Alone—no food—no drink—no watch, phone, electronics of any kind—no reading, or writing—being silent—these are the general rules of a Vision Quest.
Day 1: In silence, I was led to my spot in the forest—a small thicket at the foot of a huge oak tree—in the Jura region in France, of all places. The sunny clearing allotted to me was just about the size of my tent. This was to be my home for the next four days, four nights—How hard could it be? I thought.
The weather was perfect—just the right kind of warm, with no rain in the forecast. At least I hadn’t been plunked down in a burning desert, a humid rainforest, or on the frozen tundra. Keeping silent? Whoa, now that could be a challenge. Not because I’m one to walk around talking and singing all day, but I have been known to blather on with my favorite trio: me, myself, and I, or at the very least, with my dogs. And let’s face it, the minute we’re told we can’t do something, that’s all we want to do. Right?
I immediately set to pitching my tent. It was new. I had all the time in the world, well, all day at least if I wanted to sleep under cover, so I took my time reading the instructions, which I would normally never do. I guess I’m like a guy in that respect. Ten minutes later (remember, I’m taking my time), the Mutha Hubba was up. And no, I did not make that name up, MSR, the manufacturer did.
Then I decided to unpack the few things I took along on this adventure, things like baby wipes (no showers in the wild, unless it rains), toothbrush (does toothpaste count as food?), flashlight (to chase away animals in the dark or at least to see my attacker before it ate me), and an emergency bottle of water (for peace of mind). That took all of 30 seconds. At this point, I became obsessed with time. I never wear a watch, so this struck me as really weird. I checked the sky for the placement of the sun. Taking into account what time it was when I left the guesthouse and the present position of the sun in the incredibly blue, blue sky, I determined that I still had 3.9 days and four nights to go. I stuck a twig in the ground, hoping its shadow would have better news—it didn’t.
Then it hit me. Literally, a big fat bug flew into my face and bounced off my cheek. So much for silence—but it made me ask myself, What’s the rush? Who cares what time it is! The whole reason for this vision quest was for me to make time for me—time without the distractions and responsibilities of daily life. Besides the fact that as a child, I thought anything that involved a quest was the most fantasmagorical thing a person could do. A quest was the chance to become a hero, or in my case a heroine. Just the word—QUEST—made my heart want to fly out of my chest. So when the opportunity to go on a vision quest presented itself, I knew I had to do it. It would give me time to travel within—to uncharted places inside myself—to seek out that heroine—to discover things about myself I didn’t already know—like who I really am, my needs, and desires. In short, my intention for this quest was to shed light on me in my world—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Happy and relaxed, I rolled Big Agnes out on the ground (my sleeping bag—who names these things?) and took a nap. I dreamed of beautiful Indian maidens, handsome young braves, and the Dalai Lama, who told me to enjoy my peace and quiet while I could.
Hmmm… So when I awoke, I took his advice. Until the sun slipped behind the treetops, turning the sky burnt-orange behind a mixed canopy of oaks and pines, I watched huge, puffy clouds skip across the blue sky to an ever-changing melody of buzzes, chirps, and tweets. When I eventually sat up, I noticed an inchworm crawling along my sundial—
Where could he possibly be going besides up one side and down the other? Which is exactly what he did, but why? (I’m only assuming it was a ‘he’—I didn’t look that closely.) Then I watched a teeny, tiny, spider finish spinning her silken web. For days, she hardly moved at all, patiently waiting for a meal, until—on night three, by the silver light of the moon, in a frenzy to escape my idyllic spot, I inadvertently destroyed her home while tearing down my tent—
Ah yes, well, I’ll save that story for another time—
I think William Faulkner said it best, “Clocks slay time—time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops, does time come to life.”
Any thoughts you’d like to share about time? Too much, too little, too fast, too slow? I’d love to hear from you.