At exactly 3:00pm today, I passed the “Town of Middlebury” sign on Route 7.
I’m back.
Though it will be days, weeks, or perhaps months before I begin to understand the last ten days, I wanted to share with you my first impressions. A selection (hodge podge) of thoughts and verses from my journal. Some spiritual, but more not.
I will be recording more organized second, third and fourth impressions in the coming weeks, but I think this might actually provide a more visceral glimpse of my experience.
I could sum it up by saying nothing happened. Or everything happened. Reality is probably somewhere in between. But I would rather share the journey…
On Wednesday, September 17, the night before my departure, it takes me hours to fall asleep. Hours upon hours upon hours.
Thursday, September 18
I am searching for the cause of my searching.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt made guest appearances in my dream. Really?
Friday, September 19
It is becoming clear that I brought far too many books to fill very little down time. (I packed a stack of ten…)
Saturday, September 20
I have decided to leave behind my camera (Sorry, that does mean no pictures), and my yoga mat. I have a feeling I won’t need them…
I am leaving behind the known. Soon I will begin (or continue!) to walk my path into being. Yes!
Sunday, September 21
Today, I found my place of power (location for my solo time: 4 days and 4 nights). I hope. It is a solid 45 minutes, maybe more, from base camp… a little bit apprehensive about the walk out after four days of fasting. Close to the shore (Lake Sommerset, Southern VT), but back into the woods a little ways, and in a lovely circle of young trees that sing back to the wind.
[Frog is making me laugh, trying to be so stealthy as he walks past my sleeping bag.]
Today is Monday, September 22
How many kinds of blue have passed before my eyes today, rippling across the lake? Could I name them all? Aquamarine. Periwinkle. Turquoise. Navy. Sky reflected in lake blue. Blue within and upon blue. What do we call that? Sky blue. Royal blue. Midnight blue. Blue that flutters in the wind. Blue that reaches beneath the surface. Blue that reflects a sudden bit of sunlight and sparkles. Do we have names for so many kinds of blue?
Broken trees and branches are guiding me through the woods today.
Sometime this afternoon it hit me: Shit, days are really long.
Today is Tuesday, September 23
I just spent the entire morning doing absolutely nothing. I’ve been lying on the rocks trying to take in as much sun as possible. The sun is hot, but the air is cold—I’ve had to keep rotating to keep warm. I feel no desire to do any ritual right now, no restlessness… I could do with a slightly more comfortable “do nothing” spot, though.
No matter what, I’m telling myself, I will come out of this stronger, and knowing myself better—for that alone it will be worthwhile.
[I’m hungry at this moment.]
The sun may not have set yet, but I am ready for bed, and to move on to the next day. I let my stomach know that we still had 2.5 more days until food—best not to dwell on it.
Waiting for Dusk
As the water turns from shimmering teal to gray,
And the last drops of sunlight fade from sight,
I am here, waiting for dusk.
She gathers herself—slowly, slowly—
One wispy purple shroud at a time,
Like the longest dimmer in the world, lowered without haste.
And still I am here, waiting for dusk.
The wind never tires, but my body asks for rest;
The birds chatter on, and the flies collect around my tarp—
The sky holds on stubbornly to blue,
As I rest here, waiting for dusk.
[Definitely still hungry. Dreaming about breakfast Saturday morning!]
Today is Wednesday, September 24
When I finally rise, the sun is already high in the sky, and the last wisps of fog glide silently across the water until they vanish. Soon, they will be only a ghostly memory. Now, the lake is a perfect mirror with foggy edges, and the grass along the shore sparkles with dew, iridescent.
I have never felt so much doubt. I don’t feel any different; still have no idea why I’m here, what I’m trying to find. My mind holds on stubbornly, along with my stomach, to normalcy.
My journey thus far, from Mother Earth’s perspective (abridged)
I saw here wandering through my forest, so lost.
I heard her cry out for guidance, but she will find her way.
I listened as she lamented her doubt, her lost-ness to Tree, to Rock and to Lake.
The brown leaves on which she sat carried them to me.
I heard, but I did not answer…
Maybe I will appear to her in spectacular fashion. Maybe not.
This journey she finds herself on—the truth and vision and clarity she seeks—
Well, it is all within her, and I can only play a supporting role.
When she learns this, she will be ready to meet me.
For then, it will no longer matter.
Today is Thursday, September 25 (Last day of solo time)
I want a fucking steak.
(On the last night of a quest, many people choose to stay up from sundown to sunrise in something called a purpose circle. Inadvertently marooned on my chosen spot, far from my sleeping bag and other gear, I managed to stay up all night. Not because I wanted to in the end, but because I couldn’t make it back in the dark, and because I would have turned into a popsicle if I didn’t keep moving!)
On the night of Friday, September 26, back in my tent and with food in my belly, I wrote this about the experience:
The Darkest Night
Strange calls rise up across the water, break this eternal quiet.
A faint light hums at the horizon, taunting me with the thought of dawn, but that is far away still.
There is no moon, this night.
There is no rest, this night. No respite in sight.
Icy dew falls heavy upon the earth, chills me to the bone.
Geese honk through the sky, in a hurry to get where they’re going.
I, too, am desperate to return.
I, too, have called, unanswered, too long. Slowly my voice fades from song.
I know there will be no more fire, this night.
Any warmth must be my own.
This is the darkest night, and nothing will break it but dawn.
But I don’t see that Light has been there all along,
Because it was right before my own eyes.

 I don’t know exactly what I learned or what I am bringing back from my time away, but I intend to find out.

2 thoughts on “I Went on a Vision Quest and All I Brought Back Was…

  1. Toby! Are you planning in keeping us in suspense forever? Stumbled upon your EJ article and made it here; it still seems like the story has yet to be complete. I'm curious to hear what you've learned about yourself since then.

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