Yesterday I visited a nearby mountain park to get an added dose of nature before I head home at the end of the week. I hadn’t really thought it out very well, because I stepped onto the Lakeside Trail in my traditional open-toe shoes, instead of something more trail appropriate. I could have turned back early on, but the path kept calling me forward… and so forward I went. The ‘lake’ was more of a reservoir, and was not round like many lakes back home, but more like a wide river with end caps. I started my journey, like most adventures in life, without expectation or awareness of what I might find or experience along the way. At the beginning of the trail, as I traveled counter-clockwise on the map, I found a bench at water’s edge, and so I sat for a moment to contemplate the beauty before me. The water was filled with all sorts of plant life, and there were trees that had fallen on the bank and into the lake, that were left to become a part of the landscape, creating homes for the creatures that live there. As I sat there, I would occasionally hear a sound that informed me that something was moving in the water, but each time I heard it, I would look and see nothing more than a slight ripple. It reminded me of how we often assume that a situation is how we perceive it, based on what we can see on the surface, but how reality is that there is often something of greater depth actually going on beneath the surface. I took a moment to honor all that was present which I could not see, and then I continued my walk.
Next, I came to a boardwalk structure that crossed the water, and before I was half way across, I gasped to see a young deer with antlers grazing on plant life in shallow water. This is not something we get to see where I come from, and the sight took my breath away before it brought me to tears. A couple who were hiking in the opposite direction came upon us, and respectfully stood quietly for a few minutes before gently passing. I thought about how magick happens throughout our lives, if we are open to it, and how special it can be to have it all to ourselves at times, and also to be blessed to share it with others. I could have stayed all day to simply stand witness to such grace and beauty, but I decided to offer my gratitude for this moment, and asked to be WOWed again somewhere along my journey. I was not disappointed.
As I moved forward on the path, having no idea where it would take me, or if I would regret not having turned back for better hiking gear, I couldn’t help but think about my personal life experience with the Artemis Archetype. After all, the stag is one of her most sacred symbols, and the mountain forest is her realm. I might turn a curve along this winding path and see her in the distance drawing back her bow. I thought about how alone I felt on this path, as I could hear no human sound at this point. I realized that my footwear could betray me on a path filled with tree roots and loose stones, or how I might slip and fall somewhere on this journey and that no one would be around to see me, hear me, or come to my rescue. It made me think about how unprepared I have been throughout life for the obstacles that would appear in my life, leaving me hurt or disappointed by the actions of others. But then I realized that my travels with Artemis have always been that way. I may have had the support of my band of nymphs that I call my Tribe, but the work that I did to move through self-loathing to find my true self-worth and value was always a solitary journey. It never mattered how emphatically others would assure me of how worthy they found me, I could never find it to be true until I felt it for myself. And every betrayal and wound I’ve received has always led to learning and the positive evolution of my soul. And so… I chose to continue… believing that I was well protected, and that I would find more moments of magick if I simply refused to give up on myself.
As I moved further into the forest, and away from view of the lake, the feeling of solitude grew more profound. I realized how similar this world that belongs to Artemis resembles the world that belongs to Persephone. In the non-patriarchal version of her tale, she has chosen to go into the underworld to welcome the souls who have transitioned from the world of the living and are now seeking passage through the veil. On this lonely mountain path, I could feel the isolation of one’s journey from human form into the mystery of what comes next. There might be loved ones present to hold your hand for a while, but at some point… you must move forward on your own. But then I realized through much of my hike that I would hear a recurring sound that was lacking form. I imagined that it might be the sound of hooves on forest floor, an unseen squirrel or chipmunk, or a bird taking flight in the canopy above. The message that I received from this awareness was that our perception of aloneness throughout our sacred journey is an illusion. Even when we cannot see others around us, the truth is that we are never alone. Whether it be the consciousness that we can step into to deliver strength in a moment of weakness – becoming the warrior and rescuing ourselves, or the presence of guides and loved ones that some of us may never connect with and recognize without the support of a medium, or at the end of life – as witnessed by Hospice Nurses again and again, as their patients acknowledge days or moments before death, alerting them to call the family, for departure time is near.
As I walked the Lakeside Trail, wondering if it would ever come to an end, I walked through fear and kept going. I walked through solitude, and realized I wasn’t really alone. I walked through self-doubt and negative self-talk about the foolishness of being ill-prepared, and I kept moving forward. I walked for three hours straight, and never grew weary. I acknowledged that my twice-weekly time in the gym had been time well spent, as my legs were strong enough to carry me up hill and down again without complaint. I passed an occasional human, and while I was glad to see them and smiled as they passed, I was also grateful to continue on my own. I realized that walking with Artemis brought me to this place… where being alone with myself is a wonderful place to be. Once filled with self-loathing, I now feel that I make for really great company, and I was so happy to be walking with my own best friend… ME. As I began to hear the sound of traffic on the mountain road upon which I entered the park, I was pleased to be coming full circle. I had hoped to be shown the blessings of nature, and I was rewarded with three different deer sightings, each bringing me to tears. For three hours, I was honored to walk beside two Goddesses who are ever present in my life, and I bowed my head to Persephone in reverence for the guidance and comfort she provides as I explore the path to the underworld, hoping to be one of her torchbearers in the future… holding the hands of those transitioning from human form, until they are finally able to see those who shall greet them on the other side.