I sit in my canvas lawn chair under my pop-up tent filled with trinkets, talismans, charms and other unique goodies. Over a weekend or a week, I will move this lawn chair perhaps 20 or 30 times chasing the shadows and hiding from the sun. I think many of us do this both on a physical level and on a spiritual level: chasing shadows, hiding from the sun. I peddle my wares but mostly what I do is participate in, assist, and observe transformations. I am not alone; I am a vendor, author, workshop giver, and a speaker.
For decades I have traveled from place to place forming and forging unbreakable bonds with others just like me. We are! We are cleverly disguised as vendors, speakers, workshop leaders, authors, and singers; we are women. We teach, shape, mold, hold and guide those that follow in our footsteps. And we learn, grow and heal.
In addition to being women, we have other commonalities. We all have movement in our blood. We are compelled to travel and travel we must. Some of us may have permanent homes, and some of us never will, but all of us will continue to seek adventures, travel lands, and lift each other up. And it goes deeper even than that.
The view from a vendor’s row is a clear view; we see and know almost everything, whether we share or not. We know things we don’t want to know, things we shouldn’t know, things we really wish we could not know, but we also see the other side. We watch young girls grow and flourish and transform into beautiful conscientious young women who will be the future leaders of our clans, of our communities and of our Country.
We live in a time where women can appreciate and lift up each other; though it isn’t always done, it is getting better. We gather in fields and woods and conference rooms to stand together under the pretence of learning new skills or ideas… but that is only part of it. We are gathered to be among other like-minded women who are standing together against our oppressions. We are healing the wounds of our upbringings, of a patriarchal society that has nearly convinced us that we are not good enough, not worth enough and will never be enough. We burn ourselves out attempting to save the world, living up to the expectations we believe others have of us and we neglect self-care more frequently than not. But in these places, we stand together and KNOW we are enough. We are breaking free from the prisons of our own minds and from our generational beliefs.
I have always traveled, always moved. I either attended festivals or have been stationed or lived in nearly each State of this great America, and have left parts of me, or pieces of my soul in each. Generally the trip is a fast and furious get to the location, do the event, get back home, driving or flying straight through and not really enjoying the journey. Last fall I was invited to be a speaker at a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada at a time that I was beyond burned out; I was burned to a crisp! I was questioning whether I wanted to continue this path or find another. I think we all go through the moments of frustration and confusion, wondering whether we are actually helping anyone or if what we are doing is making a difference in the lives of others.
I made the decision to accept the speaking offer and talked a dear soul-nourishing friend, I will call Lady Di to make the drive from East Tennessee to Las Vegas with me—partly for company, partly to make sure I was brave enough to go, but also to make sure I would come back. We scheduled a few extra days on each side of the conference weekend to be able to drive slowly and enjoy the view. We stopped at every single thing that appeared even remotely interesting. Even though I had passed this route at least a dozen or more times in the past, I was focused on experiencing the journey, not just the destination.
I took time to photograph rocks and flowers and cactus that I have never really taken the time to ‘see’ before, things that are not common in my current beloved Appalachian mountain home. On the way there we stopped at all types of novelty shops and I posed with a huge stuffed bear in a store and played with maracas. We took back roads to admire rock formations at a closer distance than the interstate allows. We laughed and looked and laughed some more, but every once in a while when crossed a mountain pass or a city, county or state and something inside me would seize. I could ‘feel’ a terror or tragedy, my head or stomach would ache as though I was going to become ill. And when we passed that particular land, I was well again. Something was stirring within me that I couldn’t exactly identify. We traveled on crossing into New Mexico, driving slowly along the interstate taking in the scenery. On the border to Arizona it was there again, that feeling of discord and familiarity and bordering on panic. I couldn’t fully understand what I was feeling.
We arrived in Las Vegas after three days on the road overwhelmed and exhausted. There was ‘something’ else too, more than road trip exhaustion. I have been to conferences in Las Vegas two or three times since… since I was 19… suddenly I felt myself standing on that ground as a 19 year old.
I had just arrived in Las Vegas shortly after my 19th birthday on a greyhound bus and was alone, lost and scared. I saw a security guard standing by the parking lot gate of a casino and was instantly taken in by his easy smile, green eyes, (and broad shoulders) and I walked up to him to ask him for directions. I really didn’t know what directions to ask for since I didn’t have a plan or know where I was going, but I was grasping for any reason at all to talk to him. It seemed an instant connection that would become a two year whirlwind romance beginning with flowers and dinner and daydreams and ending with a two inch scar over my left eye and a child on the way. But the wound was deeper than the two inch scar; it was a wound deep in my soul. A wound that affected all my relationships after that, that left me less trusting, less compassionate, less loving and it was one that no matter how I tried to resolve it, would fester when least expected.
Snapping back to my current time frame standing in the hotel lobby with Lady Di and checking in to get our room key, I took a few deep breathes and released the memory to my Higher Power and thanked the Universe for the beautiful child I had the honor of calling my son. I thanked the gods and goddesses for the incredible man he has grown into and that—without the unfortunate portion of the experience—I would have never known the years of love for and from him. I felt a piece of my soul return to me as I did this small release and the anxiety I was feeling vanished.
Lady Di and I got checked-in and settled in our room and I slept peaceful and well, something I had been unable to do on previous Las Vegas trips. Throughout the weekend I continued to think about the releasing experience and how much better I felt in this city than I had previously. Instead of hiding out in my hotel room the entire duration of down time, I went out with friends and saw things. I got to dance with an Elvis troupe and explore and laugh. I was mindful of my distrust…not of other people, but of my own inability to take the time for my own self-care. I let go of ‘feeling stupid’ by dancing in the middle of the street with whoever happened to be near me. I let go of the irrational, fractured portions of my ego that no longer served me and just had fun. The soul wound from this place had been healed, one I had carried with me for over 25 years. My soul no longer had anything in common with this place and it could no longer hurt me.
I finished the conference but was ‘bumped’ from my speaking position—in my mind the reason I was there. Even though I was disappointed, the Universe had a different reason for me to be there. Sometimes the Universe has bigger plans for us than we have for ourselves.
I started this piece talking about workshops, festivals and conferences and part of what we do is assist women process and move past the soul wounds of their pasts, or of their past lives, and even their ancestral lines. There is movement in this. There is movement in our blood. What if to fully resolve a soul wound or ancestral trauma we need to physically go to the location of the trauma or event to call our soul parts back; to clear our generational and historical trauma for our own selves and our tribes? With this idea coming forth in my mind more as a statement than a small still whisper, I thought I would test this idea of movement and healing on the return trip.
Leaving Las Vegas, Lady Di and I stopped at ‘anything and everything’ that appeared interesting. I stopped at a few locations that did not appear to have anything interesting, but I would begin to feel anxious and ‘felt’ it was a good spot to do a releasing. After the release, it would seem that another part of myself was stronger. We left Nevada and continued this process in Arizona on the way to Sedona. During this next step of the adventure, we gathered stones from each of the lands from each of the tribes in that state, leaving an offering in fair exchange. We hugged the Red Rocks and took paths not recognized by GPS, and each place called another soul part home. We explored caves and dodged cactus, absorbing the beauty of the land and feeling the history, but also of the Sun and of the Shadows, and loved and integrated both.
About 30 miles from Flagstaff as night was falling we saw a location that from the road looked intriguing and called to me. We turned around and went back to the exit and drove into this place, it happened to be Diablo’s Canyon, Arizona and a ‘ghost town’ of sorts now. I walked to edge of the canyon and could hear the drums beating to the rhythm of my heart. It was too dark to see much of anything, but you could ‘feel’ the trauma and disrespect easing out of the ground and it filled the air. This place was called “Two Guns” and we learned later has a dark history. Over 40 Apache were burned alive in a cave here as a retaliation by the Navajo during the late 1800s and it was also used to as a tourist location in the 1920s complete with a zoo. The cave where the Apache were burned was put on display and people paid money to disrespect the memory of those gone. It was called the Apache Death Cave, later renamed the Mystery Cave and the owner sold ‘Apache skulls.’ The town has burned down each time efforts were made to rebuild it. It is unknown if I have had family involved in either location or the incidents of them, or even my own past lives but I do know that I was compelled to stop there and after doing the releasing another part of me came home. It would seem I had things in common from many of the physical locations I stopped at.
The next day we drove into New Mexico taking Route 66 and then side roads and back roads to each of the Tribal Nations, gathering stones and leaving offerings, leaving release processes and gathering soul parts and ended up perfectly lost taking pictures and back roads, hiking trails and searching caverns and canyons. We found ourselves at the Continental Divide at New Mexico and Colorado and spent several hours sitting on the peaks in meditation and contemplation. I had previous soul wounds and trauma related to New Mexico from my teenage years, and no matter the inner work or shadow work or releasing I had done, these wounds also seemed to fester when I was unprepared and I never could quite ‘fix’ it. Now sitting on the Continental Divide, it seemed possible to resolve these wounds for good. And I completed the release process for this space. In my mind I saw the trauma that my mother endured in the lands of New Mexico decades prior to this moment; I saw beyond and before her lifetime to my ancestors and hers, and maybe even our own from a previous life. I stood fast and released each event. I chased the shadows and caught them… and set them free. I looked into the Sun and did not hide.
The next day we crossed Texas and repeated the process. Once into Oklahoma, I could feel my family line and the trauma they endured. My grandfather was born on the Oklahoma Indian Territory now known as Fort Sill. It is interesting to note my son’s assignment for Basic Training when he enlisted in the Army was at Fort Sill. It seems however we move or whenever we live, events will take us to the physical place of a soul wound or trauma. We stopped at a beautiful lake and I spent time releasing the historical and current trauma from my family line; from my grandfather for his reservation experiences and from my son for his military trauma. With this it is more clear that there is fluidity with trauma and it travels a time line that crosses generations both backward to past generations and forward to future generations. With each place we stopped it became a firmer thought in my mind, a thought I could feel that sometimes you must physically go to a location or a land to completely resolve the soul wound and collect your missing soul parts. To do the work required, you must have movement in your blood; you must go to those places.
I realized that even though I was ‘burned out’ at the beginning of the trip that my path was the right one for me, that I would continue the work that I was doing, but become more mindful of the journey and not just the destination. I also learned that I would have to prioritize self-care and not just solitude. I work with and assist women in a different way now and incorporate the releasing process in the work that I do.
Sitting here in this lawn chair under my vendor pop-up tent, I recognize I am ‘this’ location at ‘this’ time for a purpose, because whatever land I am on, either me or my ancestral line has a connection to or something in common with it. I know that each event, each location, each land that I step on, these beautiful women are with me for a reason, for a purpose. To learn, to grow, and to heal on their journeys to either continue to teach, shape, mold, hold and guide those that follow in our footsteps or become the conscientious young women that will be the future leaders of our clans, of our communities and of our Country.
I stand to move my lawn chair…chasing the shadows and hiding from the sun and think to a life-altering and beautiful moment when I stood on the peaks of the Continental Divide and place my chair halfway between both, the shadow and sun. I remember standing on the peaks and saying prayers to my ancestors knowing they would flow both directions to farthest reaches. I stood on the Continental Divide and threw my tears to the winds for a history that was never mine.
Chasing Shadows is a short story from the book “My Wandering Uterus: tales of traveling while female”. This anthology contains over 50 authors and is a wonderful addition to any collection. Click on the photo to be directed to the Amazon page for purchase 🙂
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