BC Wilderness Visions and the Monkey Valley Retreat Centre celebrates its 5th anniversary of nature programs this summer! The first program was a medicine wheel teaching in the summer of 2005, when 25 people came to Monkey Valley and created a beautiful medicine wheel. Teachers Joyce Lyke and Tracy Leach taught us how to walk the wheel, and people came from California, Wyoming, Ontario, Alberta, and from as far away as the UK to attend this special teaching. The wheel is still there, and last May I lined the spring-to-summer quarter of it with stones. This summer I plan to fill in the next quarter of the wheel.
July also marks the two-year anniversary of this blog! Two years ago my friend John Harper encouraged me to begin writing about ecopsychology and the work I do in nature. Since then I have shared many stories of the land at Monkey Valley, wilderness work, and my happy trails and trials running. Writing this blog has been an expression of my heart as I have shared stories with you of the things that I love. The creativity of writing whatever I feel like in a blog format has felt like a flow of fun and lightness of spirit (with an occasional dash of despair about my unruly ways). I sometimes wonder if anyone reads this blog, but I do hear from one or two readers from time to time! So please join me in celebrating this two-year anniversary, and drop me a note to let me know you’re out there!
This year I am offering a new program at Monkey Valley, together with Angela James—the ChiRunning and yoga retreat July 23 – 25. In addition, it will be the third summer in a row of putting a faster out on the land to fast for a vision, using the ancient and modern ceremony of the vision fast. And, on June 20, I brought the four-shields teaching and medicine walk to Vancouver in a new day-long format.
Two beautiful souls accompanied me to the forest beside the Seymour River in North Vancouver, where we created an altar in a clearing on the bank of the river. Using the form of speaking from the heart known as council practice, we did several rounds. The first round was in honour of our fathers and Father’s Day. It was very moving to express appreciation for the gifts our fathers have given us. The second round was in honour of the summer solstice. Then the participants spoke of their intention for their medicine walks.
Although it was a cloudy day, the land was lush and green, and bursting with salmon berries. Although the participants were to fast from food, shelter, and human companionship during their walks, I left it up to their own inner guidance whether to make like bears and enjoy the berries! While my two friends went on their three-hour walks, I sat beside the river, and drank in the silence and beauty. The water rushed by, green and playful. Sometimes the spumes of white foam curling over rocks looked like little skunks swimming upstream. Swallows swooped low, eating bugs in the air over the river, and one swallow circled, swooped, and darted around in a long loop about five times before seeking new bugscapes. A bald eagle flew upriver high overhead, and a pair of ducks sped downstream in a formation as tight as fighter pilots. What a gift it was to have this unhurried time to watch nature do her thing. As time went on the quieting of my mind deepened, and the trees across the river began to reveal their mysteries in a way that the ordinary waking mind cannot hear.
The richness of my solo time was enhanced by knowing my companions would be back soon, with stories to tell of what happened on their walks. They returned with gifts of stories and berries, and we ate a meal together in the circle before sharing the stories. It was very moving to hear how the land and her creatures had interacted with my friends on their walks. I felt a deep appreciation for this special place, and for the people who were willing to take time to be with themselves in a quiet, intimate way. After we closed the circle, packed our things, and said goodbye to the spot that had held our ceremony, we hiked out through the forest trails feeling a little lighter and closer to our hearts.