I have recently adopted a morning ritual of quiet prayer, meditation, writing, day-planning and reading. I was inspired by some posts I saw floating around on Instagram. It was easy enough to codify my disparate loves into one hour of concentrated, uninterrupted focus. Observing the ritual has been exceedingly rewarding, despite being scheduled for O-dark-thirty in the morning.
Today, however, I had to see husband off to work earlier than usual so I decided to take advantage of the early morning break in the searing Australian desert heat and go for a walk. I roamed northward, toward Spencer Hill and the Telegraph Station. I came around the other side of the hill and caught my breath when I saw her–a beautiful white gum tree, bursting forth from the grassy hillside, kissed by the morning sun.
I felt the goddess call and–despite my reticence to encounter one of the several deadly snakes that twist along in the Outback–I walked over to her, picking my way through knee-high clumps of stiff grass. When I reached her I paused, dumbstruck. I felt abruptly small, uncertain, ignorant, even. I didn’t know what sort of action was appropriate and I felt self-conscious even though I was certain no one was around. How does one greet a sacred being?
I placed my hands on her trunk and was taken aback by the velvet of her skin. I thought about how desperate I was to feel something, to have some kind of revelation or ecstatic experience as I stood in the presence of this obvious goddess. I dropped my hands and stepped back, gazing in awe at the tree, at her place in the world. I wanted to connect to this place, to glean a bit of wisdom about stoic silence, patient growth and inevitable decay.
I looked with my artist’s eyes. I admired the contrast between her body and the dim grass. The dance of her new-green leaves in the breeze delighted. I leaned in close, studying the striations on her skin; so fine and numerous were they that it made her skin soft, not hard and scratchy like most other trees I had met. Abruptly instinct seized me: I leaned in again and placed my left hand on her skin and sent out a simple prayer: “Teach me.”
I was not certain what lesson I may garner, what I might need from this White Goddess, but I sought to remain open to receive it when it came. I walked back to my home, my heart at peace, my step sure, and my eyes and ears open to receive the blessings all around me.
Back at home I rested, pulled up my regular social media platforms and sent a couple photos out into the world. I began to scroll–tentatively, as I had plans to work on some art and I know how easily I can get mired in the morass of other people’s carefully curated lives–and I felt my mood crumbling rapidly.
The abruptness of the emotional change shocked me–these brief, ethereal, digital encounters can have so much power over me. I chide myself now: how can I stand with my heart open in a field full of life for a half hour and remain only vaguely affected somewhere deep within and yet a few moments indulging in social media releases a veritable shit-storm of emotions?
Jealousy, guilt, betrayal, disgust, anger, self-loathing: these and more flashed through me. I took the time to catalog the experience because my focus for personal growth has been to increase my emotional strength and grow my self-confidence. I usually hide away from toxic social media but today I wanted to feel it: to weigh my emotions, to analyze my reactions. Where once I ran from confronting my deeper self I now held myself in the crucible, willing my flesh to harden, my will to be tempered, until I come out a more resilient alloy.
Primarily, I grieve. For my friends who are suffering, for the world which is suffering, and for the time and creative energy lost to the act of scrolling.
Here, perhaps, is the lesson of the White Goddess: grieve and move on, keep growing, putting out roots and twigs. No matter the storm, continue to carefully place one green cell in front of the other.
No matter the storm.