if its not yummy, then we better make it funny.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ritual at Mercer Bay

One Astonishingly sunny winter day last month Jordan and I went on a mission to execute a ritual. For school at The Evergreen State College I was winding up the quarter and wanted to add a final grand finale of a ritual to my collection of them that were part of my study.

Here is a quote from my evaluation.

"I have cultivated a practice of Earth or nature based rituals. I invented rituals which had validity for me and kept them in a journal, studying their effectiveness as therapy. Assessment of today's mental health statistics and my own transitions compelled me to focus specifically on depression. I confirmed my notion that the study/enjoyment of nature and movement (or exercise) are two essential components for health that almost everyone has access to without cost. I gained knowledge of Maori and Wiccan philosophy that employ rituals. I wove flax ropes to use to secure flotation gourds in an ocean swimming ritual as well as making a hanging installation 'room' in which rituals can be performed. Daily walks on coastal tracks gave me inspiration."
Here is an exert from my log book

"Rituals were performed an average of twice a week. Keeping a journal of rituals cultivates intentional living as well as helps the author recognize the progress rituals provide.
Some rituals were simply mundane tasks taken on with special intent and mindfulness. Others were more orchestrated events. The general purpose of these rituals is to progress past obstacles and alleviate stress and byproducts of stress like depression and struggling with unpleasant emotions. It is also to remember and celebrate what is right with life, whats working and feels good. It is my hope to continue this log and to document a wide variety of rituals that others can utilize. I will pursue refinement of the process and look for a realm for publication in the future.
The statistics for depression in Western countries are staggeringly high at around fifteen to twenty five percent. Developing strategies to handle stress and overcome depression brought on by situational triggers ourselves, internally, without the use of chemical or electroshock treatment is essential and possible. Rituals have been tools for people as long as there have been people. It is empowerment.
Within my study of ritual, Nature is viewed as a teacher and often plants, seasons, celestial observations and even dreams and body sensations are 'listened to'. When logging a ritual, I usually state intended lessons or benefits, describe the ritual itself and state the apparent actual benefits."

The whole idea was a revisitation of some dance training I did in my twenties with Anna Halprin, who designs rituals for herself and for communities (she claims to have arrested her own cancer through a 48 hour ritual she orchestrated at her Sea Ranch retreat in Mendocino.) If such tangible results have be achieved then maybe I could address my 'middle aged with young children and self absorbed physicist husband in remote New Zealand blues'.

I took Jordan, a 'Mercer bay virgin', to the gripping (we were- to ropes with knots, over rock faces) trail down to the pristine isolated bay. I showed him the little rock cavern cafe where the sea ogre likes to eat and the eerie cave with the light creeping in from above and we were spooked by the roaring waves occasional deep rumbling. We saw the soft sparkling sand bosom and we took a couple sips of the grandeur before heading over to the actual mission. The reason for our excursion: the rock that looks like a head. I was to swim to and climb out onto to hold a ritual as the tide shifted and I would(??) whatever came into my mind to do. Maybe I would sing loudly and then softly, maybe I would weave the gorgeous kelp that was strewn all over, maybe meditate or do yoga postures or laugh or cry. I knew I wanted to be aware of tides, metaphor for life's cycles and reassuring and predictable changes. If I am in a funk, not to worry- the tide comes and goes and things are guaranteed to change, it's only natural.
I had previewed Mercer Bay as a ritual site on my own a month or so before, finding the vertical path pretty much by accident. I had hounded my friend Mike to tell me where the trail started but he wouldn't tell me. One needed to be shown, he said. He was right; I had a very nervy climb out from a wrong turn with a sheer drop. I lived to tell, though. It was interesting, my body seemed to know I was going in the wrong direction and it gave me some chances to think it through via ankle writhing and kneecap agony sessions that slowed me down enough to think of consequences and dependents who still haven't grown up and need a mother.

Anyway, I didn't go out to the rock in the end because there was a big slumbering seal right on the rock I needed to cross. It was so large, I thought it a sea lion at first. It stirred a couple of times and didn't seem to mind me. I didn't feel like climbing over it, though, really. So I went out into the surf in my birthday suit and Jordan took photos from a cozy rock he found. He made some funny narrated videos with a breathy story of my merging with the sea, but I have spared you that, but here are a couple of photos. By the way, I think it was still a ritual,and A fine one, anyway. Sometimes the plans are changed but there's enough to satisfy you just the same.

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