October 23, 2018

healing places

Muley Point, Bears Ears (formerly a national monument protecting traditional indigenous ways of life and sacred, ancestral lands before the Trump Administration illegally gutted it)
October 2, 2018
By Erin Gould

This morning, trying to make myself eat breakfast while sitting on the edge of Cedar Mesa and watching the sunrise on this surreal, sculptural landscape strewn with towering stone monuments commemorating the power of wind and water and time and trying to comprehend the movements of the churning, twirling mist moving over the epic entrenched river meander made by the San Juan, and then getting engulfed as those mists were warmed by the rising sun and rose, I was vastly overwhelmed. I am too small of a vessel to contain that much awe and gratitude.

I keep thinking of that one Romantic painting, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Friedrich, and wondering where exactly it was painted. Did that wanderer not only feel that Romantic notion of the sublime but also love? Love both for that place and love from that place? I remember thinking about the “sublime” as a great and terrible beauty/ immensity/ void, of feeling insignificant. Being in this place, getting lost in this mist, seeing the tiny airborne water molecules catch the light individually and glow like gems, observing the clouds dance over huge, ancient rock formations as nimble tendrils caress the earth like caring fingers, does make me feel small but in no way insignificant. I feel deeply connected, touched to me essence, my core. I feel LOVED, actively. I feel grateful to be inside of, to witness and take part in, this rich abundant ecosystem. Jonah Yellowman, a member of the The Utah Diné Bikéyah Board of Directors who kindly met with us earlier in the week to talk about Bears Ears and the incredible work being done to protect it, called this a place of healing. I believe him. This is the healing that I ache for, to be held, tenderly, by the majesty of this place. Not to lose myself in nature, but to feel so much within myself, to be filled to the brim and feel loved enough to let myself overflow.

I ended a six-year partnership with my fiance, Max, this last May. I really believed that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together, sharing love and experiences like trees share nutrients and water, and witness each other grow old and wise. I’m not going to get into specifics, but it was awful; it is awful. It feels like I cleaved off a huge part of myself, of the person I was planning to become, of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live.

When we speak of breakups and love faded, we say that we are heartbroken, heartbreak, broken hearted. “It broke my heart.” It is so tangible, clearly visible, contained; you can see the fractured/ ripped/ severed edges. There are pieces to mend back together. There is a site, a cause, of the hurt. My sadness, my heart ache, is so vast, like this landscape, that I cannot see a beginning or an end. It has taken up so much that it has saturated me; I am that sadness. How do you heal something that has no clear wounds, let alone any borders? For the last few months I just didn’t try. I looked only out because I was terrified by the boundless sea of loss inside.

But I think that I am figuring it out. How do you heal an endless ache, an ocean, a dense, engulfing fog of hurt? You dilute it. You fill yourself, over your edges, over your brim, and let it all flow out. I have been filling myself with joy and love and gratitude and grief and hope and awe and wonder and I have been allowing it all coalesce, diluting, desalinating my sadness, and I keep receiving, keep allowing myself to be filled and overflow. I wasn’t letting myself truly feel; in trying to shut off my sadness, which had become so large, I had to shut off almost all of myself. But being here, seeing everything that I have seen and listening to everything I have heard and learning everything that I have learned and loving and being loved by all of my friends here, the juniper trees, the wind, the rain, the moonlight, the landscape, has exposed me, opened me, and left me vulnerable and so grateful.

This uncovering has allowed me not to actively mend my heart but to add to it, to burst its boundaries and become something greater, to hold more, not less. That sea of hurt is still there, I think that I will always carry it with me, but I am diffusing its potency, letting the molecules of my sadness mingle with all of the rest of it. I am a well with no cover, taking in everything that is given to me. And it is beautiful.

This is a place of healing.

Protect Bears Ears (I mean, what kind of person would actively not protect it?).

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