I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
- Sleeping in the Forest
Across time and in a myriad of ways, our ancestors of all cultures have gone into the wild to turn and retune their ear to the many-voiced landscape and living earth. To seek guidance in times of doubt and uncertainty, and to mark life transitions. They sought intimate closeness with That-Which-Animates-All. What they found was that time alone with the natural world, refreshing exposure to the elements in an unexplored place offered a personal trial, a gift and a profound shift in ones sense of self and world.
Our ancestors knew about the importance of these practices for supporting and nurturing individuals and community, but modern cultures appear to have forgotten their necessity for cultivating well-being and a deeper sense of belonging. Instead, many of us find ourselves strangers in our own lives, unsure of our place and value, and hungry for a connection with an enduring spirit and the dependable rhythms of the earth.
The wilderness we go into is not simply an encouraging backdrop for people to "work through issues". Rather it is the place where the restoration of wellbeing can happen through spending time in the knowledge of belonging, surrounded by kin. We allow ourselves to be re-calibrated, like a tuning fork, to a wider reality of not-just-human Life, reminding ourselves that we are not alone. We are reviving an age-old reciprocity with a many-voiced world. The teachings that happen here are not from the human realm. Here it is the wizened silence of an ancient Cedar that may share an insight with you, an encounter with lizard, the high cry of a kestrel overhead as a guide
It is known by many names and is common to all cultures in its diverse forms and is a powerful way for touching a mythological sensitivity, a capacity to listen with our third ear for the voice of the animate earth and in time we find ourselves once again on speaking terms with nature.
Wilderness vigils are held in the Cederberg mountains, South Africa.
2021 - dates to be confirmed still. Please be in contact if you are interested in being alerted when the dates are set.