“grass child stone woman”
Stepping onto the field, lush and fertile, Rebecca was in her element. A cottage sat, nestled in the wilderness ahead. A forest expanded beyond, not untouched, but sparsely inhabited by humans. She proceeded to show me the land, reflecting on the parts of it that she felt most called to, sharing her appreciation of these surroundings. The meadow, the woods… it all felt so sacred, especially after spending weeks in the active city of Seattle.
“There’s a renewal that happens when we seek out what we refer to as nature, or a more rural setting,” Rebecca mused. “There’s a clarity that comes to one’s mind, and that’s incredibly hard to explain. I know for me, it means a level of solitude, being alone in a setting like this is a reminder of what can be found.”
Rebecca and I hadn’t seen each other in quite a few years. We have known each other since we were children, as we were both raised Quaker and attended retreats together. A Quaker retreat is essentially a gathering of sweet, friendly adolescent children facilitated by a group of equally loving adults. I remember her as having boundless energy, bounding around, climbing on people’s backs. She was a little whirlwind of delightful excitement, back then. Now her demeanor is calm and patient, though her eyes sparkle with an intellectual curiosity that draws one in, commands respect. When I found out that she was in Washington state when I was going to be in Seattle, we immediately made plans to get together, and I took a ferry out to see her. She was cottage/dog sitting for a friend and mentor, and so we played a little two-friend, two-dog family for the week that I stayed with her. It was lovely and refreshing to step away from the incessant work I was doing on my projects, my business. Being with her allowed me to soak in the present moment, instead of continuously living in the future.
As we walked through the field and up the hill, she engaged with nature in such tender ways. Gently grazing her hand across the grass, lovingly stepping over plants and naturally navigating the terrain. She shared that “if you can hone in on specific things in life and find communion with them, then they will bring you to a healthier state with nature.”
“There are so many things that we perceive as demanding of our attention, but when you’re staring at trees, they ask for your attention. They beg you to sense when the breeze is going through them, and it’s never enough. They’re so infinite that you can look at them and find something new in their being every day, because you’re different every day and they’re different every day. That infinite relationship needs as much work as your college finances.”
Her appreciation for the subtleties of nature that many people overlook served as an invitation to deepen my own awareness. I observed her observing nature, practicing gratitude every second she was immersed in it. It was more than simply being in nature… than observing it… she was actively being part of it, mindfully entwined.
“I feel I spend a lot of my time looking outwards for what I need, or what I believe I need. Being in nature is kind of like a reminder to come into one’s self. To look inwards and find that sustenance.”
She showed me paths on the ground that were made by tiny mice, running back and forth, paving a trail through habitual traveling. How similar this pattern is to our own, as a species. In some historical cities and towns, we have commuted along the same roads so many times that they have been paved, marking their permanence.
She and I began this journey with trust. As the afternoon went on, and anxieties of being photographed rose in waves, we had an ongoing dialogue centered around trust and reinforcing trust. I could see and feel the moments she softened and became most comfortable just being and letting me capture that.
“Sometimes my body speaks louder than I want it to” She expressed in a moment of vulnerability.“It can be a tool in that way, a platform for your voice. Sometimes it’s difficult when that platform out-speaks your voice, and then you’re left thinking was that me or was it my platform?”
We started to venture into the woods, talking about our bodies, and how she’s experienced the transition into womanhood. “I say ashamed, but what I mean is: becoming aware, gaining an awareness of the body and what it looks like in reference to what you’ve seen of other bodies, and allowing that to be internalized, instead of allowing it to be other peoples’ problems. As I gradually became aware of my own body, I felt the need to self criticize or find defects in it.”
“It’s easier to say, damn, I wish this system was different, that people were more honest about this reality surrounding the diversity of bodies. But it’s not.” Inhabiting our bodies as women, we pondered, through all the inevitable changes that come with time and age. They can sometimes feel like a burden, though simultaneously, a joy. We discussed how we are always striving to approach ourselves with compassion and joy.
“I can only change it by telling myself every day that the way I feel and exist as a body is beautiful and whole as long as I take care of it and am attentive to it. And if I do that, if I concentrate all my energy on that, and exist that way in the world…then my life will speak, and it will touch others.”
Standing exposed in the mud, eyes closed, wind blowing gracefully through her hair, a smile warming her face, full of so much joy and contentment, she found herself fully as her creature. I shared in her contentment, thankful for her presence. ♥
Post Written by Meghan Carmichael in collaboration with Augusta Rose