Place Where You Live:

Southwest Washington

The Blending of Spirit and Soul                                                                                                                                             by Sheila Carver-Smith                                                                                                                                              Weed Technician – Lewis County Weed Control Board                                                                                                       Chehalis, WA

Deep Ecologist, Dolores LaChappelle wrote of the “old ways” of knowing the sacred relationship between the Earth, humans and other-than-human-beings. “If a child does not have the chance to play freely in nature, then the efforts to sort out her place in “the story”—who she is in relation to all the adults in the on-going story around her, can become very threatening. In other words the “not-I” is too much in relation to her own small self. But in the childhood nature mystic experience the child knows that she is part of the whole and the whole of nature accepts her as part of it. Any time in life the child or adult can draw on this understanding.” I recall vividly my own such experience in the place where I grew up.

I was eight years old, and it was a bright, clear, winter morning. I could see from the picture window in the living room that the trees and mountains had been blanketed with snow while I had slept. I dressed myself in warm, black, stirrup leggings and my favorite lavender sweater. My mother stopped me on my way out the door to give me some unexpected, special attention. She put lavender shadow on my lids and mascara on my lashes. I felt quite beautiful as I went out to inspect the newly fallen snow. I was stopped suddenly in the middle of the world as I met the Earth’s stunning beauty. The sky was a thick violet resting upon the snow covered mountains of Western Washington. The firs, fields and fence posts were the most brilliant white I had ever seen. The sun shone upon it all bejeweling the frozen world with a glittering array of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. With my eyes wide with amazement and wonder, I turned slowly in a circle, taking it all in. In that moment there was no time and space. There was nothing to do and no one to be. I was not separate from, but a continuance of the beauty I beheld. My eyes wet with tears at the sheer bliss I felt. It was the mystery of spirit and soul becoming one.

I have often drawn on that experience throughout my life, and still find that mysterious meeting of spirit and soul in the mountains and coniferous forests of Washington. I am fortunate to work in The Gifford Pinchot National Forest documenting and treating invasive species populations, doing what I can to restore balance in the forest ecosystem. Upon entering the forest, I am enveloped in her loving embrace. Instantly a smile covers my face, a sigh escapes my lips and I feel the sense of peaceful contentedness a weary traveler feels upon returning home. This is my Mother in all her splendor, power, majesty and glory. With snow capped rocky peaks rising to kiss the crystal blue sky, wearing a deep warm gown of Douglas fir forests, hemmed with sparkling, translucent ribbons of dancing streams, surrounded by a plush mossy green forest floor stands the Great Goddess, and I am there to mend Her gown.