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  • Mj Pettengill

Marya of the Wood: I Left My Soul in the Pond of Mirth


Mud in the Pond

Oh, the things you will find in the Pond of Mirth. Never in all my years here have I seen the pond dry up.


As far as I’m concerned, it’s a big pond. I know that it isn’t, really. But I never tire of it. I find an abundance of life, inspiration, beauty, and magic in it. That makes it big to me and the girl within.

I have always thought about the elderberry trees on the banks of the far side. I think of taking the rowboat to the edge and picking the berries, but I never do. I have plenty of elder trees in other places. Lately, I have had to defend them against dreadful vines and invasive species, but I always care for them. In return, they offer medicine.

With most of the pond-bottom completely dry and exposed, I have considered simply walking over and picking the elderberries. I finally acted on it. I could have gone around to the back of the pond or in from the side. I was careful in choosing my path. I navigated the slick, algae-covered rocks and made my way to the black mud. 

It occurred to me that I never expected to be where I was. Typically, it was at least four feet deep along the edge and much deeper, maybe bottomless, in the middle. At the time, it seemed like a stroke of luck that I could simply walk out to the trees that I had always eyed and pick elderberries.

In less than a minute, I lost my footing. From past experience, I recalled that it could mean either disaster or pay attention to something completely unexpected. There are always options and choices to be made, sometimes in a split-second.

Each time I tried to lift either of my feet, they were pulled down deeper. I stared into the thick, warm, blackness—Mother’s blood and tears—merged with life and death, as I continued to sink. I panicked when the mud became more substantial, determined to keep me in its grip. The more I struggled, the deeper I sank. I was hidden behind trees and weeds that grew taller than me.

The Pond of Mirth is also the Pond of Forgiveness, Hope, New Life, and Abandonment. It is whatever it needs to be. I have released many pieces of myself and parts of others that have no longer served me. I have embraced and let go of so much there, and suddenly, I was stuck in it. It was not a metaphor, yet. It was real. I was being pulled into its heart where so many things had come and gone before. And no one knew that I was disappearing.

I closed my eyes. I stopped the struggle, for it was taking me in, and I was unprepared. Layers of rot and decay became raw—a rich scent of being—an invitation to pause and feel the silken grit all the way through to the bone. Putting my hands on the surface was the same. Sinking. Going down. I let them rest slightly on top of the muck. It was warm and oddly reassuring. I looked up when a single crow that has been guiding me flew above, clicking and murmuring.

 “I’m okay. Thank you,” I said. 

It spiraled up over my head before flying to a nearby pine to wait in case I changed my mind. 

Was I really okay? Knowing and remembering who I was and that I am whole, even when hopelessly stranded, started to make sense. In the world, all around is a constant overload of fear, chaos, crumbling away, and exhaustion. As always, I opted out, focusing on what I am best at—creativity, rewilding, and after the threat of potential illness, healing.

My days and nights have been overflowing with rivers, mountains, creatures, words, music, plant medicine, and caring for others. I have been running. Without paying attention to my forward motion and the lack of honoring the space in-between—the void—I was literally being drawn in, forced to stop. Our Mother did it for me.

The purpose was to let go of uncertainty and reclaim another part of ancient wisdom that waits at the edge of dreams. I slowly continued to sink into blackness. The sun slipped behind the clouds. This shade of darkness was more than the absence of light, it embraced all of me, reaching out from Our Mother’s womb. 

I feared and craved it while my pulse merged with this murkiness that touched my all. Amidst this black, endless world that gripped me, pulling me into its unknown depths, I remembered my pledge to never fear the dark.

I stopped. I gasped. Was it my pulse, my breath, and my own salt that I tasted upon my lips? Or was it a blend, knowing of the gifts that are often discovered in the darkest places? There was no room for sacrifice or fear. They lack love.

My difficulties ceased when I realized that I had always known the way out. At that moment, in our oneness, it lived, and I lived in it. It was not the place where creatures of the night hunt and sing, and beings of the day bask in the sun while sitting on the rock. I had arrived somewhere else. The child inside had found comfort in the middle of the mystery. She was never alone. 


Early on, I screamed, only once. No one heard me. The harder I tried to pull myself out of the rich, black mud, the harder it pulled me down into it. Struggling meant sinking. 

It wasn’t until I was calm that I realized that the outer world—the old systems—activated my instincts of fear and battle call to the unknown. It was my intuition that illuminated harmonizing and the need for equilibrium. My transformation was boundless when I finally surrendered, trusting the descent, and being willing to plummet into darkness. It was still. Answers lie in wait.

When I stopped struggling and felt the rich, silky, mud, around my feet and legs, I could sense my own roots planted in the Earth. Rushing towards the fruit of the tree was only me forgetting that it wasn’t necessary. The fruit was in the knowing, the reward of never getting there to pick it. The part of me attached to the broken world was ready to be released once and for all.

Fighting was another way of not facing my own depths where it is messy and filled with rotting, tangled roots that have become rich and endless. I was up to my thighs when I slowly turned and pulled myself out with my arms. I crawled in the mud. Almost all of me was covered. When I was on the grassy banks, I stood up. I noticed that the sole of my sandal had come off, stuck somewhere in the Pond of Mirth’s depths.

The ice-cold water from the garden hose felt good. A female hummingbird came by. I raised the hose for her to join me, to dance in the droplets. I thanked her for showing up.


Hummingbird, CCO

This is a true story. If you get stuck, by all means, don't panic.

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