How a walk in the mountains turned into a powerful emotional experience.
It's been a deliberately slow start to the year at School of the Wild, so as we wait for warmer weather I’d like to share a curious thing that happened to me over Christmas.
I was in the Spanish Pyrenees staying near the top of a secluded valley, surrounded on three sides by high ridges.
One day I decided to do a Medicine Walk, a ceremony of aimless wandering. The idea: you set off with a question that you ask of the land, and then let go of the question and go where you feel drawn, where seems interesting. Then pay attention to what happens.
Medicine Walks are a mysterious thing, they turn the land into a mirror for your inner world, and can be really helpful in answering life’s questions. I’ve always found them to be surprising, and pertinent, and powerful.
So in the morning I head off from where I’m staying, up to a gap between the ridges.
The track is steep and it takes a while to get to the top. When I get there, out of breath, I sit for a while on a rock overlooking the valley, taking in the view.
After a bit, I’m drawn to go further up. There are no real paths just lots of goat tracks and loose rocks between the gorse and mountain shrubs. It’s hard going. Steep, and a bit unstable.
It doesn’t take long before I get stuck. I’m fed up and a little anxious if I’m honest. So I turn around, and go back to the rock to recuperate.
When I’m recovered, I stand up and it’s then that I suddenly hear the sound of wings beating… a whole colony of about twenty vultures come flying over my head, one at a time.
Because I’m the shadow of the hill, they don’t realise I’m there until the last minute.
They are seriously close. Maybe just three or four metres away from me.
I hear the wind whistling through their wings, and see the whites of their eyes.
And you know, vultures, they’re huge!
At first I’m pretty scared. I have an image in my head of vultures in wildlife documentaries feasting on large animals…
But I notice that they are startled when they see me, and I realise that they’re more scared of me than I am of them, so I relax.
They keep coming. One after another, after another. And I am just wow. WOW.
The vultures soar past me into the clear blue sky over the valley. I watch them as they glide off into the distance.
It’s so beautiful… so perfect… and I’m so touched by it… that without expecting it, a deep wave of emotion rises up from inside me, and I weep and sob uncontrollably.
Even now I’m not really sure why, but what I do know is that wildness is intimately connected with our psyche and our soul. And nature has the power to touch us, to heal us, and to allow us to be human.
After that release, the rest of my walk was very happy, and joyful.
We’re planning some medicine walks in Sussex this year - keep an eye on the website for dates, and if you fancy a new experience, we’ve got some exciting and new classes lined up - see here.
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Author & Curator
Nigel Berman is the founder of School of the Wild.