The five-kilometre radius pilgrimage

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by Bianca Crapis

Recording by author

I left my house without an inkling of where I was headed. No route planned for my wander, just a burning desire to leave the house. My head had taken on a prison-like quality recently, a cacophony of blares and whispers and squawks. It was hard to find solace there. I was sitting with some big decisions and fundamentally no idea of what was being asked of me.

“What is mine to do?” The forest had answered, in their mystical and cryptic way.

A question floated to me a few months earlier in a Work that Reconnects gathering, “What is mine to do?” The forest had answered, in their mystical and cryptic way. It seemed that the real challenge began when that answer was taken out into what we call “society”. The answer from my forest friends was not cryptic at all. Their answer was clearer and more succinct than the obstacle course of labels, rules and accredited pathways this world has created to legitimise. I do not begrudge this process, with its important merit in protecting the wellbeing of others. I only wish it more matched the language of the forest, a language I have only just begun to slowly relearn.

When faced with a decision, the inquisitive student in me seemed to disintegrate; replaced with a narrow desire to make the “right” choice.

Typically, I’m an attentive and curious student. I can be patient and exploratory. I have apprenticed in the art of letting go of outcomes. But the processes of internal burrowing, undoing and re-weaving that had been occurring over the past few months were now calling to be expanded to include the field of others. Opportunities that I had worked towards presented themselves to me, despite my own well of doubts about my own capacities. When faced with a decision, the inquisitive student in me seemed to disintegrate; replaced with a narrow desire to make the “right” choice.

I was firmly within this colosseum when I left my home, fighting with myself, barely attuned to the ferociously blue sky, the vibrant banksia blooms, the sparkling dew on the gum leaves. Language escapes me when I try to pinpoint exactly what happened next, but I’ll do my best within its confines. I know full well that it cannot capture the transcendent and the descendent alignment, the dance of spirit and soul when they meet and merge, and the world becomes peacefully mute and ethereally choral at once. There was, in that moment, a deepening knowing of my journey. Another layer added both below in the world of burrowing and above in the world of weaving. Now I knew why I had left the house. I was unprepared with my water supply and I was not 300 metres from home when this landed, but that thread that pulls me from my gut forth towards an invisible known was stronger than my risk-averse brain.

I was on a pilgrimage. 

There were three places that I visited, each with their own personality, energy, critters, teachings and peculiarities.

During the hard lockdown in Victoria, we were only permitted to “exercise” within a five-kilometre radius of home. My five-kilometre radius and I developed a new and intense relationship. There were three places that I visited, each with their own personality, energy, critters, teachings and peculiarities. I visited these places with my calm contentment, my worried fervour, my grieving heart, my playful enthusiasm, my compassionate gaze and my tensed loyal soldier. These places were, for me, friends, teachers, lovers, at times they were antagonists, jokesters, and annoyingly cryptic sages. These places witnessed all of it, counselled me through it, and teased something larger than what I’d previously thought possible. 

I wandered to them during lockdown. My wandering took on all sorts of manifestations. At times, the slowness and aimlessness were treasures that I could ride all through the day or week, at other times there was a narrowing, some sort of task focus, some sort of answer to be squeezed out of the places I visited, but the forest was always far cleverer than I. Never pandering to my desire to know, the forest and all their creatures knew how to dance the samba of uncertainty.

Traumas shatter our sense of safety, they pull the rug out from under what we thought were basic truths of the world, they occur when the pain of a situation is just too much to bear.

When the global onset of coronavirus began, I watched the world around me crumble and I knew that this would be a global trauma. Traumas shatter our sense of safety, they pull the rug out from under what we thought were basic truths of the world, they occur when the pain of a situation is just too much to bear. A part of our bodies and our brains seem to swoop in to hold us, protecting us from that which is too overwhelming for our psyches. When the tear is too great to make logical sense of, our brains are adept at finding a placeholder, often in our bodies, to guard the hurt. Not all traumatic events become traumas. I’ve noticed that the determinant of this tends to be how much safety we have in our lives to feel and process the traumatic event immediately after it occurs. Instead of feeling during the onset of the pandemic, many folks turned to home fitness, sourdough baking, learning a new language. I mean not to how judge we cope, merely to notice that this is a form of coping. Productivity can be a form of trying to cope with a trauma in the absence of knowing how to or having the safety to fully feel.

The forest’s unwavering presence gave me the language to start to talk about my experience.

If there is a sense here that I am trying to dictate another’s experience of trauma, I want to say that I know my experience, but I don’t know yours; I don’t know hers or theirs or his. When I’ve felt torn apart by my experiences, I went to the forest and they held me. Crying at the base of a tree trunk, being held in the endless green of a meadow, soothed by song of an unknown bird, or captivated by the dance of a lyrebird who made me believe in pure magic. The forest’s unwavering presence gave me the language to start to talk about my experience. They helped me to uncover identities about who I am, and then to go beyond them. I’m wary of anthropomorphising the forest. I know the forest has not simply been waiting for wounded humans to stumble upon their terrain so that they can nurture us back into wholeness. The natural world completes so many life-giving functions and we need not flatter ourselves with believing that this is another one. 

The forest is not all nurturance, it is also fierce and violent. The act of holding that truth alongside my own pain, the existence of both the beauty and the chaos, allowed me to move beyond the narrative of a hurt self, that things ever needed to be just one way or another, that I was even an independent being at all. As in Macy’s work, the collapse of all we know, The Great Turning, seemed to bring on a well of feeling for the world as the pandemic progressed. There were many stories of folks turning to nature, and this is only mine- one, cis, queer, underemployed, young woman in Australia on a pilgrimage to the places of green canopies, duck-song lakes and dandelion dotted hills that held me. 

…a soulful knowing of the reciprocity of all things bubbled within.

Overflowing with the boundless gifts that the natural world was so prepared to give to me during my time of hardship, how could I even begin to give back? Struck by this question, did I even know what a pilgrimage was? Maybe my head did not, but a soulful knowing of the reciprocity of all things bubbled within. Not quite yet forgotten in a culture of ownership, something in me remembered that this was a natural energy exchange. That this burst of energy I felt had a specific channel of direction, and that was right back into the earth.

The rituals of my pilgrimage flowed naturally forth. There was a presence of the exceptional, natural abundance around me. There was a sit spot in each quiet space of the forest. There was a mandala made from natural materials, an artistic gift back to the earth. There was movement, dancing to the sounds of the forest, allowing my body to embody the very essence of that place- an acknowledgement that this forest had made their way inside me, and notions of my body as entirely mine had flaws. I could not be without this natural world.

Letting ourselves breathe into the questions of … what do we offer back to the natural world?

My pilgrimage did not spontaneously alight a path to healing the divides of our time. But as my body took form in an open clearing of the forest, letting the energies of the natural world mould my body into fluid and ever-changing shapes, I felt that this was the path to beginning that healing. To giving traumas a safe place to lay their head and come to trust in safety, to seeing how “oneness” if you are white, able-bodied, cisgender, straight and neurotypical is not an ultimate reality for all beings in our current time, to losing some of suffocating grip of regularly engaging in a society that both enacts trauma and makes each of us agents of trauma. Letting ourselves breathe into the questions of not what the natural world offers us, but what do we offer back to the natural world? What would it mean if we truly, authentically questioned the legacy of this life and a life beyond ourselves?


Recorded by Carmen Rumbaut

 

 

Bianca Crapis (she/her) is a young person who lives, works and plays upon the unceded land of the Wurrundjeri and Boon Wurrung people. She is an aspiring psychologist with visions for a mental health approach that deconstructs neoliberalism, critically examines trauma and resistance, explores decolonising the mind and considers the multi-faceted nature of wellbeing that must include connectedness to the earth. When not wandering outdoors, she supervises a school mentoring program, volunteers with Psychology for a Safe Climate, studies Sacred Circle facilitation, and learns rewilding and contemplative spiritual practices from various teachers around Naarm (Melbourne, Australia).

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