Wednesday, January 14, 2009


My youngest, Joshua, hiking Tonto National Forest with me in September, 2008

Peace is not something you can force on anything or anyone... much less upon one's own mind. It is like trying to quiet the ocean by pressing upon the waves. Sanity lies in somehow opening to the chaos, allowing anxiety, moving deeply into the tumult, diving into the waves, where underneath, within, peace simply is.

— Gerald May

I'm reading May's book "Wisdom of the Wilderness" (after already reading his version of Dark Night of the Soul, an iteration of St. John of the Cross), and I'm loving this book.  

I sought after the wilderness, Mother Nature, after Chey's death. I yearned to be close to the earth. I went on long hikes in the red rocks of Sedona; I walked along Christopher Creek in Payson; I sat atop big rocks, where many feet caressed the ground in search of truth and contemplation. Even to this day, a deep sense of spirituality calls to me from the wild, and I often find respite there.  I remember studying the Bible as a child and reading about how Jesus frequently retreated solitarily into the wilderness.  I understood why he did so. I have always felt closer to God- to the Universe- to Creation- to all that is and all that ever was when I was in communion with Mother Nature. May's writing feels much like Edward Abbey or Wendell Berry, two of my favorites.

But May does something special with nature: May uses the wilderness as a means to understand our inner selves as well. He says that the inner wilderness "is the untamed truth of who you really are."

Beautiful. Profound.  He talks about using the wilderness as a catalyst, both the literal and the mythical, to confront fears; an exhortation toward growth. He reminds us to stay awake and present in each moment, even through the suffering that life brings.  

Ultimately, he says, time within the wilderness brings us to a place within ourselves of gratitude and more importantly a place of peace. 

May died of terminal cancer in 2005, after completing this beautiful book.


Snarky Belle said...

I needed peace today, thank you.

Kara Chipoletti Jones of GriefAndCreativity dot com said...

sat outside for an hour today watching two crows on the very tippy top branch of a huge evergreen, their weight making the top of the tree looking crooked like in a dr. suess book. had the feeling that in our overpopulate, crazy paced, insane world, there was a good possibility that there was no other human on the planet watching those two crows. there was no one around me, heard no cars, saw no one. i marveled at that possibility. talk about finding your own boundaries and expansiveness all in one moment.

i luv mama gaia :)

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you for visiting.

Googies Girl said...

After losing my daughter in May 2008, we decided we needed a vacation desperately. The only place I wanted to go was the Texas Hill Country and away from everything. I found more peace there than I ever expected. I came home to complete turmoil, but for that 1 week, I was at complete peace. My husband noticed and since coming home, it feels more like home there, rather than here.
"THE UNTAMED TRUTH ABOUT WHO YOU REALLY ARE" So very true. And maybe that's why I wanted the wilderness, I needed to figure out who I was at that difficult point in time. Beautiful words!
I really love your writings.

Natalie said...

I experienced these comments when my nephew died January, 2005. He was six years old. I had to remove myself from people because they made matters worse. It made me angry that they thoughtlessly felt the right to be a voice for God and suggest that his death was His will. He died from a tragic car accident after fighting to live for three weeks.

In response to people's stupidity, I challenged their comments about God by saying, "So, let me ask you this. What do you say to a mother whose child was murdered? Do you tell her that same thing? That it was God's will? What about a mother whose child was kidnapped then slaughtered? Was that God's will? No. It was evil that did that. God is my healer, but nephew dying wasn't his will.God doesn't wish death on any child."

I also felt like people were impatient with the fact I wasn't over it after he was buried. When I bring him up people give me this blank look like my pain should be gone now. The loss of a child never leaves you. You now have one foot on earth and one in heaven with them. Your life is forever altered.

Everything you said is identical to my frustration I have carried when trying to process his death, how he died,and my questions of why? Grief is something you learn to live with, but I don't know that it ever goes away completely. Unless someone has endured it they cannot fathom what strength it takes for a person to press forward and approach life like it was before. It is forever changed. You have to fight for joy.

Only God and a person who has suffered this pain can grasp the world you are in. No one else can comprehend.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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