March 20, 2021 || Cocooning
Travis and I sat down on the sofa together and, with gentle anticipation, opened a big, brown package that had just arrived in the mail; our names written in thick black sharpie. The cardboard was cold, having just been brought in from the sub-zero outdoors that is February in Northern Minnesota. I dragged an open pair of scissors across the top, slicing the cold-brittle tape at the seam.
There were several gifts in the box, but I was instantly drawn to a tin canister of tea with a soft gray label reading Sauna Steamer. An avid tea-lover, I broke the seal, popped the lid, and inhaled deeply – wood smoke and warm cedar. I felt calmed. I felt present. The maker, a local company by the name of The Snooty Fox, was one I had not heard of before, and so I embarked on a quick internet search. A pit formed in my stomach when I read Closed – red and italicized – beneath the shop listing. But we’ve just found you, I thought, please don’t be permanently closed. An article in the Duluth News Tribune set me both at ease and curiosity: “Snooty Fox Tea Shop to Close Temporarily,” and beneath that, “The niche favorite for local customers will go into a ‘cocoon phase’ to rethink its focus and plan what’s next.” I kept reading, “there will be a gap between its closure and the opening of the new space, as owner Elizabeth Spehar figures out exactly what she wants the focus of the business to be.”
And with that, I felt a pang of recognition deep within my chest. She, too, is in a self-described “cocoon phase,” but the difference between us is that she was smart enough to publicly name it; to not leave people guessing; to not rely so wholly upon the grace and patience of customers who are all thrust into this pandemic state of liminality.
I’ve been noticing these physical, deeply internal pangs of recognition more and more over the past year of the pandemic; how these moments of connection with other people feel within my own body – even when we’re separated by time or distance or un-familiarity. Her words struck me, and I felt it in my heart, and when I started sharing the article with Travis, I cried. Soft tears come easily these days when I experience resonant truth.
We work in a wellness modality, and yet I didn’t feel safe guiding other people in-person even with the assurances of the increased safety found in endless fresh air. I knew this practice would help people feel connected and serve as a balm and yet I couldn’t bring myself to facilitate out of fear of this new, deadly threat. I knew I could trust Travis and myself to honor mask-wearing and two-meter social distancing, but I didn’t know if I could trust others to do the same without conflict. And so instead, I drew inward. I remote-guided several “walks” via Zoom or telephone for private organizations – and they were surprisingly effective, and yet still just a placeholder for the practice that has so lifted me up and held me through enormous transitions over the past several years. I felt deep shame that I wasn’t guiding more; that I wasn’t reaching out to the public more. That I wasn’t providing professional recordings for people to take self-guided walks as I had declared I would do and have the full capability of doing. The shame was starting to become overwhelming, and so I climbed into the perceived safety of my own cocoon and disconnected from everyone outside our household. It would seem my nervous system’s sympathetic response during this pandemic was “hide.”
So when I stumbled upon this article and the declared concept of “cocooning,” I was instantly reminded of a favorite episode of WNYC’s, Radiolab, called “Goo and You” (read the magical transcript or listen here) wherein the host learns from a scientist about how monarch butterflies, when they metamorphose into a chrysalis from a caterpillar and eventually become a butterfly, retain their consciousness through this transformation. And in that state between caterpillar and butterfly, they are just – goo. Fluid bits of cellular information floating about and eventually recombobulating. I’m not sure there has ever been a better metaphor for my experience of life during this pandemic. And I love making the personal distinction of being a chrysalis – a hardened exterior shell of my own being, still susceptible to the elements, with the rest of my being in a transformational state; rather than a cocoon – something I’ve spun around myself as full protection and disconnection. Being a chrysalis feels more present. And more vulnerable.
So on this Vernal Equinox – where the hours of light have finally come into balance with the hours of darkness, I am called to bring my attention to the increasing light with a strong appreciation for the definition that shadows provide. The pandemic is not yet done with us, and the recombobulation of Silvae Spiritus is still taking place – but the light is gaining and we’re readying our reemergence. Though all this, know that you’re still in our consciousness: memories of heart-tending walks in the past are helping guide our path forward. Our beloved Forest Bathing practice still lives strongly in our hearts, and will come out the other side of this transformational time looking a little different than it did when this all started.
We look forward to deepening the relationships we already have in place, sharing the exciting new partnerships in the works, launching our new Northwoods Retreat, and announcing new additions to our wellness offerings (the gift package mailed to us containing tea was a hint!). For now, we just ask you to excuse our goo. We promise to stretch our wings when Nature says it’s time.