“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Do you know the gift
of what it is to be lost?
Do you know what it is like
to wander through the world
searching for the spelling
of your true name
To hone the wild of your eyes
for seeing the path of your heart
the soul’s need for receiving and offering
Have you grown a love of faint game trails
as you shun the navigational maps and highways
of those deluded with the surety of their beliefs
Trusting through desperation when possible
and un-trusting of every inherited answer
you find only one faith remaining
The alertness of one who knows emptiness
It descends upon you like a confession wrung from your soul
while the gift of alive awareness rises within like the sap of Spring
Now, now at last you are ready
ready to learn how to live
swimming in the unknown waters of deep mystery
Quenching your adventurous thirsty spirit
for beauty and wonder and awe
surrendered at last to the breath that breathes you
lost you are no longer
“If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest,
but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life.”
— Siberian Elder
The gift of becoming lost first came to me as an adolescent, as it does to many of us, when I first questioned the inherited Truth of my fundamentalist upbringing. It was a gift that damn near killed me as I searched high and low for a map of Truth to replace the one that no longer served me.
This journey I now see as a kind of ‘coming home’ journey. It is the journey of finding both interior and exterior references for how one is at home in the world. I suspect most folks settle for the assigned reservation of cultural conditioning wherein some outside authority informs us of who we should be in the world.
This image arises for me as I prepare with my partner, Cheryl Slover-Linett of Lead Feather, to guide a journey into the Navajo homeland of Canyon de Chelly, with our native guide, Elenor Yoe. The Navajo were a people exiled out of the womb of homeland to the Bosque Redondo Reservation, a landscape cursed with bad water and soil and unfit for a proud and independent people.
Their story, like many of the Native American peoples, is one of tenacious courage and vision, of struggle to reclaim and retain identity and life itself in the face of cultural collisions and genocide beyond any individual’s control. The book, Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, by Hampton Sides, is a riveting read for a sense of this early history and of the Navajo exile and return to Homeland; 1868, at last.
We will carry a spirit of inquiry into this sense of what it is to come home to ourselves as we journey with our small band of adventurers into the magnificent and storied landscape of Canyon de Chelly. The backdrop of Spider Rock and sheer sandstone cliffs, of Anasazi ruins and hogans and ancient foot paths and the stories of a determined peoples hunger to return to homeland will inform our own personal and collective inquiries into what it is to live in exile from ourselves, and too of what it is to live ‘at home’ in the world.
The truth as I now see it (note the small ‘t’), is that by virtue of human history we have all become exiles from the homeland of Earth, and so from ourselves too. We have collectively learned and incorporated (brought into our corporal body) a story of human separation from nature and unworthiness for life, a story whereby only some external authority can save our worthless butts from damnation. It is a cultural mythology destined to drive and feed the unconscious self-destructive hungers of the human species while we take out untold numbers of all our relations as well.
But there is another way. And it is to this ‘return home to our selves’ that the opening piece of this post points us. I will write more of this in the next post.