It was an extremely rare peaceful day that summer before my 15th birthday. Mom had left early to travel down the mountain to town to do the family’s laundry, and I didn’t have to go with her. She took my sisters instead. It took her many hours to do all that laundry, so for the time being I had nothing to worry about. Dad never bothered me.
I was standing at the sink in front of the kitchen window that faced the mountains at the far end of the valley, looking across the cleared fields covered with waving thick grasses that surrounded the house as I washed the morning dishes. I suddenly stopped what I was doing, put down the dish cloth on the edge of the sink and walked out of the house. I went around the end of the house and turned up the narrow path that climbed the big hill behind us.
Nobody would miss me or wonder where I had gone this time. I was free without fear to do what I wanted, even if my wanting came without any conscious thought. I reached the top of the hill and turned to face the valley floor that stretched out in both directions to my right and to my left.
I had no pocket knife, so I bent, snapped and pulled boughs from the old spruce tree near where I was standing, pitch smelling sweet, sticky on my hands. My lean-to had it’s back toward the mountain face and a small bush growing there, open to the front and twisted in and around the spruce tree I was taking boughs from. I worked to complete my protective enclosure with only thought for the task, without any sense of question, wonder, or intended further purpose. When I felt it was finished, I crawled into it and sat down cross-legged with my back to the mountain side, facing the valley and the mountain running parallel across the valley from me.
I will never forget for as long as I have the ability to remember what happened next. Though nearly 45 years have passed since that day, I still have no real clue how this experience came to me or for what purpose. All my actions were very direct and purposeful, but I had no thought, curiosity or conscious intention about what I was doing — I just did it almost like I was under remote control.
Once I sat on the firm ground and ceased all movement, I disappeared to the me that followed some kind of inner direction to climb that big hill, to make this little shelter, and I melted into a different kind of world so easily I never even knew when it happened.
I left myself behind and became the life of the mountain that I loved (Was this empathy?). I knew that time was passing. Sometimes I had no sensation at all, and then at others I took the form of a blade of grass and saw and ‘knew’ what the world seemed like to a ‘conscious’ blade of grass. I could feel my green, sharp edged boundaries at the same time I felt myself shifting in the wind, other grasses so close around me, surrounding me, rustling as we moved together without words.
Then I disappeared to being grass, and became a cloud, soft, formed formlessness above the mountains. Then a wolf, running, breathing, bristling hair around my nose as it filled with all smells around it, gliding on soft feet, my fur being brushed by branches I passed. Then I disappeared to being a wolf, and after awhile I found myself being a rock, gray and hard, warm in the sunshine, covered with colors of lichen, and then I changed into the wind, and changed and changed and changed until finally I was a full grown woman living far back in the forest of the valley floor. I knew I was naked but it didn’t concern or bother me. I knew I needed nothing.
And I sang the most beautiful pure songs with the most beautiful voice. A perfect voice. Nobody saw me or knew who I was, but people wondered and talked about the woman who lived back there, a mystery in the valley, and who sang those exquisite songs in a perfect voice that carried in the air and echoed against the mountains.
Eventually over time a few people traveled far enough back into the valley that they were near enough to me, and I allowed them to see my face once in a while through the thickness of branches. I never spoke to anyone.
And then as suddenly as this shift in awareness had happened, it ended and I was back in my body sitting cross legged on the mountain in my shelter of interlaced spruce boughs. I crawled out of my sitting place, stood, and then walked back down the hillside path. I returned to the kitchen, picked up the dish cloth, and finished washing the dishes even though the water was cold.
I never thought about my experience again or spoke of it to anyone until I was over 30. Yet there was something so fundamentally clear to me from my ‘vision’ that I never questioned or wondered about it. I knew I had been shown exactly what I was going to do and be when I grew up. I never had any thought about a white picket fence or the man I would marry or if I would have children, or what I would do for work. I was that disconnected from the ‘real’ world.
What happened to me that day was as real as anything that ever has happened to me. It shows me how unable I was to wonder, or I would have wondered about it. But the abuse I had endured never let me develop the ability to wonder. I also lacked what the experts call the ability to self reflect. Fortunately that ‘damage’ was not permanent like it was for my mother’s mind. After leaving home, over many years, my brain has found its pathways of connection that allow me to wonder and to self reflect now, but this ability was not a part of me in childhood.
As hard as I might try I can come up with no other explanation for that day’s experience other than it was a blessing to me in the purest form. I was born in innocence and remained in innocence long after a child usually develops an ego and a self that removes them from that state for the rest of their lives. I was that day as innocent as the mountain I sat on, as innocent as the trees, the grass, the sky, the air I breathed. I was forced through severe abuse to be a ‘slow bloomer’ but bloom I eventually did long after I left home, and my innocence is gone. How many of us would choose to let that go if we knew what we would be losing?
I don’t think we are meant to be aware of that choice, nor to remember what that feeling of merging, of absolute equality and freedom to participate with all life in its living process is like. I was in a state of unconscious bliss in that ‘vision place’ in between the times that I felt ‘called’ to take this form or that form. I knew I was inside looking out of those forms, and my awareness was perfectly clear in each form that I took of what that particular experience felt like.
And in case you are wondering, I had never consumed drugs of any kind, and I lacked the normal ability to imagine or to participate in fantasy, or really to even play at all. I lived nearly in a world of being a camera lens in between bouts of terrifying physical abuse from birth. There was no flow between my daily experiences. Nothing felt particularly glued together and nothing flowed from one day to the next, other than the continual presence of my mother’s wrath or her impending wrath or her dissipating wrath toward me until the next time she attacked me.
But today when I go back and think about that day I am glad I was fortunate enough to have the experience of what it might feel like to be one with life around me. This ‘vision’ was a great gift to me because there’s no way now that I could begin to imagine what that ‘oneness’ would feel like if I hadn’t felt and experienced what I did that day.
And here I sit at this computer, invisible to all, writing words that really are my song. As in the vision, I am glad if anyone hears me.
If this was an isolated dissociative experience, it had no particular or specific trigger on the day it occurred. As I mentioned at the beginning, it was a peaceful day. I have another idea about all of this. Perhaps if we could wind backwards a version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (in video format)
there would be a frame where not only did the fingers of God and Adam touch, but one even before that where their hands were grasping one another’s wrists in the firmest of grips.
Maybe we evolved in, and are born into a relationship with the natural world that means we are connected with all of life in a grip such as this. In ancient days we never lost that connection, even if it wasn’t at all a conscious experience — or more probably we retained that connection because we DID NOT have consciousness.
Perhaps due to the severity of my abuse from birth, coupled with the very unique situation that I was placed in the Alaskan wilderness while I was a young enough child that I could experience a powerful bond with the world I was in, I was able to retain an ancient kind of primitive immersion in nature, a relationship and connection with it that ‘normal’ children of today’s world rapidly lose.
Perhaps it was only as I approached my 15th birthday that I began to lose that bond, weaken that bond, breach that bond, as I was being prepared (unknown consciously by me) for leaving the mountain I so absolutely, passionately and devotedly loved.
Perhaps my ‘vision’ experience was a kind of freeing of the wrist grip as my hands were sliding apart and away from nature’s grasp. My fingers loosened and separated from nature’s touch of life, and I drifted further and further away. I did not mean to do this. I did not intend it. It happened as a grew up as I guess it must for everyone not able to live in a culture or a society that enables us to maintain the kind of connection I had back then.
But I also payed a terrible price that allowed me to maintain that pure of a connection to the age that I did. I believe in most societies a connection to human beings as members of a social species is meant to expand that bond to nature as we operate in the world. Because I did not have an opportunity to attach to humans, my attachment capacities were at least exercised and maintained in operation through my connection to the land.
In the image on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that instant represented is frozen in time, without further motion in either direction. It does not include a greater and greater distancing between God and man — or on the other hand, does it show a time when we were more closely bonded together. In my thinking, this same process occurs between humans and our unconscious and conscious felt connection to our natural environment.
I am returning to Alaska for a visit at the end of this coming August. I want to go find the approximate spot back on the Eagle River valley floor where I was singing in the ‘vision’ right before it ended. There is a park back there now, and I find it disturbing that I could scoot around my computer screen, complements of satellite imaging, and actually scan over that spot while I sit in my Arizona living room right now.
No doubt I could also scan the mountains in this image and find the homestead, and float over the spot where I built that lean-to that I sat in as I had this experience I am describing to you, so many years ago.
NOTE: I still don’t exactly understand myself why I felt the need to write about attachment at the start of yesterday’s post (below). All I can do is wonder about it even as I write this one as I realize how distant I now feel from that land and that place that nurtured my very life force as I grew up so terrified and abused yet surrounded by such beauty. Do we think there’s a meaningful relationship between being in the natural world and scanning images sent via satellite that allow us to seemingly float over it? Are we all feeling so numb and unattached from the intricate life patterns that sustain us that we can no longer empathize with nature? Did that happen because we are always moving on, moving away, moving forward — and in the act of continual motion losing touch with the depths of who and what we really are?
Speaking of voices, children and singing, see this!
see post123009 : +EXCLUSIVE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OWNED BY SEVERE ABUSE SURVIVORS
Added December 12, 2015
“Say: Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion. It is endowed with a power whose reality men of learning fail to grasp. Indeed a man of insight can perceive naught therein save the effulgent splendour of Our Name, the Creator.”
Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Author: Bahá’u’lláh, Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988 pocket-size edition, Page 142, excerpt from the LAWḤ-I-HIKMAT (Tablet of Wisdom)