August 28th, 2006 (01:07 pm)
current mood: contemplative
I spent the last 5 days at a Breitenbush Hotsprings Retreat with 100 other Queer and Queer friendly women. For those of you who have never been to Bretenbush it is a 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary in the Mount Hood Wilderness. There is a real timeless beauty there where you can reconnect with the natural world, and hopefully refresh the body & spirit. They have hot springs, both natural and man made, sauna, massage, various workshops, sweat lodge and vegetarian meals. Its a clothing optional center and for the purpose of this weekend, the cabins were closed to outsiders and men.
I spent alot of time hiking, but joined several workshops and of course hot tubbed and enjoyed the sauna.
Upon registering after entering, I was handed a banana dental damn and told it would be wise to be discreet.
I was assigned a cabin, and told I already had a "roomate". Upon entering the cabin, I found the woman in bed, and she explained she had a migraine and was trying to sleep it off. So much for the excitement of recieving the dental damn, my already potential bedmate had a headache! "Are you single?", she asked. I got a good look at her at that time..she wasn't someone I could sleep with. How can you know that in an instant? I can't tell you...but in the 3 seconds it took for her to ask that...I had already undressed her see her in various postions and it wasn't anything that looked plausible in my life. "I am alone here, yes", I responded & I placed my belongings on the other bed and left the cabin.
The first night was spent trying to acclimate my city body to the sights and sounds of the forest and 100 scantilly clad women.
There were all types of women there. Queer, Butch Femme, Andro, Hippie, Closeted professionals, old, young (18 was the youngest and 84 was the oldest), Black, White, East Indian, Hispanic, Mixed race, Jewish, Pagan, Christian, Athiest, and Hindu. I could not quite get my bearings even as dinner was announced and we filed into the lodge where tables were set up inside and out. I clung to the my friends as we took our buffet dinner to an outside table.
The first night with my new roomate was pleasant enough...she told me she was there to find a new girlfriend and I encouraged her to really look around. Ha! She talked in her sleep, and although I couldn't make out anything she said by morning I hadn't slept well and decided to ask for my own cabin.
Because everything is done for you, and the worries of every day life ebb away as the hours go by...the subtlety of life start to be recognized. It felt like my senses were slowly coming back to me. I couldn't remember the last time I was with other women, and felt as if the sensualness of life was made paramount. I forget to see this. I really long for it in my life.
Perhaps it because its the first thing to go when your relationship feels hard. It feels like one of the easiest things to give up wanting when you don't know how to go about having it, too.
One of the mornings, some of the butches brought their archery up to the strawberry meadow and practiced. I was going on a hike by myself and saw them. It felt like one of those visions you see out of a greek story book. It made me laugh...when would I ever see that in Portland?
On another evening, I was in one of the meadow hotspring tubs and several of us were discussing the dragonflies who were flirting with us in the water. There was an entomologist there ,and as she chatted on about the short life cycle of the dragon flies and mayflies, a woman slid her hand over my thighs and onto my back. I looked at her. She just smiled. It all felt very dream like.
I hiked that afternoon alone (shirtless) for the first time in years. A few miles from the lodge itself, I sat down and heard only the insects, as the forest was so still and darkened by the old growth. As I sat on a bed of needles a shower of pinecones hit me and more needles. I looked up and could see nothing as the trees stretched hundreds of feet up. I could hear rustling and then more pinecones and needles. I had this fear in the pit of my stomach...and envisioned a bear. What was I supposed to do again if you meet a bear in the woods? I sat still. The raining of debris continued until finally I could hear something edging its way down. It took almost 2 minutes but finally I could see it...it was a tiny squirrel! It scolded me and grabbed 3 of the pinecones, which made its little head sag from the weight. Lesson number 1. Everything is so much larger in the imagination.
There is a real savoring of life that occurs in me when I am in nature. I forget how it restores me and helps me remember the simplicity of chosing the essential from the nonessential.
There was a talent/no talent show on one of the evenings and anyone could sign up. The highlight for me was when 7 of the women (yes they were all femme) did a veil dance for the audience. It wasn't so much belly dancing as a dance of the feminine...I felt very affirmed in watching it. Maybe it was due to my deflated ego of being a rejected lover...maybe I just needed to see pretty women who knew how to move their hips. Maybe it was seeing the whole audience transfixed on each woman, as she used her veil in a hypnotic beat. There was a moment when the 84 year old took off her veil and swung it around one of the younger women, as if in some passing off ritual and everyone started clapping. What is it about ritual that people need so desperately? Why was I clapping too?
I won't deny I enjoyed some of the ritual provided, even though I had no interest in any divine presence other than getting in touch with my own soul.
One of the women I had coffee with one morning joked at how at a recent circle in which someone thanked the "goddess" she felt it was very nonconsenual. She was an old school butch, and a math teacher who had no time for discussions about the spirituality. We discussed string theory and the expansiveness of the milkyway and the universe. I marveled at the fact that I must have seen a dozen shooting stars every evening.
If I had wanted sex, I am sure I could have found it. I had not even thought about it until I was handed the dental dam at registration. A few people asked me for my email address. It felt more important for me to look for my lost bits than add anything to the already chaos of my being. My ex said during our break up, what I really needed was to find my inner pig, to be the better lover. For a long time, I thought about how I would try to find such a long lost part of myself. This weekend however made me realize, unlike her...its not my inner sexual pig that has been lost. It has been the sensual nature of my world. Somehow some of my power is connected to that...my creativity..my life force...my happiness.
I think my broken heart was stopping me from allowing me to explore that fully this weekend. Maybe my brokenheartedness stops me from fully having that be a part of my life all the time.
The older you get, and the more wounded we all get, it seems imperative we find ways to heal, so we can not get so disconnected that our souls cannot find their ways home. How do women find their sensual selves? Do they need a partner?
I went to a worshop called "Erdu", a sort of combination of Yoga and dance. It was exhausting and and fun, and got me back into my "power" body again, after months of feeling like I have been disconnected due to my pain from the break up, and K's depression and my recent surgery. As I lifted my arms in a pose that looked alot like a slow motion grade B karate flick...I felt my center harden and I could feel myself smiling. It feels so rare sometimes to feel strong, and happy at the same time.
There were two women completely independent of each other who made their way to Breitenbush who were not part of this group. One German woman backpacking the Lewis & Clark trail on her own appeared out of nowhere one night and asked if she could stay. She sat in the hot tub and chatted about her 30 mile a day trip, and how thankful she was to have a warm meal and soak. She had lost 25% of her body weight doing this trek, and she was already very thin. I asked her why she was doing it, later and she said, "because I needed to see if I could."
The other was a suburban housewife who had heard about Breitenbush and always wanted to stay and visit. I think she really had no clue to the diversity around her, but she was warmly embraced and participated in a sweatlodge complete with passing of tobacco and fasting, by one of the First Nations women attending.
We all speculated whether she would spend the night alone. The next morning, she cried as she packed her things...and said she never had felt so warmly about any group of women! A nice butch carried her things to her car for her. Did she realize she was surrounded by lesbians?
It was like a parallel universe in which I was blind to the beauty and sensuality around me, as she was blind when she asked if this was a "church group?"
Writing these things down sounds like some sort fantasy book. What just happenned these last few days? What was it that I went there for? Why did I dream about men the second night and women the third? What was it about being reconnected to my sensual nature, that excited me?
Where does my power lie?
What kind of residual gift can I hold with me so that the world won't harden me again?