The Rewild(her)'s Journey: Orcas Island

I have been hesitant to share the rest of my journey, especially this part here about the way the San Juan Islands impacted my being. Now that this trip has passed and has lead me into a ground of healing, I often find it difficult to revisit some of these shadowed memories where I had to face my darkness and where I finally found the place inside where my roots could grow. 

Perhaps I am weary of the way I saw myself while I was romping around the Northwestern coastline. At the time of this journey I was committed to a false story about myself: that I was a victim of heartache...and dovetailing off of my victim narrative were strong negative beliefs about myself: that I wasn't good enough (as an artist, a lover, a friend, a daughter, a "Christian"), that I was timid and anxious and not the kind of person who could really make a difference in the world, and that I was expected to be a well-behaved conservative woman waiting for a husband to take care of me... I was so stuck on my own sob story that I couldn't see what was right in front of me... the opportunity to shed my old self and to grow anew. 

In our moments of deepest fear and anxieties the best thing we can do is keep moving. I think this is a huge reason why I went on my journey- I couldn't take it anymore, that sticky dark feeling of being stuck in a cycle of mental negativity. Instinctively, I knew that in order to begin to walk the steep path of believing in myself as a radiant woman who was more than enough, that in order to truly believe in myself I had to change my behaviors to create lasting change in my thought-patterns. Truly believing came from these moments of utter fear and loneliness in isolated places along the coast. Its almost like the act of facing my pain and my false narratives allowed me the space to fully accept myself and to be kind to myself. Self acceptance is the breeding ground for confidence. It's the place where our anxiety is allowed to be promoted to intuition! Its the place where we find our higher purpose, allowing for greater vision to guide us into the unknown. 

With all that to say, I will now share a little piece of my journey from my time on Orcas Island. 

“You have been offered "the gift of crisis". As Kathleen Norris reminds us, the Greek root of the word crisis is "to sift", as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what's important. That's what crises do. They skae things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most. The rest falls away.” - Glennon Doyle Melton

The air whirled around my body in sharp figure eights as I stood on the upper deck of the ferry, absorbing the glory of the sunlight reflecting off the cold blue water and feeling its warmth linger in my pupils as I closed my eyes. I was feeling fear creep in my gut. A strong desire arose to remain on the ferry and head back to the mainland where I could drive to a hotel and have a night of cell phone service and then probably give up. This desire was in a battle with my relentless curiosity to explore an area of the world that had always drawn me in with its haunting beauty.

I opened my eyes and stared at the water again. The coldest blue I had ever seen. I imaged orcas swimming in the depths, watching me on my ferry boat to visit their islands. They must see me as so small. "How silly", I thought, "to be so consumed by fear at every single new location that I can't see and enjoy this magic in front of me, just stop and just trust." I set my intention to quiet my thoughts and allowed myself to see with eyes ready to absorb the island that was unfolding in front of me- beautiful Orcas Island.

As the ferry slowed into the docking station I studied my map, and repeated the address of the yurt I was about to search for (without cell service or GPS) as my residence for the next two days. The roads on the Island were small and quaint, uncurling through forest farms and cold pastures, reminding me of a small farm town I once visited outside of London, except that here you could feel and smell the salt from the ocean surrounding the land.  

"You are brave. You are held in the arms of the Divine. You are surrounded by protection and light. You are brave," I repeated to myself as I pulled into the dirt road driveway of the address on my paper. My hands started to feel clammy- I had no idea what to expect.

"Hello, hello and welcome!" A kind old man's voice greeted me as I climbed out of my car. I looked up and was met with a face that instantly felt like home, and a sense of peace washed over me. "My name is Ken! Let me show you to your yurt."

With my anxiety at bay, I was able to once again open my eyes to really see, and to my delight, they were met with the most magical Divine gift...horses! My heart skipped a beat as I quickly followed Ken down a path to my yurt which was currently flanked by two mustangs grazing in the grass outside. "Wait, I get to stay with the horses?!" I couldn't help myself from squealing. Ken laughed a yes saying that he was grateful that I clearly had such a deep love for them. He excitedly explained how his wife is a mustang trainer, and that she was working on these two horses to send back to the mainland.     

As I settled in, Ken taught me how to build a fire in my yurt to keep me warm for the night and then walked me outside to teach me the proper etiquette for using the outhouse (Not kidding! Apparently something called "peat moss" is quite helpful in those situations). Surprisingly, the tiny wooden outhouse was adorable, nestled in a meadow on the edge of a small pond where birds and frogs and crickets sung at the top of their lungs. 

Walking back to the yurt, Ken and I parted ways so that I could explore the property and the island for the rest of the evening. I eagerly grabbed my sketchbook and camera. Behind the yurt I discovered a small wooden chair and table that had been set up to watch the wildlife in the meadow and pond. As I sat down to sketch I heard a thumping behind me, and a long hot sigh exhaled above my head and slightly to my right. The horses had come to greet me with their curiosity. The three of us stayed there for a while- I sketched the different plants and landscape while the horses grazed with an occasional interruption of an inquisitive snout near my chair.

I will never forget that evening. Something in me began to replay memories of my childhood. I saw myself as a ten year old girl- awkward, shy, braces, and a bit of a misfit- but I saw myself walking the stables or saddled on a horse's back, the places where I was uncontainably happy. I visited this little girl in my mind, and I watched her trot her favorite horse named Triplicate through the eucalyptus groves and in my mind I sent her love. I told her that she was strong, that she was radiant, and that she was more than enough. I watched her in her happiest moments of galloping bareback at full speed with the wind whipping through her french braids, feeling the true power Triplicate's ribcage expand and contract under her legs, and I told her to always be like that- wildly untamed and free to do whatever the hell she wanted to do in this world!

Horses will do that to women. They are the bearers of the feminine wild and hold the key to unlocking the creative power buried inside the shutdown spirit of a well-mannered, rule-following little girl. They give us wings.

I looked up from my sketchbook and watched my new horse friends walk away towards their stables against the backdrop of a pink and purple sky with a roar of frogs greeting the rising moon. That night as I curled in bed next to my fire I asked the Universe to shed the rest of my cocoon and uncurl my new wings. 

The next morning I woke up with the sun and set out early to hike Mt. Constitution, where from the top, I would be able to see Canada! Now I won't bore you with more of my mind ramblings from the hike- hiking always inspires good inner dialogue for me, but I will say that this hike was where I began to shed my old cocoon of comfortable false narratives.

Mountain tops are good places to release you shit and to allow space for newness. I remember sitting at the highest point of Mt. Constitution, and absorbing the most fantastic blues I had ever seen! Looking toward Canada, I allowed myself to arrive. I had arrived! I had completed my goal by making it all the way to the border of Canada on my own (I later went to the actual border to take a photo for my proof! haha!)! I'm not certain how long I sat there, but I am certain that I had a classic "Mountaintop Experience" because I came down from that place feeling an emerald fire burn in my heart. I had allowed my heart the space to burn and speak with a new voice.

"You are brave. You are held in the arms of the Divine. You are surrounded by protection and light. You are brave," I said to myself as I returned to my horse friends that evening. I repeated the words in my head and this time they felt different. This was no longer a fear-based coping chant, this was now my radiant truth burning in my heart!

As my hands slowly patted and rubbed the warm golden-brown shoulders of the horses, I knew that I had been given strong wings. This was when I allowed myself to admit that I was ready to live transformed- in the great mystery of the unknown there is a current that catches your trust fall into darkness, and in that darkness, the Universe honors you by giving you new wings with which to soar through the shadows of yourself towards the light of your truth.    

And that is a little bit of my pilgrammage on Orcas Island. 

(I realize that I actually did not take very many photos on Orcas Island, due to being so very present with myself in each moment. I am told that the Island has a way of doing this to people. Below are some photos of what I think may be some type of algae or something I found in one of the bays on the island. Absolutely gorgeous!) 

Marissa Quinn