Indiana: The Wasteland and The Grail

This past weekend, David and I took a mini-getaway for his birthday. Our ultimate destination was Turkey Run State Park in West Central Indiana, but we decided to go via Lafayette, home of Purdue University — mostly because it afforded the most gluten-free, organic and/or vegan dining options. I had read that Lafayette and West Lafayette have the highest density population of anywhere in Indiana, so we prepared ourselves for hustle bustle, despite our intention to relax and go with the flow.

After years of caring for David’s parents and more recently my own, this was our first non-family, non-must-do-event getaway in as long as we can remember. No plans other than a 6:45 dinner reservation at Restauration and prepaid hotels in Lafayette on Saturday and at Turkey Run Inn on Sunday. Imagine our surprise when we arrived in Lafayette to find it almost completely deserted. Purdue must be out of session, because we saw hardly any students and even fewer adults. We actually referenced the Twilight Zone on several occasions, because the streets were that empty!

We checked into the Baymont and received an immediate upgrade to a corner room with a king bed. We had stocked up our cooler for the rest of the trip at the Mishawaka Whole Foods (which David helped open in 2013) and planned to wander around Lafayette art galleries and quaint shops, but we found most of them closed. With unexpected time before our dinner reservation, we headed over to Clegg Botanical Gardens, just outside of town. Reviews warned that it was more of a “nature trail” than a formal European garden, but that suited us just fine. The hills and dramatic views of Wildcat Creek cleared our heads and made me smile. Although we only spent about 20 minutes on steep steps and a winding trail, we felt the industrial views and dilapidated buildings of our trip there — and daily life in Goshen — fade away. I felt water begin to pour into my soul.

When we arrived back in Lafayette a mere 45 minutes later, the city suddenly seemed fully inhabited! Nary a parking space anywhere. All the restaurants were full, and we needed to tap our parking angel connections to make our reservation on time. More Twilight Zone jokes: when did they all land? As became a theme on this getaway, we got seated in the furthest away corner table, snugly tucked into our own universe. We enjoyed the food — mostly local, mostly organic/heirloom, with numerous vegan and gluten-free options, organic hard cider, and homemade bread from Einkorn wheat. It didn’t knock-our-socks-off, but we didn’t care. As we decompressed over dinner, we realized just how difficult the past three years have been for both of us, and we realized that we have made it through. We can feel the restoration after a very long time in the Wasteland.

I mentioned to David how many synchronicities I’ve had lately surrounding the Grail story. It seems everything that crosses my path somehow references the tale in new, deeply resonant ways. Sharon Blackie’s book, “If Woman Rose Rooted,” explores this ancient Celtic story in both its sanitized and Christianized forms, as well as its wilder forms — recognizing the Wasteland of what humanity has done to our Earth and our responsibility (and ability) to re-enchant the world. I highly recommend this book for both men and women, btw, since it reveals how the sacred masculine needs the divine feminine principle in order to return to its own balance. Sharon’s book interweaves her own story with that of many inspiring and deeply rooted women. Various iterations of the Grail story punctuate the cloth like repeating jeweled colors and patterns of a rich tapestry.

In any case, I fell asleep on Saturday night after reading another Celtic retelling of the Grail with women as its sacred protectors … and with its mythological connection between abusive, disrespectful patriarchal leadership and barren land. So often when I look upon the once tree covered Indiana, my heart and soul weep for this very same situation. Our world faces so many ecological crises, but the flat, industrialized, blight ridden, grey, dilapidated, toxic and ugly assault me whenever I leave my faery haven cocoon. Fortunately, the restoration of our Land continues, inspired by the complete contrast and a sense of urgency that I feel bubbling up not only from my soul but from the Land itself.

Because we live in a beautiful little house, with a beautiful and colorful magical office house next door and beautiful, lush, abundant gardens everywhere around and in between, I tend to lose sight of what I’ve done in three years. Only when I leave this sacred, healing spot does the harshness of Northern Indiana yank the magic carpet from beneath my soul until I remember that I’m the one who flies. I’m the one restoring this land, nurturing perennials, bulbs and fruit trees, planting native wildflowers, and designing sacred”rooms” inside and out.

Our drive to and around Lafayette reminded me, yes, of what feels so offensive to the inner artist in me, but it also registered possibilities. As we drove through neighborhood after gardenless, unlandscaped neighborhood, I began seeing gardens everywhere. “Do you realize how beautiful this world could be, David?! Do you realize how much food we could grow and how lovely it would all become?” When he mentioned poverty of both pocketbook and spirit, I wondered aloud, “Yes, but what if those come from a lack of imagination, a lack of vision? What if planting flowers and throwing colorful paint on old buildings could charm the poverty away? What if getting hands in the dirt really did heal depression like scientific studies continue to show?” Re-enchantment.

The next day we drove the hour to Turkey Run State Park. It was too rainy to go to the reportedly quieter Shades State Park, since that one can become treacherous in wet weather, so we got to Turkey Run Inn early. Once again, we found our room ready and tucked away in a quiet corner. My friend Dana from The Druid’s Garden had told me months ago that she had experienced one of the most sacred spots on Earth ever — not just in Indiana — at Turkey Run, and my soul hungered to feel in real life (not just my imagination) that deep, restorative healing it craved from Nature.

Despite all my gardening –and in all our travels I discovered that I actually have the most extensive garden I’ve seen for hundreds of miles and many towns in multiple states– I frequently feel starved for Nature in Northern Indiana. Instead of receiving from the Earth as I have in so many of my homes, with few exceptions, Goshen feels like everything I enjoy here, I made or co-created myself, usually through passionately love-filled vision and hard work. People appreciate the effort, but I knew I needed to replenish all the energy going out of me since we moved here in November 2 012. For months, I’ve anticipated this trip, expecting to feel cleansed by Nature’s holiness.

And quiet.

We arrived on Mother’s Day, which was maybe not the best planning, but synchronously, this experience triggered massive downloads and focus, so no mistake. When we began our hike, I immediately noticed the crowds. I don’t do crowds, so they seemed even larger than they probably were. At first, I assumed my ears deceived me about the volume of noise. “Don’t be so picky, Laura, that’s just a bird squawking in the distance. Nature’s not silent. Try to enjoy all Her creatures.” As we continued our walk, though, I found that in fact, those squawks were not birds, but children. Shrieking, yelling, rambunctious kids.

Again, I tried to talk myself out of my sense impressions. “Laura, it’s Mother’s Day. They’ve chosen to celebrate by bringing their kids in Nature. Chill out.” As the volume increased, we stopped at a sign describing how Turkey Run exists as a preservation of life on Earth 20,000 years ago. Microclimates offer enormous diversity in such a small area of land, and this spot stands alone outside the rest of the similar areas in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. David lovingly calls Turkey Run, “The Indiana Dells.”

The sign’s reverence for the unique and sacred aspects of this park warmed my heart. Instead of simply saying, “Stay on the trails,” the sign explained how “the greatest threat to this 20,000 year old preservation is you,” going on to note how park visitors’ actions can change the delicate balance required to maintain this Land. In addition to not trampling delicate flora, signs carefully explained all sticks should be left in place to decompose and add to the soil’s fertility.

With that in mind, we turned a curve to find the source of much of the squawking. Pre-teen boys covered in mud ran recklessly around a bridge and stream. They had huge sticks and smashed them — loudly and aggressively — in the water, while their father egged them on. Passersby with children allowed their own children to join the fray, climbing boulders and shouting from the top, splashing mud on themselves and others, yelling to each other from dozens of yards away or up close. Volume had nothing to do with proximity. I covered my ears and tried to identify one set of parents to connect with to begin to turn the tide, but the volume continued to rise and rise until my head began to spin.

“This is worse than a Walmart,” I said to David.

“The irony,” he said, “if that no one would act like this in Walmart.”

“It’s like screaming in a cathedral,”I whispered — outraged, as I knew we just happened to be standing right in the most sacred spot that Dana had mentioned. It looked truly magical. How could these children and their parents be so oblivious to the wonder here?!

“I didn’t come all this way to experience a Chuck E. Cheese or bumper car birthday party.”

“It’s Mother’s Day,” said David, hopping off to take some photos.

Turkey Run 2Turkey Run 3Turkey Run

I continued covering my ears, because the sounds of the yelling echoed in the canyon walls, amplifying each voice as more families began to arrive and thoughtlessly smash sticks on the rocks and water. It was the first Mother’s Day I’ve ever pondered the virtues of population control and plagues, and doing so felt as horrible as the shattered dream of sitting near a waterfall or spring and just communing with our real Mother … Mama Earth. Seriously, how could so many people come to such a gorgeous, sacred place and desecrate it? I’m usually so optimistic about humanity’s ability to turn things around, but I began having serious doubts on Sunday.

Thankfully, David insisted we keep walking, even when that walk turned to the “rugged” portion of the trail. I was so frazzled from the shouting that I did not trust my balance on a slippery, narrow rock ledge covered with moss, but my Taurus David had set his mind on reaching “The Punch Bowl.” I could either remain at the bottleneck of screaming, splashing pre-teens, or I could slip and slide my way through to the next phase. I used to rock climb, and those skills returned as the waterfall’s roar covered the human shouts.

David planned to turn around after “The Punch Bowl,” but I told him I could not face returning to that bedlam. My soul needed quiet, and as we began to get a little bit, my prayers became more focused. “Please, please, please, lead us somewhere peaceful and restorative.”

David went down to the Punch Bowl, and I climbed up a path to sit at the top of the waterfall he wanted to photograph. While there, the water washed away my earlier frustration and soothed the raw nerves. A warbler began to chirp on a nearby tree, and from the spring that fed the waterfall, I felt a strong Mother presence holding space for me, as my soul unwound. Un-twined, but also unwound as in un-wounded, un-hurt itself. I felt my soul heal by those holy waters.

Having passed the slippery threshold, we agreed to walk this longer, more rugged path in order to experience the quiet restoration we came here to receive. The rest of the journey did not disappoint, and several historical markers along the way revealed that the horror, outrage and sorrow I felt at desecrating the sacred actually helped to birth this park and the entire Indiana State Parks System. I found communion with the humans who recognized the beauty and power of this place and who did something to preserve it. Perhaps I will tell that story in depth another time, as this post grows long, but suffice to say, the people who created and maintain Turkey Run State Park are deeply reverent, soulful beings who honor the Waters and the Land. I felt humbled and inspired.

We returned to our room for a snack and lazy afternoon nap, then wandered out to Sunset Point at day’s end. I expected to find a crowd there, too, but David and I found ourselves alone with the woods, taking a magical walk at twilight.

After our cooler saved dinner, we talked and read in bed for awhile, both feeling freshly washed by our day outside. I continued to read “If Women Rose Rooted” and came upon the Breton version of Arthurian legends and the Grail. I have a special connection to BrocΓ©liande due to a faery who visited our yard in 2014 and helped with the landscape design (its own long story!). In any case, I again fell asleep thinking and dreaming of the Grail. The next morning I realized I was a day behind in Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning of the Year. As usual, the delay proved synchronous, since May 8 just happened to discuss not only the Grail but ways in which we can ask for the Grail to help restore whatever exists as a Wasteland in our lives or communities. Sharon Blackie had just been urging a similar process in “If Women Rose Rooted.”

Grail Celtic Meditation

I immediately presented my own need for healing as it relates to healing our Land in Goshen, and then Indiana at large. This state once housed the most magnificent trees! If not for people like state parks creator Richard Lieber and writer and activist Juliet Strauss, the rest of Indiana might have fallen to the timber companies devouring everything in sight. If not for those of us in Goshen loving the Land, planting trees, supporting the farmers market and creating and supporting the Arts, Goshen would not be bubbling forth with new, fresh waters of life. If not for people doing similar things in other spots, our entire Earth would turn into corporate cookie cutter buildings, ravaged land and poisoned wells.

But people do care. In lots of places. Some places need more care than others, and Indiana is such a place. Six months of dreams called me to Northern Indiana from Northern California. It has been difficult, and I came by way of Chicago’s Lake Michigan and Madison, WI. But I did come, and I did plant and root and grow. Others have preserved. I sent out my prayer yesterday for the Grail to pour its healing waters on the Wastelands of Indiana. As soon as I finished my prayer, I drew a card from Wild Wisdom of the Faery Oracle Deck and placed it on the Indiana blanket where I happened to be sitting upon the bed:

Grail Faery

The Grail Faery!

Just then, David returned from a little photo jaunt outside to snap pictures of a statue in honor of Juliet Strauss:

Subjugation close up

Indeed, the Grail is present within the Wasteland, pouring healing waters upon the Land. May we each do our part to restore and re-enchant the Mother we all share.

 

 

 

 

29 responses to this post.

  1. A lovely and beautifully passionate musing, Laura. And boy, do I ever understand what you’re sharing here. A resounding ‘yes’ to being a healing (and awareness-raising) force to restore and re-green the ‘wasteland’. xo Jamie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. beautiful written Laura. What struck me is I feel kind of just like you and a real need to get away to a beauteous spot and revive. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Let Your Light Shine Before Men, (Matthew 5:16)

    Adolphina,

    Creator/Host of TV Show “God’s Way YTVY” Spiritual Teacher & Counselor, Website: http://www.AdolphinaShephard.com Email: AdolphinaShephard@msn.com

    Date: Tue, 10 May 2016 14:44:41 +0000 To: adolphinashephard@msn.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Posted by Karen on May 10, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Yes, to healing everywhere and to doing our part locally! Won’t it be wonderful one day when all of our small, individual squares become one huge quilt. One of my favorite places in Ohio is The Wilds – acres of beautiful green, rolling hills housing endangered animals, some of whom are extinct in the wild. You can pet a camel and feed a giraffe and learn about these amazing creatures. And you’d never know you’re touring a reclaimed strip mine!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Posted by D.D. on May 10, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    I love the Twilight Zone reference, empty streets are my greatest joy…ah, and the silence of a childFREE life…too bad none of the adults stepped in to teach their kids reverence for the land. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Posted by Kieron on May 10, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I sometimes think you’re attuned to my own ideas and thoughts. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Posted by Susan on May 10, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    You are a light in the darkness, Laura. It takes strength, heart, and imagination to keep faith with the forces of life and renewal amidst the flatness and depression of the midwest. As a daughter of those lands myself, who has not found a way to root and grow there, you inspire me and give me hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Posted by Mitch on May 10, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Happy birthday to David! Great post Laura, so glad you both were able to getaway and recharge with our sacred mother, yay! You’re a true inspiration for all us Laura to actively help restore, protect the land and water’s of our sacred mother, especially in the triage industrial area’s, posts like this really help us appreciate and honor your hard work, determination and deep connection to our sacred mother, the divine feminine and bringing a bit of the Grail to Indiana.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Posted by chancewriter on May 10, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    I am struck firstly by the beauty of your writing. Not having experienced it before, I find it lovely and so eloquent πŸ™‚ Secondly, Happy Belated Birthday to David! And, thirdly, your little garden oasis in Goshen is an inspiration to many people, including me. Never before have I felt so safe, cocooned, protected, and loved in an outdoor space that wasn’t in the middle of nowhere! I swear I could nap in your garden and feel perfectly safe (safety is a huge deal for me). I am so thrilled and honored to be a small part of this world you’ve made in Goshen and to learn from you how to create my own spot of healing and safety for man and Nature so that the healing spreads. Lastly, I am so happy that you were able to get away with your beloved and rest and refill your well. It is inspiring to witness a woman fulfilling her purpose!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Jamie! Yes, I know you do get it! Big time. xo

    Like

  10. Thank you adolphina!

    Like

  11. I love the names of your favorite places, Karen. πŸ™‚ Thank you for doing your part to heal the rust belt, too.

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  12. Haha, thanks, D.D.! It was just so odd that the places we expected to be crowded were deserted and the ones we expected to be empty or quiet were insanely loud and irreverent. Like freaky Saturday and Sunday or something!

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  13. ❀ you, T! Thx for sharing the downloads with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. πŸ˜‰ Sometimes, Kieron …. sometimes!

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  15. Oh, thank you, Susan! Yes, it does take all of that to hold the vision here. I’m so grateful for having lived in and experienced so much pristine beauty elsewhere, embodying that and re-membering that here.

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  16. Thank you, Mitch! And thanks also for all you do in your beauty-FULL area to hold and cultivate that energy. She loves flowers and trees and kindness of all forms.

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  17. Thank you, chancewriter! So glad to have you in my circle here … and I agree, our yard’s like a vortex. It feels completely different like a different dimension whenever I leave this land. Also, clocks will not keep time “correctly” in the blue house. It’s like the faery realm. Everything reads a different time, and time runs way slower here than even in our little faery cottage. Vortex action in effect. It was still so good to refill our well, though. πŸ™‚

    Like

  18. Posted by CindyW on May 10, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    thank you for post revealing your and David’s adventure in Lafayette & Turkey Run – yes, Richard Lieber was indeed a special person – another of those German immigrants who left us a legacy, like the Vonneguts. Some of us also remember some of these InDiana places as they were when we were children and they were less trampled then. Lack of imagination is a big problem in places like Lafayette, as there isn’t always a lack of resources – just vision. I read the phrase “cultural barrenness” recently, and it seems to apply. Glad you found Restauration, as I only heard of it this weekend myself … and funny that your “corners” follow you as a protection! Wildcat Creek, BTW, was called “Panse au Pichou” by the French settlers …

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh, so many of my old stomping grounds here in the post! Lafayette is a weird place indeed, but I spent my formative druid years down by the Wabash and in Clegg Gardens (did you find the little cave?)

    And I should have warned you about Turkey Run–after my first visit, I only go there in the rain. When it’s raining, nobody comes out, and the place is just…magical. But it can get quite crowded there on a sunny day. I’m glad you took the rugged path (that’s one of my favorites) and found the healing you sought! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Posted by Brenden on May 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Well thank you for leaving such a Beautiful piece about my home state! Definitely something about this place! Next time, maybe, you’ll find the Grail.. Hahahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thanks, Dana! No, we did not have time at Clegg to find the cave — just a speedy little respite before dinner. We shall return to both locations, as well as Shades. I’m headed back to PA today, but flying so no dinner with you en route. Next time David and I drive, you’re on our wish list!

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  22. Thanks, Brenden! It’s all about asking the right question, eh? πŸ™‚

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  23. If you go over the cliffs, and kind of down the trails, you’ll find the Clegg Cave. It’s a very nice place to meditate. And I am SO looking forward to meeting you! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Cindy,
    Thanks so much for the extra info! We plan to check out some of the places you suggested, too, on a future visit. “Cultural barrenness” is an exact term for that phenomenon. Here’s the inspired community building and actions in cultural deserts!
    Laura

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  25. Glad you and David got away for some down time and ‘just your time’. Beautiful photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you, Zhenna!

    Like

  27. […] another head injury. I tried a second time for David’s birthday this year, but life strongly rearranged itself to send us to Turkey Run State Park instead. Apparently, I have a “thing” with Viroqua — a strong pull accompanied by a major […]

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  28. […] quiet, like a journey back in time, so the noise gave me the same kind of double whammy overload I experienced at Turkey Run State Park, when I expected to find what Dana of The Druid’s Garden had described as “the most […]

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