I took a five day vacation with my sisters in Arizona. It was incredibly restorative. Even though I got no work done and my thesis looms larger than ever upon my return, the break in the action has given me so much energy to soldier on. It's impossible to detail five days of sun, heat, and fresh air in manageable bits, but there were two instances that blew my mind.
First, we traveled to Sedona to hike in the sacred grounds of the Native Americans. My sister knew of an amazing hike to Shaman's Cave, not in the guide books for those wishing to replicate. As we made our way through the red dirt canyon, we looked up the sheer rocks at a face in the stone--two eyes and a nose gazing down on the nature below.
The left eye of the Shaman, for those who venture closer, is really a sacred womb cave. This sounds new-agey, but it is in fact a womb, with all the pieces in the right places.
In the middle of the womb is a tiny mini-cave, a perfect circle of meditation that my entire family eagerly scrambled into to enjoy the peace. From the circle, I hear you can see the whole valley, feel the vibrations of the wind, enjoy the energy of the sun, and be restored. I did not feel these things because I was too terrified of heights and sliding down the sheer rock face. I made it to the mouth of the womb and fought my fear for a half hour before giving up.
Upon giving up, I realized I was too scared of death to climb back down. I stood again paralyzed with fear. My sisters yelled that I was reliving my birth, that I needed to just let go and slide down as my nephew kept doing. He yelled, "Wheeee!" and slid on his belly down the smooth red rocks. Instead, I sweated and cried, terrified to relinquish control and fall into emptiness. My brother-in-law tried reason: You won't die. The worst that will happen is you'll slide to the mouth of the cave and break a bone. At WORST.
But I couldn't let go. Eventually, Betsy and Richard had to climb up and get me, physically yank my foot and draw me from the womb. This reminded me of my actual birth, where I was in distress and pooped inside my mom. I was almost a forceps baby. The similarities are stunning. I'm so type-A control freak that I couldn't even relive my own birth for spiritual growth.
Instead, I found renewal from the orange trees that blossomed all over the southwest. My sisters and I picked oranges. I hoisted Sami on my shoulders and we jumped and yanked down the citrus fruits. It was amazing. We peeled them open in the yard and just let the juices run down our fingers and chins. We just threw the rinds in the grass for the kitties to eat. Later, we took our haul back home and made juice. The taste was explosive, unlike any grocery store orange I have ever had. There was a sweet, sweet zing to the juice and as I turned orange halves into the juicer, I got a real appreciation for the work that goes into one cup of juice. Forgetting the labor nature put into growing the orange in the first place, just creating one cup of goodness took about four oranges. Almost an hour of work to make juice for the five of us. I have learned to never take small things for granted and to slowly savor such delicacies.
So I return to my graduate work a little tanner, a little banged up, but filled with the zest of my own hard work. The end seems a little more reachable.