Warning: This blog contains adult language and strong opinions.
The following morning brought a bit of concern. Who had so rudely trespassed on our safe space in the night? We held our morning council and determined that realistically, there was nothing we could do and besides we weren't going to let anything keep us from enjoying our last few hours together. The weekend was over. Admittedly, a quiet shadow lingered in my heart.
A few weeks later, just before the election, I had a terrible dream whereas I was with some women from our group and we were trapped in a car. Faceless men came from nowhere and surrounded the vehicle. Then, as if on command, the men began to smash in all of the windows. I woke up crying.
And so the months passed; Fall to Winter, Winter to Spring. At some point during that time something unexpected happened to me. I began to remember compassion for men. I had been working with fathers and daughters in therapy and was led to the realization that there is very little support available for men who are trying to raise kids alone or keep a family together. Men's groups are extremely difficult to find. It appeared that the State and family court systems I was working with tended harbor bias against men. I found myself wanting to develop a model of therapy that helped them.
By the time the spring Goddess Retreat rolled around, I was sporting a gentler attitude about our phallused counterparts. I was going to read the Beltane scene from The Mists of Avalon. We were going to explore the balance between masculine and feminine; the union of opposites. I was in a better place... for the most part.
Our Saturday plans included a hike to the waterfall after our mid-morning council in the yurt. It's difficult to describe to someone who hasn't experienced the warmth, clarity and energy that comes from sitting in circle with other women. Women of all ages, all bundled in bright, snuggly clothing, talking quietly, laughing loudly, crying softly; beautiful and sublime.
Tracey was teaching Shadow Work. This involves processes that facilitate the seeking and finding of qualities in yourself that you may or may not like; hence moving toward wholeness. We were instructed to sit in pairs and share with one another the qualities about a person or group of people that we can't stand and then do the same with those that we hold in high esteem.
Tracey and I sat facing each other. "Who do you hate and why?" She asked me. I confessed that nothing makes me crazier than 'bliss bunnies' in the yoga communities. They're too fucking happy. They need to come down to earth. Tracey, among her many talents, teaches yoga. She laughed heartily because she gets it. When it was her turn to tell me who she hated she said "I hate those beer guzzling bastards who trashed the waterfall, and made that target. They're selfish and mean." My reply surprised both of us, " Yeah, but they're the first ones to pull you out of ditch if you're stuck."
The session ended and we asked the women to get ready for our hike. After bathroom breaks, shoe changing and such, we set off down the long driveway towards the deeply rutted trail. As we walked, some of the women who had experienced the previous Fall's waterfall incident shared the story with the newbies. We passed by the hunting camp; there was no sign of men, no targets.
Laila (not her real name), one of our strongest and most outspoken, was uncharacteristically quiet during our walk. She had recently recovered from a hip injury but was striding with determination as she pulled ahead of the group. By the time I reached the waterfall, Laila was moving quickly (too quickly) towards the edge of the steep embankment. Before any of us could call out to her to slow down, she had lost her footing. As if in slow motion, we watched as one of Laila's legs slid out from under her as the other got hung up on a tree root. She tumbled and landed at the edge of the water. Shit. Within moments, Laila was surrounded by women trying to soothe her. I watched, ready to start running for help. My mind went over the variables; the temperature of the water, the time the sun would drop, no cell service, a mile and a half over rough terrain. Laila clearly was in shock. She tried to stand up and screamed. "Tracey, I'm going for help", and I took off half-running trying to avoid tripping and falling myself. When I got to the clearing of the hunting camp, there was now a white pickup truck in the driveway. The tailgate was down and two ramps indicated that someone had brought an ATV into the woods. I could still smell the exhaust! I ran up the steps to the porch and banged on the door. I called out, "Is anybody here? We need help!" No answer. I listened for the ATV and heard nothing. I continued on as fast as I dared, trying not to fall. I kept calling out into the woods, still no answer. C'mon, dude- where are you? You can be a hero today.
I finally made it back to the house. Breathing hard, I picked up the phone and dialed 911. I was connected to the local rescue department and began explaining the situation. As I was talking, Tracey and Laila's friend had taken another path through the woods and were approaching the house. I turned the phone over to Tracey. Laila's friend said that they think Laila had torn her ACL. The other women were trying to get her back up the steep, rocky embankment. Tracey hung up the phone. Help was on the way. We grabbed some blankets and headed back down the driveway.
Tracey's driveway is maybe a quarter of a mile long; not that far to the bottom. By the time we reached the mailbox, we were shocked to see that several pickup trucks had already arrived; volunteer rescue workers. At the driver's behest, Tracey and I climbed into one of the trucks and started driving slowly up the road back toward the waterfall. The driver introduced himself to us- he was gentle, kind, compassionate and curious. Just a little past the hunting camp, rocks began to scrape the bottom of the truck as the road got rougher and our driver was concerned about getting stuck. But wait! The white pickup truck from earlier, was now ahead of us! And with higher clearance, it was confidently making it's way toward the waterfall. We thanked our new friend, got out and started walking.
Now, for the second time that day, we reached the waterfall just in time to witness a moment that will forever be emblazoned in my mind.
Beautiful, stoic Laila had managed to pull herself up the embankment and was now flanked by two of the women as they helped her towards the white pickup truck. The man who had been out on his ATV earlier was now holding the passenger side door open for her to get in. But the step up was too high. Laila shook her head. And without a second thought the man kneeled in front of her so that she could step on his bent knee with her good leg and hoist herself up to the seat of the truck. Tears filled my eyes. We had witnessed an act of selfless heroism by one of 'those men' in the very same spot we had cursed them six months before. Powerful, yes. But wait, there's more.
When we once again came to the clearing of the hunting camp, there were four more trucks filled with men (and a few curious wives) who had heard the call and came to help. As we were thanking them, another truck with at least seven men riding in the bed pulled in. Tracey and I looked at one another in disbelief. Was this really happening? And when at last we reached the intersection of the dirt path and the driveway, there was a fire truck, an ambulance, a water rescue vehicle and several other emergency responders-all heroes, there to rescue Laila.
The EMT's gently hoisted our sister goddess into the ambulance, we waved and shouted our encouragement to her as they closed the door and drove away. And then, there we were; a small group of women outnumbered by a large group of heroic men. It was strange, awkward and really, really beautiful. We thanked them again and finally, the men began to disperse. It was all over.
Whew, and there you have it reader; a true tale of redemption in the midst of a time when extreme polarization seems to dominate. No matter what may be happening in our modern culture, I believe that the mythological archetypes remain steadfast. We are not just men and women, perpetrators and victims; rather, deep within our psyches we are also heroes and goddesses. Perhaps if we remember that, we can start to heal.