Well, I turned off all the electricity for Earth Hour, including battery things. I couldn't find where I'd put the kerosene lamp, and it felt like I really didn't want to light a candle. To my surprise, this was a most marvelous time. An hour of darkness — and in a forest, under a dark, clouded sky, the dark is really dark.

There are usually small night lights on in the house during the darkness; without them this was an hour of deep and silent blackness, the only sound being the slight sibilance of branches in a light breeze — and my own thoughts. I thought about an e-mail I'd received earlier about a magical dream, I thought about potent dreams of my own, and where they have brought me now. I wasn't concentrating; just letting my mind gently roam over old memories and reflections.

You know, I started this hour with the thought that it was just going through the motions — that my joining in with shutting off the electricity for an hour wouldn't make any difference in the world. But it did make a difference — to me! And it matters if even just one person feels it. And who knows where the ripples will stop? In a Universe made of ripples and waves, will they ever stop? Now I'm quite eager to create the altar space I feel called to make outside in the forest. I feel afire with creative and devotional energy. Who knew that an hour wide awake in a silent and deep darkness would do this to me?

I'll talk about the altar another day — perhaps even with photos. But at this moment I'd like to share the dream.

It began with me standing quietly in an old, tangled forest with my hand resting on the tree beside me, feeling the rough texture of the bark and the springiness of the moss growing there. The moss was so green and alive, not dry and stiff nor soggy with soaking rain, but resilient against my hand, pushing back like a live creature. Looking at the moss, I noticed that my hand was painted or tattooed; it matched the moss and the bark of the tree. My eyes couldn't tell where the mossy tree ended and I began. Only touch and the slight movement of my stroking hand showed the edge between.

I gradually realized that I could feel the air moving all over me and that I was nude. The touch of the air was a delightful feeling — almost like being delicately brushed with the softest of downy feathers. I felt like someone slowly awakening from a dream with the dawn. I could hear birds singing in the distance, and then, soft on my shoulder, I felt movement. Slowly turning my head I could see a small, brown lark painted on my left shoulder — and I could see his beak move, the throat throb and breast expand and contract as it began the softest of songs. Gently, its wings began to move and it rose from my skin — whole, entire, its own self, lifting, the skylark rising, unlikely in the forest, as the song suddenly intensified into a full-throated and joyful paean. It reached its crescendo and dove back down, was again a painting on my shoulder, breathing hard.

Painted vines wove around my arm, along with leaves and fragrant berries, sweet and wild. Around my ankles the bluebells opened, softly chiming their subtle aroma. A lily of the valley on the other ankle overwhelmed the bells with its richness. Painted — or tattooed — or was I perhaps born with every inch of me adorned with leaves and branches, subtle blossoms among them? With a glittering dragonfly drawn on my breast, a squirrel peering out from the leaves near my wrist, its bright eyes blinking and curious, a field mouse among the grasses and wildflowers on my ankle, I blended fully into the forest. If anyone had passed by, they would not have seen a woman, or if they had, they might have thought they were seeing a goddess, strange and wild — and nearly transparent.

This dream arose many years ago when I was in Scotland, living in the country among ancient magical Celtic places — sitting in stone circles, walking lines of power in the earth, leaving stones on cairns, meditating in the earth mounds. But in all years between then and now, it has been vivid in my memory, and I think of it often. Somehow, without my understanding the process, it has quietly dwelt within me, changing me.

I am that woman in the woods, a part of the forest, not separate. I bloom with the flowers, sway with the trees, sing and, yes, fly with the birds and leap with the squirrels. And it all happens all the time, even when I'm in town shopping for groceries or fretting about where to find a chimney sweeper for my blocked woodstove-pipe, wondering which clothes to put on today, or dealing with human aches and ills. This condition isn't visible to others, and I cannot see it in a mirror, but I only need to make a an inner shift, like turning without moving. All the living, singing, blossoming, growing tattoos are on the inside of my skin, caressed and moved by an invisible wind out of spirit.

Copyright ©2013 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.

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Jessica Macbeth