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August 2010
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October 2010

September 2010

The Rapture of Water

Today I completed a commitment to swim in natural water every day in September. Summer in Maine this year was uncharacteristically hot and dry. I enjoyed swimming as I have not in 16 years of living here. On September 5th, after a spectacular swim in Hobbs Pond, I decided that I would swim every day till September 30 in natural water in Maine.

As goals go, it was not particularly challenging or dramatic. The weather held, and it’s been a mild equinox, though the ocean, river, and pond are much colder than they were on Labor Day. When my car was broken I had to walk from my house to Hobbs Pond, down the long hill on Hatchet Mountain, and back up again. I thought it would be hard, but it was a piece of cake, just over a mile one way. I’d have done it more often except I usally swam before or after a trip to town on errands. I swam mostly in Hobbs Pond because it is close to home. I went to Lincolnville Beach an average of once a week, when the weather was sunny, and I could catch the tide right for swimming. Megunticook River off Shirt Tail Point was fun for variety. I visited a friend on China Lake for a good sunset swim, and on a trip down to Brunswick, I swam in the lagoon at Reid State Park. The ocean, lake, and river all had a different energy and feeling. They all have in common they are living, wild water.

Lville Beach

Lincolnville Beach

I love the way my body changed over the 26 days. Swimming every day, my body sculpted and stretched and I see and feel muscles in my legs, arms, and torso I haven’t seen since my twenties. I feel better than I have in my whole life. Nothing hurts anywhere. I remember how much I love to swim and be in the water. My swim conditioning makes me want to swim farther and be in the water longer, even as falling temperatures make long swims unwise. I am so comfortable in the water I cavort! I feel otter-like. (The otters roll their eyes at me when they read this.)

It was never about the exercise. It was about doing something I enjoy for as long as I can. It was about being in the water. It became about being with the water.

I realized that I love the water because of touch. The water touches me everywhere. My body hides no secrets from the water. I noticed how different water touches me. The ocean, river, and lake all touch me in a different way. Wind-whipped water has a different hand than placid, smooth water. Cold touches differently than warm, salt than fresh. Morning, afternoon and night water feel different.

Water carries. It lifts. It supports me as I move through it. It makes room for me. I float.
It is easy to swim in the ocean. The ocean, even on a quiet day, is always actively lifting and carrying. One windy day in Hobbs Pond I felt lifted like that. The more relaxed I am the more the water carries me. It touches me all over and carries me.

Megunticook River

Megunticook River at Shirt Tail Point

In the waters, I became part of the changing season. I learned the personality of the beach in Lincolnville, the tides, the rocks, plants, and animals. I enjoyed the work of swimming in Megunticook River. It’s a small river, but swimming upriver I felt myself pull against the current. The moving water has a delicious energy. I loved swimming in the colored water as the river reflected the leaves changing color on the banks. I love how available the river is, grateful to the Town of Camden for making a public park access. In  late September, I had it to myself.

I found an affection for Hobbs Pond for the first time in my 16 years in Hope.  I learned its moods, the way the wind whips up its length to the public landing, and how placid it can be in the morning. I felt the colors on Hatchet Mountain and the pond shores change along with the water temperature. I love how swimming out from shore feels exciting and energized, and swimming back in to shore feels a little flat and dull. I’ll meet Hobbs Pond earlier next season. I want to swim to somewhere. I’d like to swim its length.

My description is deliberately simple. It was simple to show up everyday to swim. What is not so simple is the depth of the medicine. Without planning it, I became intimate with water. I became a Mer person. Day after day, it embraced and sustained me through a difficult passage. I felt the rapture of water.

When you commit to something, it becomes a spiritual practice. It took me till today to get that. For the first time in my life, I get that. The beauty of it as that I didn’t have to do anything but swim and enjoy myself everyday to have the spiritual practice.

Giving myself the pleasure of being in the water every day is ALL there is to it. Being with the pleasure is the only thing there is.
Hobbs Pond
Hobbs Pond 8am September 30, 2010

Dance of Mystery

Guest Blog: Dance Chief and Firekeeper Ferris Donoso tell us about her love for the Long Dance.

The first year I danced the Long Dance I had no idea what I was doing. I made a banner according to the directions, the explanations of the dance might as well have been in Navajo, we “danced” in mud so deep it took our boots off, if something happened to me I didn’t feel it, and I worried the whole thing I was doing “it” wrong. And I loved it and couldn’t wait to do it the next year.


So I have danced the Long Dance five times – six if you count the year I did it by myself in my yard in the tail end of a hurricane (Ask me about it—it was particularly hilarious). And last year when I couldn’t even get a solo dance together, I made a banner. In fact, I am still working on it.


I still love the Long Dance. You, of course, will have or may already have your own exclusive and unique experience of the Long Dance and what it is about. But for any of you who have not dance it falls to us who are inviting you to attempt to describe it.


For me, a lot of the Long Dance is about the Mystery and how I relate to it. The first mystery is why is it the called “the Long Dance”. It is the shortest of Grandfather Joseph’s dances. And what we do does not fit any definition of “dance” that I am familiar with. This is just the first unanswerable question.


All the questions and judgments of my life come up for me in the context of the dance. “What on earth am I doing here? Am I doing “it” right? Everyone else’s banner is better than mine. I’m not getting a vision, should I be getting a vision? Am I missing something? Does this drum make me look fat? And what the hell AM I doing here anyway? Why doesn’t someone just tell me and put me out of my misery?”


And so it goes. There are, of course, no answers.


If I am lucky, though, I get flashes of insight here and there, I get to have a good laugh at myself, and the absurdity of it all, and if I am very lucky, I get moments of dancing without answers, dancing without knowing, dancing simply because I said I would, dancing because I want to, dancing without reasons, dancing even when it doesn’t look or feel like I am dancing, dancing because I AM dancing, and so it the whole of creation. So, if I am lucky, I get to dance with the big Mystery and stop asking questions.


And all of this happens in the dark. After a few years my watchword became “It’s amazing what you can learn stumbling around in the dark.”


So the dance becomes a metaphor for my life—I get to see how I cope, how I make myself miserable, how foolish I look and how none of that needs to stop me from dancing.


And don’t let me get started on the banner! The banner usually extends the dance and its learning for me well into the year that follows.

All of this I get from the dance. But I always hope that I am, in some way, giving when I dance.


The nighttime, especially in the darkening time of the year, has always been seen as a time when the realities can mingle. The Long Dance is an opportunity to honor and celebrate the Beings, Healers, and Teachers of the “other” worlds. As I see it, with the dance we can affirm and strengthen our connection with them. We offer ourselves as bridges to bring their presence into our lives and give them access to our reality. Think of it as team building. The Beings who dance together, serve Spirit together.


This is the Long Dance. I would be honored to share this amazing dance with you and find out what your dance is like.                             --Ferris Donoso, Long Dance Chief

To learn more about the Long Dance and register to participate, click here.

The New Sweat Lodge

Thank you Stevan, Peter, and Ferris for your work, energy, blessings, and fun company as we build the most beautiful lodge structure we've ever had.


The Circle of the Old Lodge

Lodge poles

Circle of the New Lodge (notice it's a smaller diameter)


The poles are bent and tied.


To make a star at the top.

It looks amazing with the circle around it.

The finished lodge seen through the smoke of the fire burning the old lodge.