On Emergence and Growth
Spring Returns to Silvae Spiritus Northwoods Nature Retreat: a Bealtaine Reflection
On May Day, I sat at the kitchen counter of a dear friend, overlooking the wide and bending Winnebago river in a charming tiny town of Iowa called Fertile. I had gathered together with a small group of open-hearted women, focused on writing and creativity and exploration and, for me, coming home to myself. I understand the apparent absurdity of living at a retreat and traveling no small distance to spend a long weekend at another, but the key difference between these two beautiful places is that at our beloved Silvae Spiritus Northwoods Nature Retreat, my Travis and I spend our days supporting and lovingly holding space for others. At this retreat, I intended to reawaken the deep wisdom within – the instructions for living well – so that I could also hold space for myself.
Over the past several years, I have taken a deep-dive into my Irish Celtic roots and the concept of animism, and have found profound resonance in the guidance of the Wheel of the Year. May Day, also known as Bealtaine, is historically devoted to fertility of body (human and more-than-human alike), but also of land, spirit, and intention. I laughed to myself at the realization that I had retreated to a place called Fertile on May Day of all days.
As I looked out over the curious, wind-shimmered water, the nesting geese laughed and protested and sang. The giant cottonwood tree just outside the window, each twig containing a star, was laden with blooms – the branching fractals reaching into a chaos of abundant yearning. And there, amongst storied women, we were all creating in our own ways: gestating ideas, setting intentions, exploring possibility, setting ink to paper, thoughts to language.
Now home at Silvae Spiritus, the frogs have awakened in the ponds and are singing their love in dizzying, deafening waves of urgency, the great migration of songbirds and waterfowl continue to ping quiet conversation overhead between the sound of wingflaps at night, the grouse are drumming in the distance, and the sandhill cranes are calling out in ancient duet. The bloodroot is bursting forth from the soil, pale and phallic, soon to open, leaf cocooning bud, and the rhubarb is unfurling, each leaf rippled like a brain. So much wisdom in each plant, so much tradition.
Spring has been slow to arrive this year, but she is profoundly present in each day if we take the time to match her pace and simply notice. She is diligent and powerful and wildly spinning.
Bealtaine is also known as a fire and water festival – the perfect opportunity to luxuriate in the 200℉ sauna accompanied by the snap and whoosh of the woodburning stove, plunge into the still-frigid tubs of water drawn from the earth below, and soak in the wood-fired hot tub accompanied by the forest community each expressing their own individual acts of creation. Fire. Water. Forest. Fertility.
This – all of this – is the gift of the rituals of Forest Bathing and of Sauna – they are healthful practices, yes, but they also reawaken our souls to reconnect with our beingness, our connection to every being who shares this place we call home, and to our ancient stories.
Wishing you the joy of emergence and growth –