Monday, July 23, 2007

Brushwood Again

Frank Barney, who owns the Brushwood Folklore Center in New York with his wife Darlene Barney, has hosted the Starwood Festival, and the Sirius Rising Festival, along with many other events, for over 25 years. I’ve spent a few summers there myself, teaching workshops, as the “artist in residence“, or just helping out in general. It’s a home for me. We’ve dowsed wells and places for rituals, I planted a crabapple tree there when my marriage ended to symbolize new beginnings, I made a moss garden deep in the woods as a kind of elemental shrine, and I’ve danced around the Maypole and many bonfires. Just a few days ago I walked, with some 300 people, in and out of a labyrinth made of lumeria candles in the blue, misty twilight. It was truly a "living metaphor".

Frank and I also had a great conversation this past week, walking in the woods of Brushwood, and riding through the “village” that always seems to bubble magically out of the ground when the big festivals happen. I asked him what it was like to live with a particular place since childhood, to grow up within his environment of forests and meadows, as Brushwood is, and eventually become its caretaker and collaborator.

Frank had been answering my question, of course, which was “how do we speak with the Earth” in his own inimitable round about way. He was doing it literally, as we toured, looking at favorite trees, feeling the geomagnetic intensities of various places, the “green breath” of the forest.
“Most of the voices of nature are small and delicate,” he told me, “and can easily be silenced. They can be made invisible, or driven underground. And when that happens, people forget that they ever existed at all. Within a short time, they forget what it was like to live in such a rich chorus of voices, among so many stories, and they’re living without them in a world that has lost not only population, but mystery and vitality. An increasingly flat world with only human voices. “

“If you violate a person, be it a child or an adult, they shut up. You silence them. They withdraw - although, with human beings, the energy of that violence is likely to erupt in some future way. Places, like people and animals, also have voices. Violate a place, like putting a Wal-Mart parking lot over it, and all the voices that belong to that place leave.”

“What I've been trying to do” he said, “for the past 30 years is to create a place that can facilitate communion with the Earth. By treating the land with respect, by acknowledging the presence of so many other intelligences, visible and invisible, that are evolving within the immanent cycles of life, right here, on the land. On this land, with all of its uniqueness.

And there are different ways we've accomplished that.

For example, because we didn't have much money, we couldn't do what many people do when they acquire a piece of land. Which is to come in with big machines that level and dominate the land, bulldoze it flat, force it to do what they want it do. We didn't have the financial means to do that, even if we wanted to, so Brushwood evolved gradually, organically, according to the dictates of the land, its contours and water ways and bumps and swamps and resources. And also its energy leys and vortices.

We bring people here who have an earth friendly ethos and mythos. They can feel safe here, they can interact and create and explore without ridicule or hostility. They come here to connect, to play, or to heal. They can do ritual, make things like art or theatre or music, wear masks or costumes, dance, have discussions, make love, get naked in the sun or rain if they like, the children can ride their bikes or play in the mud - they feel safe. So the Earth can speak through them in all the things that they say and do.

That’s how we talk with the Earth. We let the Earth talk through us.”

I felt like sharing below a poem that was given to me by Stephanie, a regular camper at Brushwood, about 5 years ago, on the subject of healing with nature. She had elegantly written it in Celtic knot work. Thanks to Stephanie, and of course, to Frank and the Brushwood community, once more.

~My help is in the mountain~

Where I take myself to heal.

I find a rock with sun on it

And a stream where the water runs gentle

And the trees which one by one give me company -

And so I must stay for a time

Until I have grown from the rock

And the stream is running through me

And I cannot tell myself from one lone tree.

Then I will know that nothing touches me

Nor makes me run away.

My help is in the mountain

That I take away with me.

Earth cure me. Earth receive my woe.

Rock strengthen me. Rock receive my weakness.

Rain wash away my sadness. Rain receive my doubt.

Sun make sweet my song.

~Nancy Wood~


Commander Morgaine said...

What a wonderful blog. I like to be on your sites in the dark moments.

Greetings from Cologne/Germany :-)
Morgaine ("Generation Blogger")
since June 2007 Founder and Commander of the Independent Sensitive Liberation Army (ISLA)-
A satiric bootcamp for wild ladies ;-)

lauren raine said...

Well thankyou Morgaine - and what a wonderful organization you have created!

Can I be an honorary member?


Commander Morgaine said...

Hi Lauren,
I am so happy that you will become a honorary member of the Independent Sensitive Liberation Army (ISLA). I am waiting for a new e-mail-Adress from the ISLA, creating by our male technical guardian Staff Sergeant HuckFinn because the hungry shadows of the web like to eat my mails since publishing "Generation Blogger". And sometimes they like to play with the words in my mails. ;-) I am not the crazy lady writing to you. ;-))

I hope that the wisdom of all the wonderful people in the web nonetheless will find a way to the ISLA. My googlemail-account is

Which e-mail-account can I use to contact you?