A Holiday Tale for Wayfinders and a Message of Hope
The year is wrapping up swiftly and we enter that knot of holidays that brings many emotions but all cluster together to stave off the dark in these shortest days of the year.
For people like myself, who have chosen no native religion or spiritual home but instead are guided by symbols, signs, intuition, and stories from all over, the change of seasons marked by Solstice is a natural place to center our internal celebrations (even if we find ourselves externally celebrating other gods because we love the people who love those gods).
In celebration of the turning of the year, I made plans with my soul sister Christine to hike in the Marin Headlands early in the morning.
Christine is one of the few people I can tell everything too but most importantly I can also tell her about the signs, symbols, and intuitions as they show up in my life. She understands and makes space for it.
She was the first person to introduce me to the wisdom of horses and who also showed me the expansiveness of my own heart energy. I feel at home with her and when we are together. I feel uniquely amplified.
Spending time with her is a gift.
On this crisp morning, as I made my way to Marin, the sun rose behind me as I chatted on the phone with my other spiritual sister A (we talk nearly every day about anything and everything).
This particular morning, we were talking about a business book recommended by a mutual friend that sounded important but was full of metrics and acronyms. It wasn’t the subject for this morning. We both had to put it aside. A kept impressing on me to “stop thinking” about business and things to do and to instead start feeling my way to where I want to be.
We ended our conversation as I pulled off at a vista point. The sun was rising over the city and illuminating the bridge. My heart swelled and I silently asked to be visited by animals who could help me find my direction in the new year.
I proceeded onward, taking the coastal road to the headlands. I stopped several times to take in the shifting views of the mouth of the bay. At each stop, an enormous raven waited for me, hopping on the ground as I pulled my car up. No matter what direction I went, a raven waited.
“Just how many ravens are there in Marin?” I wondered to myself but remembered A’s advice to feel and leave thinking behind.
I fixed my gaze towards the view in front of me.
As I stared down the cliffs at the dark blue waters of the Pacific hitting the rocks, I connected with the immense power of the sea herself.
Feeling her irresistible draw, a feeling of calm filled me. This was the same world that the media kept telling me was so out of hope and time.
I took a deep breath of cold morning air. Who owns my headspace every day? Where were they now?
I got back into my car and made my way to where Christine and I promised to meet.
Christine met me at the Visitor’s center located in the heart of the headlands. We exchanged small gifts and pulled on warm jackets and hats—the wind blew hard and was already chilling my feet. I told her about all I saw on the coast.
Christine asked to see the mouth of the bay so we decided we would hike to that. But I had no idea how we would do that—it felt like I crossed a large ridge to get to the Visitor’s center and that we would need to drive to a different trail head or we would end up hiking for hours.
We decided to give ourselves a head-start and took Christine’s car to a lot near a trail head that we thought would take us over the ridge.
Along the way we took in the fresh scent of eucalyptus and examined the scat left behind by foxes and deer. After walking a half-hour, the trail turned back to the Visitor center!
Not exactly the head-start we hoped for.
I looked at the paths and offered we could go back and try going to a different trail head. Christine looked up the side of the hill and said, “it looks like we could get there if we just took that path where the sun is breaking on the trail”.
I looked at the “path”. It looked like a few crushed branches where deer might make their way up the hill—not a trail meant for humans.
The way was also very steep, full of scrub and loose dirt—possibly a fine way to tumble off the side of the hill! Still, I could see the crushed branches led to a knob of brush that could be a better view and perhaps that would show us how to get to where we wanted to go.
Despite my better judgement, I was willing to try.
“Lead the way” I said and we picked our way along the precarious path. Christine proceeded and seemed to be completely at ease. And, despite all the information my brain was throwing at me, I didn’t feel afraid either. I was too busy focusing on where to put my feet so I would have the best grip and balance.
Less than ten minutes later, we made it to the end of that path and saw the ridge had receded into the distance. We stood for a moment and took in the view of the valley below and how far we climbed in just a few minutes. Even if we didn’t reach the ridge, it was still a beautiful view of where we came from.
Just before we turned around to go back down we heard the “whoosh” of a motorcycle about 15 yards ahead of us.
Hidden by some tall bushes ahead of us was the road!
We forged ahead and found ourselves a short distance from the actual trail head that lead to the ridge.
As we made our way to the top, we laughed about wayfaring and how we couldn’t possibly have known the way if we thought about it.
We crested the ridge and saw the vast Pacific and the open mouth of the Bay laid out before us.
The blindingly bright sun disoriented us a little which made the wind feel a bit more treacherous. We steadied ourselves at the top of our own momentary world.
The bridge and city looked so small compared to perfectly clear view of the horizon. A moment of inattention and the wind could send either one of us over the side to the rocks below.
Carefully, we made our way along the ridge to one of the many cement bunkers pockmarking the Pacific facing hills of the headlands.
At one time, men in uniforms with important titles looked to this place as a defense against those “over there”.
Now these bunkers are largely painted with faces and words by people who see blank cement as a canvas. Modern troll holes.
We took frequent breaks to look at the plant life and the conversation shifted towards the state of the world. As the conversation got grim a vulture swooped near us—the one who brings transformation.
These bunkers and abandoned silos—now things of the past. Fear. So easy to be drawn into stories.
Some people say the reason we have never and will never meet beings from other parts of the cosmos is that they were never able to evolve beyond their own ability to destroy themselves.
In that moment, I knew I could never believe that tale.
Despite the news and its own irresistible draw, and the ugly words and discourse filling our public spaces, I knew in my heart that we would all be ok. Life would go through it’s cycles as it must but the scales still tip towards creativity. The arc of time still bends towards justice. And hearts go towards love.
Despite periods of real darkness, individual choices still bring us towards light.
I checked my watch. Hours had passed and we both were getting hungry.
Christine and I made our way back to my car so I could give her a lift to where we left hers at the original trail head. The drive back felt dreamy, as if we had walked the way there instead of driving it.
As well pulled up to the lot where her car was, Christine exclaimed “look at that raven on my trunk!”
There was a HUGE raven perched there. It was stamping its claws but showed no sign of moving away. We approached slowly and rolled down the windows to get a better look. It had a huge iridescent bib of feathers and its eye gleamed as it cocked its head at us. We pulled along-side Christine’s car and got out slowly.
A second raven flew in and hopped on the trunk. It pecked at the trunk and clicked its beak at us. The first raven kept muttering to itself. They moved back and forth—at times looking like the lions at the entrance of the Boston Library and at other times cozying up and pecking their beaks together as if to share something.
Ravens, like vultures are associated with the closing of cycles. They are divine messengers and intermediaries between the physical and spiritual realms.
Most significantly, Raven’s messages can only be understood if you don’t think about them or try to explain their meanings.
Two ravens. One for each of us. And for me, an answer to the intention I set for the day.
We stayed with them for several minutes, then got back in my car and went to find lunch.
Don’t think it. Feel it.
Whether you worship or you don’t, if you celebrate a holiday or not, I wish for you at this turning of the seasons the ability to feel your way into the world and to be sensitive to the signs around you—the one’s that inform regardless of opinion and all the thinking that lead us away from the bright horizon that is there if we only choose to see it.
Much love to you! I will be returning in the new year with fresh writings and ideas. Until then, be well.