"I think the driving question is how do we live interdependence, how to we embody inter-being in the ways we live and work and heal together; and doing so in a grounded and powerful way, and in way that engages the issues of our time" — Christi Strickland
During the holidays last month, I had the great treat of spending a day in Ridgeway, Colorado with my compatriot and tribe member Christi. Christi is a wilderness rites of passage guide, a masterful facilitator and counselor who is presently working with inmates at the Montrose County jail. She up and moved from Boulder, Colorado about two years ago, after sixteen years of teaching at Naropa University in various departments, helping students gain skills in group dynamics, community-making and facilitation. Before that she worked with kids in wilderness therapy, out in some fairly intense and wild situations. And now she has started all over in a new place, making a new life.
You may get the sense that this woman is a strong one, a deeply compassionate one — and indeed she is! I love being with her because of her energy of Presence and her ability to be still and listen so, so deeply.
So we went on a lovely walk in Ridgeway State Park, along winding half-snowed trails, exploring. We didn’t walk fast. We stopped and noticed. We shared stories. It reminded me exactly of how I am when I’m with me. I feel part of the land, I wander where I feel pulled to go, I notice little things and share stories with myself about the Meaning of Existence.
At some point, we went off trail. We ended up walking along the other side of the Uncompahgre River, toward the reservoir. Picking our path along a high mud bank, we stopped to notice the amazing beauty of raccoon tracks in the cracked and frozen mud.
Christi told a story of how she’d come down to these banks in September to burn little bits of paper — addictions and sorrows written down by inmates and given up to be burned and released into the river. She related with amusement how she’d sussed out the perfect place (pointing directly across the river from where we stood) and began walking out on a flat mud bank . . . immediately sinking one leg down to above her knees. She was stuck. She stood there for a while, thinking. No one was around. She wanted to not loose her shoe down there! Eventually, she wiggled and squiggled and got herself out, covered everywhere with smooth grey clay mud; that same kind of mud that held the gorgeous patterns of tracks and cracks for us to see and admire.
She was muddy, so what the heck — go with it. She smeared mud on her arms and hands and face, ceremonially, and burned and released the bits of paper back up the bank at a campsite fire ring. Voila!
A great story. I listened with joy.
A few yards later, we came upon a spontaneous act of human creativity. Sitting atop a waist-high boulder was a rock that had been split into four perfect horizontal layers. Someone had noticed this rock and had put little rocks in between each layer to create a sculpture that looked like a loaf of horizontally-sliced rock-bread, secured with mud to the top of the boulder. What a surprise and delight to chance upon!
And then the sun finally peeked out of the edge of a cloud bank it had been hovering on for an hour and in the thinner air of nearly 7000’, we were peeling off layers as the mud bank began to get squishy, as the towering peaks of the Cimmaron and San Juan ranges of fourteeners shone on the horizon. Wonder . . . large and small, close and far.
Beginning our return back along the river, on the trail-less side, we came upon another boulder, a squarish one, and Christi remarked upon the subtle regular-yet-varied pattern of bumps, like little moguls on one full face. It almost looked manufactured it was so regular. But clearly it wasn’t. All our noticing of patterns and order and creativity reminded me of an important story I hadn’t told yet: I took a deep breath and blurted out with my heart beating “I. . . I’m . . . I’m going to write a book!!”
Christi then reflexively and naturally became this wide open listening space, like the landscape around us. I found myself speaking and speaking into that quiet, huge and allowing space — speaking fluidly about my experience, knowings, and wonderings from thirty years of design practice and a decade of nature-based transformation and healing practice and how I’ve discovered that Consciousness gets bigger and wider through coming to know how design works and nature works and how I’m ready to get these ideas down and discover their interrelationships and the yet-to-be-discovered treasures they might contain.
Christi picked it all right up, responding in a way that made it so clear I had been deeply heard. “I had this realization once,” she mused, “that when we’re hanging out with Nature, in Nature, we are in contact with the Ultimate Creativity. I mean humming bird wings??? Fungi??? That’s amazing stuff!”
I marveled aloud at her capacities to dance with me in my interior world, as I reveled in what her inner world offered to me. Such a rare gift!
Our walk wound up as we crossed back over the one bridge and regained the many trails, ending up at her car. We were nourished and happy, full of beauty and the heartful knowing of belonging. We belonged because someone had listened and really heard us.
I read the cover story in this month’s issue of The Atlantic Monthly by Julia Ioffe the other day — a story about Vladimir Putin and he’s up to, what he wants and his shifting strategies for getting it. It is a brilliant piece of political context-setting, and rings so true to human nature. One thing I heard in Ioffe’s writing was Putin’s terror of being disposed by the USA, of being taken out and lynched like Muammar Gaddafi of Libyia. Perhaps not an entirely unfounded fear.
A picture formed in my mind of a world full of men in power who are scared shitless of each other. People whose learned way of operating is to defend and contract, to amass security through walling out ‘the other.’ What if the fact is that the most powerful men in the world are actually the most scared? What would happen if they could feel themselves in a huge, open listening space like Christi created for me?
I wonder what they would say, and I wonder if it would break our hearts?