Thirty years ago I found a piece of wood shaped like a paddle. It was painted with flowers and hand-lettered with the saying, “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” It went with me when I left my marriage and moved into the cabin in the woods, and again when I moved to California. It hangs in my art studio.
I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The dense forest of lodge-pole pines was my back yard. My grandfather was a rancher and I learned to ride a horse like my Daddy had as a child. I felt at home in the woods on a horse. I thought I was an Indian. My girlfriend and I would race our horses through the woods dodging tree branches feeling the thrill of our wildness. During the summer we would stay up at the cabin and spend our days in undomesticated bliss.
We ate the venison her parents hunted with bow and arrow on horseback and vegetables from the garden. We drew water from an open spring. We lit the cabin with kerosene lanterns and slept under the canopy of stars that filled the black night sky. It was a unique and magical way to grow up in the 50’s and 60’s if you were a WASP like me.
Life in town with my own parents wasn’t wild and free but the taste was in my mouth and I would never lose it.
I left the Black Hills for college when I turned 18 never to return there to live. After a few years in Denver and Chicago I ended up in St. Louis with a husband. We bought a small farm on the Illinois side of the city. I tried to be happy and make a life there. I grew a big garden and got a horse and chickens. I hiked back into the 200 acres of oak forest that bordered our farm and climbed into those magnificent trees to look for the wildness of my youth. I couldn’t find it. The loss made me weep.
One day I found that old paddle in the barn. I read those words, “Bloom where you are planted.” I knew what I needed to do.
I walked back into the woods to a circle of trees where I had marked a medicine wheel with stones from the creek. I sat in the center of the wheel and created a sacred cord cutting ceremony. I performed the ritual of cutting the energetic cords that connected me to the Black Hills. I knew that unless I released myself, my longing for the past would drain me and stop me from realizing my full potential in the present. I would never be able to “bloom where I was planted.”
One year following my cord-cutting ceremony I had my first child. He was my first bud. I was blooming.