The Sacred Feminine in Nature and Friendship

DSC00646DSC00641My friend Gail stopped me at the check-out at Wegman’s Grocery a few weeks ago. She beamed love at me and told me she’d just bought another copy of my book to give as a gift. Of course, this makes a writer happy, but it was her warm hug and loving smile that stayed with me.

We said the things we say when we’re in a hurry and see an old friend. “We’ll be in touch. Call me. I hope to see you soon.”

You know what happens to those promises? Nothing.

I’ve known Gail since the 1970s. We had the same spiritual teacher and were part of the same meditation and philosophy group. Her kids were a little younger than mine. I admire her work with women’s health and the support she gives to those in need. We just don’t make time to see each other.

“Contact her, you hermit,” I said to myself that night as I remembered our interaction. I sent an email and she replied with an immediate yes.

Gail Birnbaum

Gail Birnbaum

Rushing water after heavy rain

Rushing water after heavy rain

We met at Gail’s home on Friday evening and put on our walking shoes. It was cool, under 70. I left Willow in the car under a shade tree with the windows open wide at the top. I wanted to focus on my friend, not my dog.

Gail was tired from a long day at work, but ready to lead the way. We headed for Cascadilla Gorge and entered the ravine. Beauty enveloped us as we walked the stone steps up the rushing creek from waterfall to waterfall, moving deeper into one of Ithaca’s famous gorges.

The roar of the water silenced our words and my busy mind. We paused in flat places on the trail and asked about each other’s lives and children. Gail told me about a recent Sufi retreat. I told her I’ll be teaching a workshop on mythology and grief this coming winter. We asked about each other’s health, a new part of conversations with friends in recent years.






Late evening Solstice sun entered the gorge from the west at a perfect angle and sparkled off the water. The steep rock walls were green with moss and plants, barely hanging on. I was flooded with gratitude for the preciousness of life and the gift of friendship. The Sacred Feminine permeated everything in the deep moist ravine.

On our way back to Gail's home

On our way back to Gail’s home

When I take time for an unhurried walk in Nature, when I open my heart to a woman friend, when I stop rushing around with my to-do list, the Sacred Feminine shows up.

The question is: Why do I imagine other things are more important?


How do you create sacred space in your life? Does the sacred feel feminine to you? Does Nature feel sacred to you? For a post about the teachings of Marion Woodman, my closest woman teacher of the Sacred Feminine, see Let the Warm Love Flow: Messages from Marion Woodman. To read more about finding the sacred in Nature, see Blessing the Water, Blessing Our Life.

  1. Just came back from a walk up the crooked street overlooking Cascadilla Gorge. A lovely evening with a friend.
    Let’s go for a walk Elaine! Thank you for sharing your heart and wonderful gift of writing. Always giving pause for reflection. xo

  2. It’s so easy to become a hermit in our writing world. There is always something we have to be working on, whether writing, blogs, social media, or squeezing in real life chores. I too have gotten out twice in one week last week; something I hadn’t been doing much for quite awhile. My husband even commented to me how much stress had vanished from my face the day after I went to a cousin reunion dinner. It was uplifting and wonderful to bond with women again after so long. 🙂

    • It is, Debby, and my deafness makes that tendency greater. It’s easier not to strain to hear in most social situations, so I skip it a little too often. The plan this summer is to create more one-on-one walks with friends. I saw the photos of your cousin’s reunion. Good medicine.

  3. Cliff and I are in the NC Smokies this week, escaping the triple-digit temps of Jacksonville. Yesterday we took a walk on a mountain trail with three women, two of whom I never met. As we walked and talked the conversation turned spiritual; Julie, a new friend, mentioned that she uses colors to draw as she prays helping both sides of the brain stay focused in meditation. (Incidentally, 3 dogs among us galloped hither and yon but we paid them no mind.)

    Yes, nature feels sacred to me, evidence of God’s creation everywhere: walking in a cathedral of arching oaks toward spires of balsam fir. Ah! And cultivating new friendships with women, or as you did – made an effort to renew a connection with Gail – is a healthy thing. Dr. Christine Northrup says we need our “tribes” of women friends wherever we find them: cousins, long-time friends from high school or college, those we have met in our adult years.

    What a refreshing post, Elaine.

    • Thanks, Marian. It’s time for me to experiment with topics, and this is what came up after my delicious walk with a friend. It was refreshing for me. I’m glad you’re enjoying time in the mountains, time with Cliff (who sounds to me like a man with a highly developed feminine nature–and I mean that in the most positive Jungian way in which we all want to develop both sides of ourselves), women friends, and even those dog companions.

      I’m visiting my brother in MA and he’s calling me to take a boat ride in Buzzard’s Bay.

  4. I love catching up with friends from the past. Thanks for giving me the term “Sacred Feminine.” That’s exactly what it is I feel. Cheers!

    • Robin, I’m one of those women who wants to broaden the meaning of the word “sacred.” Yes, Sacred Feminine. I’m trying to define just what that is for myself–not according to what I’ve read or learned, but for me now. Dancing with goats? Looked sacred to me.

  5. Lovely post Elaine thank you … and lovely photos! What a special time to spend with your friend in Nature. Just recently I had a (depressed) friend staying here and I took her for a few walks. She so enjoyed it and I so enjoyed her noticing e.g. unusual lumps on trees. The 2nd walk I took her on, she was tired and didn’t want to go further – I did – and suggested she just sit down with her back against a tree in a sunny spot while I walked a little bit more. When I came back 10 mins later, she said how much better she felt. She’s a scientist and not given to soul stuff, but she had a few dreams while here which in the telling she remembered other details. We talked a bit about them – and she was amazed at the wealth of them …

    • It’s wonderful to hear how you helped your friend. Our inevitable suffering seems to open our interest in soul. There are scientists–my husband was one–who value soul as highly as they value science. We need more of those. Thanks for sharing your sacred perspective on dreams and mythology.

  6. I am truly honored to be part of your blog, Elaine. I am so glad we shared this very special time together. I too feel so very close to the Divine while walking with the Sacred Feminine, and especially on this trail. Let’s plan on doing it again sometime soon.

    • Writing about our walk made me consider just why I loved it so much. So, I thank you doubly. There are so many beautiful walks in Ithaca, and I haven’t been on many of them in years. And then there’s Watkins Glen and Taughannock Falls and Havanna Glen. Grateful for sacred water and friendship. Yes, soon–and I’m not just saying that. Soon!

  7. Amazing write up about the sacred faminine which is revealed only when one sit and listen to an open heart to recieve spiritual nourishment. thanks God bless.

    • Thank you, Ronoh. I’ve had strong outer goals the last few years. Now it’s time to turn back within and focus again on the Deep Feminine. This experience in Nature and with a woman I love was part of that, along with dreams, study, and ritual. May we all find our way to this connection. Sending love.

  8. Thank you Elaine as always for your warm and loving insights. I appreciate them greatly at this time. Looking forward to spending time together.

    • Thank you, Dennis. I’ve spent many an hour exploring the sacred feminine with you. It isn’t a gender issue, as you know. We all have inner masculine and feminine parts. It’s about finding a balance, and for me, right now, that means giving more space to the feminine.

  9. Elaine, this past week I shared my life with a sister I’m very close to, a teenage granddaughter, and a wise woman daughter. We stayed at a house on the St. Lawrence River, and I couldn’t get enough of just watching the water move, seeing the moon reflecting on it at night, and the nature walks we took in nearby woods.

    • Beautiful, Lynne. I’m so glad you spent delicious and nutritious time with the women in your family. I imagine you painting with the inspiration of the water, moon, and reflected light.

  10. I put a hammock on the back porch recently. As I sit in it reading your post this morning I am laughing at a bit of synchronicity.
    Just yesterday morning I sat in the hammock and watched the clouds take shapes. I watched the light move across the hills and fill the valley l listened to the birds talking to one another. Down the hill a rooster announced the day and the hummingbirds are excited to find nectar.
    I touch a nearby chair and push myself into a slow rock.
    Isn’t there something I should be doing? Is it ok to just not “do” anything?
    It feels a little out of time, definitely out of the ordinary. I like it. It makes me aware of how much of my time is spent pushing to accomplish this or that.
    Yes, I think I’ll spend some more time gently rocking, I might even fall asleep.
    Seeding a dream may be the only effort to take right now, how lovely.

    • Rock away, dear Lauren. I’ve been forced by my body into slowing the pace and that has advantages. Yesterday the power went out at 7 pm (lightning storm) and stayed out until midnight. I crawled in bed around 8:30 pm–also a good thing to do once in a while. You have a beautiful spot to rest in the shade or in the sun on a cool day.

  11. Such a lovely post!

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