Even in the best of worlds the soul needs refurbishing from time to time.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Five months ago I found my usually bright and energetic soul suddenly empty, drained, lethargic, unmotivated, and asleep. After a fabulous year I could not figure out what had happened. Why did I have the sudden yearn to seek and discover, to mend and fix? To be alone, and to sing?
As usual the Universe threw me a bone, this time in the form of Mexico. I followed that bone instinctively, without much thought, just like the Wolf Woman in the Mexican tale La Loba. There are many versions of this ancient story, but here is the general gist as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves:
“There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows but few have ever seen. She seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to her place….She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.”
“The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world…She creeps and crawls and sifts through the mountains and dry riverbeds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing. And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong….and still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon. Somewhere in the running…the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.”
I only came across this tale last night, while reading myself to sleep. And I dreamed of Mexico. And of wolves. And a wild woman resembling me running with the wolves. Today I woke up with a new insight to my Mexican experience. It makes sense now. I went there, was drawn there, to collect bones.
Mexico did something to me. I try to explain to people all the ways that I have changed in a matter of five months, but it never comes out right or I sound way too “New Age”. I feel more spiritual, and connected to nature. I feel more at peace with myself, and calm, no matter how brutal the storm. People now smile through their eyes and not so much with their mouths. I want organic compost and a vegetable farm. My brain is in dire need of constant stimulation. And I want to study midwifery.
So, what happened to me in Mexico? In Women Who Run With the Wolves, the author says one way that a woman can reach this “world-between-worlds” is through intentional solitude. If there was ever a time that I intended to be alone, it was in Mexico. Despite having an amazing group of friends in Oaxaca, I chose to spend the majority of my free time by myself – reading, traveling, writing, hiking. And yes, singing when no one was around. I wrote a blog about the first trip by myself, as I found it so difficult to be alone. There were friends that wanted to travel with me almost every weekend, and yet I tried to arrange plans by myself and scurried around their hints to accompany me.
Solitude was quiet and insightful. And I mostly found it in the mountains of Oaxaca. Julie Andrews was right when she sang that the hills are alive with the sound of music. In the mountains, the silence is so strong that all you can hear is the songs of your own head and heart. I sang and sang until the bones I had unintentionally come to gather formed a creature that came to life. From the tip of a mountain, I watched as this wolf creature took off running over the twelve layers of mountains in the distance, or down the long white sands of the Pacific Coast. Towards the end of my time in Mexico, I was conscious and aware when this live and vibrant creature transformed into a laughing woman running towards the horizon. She was me. All bones put together, the Wild Woman in me was set free. And damn, did it feel good.
Dr. Estes refers to this as the “crack between the worlds – the place where visitations, miracles, imaginations, inspirations, and healings of all natures occur.” She goes on to say that, “Though this site transmits great psychic wealth, it must be approached with preparation, for one may be tempted to joyously drown in the rapture of one’s time there. Consensual reality may seem less exciting by comparison. In this sense, the deeper layers of psyche can become a rapture-trap from which people return unsteady, with wobbly ideas and airy presentiments.”
I’m afraid I’m now in this consensual reality that she speaks of. I am no longer in Mexico. And I am no longer in intentional solitude. Suddenly, I just hear noise. Not music. And it is confusing. My bones are still strung together, but as I explain to people how I was sculpted in Mexico, I feel like my skeleton could disassemble at any moment. Perhaps it is part of the cycle. In order to collect bones, there must be bones to collect, right?
Either way, I want to keep this Wild Woman – the one that ran with wolves in my dream last night – alive for a while longer. She makes me feel good. And if she falls apart once again, then it’s back to collecting bones again I guess.