My Wild Nature Heart story

D3DEBFB8-3381-4916-8781-2E449F549D73November is National Novel Writing Month. And while I write a lot, especially poetry, every November I let go by without seizing the opportunity to push my story forward. And I am sitting on mountains of stories.

Until my friend and business partner Katie challenged me and herself to tell our wild nature heart stories. And not only that, but to make it public and share on our Wild Nature Heart channels glimpses of our process and progress. We asked each other: do you dare to show up on the page with the truth of your own story?

And we answered, “Yes!”

And so, in the spirit of council circle, and for the love of the juicy particularities of individual stories and the universal mythos they are held in, I am stepping forward in the challenge. And while I often tell my soul stories through poetry, writing a long-arc narrative is a very different enterprise and I am excited to do it!

So here’s what’s happening: We each (@ryanreturntotheearth & @katie.baptist.1) signed up for @nanowrimo, with the aim to complete rough drafts of the memoirs we’ve been meaning to write for a long time. In many ways these are the back stories for the work we do at Wild Nature Heart, and why we care about it so much.

Throughout November I will be posting updates here on Rumi and the Shadow and my social media channels, and we will do our best to each post on our Instagram and Facebook feeds our word counts, plus a juicy phrase or two capturing our latest writing session. You won’t see the stories in their entirety until they’re ready, but we will be offering  little glimpses as a way to include you in our process, so you know more about who we are, and we hope that by December 1st you will be begging to read more!

Looking forward to sharing this journey into vulnerability & self-discovery with you!
Thank you!

-Ryan

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The Wound and Not the Story of the Wound

desert2From that high place
it appeared a lake

pinkish-white and round with promise
a beautiful mark on the land
walled in by red rock
and a giant sky

It asserted itself on me
drew me like a fish fishing
the man thrashing

You’d think a part of me
would know about mirages
in the desert

But I needed to touch
the wound
and not the story of the wound

So I began the descent
with no dragons or wizards
or helpers other than lizards

and my sole companions:
Death and all my loves

we said the unspoken things
that needed to find a purchase
in the open air
so it could float on up
and meet the sun

Too far, too far.
No, go the distance.

Which powers in me were having this debate?

I climbed down
sliding over sandstone
through shadows and stories
found and gave forgiveness
empty of stomach, full of purpose

Too late to turn back now
I must touch the wound
not the story of the wound

Arriving at noon
my thirst stretched out like dune devils

the sun hovered
an inch from my forehead
like a rune foretelling
troubling things

My feet found cracked mud.

It was no lake. It was not pink
but white like skeleton–
Dry evidence of the gash.

The only water came from my face
forced by the realization:

the stories, my god
how much I’d wasted with stories
of the wound
and not the wound itself.

I blessed it with the final tear.

Dry and new, I turned
towards the arduous ascent
with swollen tongue, swollen heart

with my companions:
Death and all my loves,
including myself

-Ryan Van Lenning

Note: The phrasing of the title of this poem is influenced by Wallace Stevens’s Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself and Adrienne Rich’s Diving Into the Wreck:
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth

Fire Night with Turtle, Fox, and Serpent

http _farm4.staticflickr.com_3518_4006330354_5bbd07f38b_o_dTurtle, Fox, and Serpent were hanging around the fire one night under a pitch-black sky.

Turtle, feeling small under the incomprehensible vastness of the the cosmos, gazed into the fire and said, “We’re all alone.”

Fox, seeing the reflections of the fire’s flames dance on her partners’ faces and the branches of the hemlock trees above, proclaimed matter-of-factly, “We’re all in this together.”

Serpent slithered over to Turtle, down to his level, flicking his tongue and locking eyes with him. Turtle’s pulse quickened. Just as intensely, Serpent slithered under Fox’s belly, then above, until finally rising above the fire, his form seeming to grow bigger and wider.

After along intense pause, Serpent declared…”Yep.”

The World is Leaking Circles

plumThe world is leaking circles.

Again—It never stopped.

At dawn you find yourself filling with juice

and your flesh will have to expand.

It’s tight in there.

So deliciously tight it hurts with pleasure.

The edges want to feel the kiss of the wind

and be eaten by the winged ones.

This is the order of things: Death. Sun. Juice. Circle. Life.

That is a story for the mind.

First fruit whispers: Start where you are

Stretch into the circle
the Big Juice is trying to be through you.

That is a story for the soul.

Again It Begins

dawn2And you have the rest of the day
to fit in

and make your face do the things
that other faces do

and your mouth utter all the things
that aren’t your own

so why not take this silent blue moment
with the heron

to wake up the day together
with your true face of delight?

the stale masks will still be there
hanging on the wall at noon

alongside the others, judgment
and disappointment

in the afternoon you can follow
the story of the others

who are following someone else’s story
and in the evening you can join

the others in the ritual
of draining the light from your eyes

But for now, put in your eyes
of dawn and dew

and let your bright peace
unveil itself as the fog recedes

your bones and what holds them up
have been waiting so long for it

and the night’s last star doesn’t seem to mind
and the day’s star might even join you

-Ryan Van Lenning

Dream a Constellation Together

IMG_8833Tell me, do they have lavender sunsets
in the land where you live?

Was there a river in your childhood
that flows through your dreams?

Shall we fight over which river is better
and who owns the sun?

Or shall we tell stories
around the fire

and balance our souls along the banks
while the day is pulling her shades down

and the stars that no one knows
begin to dot our mutual horizon?

Perhaps someday we will dream
a constellation together

and it will matter not
whether I call it the Great Blue Heron

or you call it the Giant Spruce
or our sister calls it the Goddess Ostara

for in that day,
the sun will shine on us both

and the stars will guide our nights
filled with better tales