Vision Fasting As our World is Burning
Sitting on a mountain perch at 8000 feet, I have come to the Inyos to fast. Longing to see my brilliant, beloved Sierras to the west, today, they are not visible at all. The smoke from the relentless fires of the American West has totally obscured them. Heavy-hearted with climate grief, I gaze out and see only a grey-blue sea of sky-cloud-smoke—endless, seamless, where once there were mountains.
There is a dying. The adult life as I’ve known it thus far is dying, has to die. Not unlike those mountains. The Sierras have been there my entire life, witnessing my entire life. Now, gone. They are cloud, smoke, mirage, illusion, empty. My old life is composting, and yes there are seeds planted in that rich soil. What will emerge?
Night falls, and a big red moon reflects the fire-red horizon in the west. My world as I’ve known it is on fire. Pure moon mirror reflects pure blazing mystery back to me. Reflecting what of me is being burned away.
Cloud and smoke sometimes co-mingle, it can be hard to tell which is which. But they could not be more different. Cloud carries dispersed drops of clear water, drops of luminous clarity. To breathe in cloud is to take into the body the medicine of purity. But smoke is the carrier of death and destruction.
Whether by lightening or human carelessness, smoke carries the particles of what died in raging flames. To breathe in smoke is to breathe in death, to take into the body the medicine of the dissolution of what was.
This body is a carrier of death. This body holds the stories of what once was—mine, others’, and stories of this earth. The residue is black, thick, bitter, heavy. What comes up out of my lungs is the taste of death. What burns in my eyes is anything and everything obscuring my seeing what is true now. My world is changing, and everything I think I know is of the past. What does it take to meet every unknown with a courageous heart, seeing things as they are?
The yellow-brown of tired September sage flowers in the evening light show themselves as already pretty much dead. But the early light of a freshly risen sun shows another story. Radiant, transparent, golden-honey brilliance gently waving in the barest whisper of wind. As last night’s moon reflected our earthly fires burning out of our control, this morning’s sage flowers reflect the infinite radiance of sun’s life-giving energy. Preparing to return to the Source, knowing life everywhere continues, knowing sage flowers will return again from that same Source.
What is it to offer to this world the clear golden radiance of that knowing?
In the morning light, even the mountains to the west begin to re-appear. After a time of disappearance through fire and smoke, I wonder if they are somehow different today as they return.
Another evening falls and the western sky blazes pink-orange, now sharply backlighting the Sierras, clearly visible at last. After a very pregnant twilight pause, up comes the moon, in her full Piscean glory. Luminously and boldly reflecting the brilliant pink and orange of the western skyline. This time, not the red of fires raging, but a merciful display of rose-gold creation rising from the east. Valiantly, she graces the sky with her light all night long.
Until morning, when the sky, brilliant and blue, is without a cloud. The mountains are fully manifested, reminding me of what can emerge out of ashes. Having returned from emptiness, they are different than before. Hardly any snow at all since last I saw them. They’ve been altered too by what brought the fires. So much life burned away, immeasurable loss. Snow has melted into pure water, evaporated into pure space. What is left is bare, naked, smooth, direct. Who is this one now, and how does mountain interface with the world without that old protection of snow and ice?
In wilderness rites of passage practices, we labor to consciously allow ourselves to die before we die, in order to come forth again, more fully available to ourselves, our people, and our world. The world is changing rapidly, and asks that we change with it. We are on fire, and there’s no riper time to recognize what no longer serves, so we can let go and show up fully with our gifts.
Everything in this universe is born of love, say the great gurus. What is it to realize this truth—to embrace it, practice and become it? I am holding out for our collective liberation from the greed, hatred, and willful ignorance that allows us to see any human, any landscape as disposable. The delusion of separateness will always be our demise. May we wake up together out of these ashes and rise as one community of this precious Earth.
by Cynthia Eisho Morrow, Vision Fast Guide and long time friend and ally of Lost Borders