I had another blog post planned, but then I stumbled upon this amazing interview in the always fabulous The Dark Mountain Project, where Richard Powers explains more of his “awakening” leading to the writing of The Overstory… I had to stop for my own realization to take shape and unfold all its meaning to me, at its own pace. This will be, unlike some of my last few posts, a bit of a personal story.
[If you want grand ideas, click on the links above and read everything there.]
My realization, put succinctly, is that after my ecstatic vision of, or encounter with Our Lady, Mother Florida I retreated some part of that revelation into a safe space that would not be tarnished through interaction with non-believing others.
After the six month whirlwind of workshops across the state, held twice a month, with an average of ten people each time; hearing of the encounters I led them to and sharing the information I was quickly gathering; I took a step backward. That was in December, sometime around the 21st. I had no doubt, then, that I was dealing with something extremely real and potent. It scared me that this had come to me because I did not feel at all worthy of such a responsibility.
I suppose that is why I retreated into myself, and kept my revelation quiet for a couple years after. It wasn’t so much that I nurtured some fragile seed, but that I nurtured my ego to withstand any possible criticism. I feared, and to some extent I still fear, disparaging or dismissive words coming from any pagan elder I trust. When some degree of it inevitably came, I was able to understand it had come about in error and misunderstanding, but my decision to burrow into myself was perhaps validated.
Still, I did things in the name of Florida. I had to. One does not serve a primordial land spirit/guardian without at least sometimes fulfilling their will on Earth. I am connected to the Land here in ways that pull and obligate. There are times when steps forward must be taken. So I have honored her in public rituals, I have led the workshop a couple of times again, I built a WordPress site gathering information and myths thus far revealed. Each time my nerves were shot and I faced my ego’s vulnerability afresh; each time I ran back into hiding.
For Beltane, a nearby CUUPS chapter did a wonderful ritual in Lady Florida’s honor. It came out of the independent gnosis/encounter of a friend (the author) that I learned out about the March before. I must confess that my ego felt wounded, because more than ridicule, it feared being supplanted in some imaginary leadership or honorary position. (A stray joke had set me off, perhaps, during a leisurely tea: “You’re the High Priest of Florida!” Maybe that’s where it all started…) But I was also fully cognizant I had nothing but love and admiration for my friends who had done all this work in her honor and taken their own risks. More than anything, to this day, I am eternally grateful they took such a step and told me about it.
After Beltane came the guilt. Why wasn’t I doing more, publicly, for Florida? There had been so much work in the first year, both spiritually and in activism. I had worn myself out, true, but there had been service, at least!
I think I understand better, now. Everything green–and I was enthusiastically so–grows up too fast in this land. I branched off into paths and realms that were not truly mine to tread. (Someone called me a “warrior” once and I sat very uncomfortably with such praise.) Activism soon proved divisive and corrosive to everyone involved here in Palm Beach. There’s something rotten where the mansions of the rich dot the coast, where the Motts and Fanjuls reign from the broken Lagoon, while the Lake is polluted on the other extreme and families suffer illness and extreme poverty from the ‘cane burning. I do not know how to heal it.
Instead, Florida has given me another education. She has taught me to seek older mysteries, the so-called primitive at the root of every culture, the beating heart of nature gods unnamed and forgotten. She has given me plants and stories, tuned my mind to the whispering of trees and wind and the rushing of water. She’s given introductions through the compounds of her water on my hair and skin to other Lands and Ladies, and their attendant spirits. I hear their songs now, responding to their own or seeking new minds to listen. All of that is her work.
She told me once that sooner or later, she would disappear beneath the rising sea that had been her womb and cradle eons ago. It was no matter. What saddened her was that those who fled the rising seas would never know her ways, and she would have to start again a million years later with a new species who’d listen.
I’m listening now, Mother.
I will speak your words and wisdom to those who’ll listen.
The spirit balks at such a task, but now I know it as my own weakness unheeded. I acknowledge my fears, I hold them close with love. I’m not the High Priest–I’m just a priest. It’s time to resume my ministry.