Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spiritual Home

I've decided to write about something other than lyme disease. I read in a book somewhere that the place you want to die and/or be buried is your spiritual home. That place for me is a beautiful garden called Woodstock Gardens in Inistioge, Ireland.

In 2001 I have a dream...I am following a 3 legged dog through an ornate, precisely designed English garden. Then we are walking through the soft underbrush in a dense forest. Everything around us gets very very quiet. All I can hear is the muted crunch of our feet on the moss underneath. Then, we burst through the underbrush into a vast, open space. On two sides, running parallel to each other are enormous trees, their branches touching at the top, creating a massive tree cathedral in the center of the forest. In the profound silence of the dream I know I am in the presence of the source of all things, and I fall to my knees and begin sobbing.

In 2004 I move to Los Angeles and my friend Heather introduces me to my future roommate and soul sistah Samantha. Within one of our first meetings we decide we will be going to Ireland together. In November of 2004 Samantha and I do just that. I tell her about my dream, and that I always thought the forest from the dream was not in the United States but maybe England. One day towards the end of our trip we decide to have no plans and let Ireland show us the way. We go to Nicholas Mosse, the beautiful pottery maker, and while there ask the salesclerk where we should go for lunch. She tells us to go down the road to the "Circle of Friends" restaurant. She thinks we will enjoy it because it's named after the movie. We do just that and find ourselves in the lovely town of Inistioge. The owner of the restaurant chats with us and suggests we go for a walk in the woods across the road after lunch. He says, "there's a lovely 12th century ruin up there to see."

We cross the road and begin our ascent up into the hills. It is late afternoon and the sun is beginning to get lower in the sky, but casting that honeyed, magic hour light down on us. The path we are on is bordered by trees and there is something in the air that begins to feel familiar to me. We reach the old tower and take pictures, enjoying the view of the valley below. On our way back, Samantha takes a picture of me under the trees, and I say to her, "the air here feels like my dream." She keeps being intuitively pulled further up the hill, towards sheep meadows that are at the top. I follow her and we get stopped by a fence we can't get over. We go back and make our way to the road and the car. But Sam says, "I really feel like we need to go drive to the top, the owner of the restaurant said there are gardens up there." It's about 4:00 by this time, and getting colder, but we decide to do it.

I'm driving and navigating the narrow road, houses clustered right up against it. I am taking a turn and suddenly a dog is in front of our car and I slam on the brakes. The dog looks me in the eye, and then turns and limps away off to the side. I glance at it, and then Samantha clamps her hand down on my wrist and says, "that dog has 3 legs." The dream. She says, "we HAVE to go to the top now!" All of my cells are on intuitive high alert as we drive up, up, up to the top of this hill. At the top we come to a stone entrance with marble dog heads on each side. We drive through and wind down a dirt road, through sheep meadows, and cows grazing. The sun is still a soft, sweet light in the fields, almost guiding our way. At the end, we come to a parking lot, "Woodstock Gardens," so we park and get out. Samantha practically jumps out of the car, my own personal divining rod and says, "this way, it's this way." She runs ahead of me and I am stopped by a park guide who hands me a map and simply says, "don't get lost."

There is a stone wall in front of me and I jump over it. I find myself standing in the outlines of what used to be the English garden of this manor house. No flowers are here anymore, but I can see the outline of what the garden used to look like. Samantha is ahead of me now, so I hurry to catch up to her. Something is telling her "this way, "that way," so I follow. She leads me to an area of massive redwood trees. I have to step down about 3 feet into the shade of the trees, and when I do, I start to sob uncontrollably. Samantha says, "what is it?? I say, "it's here, the forest, I'm here, but it wasn't red wood trees in my dream. It's somewhere close though. I can hear it." I leave her, my own intuition kicking in, and am guided by something completely outside myself. I aim for short grasses and trees, beckoning me with dappled sunlight. When I get into this area everything gets very quiet but for the pulsing of my own heart. My feet start to move of their own accord. I am being drawn to something that not even my mind has caught up to yet. And then I see it.

Through the small trees I'm walking in, I start to see large tree trunks, many of them, lined up in a row, in a pattern, making sense. My heart starts to beat faster and I can barely breathe. I burst out of the underbrush I've been walking through and I am standing on a path that is in the exact center of a massive tree cathedral. There are 40 300 foot pine trees on either side of this path, their branches touching at the top. It is almost 3 football fields long. As the sun sets and day turns to night, the air in-between the trees feels alive with energy. I have the strange sensation that if I were to reach my hand out, it would be touched by someone from the other side. I am humbled and awed because I know something far bigger than myself is in control here. And yet I feel safe, at peace and like my soul is finally home. I feel the full weight of my human exhaustion, and that here in this place my soul is free.

I have told this story to people and they often ask the same question: what do you think it all meant? I used to answer that what it meant for me is to understand there are bigger forces at work in the universe and I just need to let go, trust, and let it happen. But after being ill for 3 years and facing my own mortality it has come to mean much more than that. In my times of darkness in this journey, a place my heart goes to is the forest. Just remembering the smell of it, the profound silence and the wisdom of the old trees there, calms me. Mortality has taken on a new meaning; I take comfort in knowing when it happens, my soul will return to my forest and finally, truly, be home.

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