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  • Mj Pettengill

Marya of the Wood: Not Your Mother's Pearl Necklace


Spider Web, Mj Pettengill
Spider Web, Mj Pettengill

If you haven’t been able to find me, check the woods. I travel over ancient rocks, roots, and leafy trails with caution, making my way through it—the pathway to healing and wholeness.

I have always known that being in the forest improves one’s overall sense of well-being. Young Marya perceived the world through the branches of trees—thick arms reaching and pointing the way—climbing giant granite boulders and lying still in a meadow of wildflowers and tall grass.

I had to pause and remember my wild ways, to search for this child within. It is more than foraging and mingling with the wild. That never stopped. I had encountered a soul-silencing injury that I felt in every step, facing the fear of pain becoming all of who I am.

As is common with the women in my family, I downplayed its severity, denying that something like chronic pain would happen to me. But it did. We usually choose to tend to others’ needs before stopping to practice self-care. We go until we cannot take another step.

I was stuck in thick black mud, becoming trapped between all of the stories that I wanted to tell, that begged for a way out. All of what I thought and believed about myself had crumbled. Even my dreams were telling me to wake up. Pain, trauma, and injuries lay the foundation for rebirth. Most of us know that birth is messy but worth it.

It was time to fully return to the forest—to bathe and immerse in the rich, fertile power of the untouched landscape. Too much time had passed since I merged with other trees and ventured deep within their circle. As I have said before, they are the wise council. I know them here, on this land. I needed to go beyond what is normal in my daily life, take chances and risks that seemed impossible, and escape the familiarities that had only shaded my sight.

My pilgrimage has taken me beyond the mediocrity of the everyday world. Walking, wading, climbing, and working my way to the top of the mountain, cascading waterfall, or dwelling in the tranquility of an ancient pine grove is where I am called. Healing awaits.

There are many untraveled paths, roads, and forests left to explore. I stop along the way to marvel at moss-covered logs, lichen-clad rocks, fairy tale mushrooms, and uninhibited plants. Clusters of crooked trees, some with smiles and others with weathered faces, watch as I pass by. Rocks have faces too.

I step carefully, keenly aware of what is underfoot. Tiny tree frogs and salamanders scurry off to the side, hiding under rotted leaves and within shadows cast by ferns and stumps.

Follow the light that breaks through the canopy of trees, illuminating the reward for your perseverance. These gifts—timeless, exquisite, and not your mother’s pearl necklace— lie deep in these unexpected places. Open your eyes and heart, and you will find them.