“I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one…” – Scott Russel Sanders
Photos taken at the source of the Hot Springs near the Big Horn and Owl Creek Mountains in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The Springs have been active for some 70 million years. It was where my mother, baby and I landed for a few days of much needed quiet rest and nourishment right after Mother’s Day. It was where I reminded myself of my own sources of wellspring and well-being: rest, a bit of solitude, a step back from routine and habit, quiet time in the outdoors, and a moment to relish the Earth’s beauty and generosity…
Walking with mom and Rowan I caught an unexpected glance of the moon – bright white in the cloudless Wyoming sky. Something about the glance brought with it a lump in my throat, a quick, sideward pang that I marked for later plumbing. In the moment there were glimpses of wildness, wilderness, sagebrush and wild roots of lifestyles past mixed with the felt pull of domestication of culture, family life and mothering. We walk the borders of wilderness with “Monopoly Hill,” the literal name of the neighborhood just north of my parents’ home. For a moment I feel like a fish out of water in a wild landscape being sucked dry by new inhabitants still intent on green lawns and 5,000 square foot domiciles. With only 500,000 people in this state there is so much open space and so few outposts of civilization – it is hard not walk the edge of wilderness, even when our human outposts seem to mix in kitschy, bizarre ways with the land.
The borders between wild and domesticated abound – antelope and half moon right out my doorstep. Flat brown grassland, cottonwoods and antelope encounters tug my propensity for dissolving awareness into Earth. I run to the end of the road and climb a hill to square off with an antelope at the top of a ridge, half moon above. We stare each other down, a scene right out of a Vision Quest, horns silhouetting sky, pink spiny flowers underfoot. The batter of my soul bakes outwards into a hot, wide horizon.
The pith is this: one never has to travel far to encounter the wilderness within. And why so essential? To connect with our origins, to delve into the fertile plains of imagination, to recall parts of oneself subsumed by the vast human landscape of cars, computers, indoor environments and work removed from land. This was the pang surfaced by half moon glance – knowing my dance between domestication and the Wild, and knowing how essential and life-affirming it is to stay grounded in wild, earth-rooted awareness.
The ‘structure’ of our often overly domesticated days also needs loosening from time to time. While structure of practice and routine is the essential container through which magic of a life well-lived can arise, we also need the literal diving off road’s end into open space in order to continually encounter the fresh, verdant, ever-changing landscape of the unknown. Beckoning us towards mystery, wilderness is a reminder of the infinite unchartered territories within and between – the unexplored, untamed, uninterrupted processes of nature reminding us of our true place in the Cosmos. So too this exists within Soul and Psyche – a space capable of touching into infinity: cells buzzing, genes coursing through millions of years, and awareness extending so far in all directions the curve of Earth in space is felt like the breeze against curving skin.
Antelope calls forth my memories of ancientness. One of Earth’s most ancient species now taken to the plains of Wyoming and Utah and finding their home outside of Monopoly Hill. Quiet stillness on the horizon, vigilant, roaming free, at home in the wide expanse of high desert – so too can I navigate my days. A lesson much needed as I live in the light of running after my toddler, vision myopic, scope as small as my 20 pound son and his tiny fingers’ reach. “Step back,” says the Antelope. Witness the wide expanse of the big picture of life – generations past, present and future. Gaze at the horizon of present moment, free of human clutter yet also awake and at home navigating the plains of our days.