I had a voracious appetite when I was in Colorado. I ate a wide variety of foods set before me at the buffet style meals in the lodge. Bison lasagna? Put it on my plate. Stewed lamb with tsatsiki sauce? Put it on my plate. Roasted garlic chicken, acorn squash soup, quinoa and oatmeal with stewed fruit, pastrami sandwich with hummus, lettuce, and tomato, root vegetables in tomato sauce with basmati rice? Put it all on my plate and give me seconds when possible.
True, I spent the majority of my days hiking in the forest, but there was more to my appetite and the fact that I needed calories and protein to sustain the strenuous daily activities. I came to realize how much I have denied my connection to the earth, to my body, to my sensuality and pleasure of life in general. I felt a need to prove to myself and others that I was maintaining a strict diet that helped cure my Crohn’s dis-ease, keeping up a strict exercise routine (complete with fancy yoga poses) to aid my lumbar spine, SI joint, and sciatica issues, and always saying “Yes,” when asked to help take care of others’ needs, even if it meant pushing aside my wants and desires. If I did all of these things, then I would finally prove that I am “good-enough,” “worthy-enough,” and “lovable-enough” to be accepted and loved. By doing all these things and so much more I could justify all the good things and events that happen to occasionally show up in my life. The worst thing about this self-imposed mental prison of conformity? I was the one that had locked myself inside and hid away the key somewhere in my psyche. The youth-oriented, material-driven, pleasure-denying and rewarding, guilt-ridden, ego-inflating and shaming immature aspects of our Western society don’t help matters much either.
Turns out, I’m a very sensual, emotional, loving, tender-hearted woman. Yet, I’ve devised techniques over the years to hide as much of that side of myself as possible due to so much heart-break, shameful experiences, and confusion about what it means to be a woman. I’ve always thought I had to be emotionally strong, independent, opinionated, forceful, and in control at all times. My heart, my imagination, and my body were not places to inhabit full time. My linear, logical mind was what got things done, got me a good job, (and also gave me a lot of grief and anxiety). It was the comfort zone-safe space for the majority of my 20s & 30s.
For so many reasons (too many to list here), I pushed away and/or safe-guarded my sensuality, my creativity, my tenderness and intuition. I was an artist, a dancer, and a writer from a very early age. I could move my hips and shoulders in rhythm with any beat. I could paint and draw and express my raw and unbridled emotions in a variety of ways and with a plethora of unique words, phrases, body movements, shapes and colors.
One thing I loved to paint, draw, write about, and imagine I was when I went out into nature, was deer, the doe in particular. Recently, I cleaned out my closets and came across three drawings of a doe, a stag, and a fawn that I did when I was in the 5th-7th grades. These paintings made me smile and I have them displayed in my house along with other porcelain figures of deer that I have collected over the decades. I have been drawn to deer for as long as I can remember. They’re so graceful, gentle, intuitive, brave, perceptive creatures. They can adapt to almost any situation and living condition. although many of my Midwestern friends and family would say they’re a nuisance, for me they inspire a sense of tenderness and divine feminine quality inside of me.
In Colorado, I finally returned fully to my body and fed it with earthy, delicious, sensual, tasty food. I moved my hips and shoulders to the rhythm of drum beats in our group activities. I peeled away layers of clothing under the dappled, sunlit aspens, and revealed the flesh of my arms, wiping sweat away from my brow as I continued my hike. I pressed hot sunbaked stones to my cheek and smelled the dusty earth that covered them. I dipped my polished toenails in the creek bed and slid my feet into the cool waters of the gently flowing stream as the smooth river rocks massaged my achy feet. I laid down in tall grasses and stared up at the sky and listened to the wind moving through each blade, crickets playing bass, and birds chirping a melody.
And I cried tears of joy. Of sadness. Of longing for what was lost to my regimented mind and old ways. Of a longing to rekindle whatever wasn’t dried up from years of neglect, shame, and self-doubt.
What I didn’t realize is that nothing was lost or dried up. And my tears were a gift. A way to signify that I was present with and able to express all of my emotions. That I had all the tools to unlock myself from my self-imposed prison. My heart was cracking open and the tears were breaking through the floodgate. What would follow? Well, that was (and sometimes still is) a mystery.
One day, we were divided into two small groups for the afternoon’s activity. I was with 4 other people and one of our guides, Gene. I remember Gene telling us a personal story of how he finally owned up to his sensual, passionate side of himself and told us, “I may be small in stature, but I’m big in heart. . .I realized then that I love who I love, and I want what I want.” His story of reclaiming his wild, passionate, sensual side inspired me. If this strong, earthy, passionate, kind, tenderhearted man could own his wild, beautiful self, then why couldn’t I? I realized on this trip that I was not a “freak,” and “artsy-fartsy hippy,” or a “wimpy” person who was overly sensitive and emotional. That it was just those passionate, tender, artistic, creative, sensual aspects of myself that I and others need to see and know and learn about in order to grow and feel more connected to the world and each other. Staying small and safe is more destructive than being vulnerable, open, and true to one’s nature and gifts/talents.
After one of our many large group discussions, I set off on a solo creek and headed for the creek and meadow that called to me earlier on that day’s first hike. I turned the bend, and in the clearing I saw the gentle slopes and sinewy curves of a doe foraging in the field. My breath caught and she looked up. I stopped walking. We locked eyes. I smiled and waved to her. She did not move or look away and we continued to hold each other’s gaze. I took off my sunglasses and hat and lowered my pack by sliding it down my arm and leg until it settled to the ground. I blew her kisses and laughed. Still she did not move. Her eyes pierced me and a sudden urge to go deep inside of my heart and soul came over me. So, without fear or embarrassment of other hikers who may walk by me, I opened up my arms wide and offered her my heart – fully & completely. At that moment I felt so very vulnerable, but I knew that was what she was asking of me. As if on cue, she stood straight up, elongated her neck, spread her ears wide, and broadened her chest. Gazing into each others’ eyes, we stood – Heart to Heart. The Wild One and Her Muse.