I walk along the path through the marsh where the narrow trunks of the alder trees stretch up to the canopy, shading me with the vibrant green of spring. So different to the lanky eucalypts back home which are shedding their bark, but not their leaves, as the southern hemisphere dives towards the dark, still days of winter. Terra Australis, my home. But by the chance wanderings of my parents my birthplace was here on the North American continent so a part of me is from here too. And here I am, drawn by an opportunity, information becoming reality through a combination of internet connectivity and cheap trans-pacific airfares. At this juncture of autumn and winter, fate provided a path for me to leapfrog back into the Northern hemisphere, where spring is unfolding into summer in the Pacific North West.
I am here on a writer’s retreat, titled Self as the Source of the Story. I am here seeking help to tell a story I know deep in my heart I’m meant to share. I ponder how to bring alive in words the journey that has unfolded for me over the past twelve years, the path I have walked with depression and healing as my companions. Here, now, I walk slowly, my bare feet caressing the ground beneath me as the path meanders from my comfortable living quarters to the gathering house on the far side of the marsh. I walk alone, knowing that I will find support and comfort, laughter and tears soon, sitting in circle with my fellow travellers. In this moment, though, I relish the stillness, the solitude, connecting with nature, aware of each step, careful of the guardians of the path, the giant ‘banana’ slugs, who can appear at any moment, sliding across the soft wood shavings which highlight the dry path through the mire and greenery.
Suddenly I stop, my eye caught by something on the path, which is neither a slug nor a twig from the trees above. I pick up a piece of wood, about the size of my hand, a circular knot in the center of the wood, which has resisted the shredder. Intrigued I carry it with me to the Marsh house where we gather. I show my find to the group, sensing a metaphor at hand,
“Depression is like going through the chipper,” I say. “A part of you survives. Like this knot, that part of you has a strength that you learn to trust.”
That night as we prepared to enter a day of silent writing, I had a dream. A man with an axe stood beneath a massive tree. Walking through the bush near my home you can find a few of these giants, as they stretch up to the impossibly high canopy their base has rotted, creating an alcove where fairies and gnomes might linger on a misty winter’s night. In my dream I watched as a man with an axe chopped away at the inside of the hollow, stepping out of the way as the sawdust liberated by his axe rained down. Watching this scene, my dream observer felt fear for his safety, and perhaps wondered why he persisted in this potentially dangerous endeavor. A wise voice from behind reassured me.
“The tree will be better, stronger afterwards.” There was a purpose to it all, just as we were learning in our writing classes. We write our stories, not to perpetuate them, but to heal and let go and, humbly, without expectation, offer what healing we can to other human souls on this journey.