and plants get moved to new places. The depth beckons us to pay attention to the subconscious, to the deeper emotional state within, to the wounds that expose us, leaving the debris behind. This is a place that moves us and has us stuck simultaneously. This is a place that has us safely embedded in earth but also vulnerable to our deepest spaces we don’t intend for anyone to see.
Today I look at this place differently, I look at the plants that surround the walls of the arroyo, those leaning in and those that dare not. I look at the evergreens producing blue juniper berries as well as those changing the colors of their leaves or loosing those leaves to reveal-- their bareness, their skeleton, their unconcealed shell. How do these trees mirror some essential truth about humanity in relation to the wound?
I feel comfortable here in this most uncomfortable of places. Perhaps it is my way: to be with the depths, to explore the hard places in order to grow, to know that the wounds and shadow places offer the greatest gifts. As Leonard Cohen says, “Forget your perfect offering, just sing the song that you can sing, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
In this place, there are sharp turns around each corner and I cannot see too far ahead. As wind through this water carved path, I am asked to be present to what arises—sometimes unexpectedly. I can easily recall my wounding here-- adverse childhood experiences, traumas, heartache, disappointments, and ego deaths. I remember the arroyo as the place of a great encounter with a pack of coyotes (that trickster energy), when years ago an attack my dog changed our lives.
Despite all the difficult memories that are so easily recalled here, there truly is no other place I would rather walk than in this cut into the earth. There is no other place I would choose to practice getting better acquainted with my own wounds and growing comfortable with the great ambiguities of life. This place speaks to the wild nature of the changing of seasons, to my knowing of the great emotions of human experience and that at any moment anything can change. Just as the flash floods rush through these very forms they, themselves have carved over the years, I know that the unexpected can happen at any moment. Around any corner, seen and unseen, near or far-- the water, a pack of coyotes, or a shadow striking a radically different pose can suddenly rush through and change everything.
I walk this arroyo daily, I watch my dog go to her usual spots where she releases and expresses herself and of course, I reflect on the places in this same path where I choose to go to release and express, where I pray, cry, dance, lay my heart on the earth. As I walk in this little recess in the earth, I still catch glimpses of those walking on the sturdier, surefooted ground of the pavement above, and I know in my heart, that I don’t choose that route because it does not mirror my experience. I much prefer the landscape of uneven ground with imprinted footprints from long and not so long ago, from creatures large, small, human and animal, all telling me stories. I prefer the tripping or hoping around rocks, plants, holes and hills, and finding the unexpected along the way. Something about choosing to walk in this arroyo allows me to feel into how the path in life is never straight and easy— tapping into my essential knowing of aliveness. There is something utterly and irresistibly truthful about this place.
I having been thinking and holding truth in my heart over the last month through the Blasey-Ford case. There was something wildly powerful in her desire to speak from the place of her greatest wound with truth. It was even more powerful to learn that she chose to do this with the understanding of the great toll it would take on her and her personal life—all while knowing that her actions were unlikely to change the outcome. So of course I wonder: What makes us step into our wounding and reveal truths regardless of outcomes? We all watched her stand in so much courage as she spoke thoughtfully and deeply about her trauma-- she openly showed her wound(s), the places where her roots are exposed. It was clear that there was no other choice for her. She knew this wound place well and met it with integrity. There is something so beautiful in the truth of a wound. So many of us choose to avoid this in the desire for certainty and sure footing. This story tells me of the courage it takes to step in, and the calling to do the thing we really don’t want to do—but must in order for us to grow ourselves, share our purpose, and reveal unavoidable truths to change the world.
Truth is about being vulnerable and bringing all part of ourselves to be seen, the deeply mangled roots that wish to be hiding in the earth and the part that the water brings up to the surface despite our best effort to stay underground. Experiencing the bareness of who we are is part of being human, it is part of living life through all our seasons of change. It is vital to our becoming.
In the past few weeks, I have been in the depth of knowing my wounds, my stories of great abandonment, betrayal, and the pain of not being seen or heard or valued. I had an experience of feeling that someone was telling me who I am without seeing me or giving me the opportunity to show up in my truth. Though it may be false, it certainty is easier to create a story, than being able to step into the unknown and various dimensions of a complex person in her truth! These are tender and deeply honest parts of myself.
I think of all those that walk on the higher ground of this landscape. How comforting that flat and solid ground must be for them. But for me, I am grateful and honored to be part on a much more complex journey that speaks to the depth, the unknown and the truth of human nature.
What path do you wish to walk in? Join Oaks Counsel for a walk on your journey.