At times, emerging from depression seems like a gift. I’ve written before about a sudden shift, a kind of renewal, that occurred when crossing a shallow stream. In my experience, healing may come from a special place more effectively than from medication. I became sensitized to the power of certain places through years of work with Native American communities. Once a Tewa friend pointed out the number of locations in the West with the name devil, or some variant, attached. These were usually places sacred to native peoples but shunned by Christian missionaries as related to idolatry and paganism. They were all associated with strong spiritual power. Some of these were places of healing, and every now and then I have found such a place.
Once I was visiting a friend in Bolinas, on the northern California coast. I had arrived after a long day of driving around the San Francisco Bay Area, and I was exhausted, headachy and depressed. Jerry and I and another friend spent the evening discussing a book Jerry was planning about indigenous peoples. It was hard to talk with my head hurting and depression taking me to new lows. After a while, though, I realized I was feeling a lot better, and that surprised me because this combination of depression and migraine was not something that let me go very readily once it had settled in. It was quite late before our talking paused, and we all decided to turn in. I remember as I was falling asleep that I felt something odd about the room I was in, but that notion disappeared as I quickly faded out.
The next morning I woke feeling incredibly good. I was up early before my friends and so went to the kitchen to get some coffee. It suddenly struck me that I felt a strong sense of healing and renewal, as if it were part of the air. I walked around the house and felt it diminish so I went back to the kitchen and realized this feeling could be coming from outside. I looked through the kitchen window and saw a slight rise of land among the dense bushes and young trees. This slope had a cleft in its midst, almost like an opening in the ground. In the air above it was the strangest sight: a large cluster of butterflies swirling in some invisible draft rising in waves out of that cleft. Above them was a red-tail hawk hovering there, as if to soak up that revivifying flow. There were song birds clustered around it as well, and squirrels poking their way toward the opening – as if they were all drinking in an invisible healing force that emanated from that spot. I could feel it too, and I was sure that was the cause of my recovery the night before.
I told Jerry what I was feeling, and he took me for a walk to a different place, his favorite spot overlooking the ocean. But as beautiful as that was, we had moved away from the healing flow, and I wanted to get back to it. When we returned, I tried to get behind the house to that cleft in the ground, but the way the house was built into the hillside, it just couldn’t be done. I had to content myself with the view from the window, but the hawk and the butterflies had gone when I next looked. Still, I could feel that calming presence that had changed and re-energized me. As I thought about this incident from time to time, it was always the butterflies that came back in my memory as the emblem of that spiritual experience.
I am curious about the sensitivities to places that you may feel. I know that many people have similar experiences of healing in certain locations – witness all the shrines renowned for their healing power, though the power is usually associated with a saint rather than the place itself. And there are many who feel spontaneously and deeply drawn to a certain location without knowing why. Others I know have equally strong negative reactions to some places, feeling frightened in an undefinable way. I’m interested in your experience of place whether for healing or other spiritual impact.
Some Rights Reserved by zenera at Flickr