Outside the Lines, Grouse Valley, Sequoia National Forest

This valley feels like it was made for us. I know that is how everyone enchanted with a piece of land feels. Nevertheless, the magic of this land, its seemingly symbiotic ecosystem creates dandelions the size of a newborn’s head. There are no telephone poles as far as the eye can see – only grass, redwoods and pines, oak, wild flowers, a body of water nestled between granite hills covered in plant life.

You hear the cows lowing, see them grazing along the lake. Not a human being in sight. No car horns, ambulances or leaf blowers, just a mind-blowing perimeter of pine trees, granite and wildflowers. California poppies appear with their tiny entourages, some yellow, some so bright orange they project coral in the sun, velvety purple lupine, stout morning glories, dwarf daisies, apple trees and tall grass as far as the eye can take it.

The cows here graze during the day, gallop across the field below, drink at the lake, move on. Their voices wake us. On the third day, we don’t hear them anymore. The frogs continue into the evening, and the cicadas follow. Sparrows nest around the two-story log cabin and bring worms to their babies at first light. There are corners of the porch where hornets have made nests. The bees buzz all day, and all the creatures great and small contribute to the music of the valley. Pink water lilies rise out of one corner of the lake, and sparrows skim the top looking for insects and tadpoles. We step gingerly around cow dung and find ourselves in a nursery; baby frogs by the thousands leap towards the sun, jump out of our palms, try to find their way in their new confusion, in their new mucky world of mud and grass. I wonder what they are instinctually aiming for, what is driving them to continue leaping forward. Larger frogs appear at night after the sun has gone, popping out of their burrows. They sing in unison while the cows low, and we sit around the fire and laugh at the what Cheryl calls the bovine symphony.

This weekend is about sisterhood and creative flow, about healing, about being beguiled and understood and ushered into our own power. We try this as women who come from different backgrounds and experiences. Tess, Cheryl, Avonel, Michele, Arminé. The five of us made it here after much trouble on the other side of the lake, off-roading at times, almost busting my Honda open from roots and detritus. Luckily, we edited the poorly-written directions and made our way towards the higher road. Always take the high road! After using the secret codes to unlock the gate, we continue through juvenile apple orchards and find ourselves at last in front of the Lake Cabin, a large maple tree shading the front. We park and enter like whirling dervishes setting up the kitchen and beds, pouring drinks, laughing, running around the wrap-around porch, gazing gazing gazing out into the wild green before us, the wild blue lake. The mountain ranges continue behind the lake in many shades of grey and ash, like sleeping ghosts.

From the deck, Michelle sketches the valley on a large piece of butcher paper while Avonel and Tess hike down into it for a closer look with their lenses. We play in the sun and shadow of the grandmother tree rooted behind the house. We pose like trees in the breeze. We give ourselves wings and tiaras. At night, with the stars watching, we try to mimic their dead beauty. We allow ourselves to be amazed at our own capabilities.

We eat, rest, light a fire, tell our stories, bare our truths and burn sage. We fold pain into paper and let it burn in the fire. We drink. We laugh. Then, we manifest. We release the rage into the fire. We make room for possibilities. We make room for ourselves.

June 25, 2016

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