I jolted awake. Pale light was streaming beneath my tarp as I lay wrapped in my synthetic sleeping bag burritoed by my gray wool blanket. My first thought was, “Oh no! I am missing the first light of dawn!”. Frantically, I began to stuff away my sleeping bag, let the air out of my pad and roll it up, careful not to let any sharp cedar leaves puncture my “hip saver”.
After I packed everything away I began the tedious task of pulling on my wool pants over my wool underwear. I had to remember to change out my socks every time I got out of my sleeping nest. Keep the dry ones in the bag, wear the wet ones in my circle. I struggled to pull on my pants because I had strung my tarp so low that sitting up was an impossibility without getting a faceful of wet, cold tarp. The ends of my pants hung limp with the constant soaking of water for the past 3 days.
After arching and stretching my back to button the pants which by that point slung loose around my ever shrinking waist line, I nearly cried when I reach for my soaked through leather Keen boots. Cringing I stuck my foot in the damp cold. Leather seemed to suck the warmth out of me even faster and as I moved my foot inside the boot I could feel the slickness of the water penetrating the supposedly “Keen Dry” lining. My only other pair of shoes were Keen sandals and I would be damned to put those on in the constant rain and wet.
Finally after odd contortions of the body and heavy panting I crawled out of the tarp area, underneath my protecting Cedar Tree to where I store all of my gear when not in use to be outside of the circle. The activity and physical exertion left me light headed and breathing heavily. I plopped down on the burrito wrapped tarp using the bag and gear underneath as my seat to take a moment to breath and rest. Fasting is such a powerful tool I found. I shouldn’t be surprised that not putting energy into ones body would lead to less energy output but physically experiencing my body attempting to store what energy I do have by making me slow down is incredible.
It was chilly in the pre-dawn light so I buttoned up the fancy King of the Mountain camouflage wool coat that Matt let me borrow. The coat was perfectly too big for me so that I could draw my hands into the cuffs and wear several layers underneath. I walked slowly back into my circle to the place where I danced. I was dissapointed in myself. I had wanted to try and get up early quite a bit before ‘first light’ so that I could greet the rising sun. Much of the experience of the quest is to push my body from fasting, not speaking, and even sleep deprivation.
Looking up I tried to see stars but as usual I just saw dark, covered sky. This has been the pattern the second we arrived at our questing area. Clouds, rain, and no sun. I wanted to see a sunrise or sunset so badly and hoped that it would perhaps clear by the time the sun rose. The environment had a diffused light all around which I realized was the moon peaking behind the clouds. It was several days past the full moon so we were still seeing bright nights. Suddenly the clouds parted and out came brilliant moonlight creating immense shadows and illuminating the plants in a silvery glow.
My breath was taken away by the beauty. I looked up again and saw stars peeking between cloud breaks and smiled and gave a silent thanks to be able to see the sky. I turned around to face the moon when realization began to seep in. The moon was in the South and barely even there at all as it was more in the Southeast. It isn’t pre-dawn! In fact I would gauge that it was barely past midnight. I had put everything away and had a long night ahead of me. I almost felt tricked by the moon thinking that the diffused light was from the slowly rising sun rather than the moon. Now in a way I was forced to stay up which should be a great opportunity but I felt disgruntled.
I turned back around and was reminded by the beauty of the moonlight and began to dance again. Each step was a beat of thanksgiving and humbleness drumming into the Earth. A light floral scent began drifting through the air that reminded me of Acacia blossoms. Once again looking into the heavens I began to grow hopeful that the weather report was accurate and that the next day would bring the promised sunshine so I could dry myself out and see blue sky and sun.
Little did I know that the next few days would bring even more rain and in the early morning of Day 4 I would wake to my tarp slumping to find snow and slush and brilliant white snow on my final day. It was a powerful quest.
Exactly a month ago I completed my first of (hopefully) many Vision Quests. I spent 4 days in the mountains of Ashland in a ten by ten circle while fasting from food, speaking, and all but the most necessary comforts for survival. This type of quest was not supposed to be a “survival quest” but after days and days of rain and finally snow, sleet, and slush it became much more of a survival situation to stay warm and dry.
Even though my experience sounds like a struggle it was surprisingly easy to let go and surrender to the quest. It is often called “the little death” referring to ones ego. I have spent a month journaling my 4 days because each detail of my time on the hill is a message, a lesson, and vision. I came out more connected, grounded, open, and thankful. I am allowed to share some aspects of my quest but never all of it because this is an experience between me and the Creator.
I want to give thanks to all those who helped me to get to the quest, help me get through the quest, and assist in integrating what I have learned into my everyday life.
First I want to give my humblest gratitude to Coyote Trails School of Nature for guiding and protecting the questers. Thank you to Joe Kreuzman for providing these questing opportunities, upholding the tradition, and passing on the ancient ceremony. A special thanks to both Joe and Eirik Moergen for being the protectors and preparing us so well to have a successful questing experience.
Because the quest is a spiritual ceremony it would be immoral to require a tuition. Instead donations can be requested especially because Coyote Trails fed, taught, and was ‘on call’ the entire time we quested to keep us safe or to help us if we needed to leave early or had an emergency.
I would like to give space now to thank those who helped me financially. Between the following people and my body stipend at work I was able to raise the entire donation request!
Marylou and Larry Bradley
Caitlin and Winston
David and Karen
I also want extend my thanks to folks who helped me in other ways. Karen Rainsong for giving me a send off sauna which was a perfect way to send me off in sweat :).
Rachel, Mikey, Melissa, and Miriam for always being there in spirit whether actually spiritually or physically – your thoughts and warmth were felt.
My mom Kathy for having ‘mom’ concerns about my well-being and safety. Being cared and concerned for by a mom never gets old.
A big thanks to Cait and Win for letting me decompress in Ashland for several days after coming of the hill. It was a perfect landing place for me to reintegrate into society again from the shock of nothing and everything that is nature. I am always thankful for the connection my sister and I have. Cait was in the store knowing I was going to be home later that day and she had this huge nagging to make a soupy broth. She stood in the store debating whether to put meat in it and she decided not to (which is significant because we are meat eaters). When she got home she began to put together the soup and thought “No, I need to make more!”. When I arrived at her doorstep dirty, wet, and gaunt I said “Cait, all I want is soupy broth with no meat cause I can’t have meat for 4 days.”
Lastly I want to thank my husband Matt. We worked hard together to make this happen it was something that I needed desperately for myself and he helped make it possible. Matt came to me in dreams on several occasions giving me love, light, and warmth when I needed it most. I am so grateful that it’s you I come home to.