What is this all about? by Michelle Katz
A few weeks ago, someone asked me why I do this work? “It’s the stories”, I said, without skipping a beat. There is something magical about hearing someone’s story when they get back from solo time on the land. I love listening and knowing it is a story that belongs to the collective as much as it belongs to the individual, and that it is a story that is timeless, familiar to the long lineage of humanity and mythology and it is a story that will continue to live long after all of us who hear it in that moment. The stories are what strike me as the most powerful and meaningful element of this practice.
Just weeks ago, with the landscape called Tsankawi,“village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti” where pueblo ruins tell the story of a people long ago, and narrow foot-made paths speak of their livelihood, caves whisper of ceremony, mesa tops and mountains provide perspective in all directions, and where juniper and pinon and raven live with full presence and powerful statement, a small group met to practice council, intentional solo time on the land and storytelling.
Oaks Counsel offered this Day Quest experience for participants who felt the call to the land, to the journey, to themselves. The Day Quest was focused on the Hero’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey. Each individual shared what brought them that day with the practice of listening from the heart, speaking from the heart and holding what is said with confidence. Thus, I cannot share their journey but would like to offer my own story of that day.
I began the day in my own mythology, holding the ways the Hero and Heroine’s Journey live in me as I packed up my notebook, books of poems and sacred rocks and objects. I had already walked with each stage of these journeys in the weeks leading up to this day and now I was ready to hold their experience. We gathered in circle at the site, each one of us introducing ourselves and sharing the essence of what called us to this Day Quest. Within the circle, tears shed, confusion named, curiosity abound, and struggles validated. As the stages of the journeys were called into the circle, I saw the connection of present lives and mythology weave into each other.
Still quiet in reflection, the group was thoughtful of intention and soon crossed the threshold onto the land and with uncertainty; with the loss of sense of time and no company, and some without food, it was just them and the land.
I spent this time holding basecamp. The purpose of this task can be simplified into being present in case any need arises for the passagers. But I found myself doing much more than that. I found myself in deep rest and knowing they have all they need, I found myself with great purpose holding their intentions and calling on whatever it is that will serve them best, I found myself collecting gifts from the land, each item spoke to their story. I found myself fully sitting in the seat of mentor and guide for those on the journey.
Time past, slowly and swiftly all at once, and the time came, the moment I stuck the drum to echo through the landscape for their return. I beat that drum louder and louder, calling back each of them, hoping that the heartbeat of who they are will resonate with the drum that as it guided them back into the circle again.
When we all returned, and sat in circle, the magic happened. Stories. Each one spoke of a journey uniquely their own yet heads shook with agreement and the tales echoed with resonance across to all living beings. I become aware of how with each story I felt forever changed, I noticed the storyteller seemed forever changed in each word being a claim to the Self, I observed the others in circle pulsating with change, and I heard the world whispered of its long waiting for just that story to be told. Suddenly, these once strangers became community, and this once unknown landscape became holy ground.