To go forward, we must return

Last week, we gathered to eat dinner before our wood stove. Two candles helped to partially illumine the darkened room along with the firelight. About two feet of snow glowed bright with moonlight, blanketing the ground outside. It was our third of four days without power or water.

I was talking about returning to some of the rituals observed in earlier times before modern conveniences took hold, practices such as growing your own food, digging a root cellar, and building an outhouse or having a composting toilet. 

My 14-year-old son interjected, “So you are saying in order to go forward, we have to go back.”

This statement has been echoing in my mind ever since.

To go forward, we have to go back. I find this reasoning objectionable. Ask any woman, person of color, survivor of the holocaust, or survivor of any kind at all, and these folks rightly have no desire to “go back.” This whole political era that we’re in feels like a stepping back, and for many of us “that dog won’t hunt,” as we would say in Texas.

But. As one who has been apprenticing in “going back” since returning to Eugene seven years ago—going back to the land of my birth, going back to the earth with a small farm, going back to nature’s “first words,” the honeybees, to articulate a spirituality for these times of collapse, I recognize the wisdom in this formula.

Coming full circle does not mean returning to how things once were. That is impossible. We are changed by our journey away from the past. That journey from our origins and the changes it engenders in each of us is the point of our lives.

To go forward by going back means instead to walk a spiral path, deepening and changing with each turn of the seasons. To walk this path is to get somewhere, and yet this journey called life isn’t aimed primarily at arriving to some external state or place. This is where we get led astray by our minds and by the collective mind of our dominant culture.

To really get somewhere in this life is to be here now—finally, at last—and to know this place for the first time. That is the spiritual journey, the “turn” of mind and heart that we are in the midst of realizing as individuals and as a people. In actuality, we are already there, there is nowhere else to get to, but for the most part we aren’t “here” enough to notice.

There is no going back, and yet there is. Perhaps all of this (waving arm to indicate the world around us) does indeed serve a purpose, from climate change to power outages to the rolling blackout we are experiencing in the white house.

Darkness always serves a purpose. Where there is darkness, there is the incubation of new life. Every tomb is a womb. The distinction between the two is a matter of time… and of perspective.

At the moment, I find myself in the dark once again. My writing hasn’t been working. At all.  When I try and conjure up new offerings or classes, I get nothing.

In journeys for myself, my guides tell me that I am inhabiting a new land. I have apparently stepped onto a new energetic ground, one that is as new to me as when I moved to Oregon with my family from Texas.

The first time I walked out onto these 14 acres with my family, I kept calling my son back to me as he marched down the hill, worried that he had gone past the bounds of our new property. He kept pointing to the fences in the distance, telling me that all of this was ours, but I couldn’t comprehend it.

I shook as I took each step. I was afraid that I was doing something wrong, something transgressive, to claim so much beautiful space in this world. It took me time to explore, to root, and to inhabit this large new canvas that is my life.

Now, coming out of the dark womb of four years of illness, I am again confronted with an expansive, new, beautiful land, but this time that land is me. I keep thinking my capacities and my boundaries are far closer than they really are. I am disoriented. And I am scared. But I have been here before; I know the drill.

And so do you. Together, we are stepping from one state of being, from one ground, to another. The storms in which we presently find ourselves are here to force us to deepen, to find that “turn” of heart and mind that will enable us to enter at long last into the Promised Land.

The Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, refers to a state of awakened inner vision and to a heart grateful and overflowing with the miracle of life. It is not to be found in a place, a possession, a state of achievement, or in a moment other than the one you and I inhabit right now.

The challenges we face, these beautiful and changing lands of broken oak trees and addiction, of collapsing honeybees and mass shootings, are our labor coaches. They are here to remind us to breathe. They are here to remind us to push and to dig deep. They are here to prompt us to birth our beautiful dreams into the world.

To go forward, we must return. These moments of return, these moments of starting over from the ground level of life, are here to teach us. We return to learn that the fence lines which used to constrain and define us now stand a good distance away.

This moment, just as it is, is so damn good, so full of natural abundance, of power, of love, and, yes, of sunshine, that we can scarcely let it in. But we must.

There’s no way forward except though. Our labor coach, Reality, is insisting on new life this time around.


If you, or someone you know, would benefit from a journey to spark your creative process or to help you get back in touch with your subconscious, wise self, let’s set a date.

In honor of my birthday this month, journeys in March will be offered on a donation basis. Let’s push the fence lines of the known out a distance and open up to the expansive new land that is now our home.

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