A four day weekend. Everything in the state is on fire. The valley is filled with smoke. You can stare at the sun and see what looks like a orange. According to several of the tv shows I’ve been binging on, this is when the vampires rise up and take over. No worries here. I’m well-armed.
Sunday and I went hiking. A short hike, only four miles or so. I took a couple of beers and if I found a spot that was relaxing, I’d stop and just relax. Let the Default Mode Network run for a bit. No books. No ponderings. Just daydreaming beside a pool with a beer.
This particular pool I’ve named dog pool. It was here, last winter, that I came upon a golden retriever that was stuck in the water, unable to get out, tired and couldn’t touch the bottom of the swollen creek. I had passed an elderly man who was very slow, very quiet, and very frail, further away on the trail. I knew the dog was his (I saw them together hours earlier) and there was no way he’d be able to rescue the dog. Easy enough to jump into the water, grab the soaking wet dog in a bearhug, and lift him out onto the muddy bank. I didn’t even think about the dog biting me from fear. But once on land the dog was quite happy. He hung out with me and when I walked him back to the old man the dog was keen to follow me away instead. The old man had to put the dog on a leash so that I could get away.
I was walking in an area that I often come to searching for ravens. There is a mated pair in this forest and half the time I come here they are along a particular stretch of trail along a creek. I didn’t see them today. Still, the hike was enjoyable. It was in the 90’s, perhaps pushing 100. There was no breeze. Everything was still. The air was thick like a blanket. Sweat collected around my shirt. My kilt, on the other hand, was much cooler. I keep telling nervous men who ask me in whispered tones about wearing it, betraying a desire to wear one themselves but afraid to look feminine (it does look like a dress and I could care less what you call it), that once you wear a kilt on a hot summer day, especially regimental style, you’ll never go back to pants again. If I really need to cool down, I simply lift the kilt up and tuck it in my shoulder straps for a while. Nice and cool.
Sometimes when I go out on a hike I will draw a rune before I begin, something to chew on while I venture between the trees. Today I didn’t. I was going to wait until I felt the time was right.
While I was walking, however, I was chewing on something. I’ve been over my first ex for a while now. But the second ex, my last one, was harder. I’m not going to hash it out here. Only that I’ve been looking to the experience for the lesson. There was a thread of willing sacrifice there, and when the end came, I was surprised and felt (still) betrayed. But can there be sacrifice without giving? I’m not meaning this in a better to have love and lost than never love at all sort of thing. But something else. Though I can’t put my finger on it right now. But walking in the forest I felt a shift. Things seemed different within. As I sat and drank the beer, I could feel power and vigor. Not the sort of power when you are warmed up with olympic lifts and feel strong. The sort of power when you first glance an obstacle and your heart rushes out toward it in joy at the opportunity. It felt new. Like an old self that I had forgotten. It’s like when you’ve been sick with the flu, the cold, little sleep, and when you finally get over sickness and you are caught up on sleep, you remember what healthy feels like. Like that. I was able to think on the my last ex without any attachment, feeling of betrayal, or any other negative emotion. It just was. It was the past.
To my left, ten feet off the ground, an owl glided silently through the trees, as quiet as a ghost. I watched it cross the path in front of me, fly off to my one o’clock. I lost sight of it. I was unable to positively identify it as Barred Owl or Spotted Owl. Chances are that it was a Barred Owl. There are no old growth forests near me. The area was a checkerboard of clearcuts. Forestry isn’t about forests, but crops. Instead of corn, it is a tree. Don’t let a forester fool you into thinking it has anything to do with ecosystems. They are gardeners.
I stood off the trail in silence. I took out my runes and pulled three, slowly, one after another, mixing the bag well between each draw.
A standard past-present-future rune drawing. Even though I had tried to keep an open mind, my thoughts prior were indeed looking at this odd, new, feeling of having turned a corner. Gebo is a rune of exchange. Gifts, but also the spirit of giving. I had given and expected the same sacrifice in return. It didn’t happen. Whomever it is with, people, gods, forces of nature, there is often times an expectation of reciprocity. It can even manifest in a way where if we think we’re doing a decent job of living a decent life as a decent person, and some calamity strikes, we feel offended. Hagalaz is a great counter for this thought. But back to my earlier thoughts. I had entered a circle to Lilith and given myself as sacrifice. Is it any wonder what happened? Instead of trying to find an answer that fits my wants, what did I receive and what is the light therein? Or to use an analogy, suppose I give a gift of silver to a wild witch of the forest. What use has she of silver? And in return she gives me an egg as a gift. Which is the greater gift? Seeing the egg for what it is means giving up my expectations and seeing with a broader vision. The egg is the greater gift by far.
There is an active nature to this rune, a masculinity^cf1 of energy. Masculinity has, among other things, a judgment about it. It must parse, classify, separate, name, move, act on. Masculine energy impeded is frustrated and seeks to change, alter, attack, move through/over/under, dominate, overwhelm that which is in front of it.
Gundarsson writes that Berkano is the rune of the earth who receives the sacrifice/seeds and holds it within herself, guarding and nourishing it until the time has come for it to return to the worlds outside again. Another author associates it with Frigga, the most motherly, most queenly, of the Northern goddesses. Another associate it with healing. A rune of bringing into being. There is some connection to cycle of death/birth here, emphasis on the birth (but even an eye on the death that was). With Berkano facing left, for me it was a reminder of what I gave and why. The birth occurs because of the energy of the death before. I am here now, in this state, because of the sacrifice. Don’t rush the growth, let it germinate. Slow down. The sunlight is above, waiting. But don’t lost grip on the past. In the psychology of resilience, there is no strengths developed without trauma. Resilience is another term for a state where there was no trauma, no difficulty, and hence no growth. Without this dual cycle, spinning, up and down of trauma and growth, trauma and growth, a person never becomes more than. However, if there is to be growth after trauma, one must be able to see the egg as the gift it is. Even if that egg hurt, find the growth. This is sometimes incredibly difficult to do. Sometimes what lies in our way of doing so is our holding onto a should, no matter how justified we may feel it is. Letting this part go is the first step.
There is a feminine energy to this rune. Feminine energy is passive^cf2. The dark earth, collecting the seeds, giving space, nutrient, time, for the seed to germinate, is stillness. It is interconnection. Look at the amazing connectivity of the root systems of an ancient forest, the network of communication, of nutrients, that flow between and among. I’m reminded of two things here. First is Julia Butterfly Hill’s amazing book Legacy of Luna where she writes about the non-judgmental love of the Earth. Though we abuse it, she keeps loving, keep giving. The other is a Zen proverb (I think, I could be wrong) that a flower never blooms in a wrong spot. The processes of the Earth are. We aren’t saving the planet, we are saving ourselves. Gaia will be here. The question is will we live in harmony, or ignore the processes and die from our own poison? With such wide perspective of space and time, what foresight lies within the Earth? Is it any wonder that Frigga is said to also know the future, but, like the Earth, does not tell of what is to come?
The last time I came hiking in this forest I was searching for Yew trees. I found several. In fact, earlier on today’s hike I had stopped on a trail, looked to my right, and saw that a yew tree stood a little off in the shadows. One writer sees the rune as typifying the link between the worlds, much like Yggdrasil upon which Odin hung for nine days. Odin hung as a sacrifice to himself. Odin was ever seeking knowledge, to learn, to grow. Eihwaz is a rune of great mystical power, as another writes. It links opposites and carries energy between them. Perhaps signaling moving from one state to another, or unification of opposites within. Looking the prior two runes, there are the opposites of masculine and feminine energy. There is also the death and growth, again, the fertilizing of soil upon which grows a tree. There are many ways to see Eihwaz.
When I saw the three runes before me, it seemed to confirm what I was feeling already on the hike. I’m not sure how to classify the feeling, it isn’t a relief. No deep breath. Another time that I feel a similar feeling is when I go to the gym. I’m well rested. I’m nourished. I feel great. I feel a spring in my step. I don’t feel the pain of the shoulder any longer. I look at the WOD and see a good one with some heavy lifting and a metabolic component. But I look forward to the workout. During my injury I focused on form and technique, getting a little stronger and firmer in my movements. It’s an eagerness for the workout, though a reserved one because I know I’m going to end up on the floor in a pool of sweat. But I’m alive.
^cf1: I shouldn’t have to explain that this doesn’t mean gender.
^cf2: Don’t misunderstand passive as less than or weak. A brick wall is passive. Passive is simply the opposite state of active. It is stillness. Gravity is passive. Things spinning within gravity, shooting, exploding, are active. Inseparable.