As I drove through Eastern Washington into North Idaho on Friday, I was overwhelmed with memory. Not specific memories from my youth, but a visceral memory.
The trees of the Inland Northwest are different than in the West. The topography flows at a different rate, with different shades of green and gold and brown than exist around the Puget Sound. These are the colors I grew up in, the textures that I remember with the soles of my feet. Basalt rock covered in dry patches of lichens and weedy stalks of course grasses–grays and blacks and browns instead of bright green.
The Puget Sound is a land of Water, surrounded by water, built by water frozen or flowing. Floods occur each year in an endless cycle of wetness falling, flowing and filling our basins; spreading itself over us and through us, our land our bodies, our nature. This place is bright with green in a way few places are green….saturated and sprawling green, everywhere.
The land to the East is instead a land of Earth and Fire. It is rooted to it’s volcanic heritage completely and undeniably. Water exists in abundance here, but it is sequestered, guided, pent up….lakes and reservoirs, rivers, falls and ponds…they are deep and magnificent, but seem to be placed precisely, set like gems in a heavy gold ring. It is land that breathes with Fire, the volcanic base, the true heat of Summer’s sun, and instead of flood-season it sees fire-season. Blazes that sweep through forest and plain destroying, breaking down, cleansing in a way….making space for new growth. There are tamarack trees, the conifer that is not an evergreen. Each season these trees turn from green to copper-brown; each one like and individual flame of it’s own; and drop their needles to make way for new blooming sprouts in Spring. There is an entire hillside in North Idaho we called Tamarack Mountain, which each year turned into a glowing orange swath amidst the seemingly endless black-green of the pines surrounding it. It was our family’s version of the changing of the fall colors.
So while penetrating this place with such a purpose as a yoga festival, I was observant of this place in a more nuanced way than I ever have been. Knowing too that I would not long from now be moving far away from this place, perhaps a certain nostalgia prodded me into a more thoughtful experience of this space.
The Eureka Center is an idyllic camp nestled into a small valley just near the edge of Lake Pend Oreille. Gardens, meadows, woods, dotted with rustic amenities like outdoor showers, an amphitheater and covered outdoor dining area…this was the home of the First Annual Northwest Yogafest. We drank pure water from the Earth, filled our bellies with home-crafted foods, and shared the first summer-light-heat many of us had felt this year. Yoga was offered in various forms; strong solar flows, concentrated balance sessions and bakhti-fests alike. It was an amazing immersion into the vastness that a yoga practice can encompass.
For my own part, my practice here served me in a way I was unprepared for. This gathering offered me a reconnection to the Land of my youth. My grandparents’ property is about twenty miles west of here, along the Pend Oreille River, just before you cross the border back into Washington. I grew up here. I have often looked back into my memories of this place as a stark, harsh and burnt out environment; a dry, dusty place where trees were black on the landscape and you sought out the shade of the forest to escape the relentless heat of the dry open fields.
Here though, with the eyes and open heart of one who has studied her own depths, I experienced this old home in a new way, shedding new perspective on those distant memories. This truly is the land of my roots. The soles of my childhood feet grew tough from walking through dry grass and climbing over rocks….I could run down a gravel road barefoot! I became familiar with the terrain by feel…I could walk through the dark in the middle of the night because my feet knew where to go. For all the dryness and starkness, there was always water; we lived in the lake. Not just my brother and I, everyone had a lake place or a friend with a lake place; and boats were our culture. Kids learned to water ski, and knee board and inner-tube and eventually wakeboard….we jumped off high rocks confident that the depths would cushion our fall through space. Shallow water seemed like a waste, so we never spent much time on the beach; docks were where we lived; little islands bobbing in the wake of ski boats. We swam in the deep water, with the fish and the muskrats and snakes. If you could touch the bottom you weren’t out far enough. Your breath was never in doubt, it was as if you could just grow gills and breathe the water if you needed to.
I remember all this as I cross the long bridge across the lake to Sandpoint. I can see boats and canoes and people swimming, skiing…. Being here reminds me that this is where I am from. This land is such a part of me, it will always be where my roots take hold. This land is where my own personal gravity is heaviest. This was hammered home in my first early morning class with Karen Sprute-Francovich; use your infinite gravity to gain stability in order to grow up and outward in endless Light. This sums up not only my experience over this weekend, but the trajectory of my life right now.
I now acknowledge and own my roots…the strength and stability gained through scrabbling it out in this tough environment and make it possible move forward into the potential of my future. I now set out on a road of new experience; endeavoring to shine my light into the mystery before me. I grow up, I grow out, but am always tethered to the strength of these humble roots. In this experience I have found comfort and support for my new momentum. Walking to the center of the labyrinth, I found my Self. Permission Granted.