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.
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.
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 Brocéliande 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.”
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:
The Grail Faery!
Just then, David returned from a little photo jaunt outside to snap pictures of a statue in honor of Juliet Strauss:
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.