Every year this special and very focused workshop becomes a little (or a lot) more intense. With the approach of each Shaman Path Intensive, Wolf and Loba and I are all filled with excitement and anticipation of the wonder sure to come! Remarkably, this year’s transformative event created a new threshold for what can occur when we’re focused and open. In fact, when I asked Wolf his assessment, he had only word for it: superb!
The monsoons arrived early this year and the Southwest’s wild rains provided us with an unseasonably lush and verdant canyon to revel and play in. Lightning-spiked storms rumbled through nearly every afternoon or evening of the event. The sweet serenade of warblers and thrushes and the gentle “meeps” of Muskrats sang alongside the river’s rippling lullaby. A particular Blue Heron flew over our group several times a day, graciously gifting us with its harsh but beautiful call. The gorgeous Rocky Mountain Beeweed stood tall as trees and wide as groves alongside the river, blessing us with their delicate purple blossoms. Closer to the ground, the magenta and lavender Beebalm and brilliant orange and yellow Butterflyweed illuminated the rocky arroyo near the lodge.
A primary part of the deepening of this experience has to do with our exceptional and truly diverse participants. They ranged from herbalists and acupuncturists to scientists and school teachers to dreamworkers and caretakers, creating a rich tapestry of personality and life experience that wove together into a circle of unique power. Many in the group were very familiar with the Canyon and its magic, having been repeat workshop participants, retreat guests, students or apprentices. Several though, were brand new, and brought their freshness to the dynamic while our more seasoned members contributed a depth and knowledge born of experience.
Sonoran Desert herbalist, Darcey Blue and I worked plant and healing conversation into every little break we could find and she lifted everyone’s spirits with her baskets and bunches of herbs gracing the lodge. I’m sure we were a constant source of intrigue and amusement with our multitude of mysterious tincture bottles, salve jars and botanically complex beverages.
One special afternoon, the women (and Rhiannon!) took time out to journey to the river and plunge ourselves into its refreshing and gentle flow. Each of us lay back in the water and let it soothe the tension from our bodies and nourish us with the primal rhythm of the wound, the tides of the water bringing us ever deeper into ourselves. We painted ourselves with mud, danced on the sand, laughed and cried and sang before finally walking softly back the way we came, filled with a new sense of belonging and purpose.
Wolf provided us with many hours of thought-provoking, assumption-challenging and incredibly insightful talks. The topics ranged in subject matter from finding our calling and living our dreams to death and the Shaman’s inevitable dark night of the soul. Through it all, his immense compassion, wry humor and effortless eloquence carried us to new depths of understanding and feeling. This year’s workshops were extra exciting and we managed to record all of them so that we can offer mp3 recordings to you in the near future!
While age provides the opportunity for wisdom, it is certainly not the measure of it. No one embodies this quite as well as our little Rhiannon, whose wild spirit and perceptive eyes teach more in a leap and a glance then any textbook could hope to inform us with. She reminds us that teachers come in many ages and guises, and provokes us to watch for what we can learn in each moment, if only we are present and paying attention.
On our last evening together we journeyed downriver to the base of the sacred cliffs to honor the spirit of the place and drink in the power and magic of the land as it funneled through Wolf’s drum and into each participant. Above us, the moon poured through the clouds to kiss us and all around us the heady perfume of Sacred Datura flowers imbued us with the enchantment of this special inspirited land. Afterwards, Loba sang long and sweet into the darkness before we began our long journey back to the lodges by starlight.
Each individual was touched in a different but equally important way, from one woman’s profound understanding of her place as a creatrix rather than as a victim in the story of her life to our apprentice Resolute’s newfound alliance with a special medicine plant to another’s recommitment to nourishing herself to Darcey’s emerging understanding of the necessity of her voice and song in the web of the world. The vulnerability and openness of so many of our participants was certainly an inspiration to each and every one of us, and their example allowed everyone to get more from their experiences.
A consistent part of every event here at Anima Center is the phenomenal food and feasting! Fresh veggies from gardens as well as sweetly chosen organic and local produce came together under caring and conscious hands to create meals that were not only nourishing and beautiful but tasted so good that the woods were filled with mmmm’s and yummmmmm’s and wowwwwww’s several times a day. Warm loaves of hearty rye and nutty flax breads dressed with sweet cream butter sat alongside wooden bowls filled with golden yellow Calabacitas, ruby red Tomatoes, vivid green Cucumbers and the garnet tones of sweet Cherries. Fresh fragrant Basil, pungent Beebalm, Venison, handmade sun-dried Tomatoes, River Mint, Mustard flowers, Watercress and many many Wild Grape leaves made their way into our dishes, infusing us all with a special wildness and place-based delight.
It’s not often a group comes together to create and tend quite as well as this particular one and Loba and Wolf and I are deeply grateful for all the care that was given to this place during the event! The love each person invested in their actions was seen and appreciated. To all of you who blessed the Canyon with your prayers and presence, with your love and gratitude and attention, we want to thank you! May your journey be powerful, and your life fully lived.
All Photos (c) 2009 Kiva Rose, Jesse Wolf Hardin, Darcey Blue, MaryAnn and Elizabeth!