Leaving the Temple

It so happens that the work which is likely to be our most durable monument, and to convey some knowledge of us to the most remote posterity, is a work of bare utility; not a shrine, not a fortress, not a palace, but a bridge.

Montgomery Schuyler, Harper’s Weekly, May 24, 1883.

 

 

The first night I taught at Aldermarsh Retreat Center on Whidbey Island, May 1995, I slept on a yoga mat at the edge of the circle, feeling my way into this new work that was calling Ann Linnea and me. It was the beginning of a 27-year journey around the world and back, always back, to this place, the hearth of our work. Aldermarsh is ten miles down the road from our house, on our own island, allowing us to welcome hundreds of people through the green mists that characterize this place.

That first night, mid-40s, pioneering a pattern back into the world that was nearly lost, wondering how to actually transmit the structure and magic of the circle, I had a dream. In my dream, we were sitting in circle at dusk, the tall windows darkening. A great ball of fire shot out of the sky, across the meadow and began bumping up against the window, trying to break in. An inner voice proclaimed, “if you let the fire in, it will change everything.” There was a moment of hesitance, of preparing myself, then “Yes.” The ball of light burst into the room, filled the room, rained down upon us all, and came to rest in the center of the circle where it shimmered a while, and then slowly sank through the floor of the Marsh House and into the meadow ground.

Meanwhile, I feel electrified, as though a fire is lit in the cells of my being. I wake up, hearing that voice whisper, “This is the restoration of the temple.” Over the years, when the circle has touched again that shimmering place where we have been gathered in by the stories and presence of one another and the sacred geometry of the circle itself, I have shared this dream. I have always remembered it and every time I enter the Marsh House to teach, facilitate, and learn, I touch that invisible place of entry in the windowpane.

Books written by Self as Source alumni.

December 1-7, 2022: I am at the Marsh House one last time in my role as writing guide for a circle 13 women, 1 man, all exploring how we use “the Self as the Source of the Story.” I have been teaching this seminar for 32 years, usually twice a year, plus alumni groups, so probably totaling about 75 times, and most of those times here—in the marsh, in all seasons. Humbled time and again by what happens in this alchemy of space, pattern, story, and courage to bare our hearts on paper.

A candle in the center, to hold the sacred space of story.

December 4, I have a dream: a birds-eye view of armored men on horseback and others marching with shields and spears. They storm an ancient temple. They take it apart brick by brick and throw the stones into the sea. They are violent, but I wake calm. I hear an inner voice, “It is the destruction of the temple that freed the fire.” One woman stands in the center of the chaos. She is the teacher. She is Sappho, and this is the desecration of her sacred school, where the young wives of the Greek ruling class learned to hold the Deep Feminine within patriarchal society and the roles expected of them.

No one knows what really happened to Sappho or the initiations of her school. There is little record of who she really was, what she taught, what happened to her poetry—though she was considered the finest poet of her time. It is her erasure that gives rise to myth and suspicion as the works of her male contemporaries have survived the ages. Sleeping by the Marsh House, I wake middle night, there is a light at the window, not fire, but reflected fire, a moon coming full. Sappho whispers, “All temples are temporary. All words are eventually lost. But the unnamable, ineffable essence, what we were really initiating, remains.” She extends her hands.

Next week some other version of similar work will be housed and held on these hallowed grounds. Next week I will put away stacks of books published by students over these years. I will shred old teaching notes and take boxes of collage scraps to recycle. I will make soup from the catering leftovers. Ann and I will walk the dog. And I will be a Storycatcher without a “temple.”

This I know: I let the fire in, and it changed everything.

This I trust: that my releasing this nestled, tree-guarded temple frees the fire.

I cross the bridge.

 

53 replies
  1. Gayle Colman
    Gayle Colman says:

    Oh, Christina, thank you for your grace, wisdom, and generative flow of love – in life and the written word. I am grateful for circle time with you in several places and spaces. The fire of life burns brightly. May your next adventures nourish you in ways you cannot wildly imagine.
    With joy, love and gratitude, Gayle

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you, Gayle, I am deeply looking forward to my next adventure, and hoping it nourishes the world as much as it nourishes me. love and gratitude, indeed. CBee

      Reply
  2. Diana Smith
    Diana Smith says:

    Today I am 75, and with good friends. This is the most touching, resonant perspective that I could imagine for this time. In my 70th year, I was honoured to share in the wilderness quest..this year opens to the fire 🔥 that is a bridge. With love, Diana Smith

    Reply
  3. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    I sit here and weep reading your words. Yesterday, in my Facebook memories, on the final day of your last class, the photo of my first SAS retreat at Aldermarsh showed up. Ten years ago. Now I see my memoir, published two months ago, in the photo of alumni books. I feel honored to have been part of Sappho’s school, your school, five of the 75 times your wisdom guided so many to write down their stories. You will always be a storycatcher, you will always be the source of the story as those you have inspired pay it forward. You have changed the world, my friend, you and your beloved Ann. Your legacy is forever. I love you both. Gretchen

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Ah my dear sister author and friend, Now you makin’ me cry… mostly for happy, and to walk with strength over that lovely bridge and into the adventure of my own book coming out next year. I am so reminded how the stories of “ordinary” people are what make the world “extraordinary.” LOVE back to you, CBee

      Reply
  4. Jeanne Guy
    Jeanne Guy says:

    I love this. I love you. You created the fire within me and it changed everything. Everything. I’m blessed by your words and your wisdom. And now, on to the next adventure which awaits. Essence remains and will light a new fire to carry us forward. There is no doubt that your next adventure will nourish both you and the world. It’s who you are and because of that, we are all blessed.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you. Another dear sister writer, with book on the table and book impacting the world. Be well, write on. love always, CBee

      Reply
  5. Betty Till
    Betty Till says:

    What a beautiful closure to beautiful work. You have impacted so many lives, mine included. I recently dismantled several altars I had around my home as it just felt like it was time to let them go and to see what emerges this next year. I feel and see the bridge in front of me. Thank you for your guidance and inspiration.

    Reply
  6. Bonnie Rae
    Bonnie Rae says:

    It was one thing to know OF you and quite another to have shared time in that circle. I have hand-outs, notes and my piece from the heart of the center. I have tiny colorful clothespins, a shelf of signed books and my story sketched out on a large sheet of paper, complete with arc and comment. But what I will always remember from my time there was how much it meant to feel seen and heard. I’m not just a better writer for it, I’m a better person. You are storycatcher and firestarter and creative spark. I can’t wait to see all that is yet to unfold in your lives. (I hope I get to join you both on a dog walk on the beach someday, too!) Thank you, thank you, thank you*

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Oh Bonnie Rae, it is an honor to know OF YOU, and to watch your eye on the world. Keep on… and write on. I’m sitting by the fire, wishing I had your book in hand. love, CBee

      Reply
  7. Jeanie Robinson
    Jeanie Robinson says:

    Christina, your beautiful telling of how your dream visitations gave you the fire to transform so many lives, then released you, has flooded me with strength and inspiration. There is no greater work than what you and Ann have done: pointing us to “the unnameable, ineffable essence.” What joy for those of us who danced in the meadow, cried in the circle, recovered in the catered kitchen, and felt your guiding fire. Some of the best moments of my life. Deep gratitude and love.

    Reply
  8. Susan Embry
    Susan Embry says:

    Dearest Christina, Tagging along in the beginning of my journaling journey in the early 90s with Kay Adams, I wandered like a small child into your loving circle. I found the beginning of spirits with wings with that retreat and I thank you for all the gifts since then other circles have brought. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the joy it brought me all these years. I will turn 80 in May, but walked in the shoes you now consider. Last spring I downsized with the devil in mind and sold my dream house to move closer to town (Taos NM) . Blessings as you enter the exciting new doorway and step onto that beckoning new path.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Oh Susan, so glad to know where you are and that you are closer in to the village. Here is to magical doorways until we get to the big mystery one. Blessings back to you.

      Reply
  9. Meredith Jordan
    Meredith Jordan says:

    It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years since I first sat with you and Ann in circle and allowed my life and work to be transformed by the power of story and circle leadership. So many still vivid memories, such profound friendships, such meaningful work has emerged in and around us all. Now we are the elders of whom we once spoke, now we carry the circle to all corners of the earth, now we pray for goodness and justice to prevail over all.

    Thank you for listening to your dreams (and ours) as the call has gone out and brought us through the gate where we now carry the sacred container of wisdom teachings.

    With much, much love from your East Coast sister-in-circle,

    Meredith

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Thank you, dear sister-in-circle, I am so glad that we held the rim together and still do hold the rim coast to coast. Blessings on your eldering times. love, CBee

      Reply
  10. Kate Bracy
    Kate Bracy says:

    Closing that dear, burning, sacred circle. Thank you, Christina, for your teaching and your patience and your wisdom. It was a magic space, and you are a shaman. Enjoy your freedom. Can’t wait to read your new one. Kate

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I bow to you and the work you are doing with these years, Kate. Keeping us together with “Civility First” is a huge legacy. love.

      Reply
  11. Patricia Houston
    Patricia Houston says:

    Dear Christina,
    I am so honoured to be part of your legacy. What you have done and are leaving over the bridge will live forever. You live forever in my heart and the hearts of all who have sat in that sacred circle and we are forever changed. Gratitude and love for this privilege.
    Patricia

    Reply
  12. Mary Kelly
    Mary Kelly says:

    Thank you Christina. Though I have not met you in person up close, and never attended one of your writing circles, I have been changed by your writing. Your first book challenged me to “call my own circle” about 15 years ago. And I have not been the same since. I have never written to thank you (or Ann) before for the guidance and power your written words have provided to my own journey. I have walked on this earth differently since my introduction to your words, and I sit in the aged grace that has descended on me as I near my end. Thank you kindly — both of you! Mary in Skokie, IL

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I am glad you are out there, Mary, glad you are being sustained by circle, and bless the rest of your journey.

      Reply
  13. Michele Rusinko
    Michele Rusinko says:

    I also feel honored to have been part of this legacy, and carried the circle and the practice to college students for so many years. I continue to sit in circle and write – all because of your books, your training and your inspiration. With love and gratitude.

    Reply
  14. Sharon Faulds
    Sharon Faulds says:

    Dear Christina
    I am just waking on the east coast and tears came to me in gratitude for all the learning and gifts you so graciously give to the world. As I continue to be in circle with people from around the world in my 70th year I am so blessed to have learned to listen to my heart. One thing I am witnessing as the world returns is an awakening of people gathering in circle. Yes there are so many extraordinary stories that ordinary people carry. Wishing a great adventure as you walk the bridge. Much love Sharon

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Sharon, such a long-time co-traveler. Thank you for your years standing alongside PeerSpirit and the sitting at the rim of our circles, and then on the council of TheCircleWay.net. I pray the world keeps finding the circle and trusting the stories. And finding you and your gentle leadership.

      Reply
  15. Sukie Curtis
    Sukie Curtis says:

    Dear Christina,

    I felt a brief clutch of my breath and heart at the thought of your last story circle-leading at that most beautiful Aldermarsh. Thank you for all of your courage, wisdom, listening to and sharing of spirit and dreams, and for bestowing so many gifts to so many. And for this not-likely-last gift of modeling the grace of letting go and crossing the bridge to new adventures.
    Blessings from Maine,
    Sukie

    Reply
  16. Erica
    Erica says:

    What a beautiful journey. I found your powerful book a few months ago and devoured it. I then found your website and newsletter and I have been following since. It saddens me that I have joined at the end of your journey, and yet I am happy to have not missed it all. Your legacy lives on. Your work will continue to impact lives. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. I am a better person for it.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Still here… and watch for what comes next in the new year… not the same kind of work/writing, but living in the legacy as long as I can. I am grateful for your words and that you jumped on the great carousel.

      Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      I still love Glory Be too. And her memorial stone graces our entryway and brings back memories of her, and of you. Take care. CB

      Reply
  17. Janis Hall
    Janis Hall says:

    I remember you asking me how I first found SAS and to this day, I don’t know. Somehow I flew in on raptor wings to an owl-woman teacher. There are no words to convey my gratitude for you and Aldermarsh and the group of sisters who held me in sacred safety. You’re a goddess, a witch, an alchemist, and I put my name in the circle of those who love you. Here’s to Montana honey and the sweetness of life.

    Reply
  18. Suzanne Fageol
    Suzanne Fageol says:

    so many memories – of your seminar, of Marsh House in many capacities, of my own dismantling of temples – and now letting the light in. Such a poignant moment for many of us… Namaste

    Reply
  19. Brenda Peddigrew
    Brenda Peddigrew says:

    Christina, this is a profound offering, stirring my own offerings…expressing them, remembering learning from you and working with you and Ann for the Wheaton Franciscans…and here you are now, the wisdom spilling over and still seeding the world. I am so grateful.

    Reply
  20. Dan Shapiro
    Dan Shapiro says:

    Dear Christina,

    I’m focused on completing the final draft of my story within the next few months. I love revision–often more than first drafts–and I’m so happy to say I truly LOVE my characters and the stories they’ve shared with me. And I frequently hearken back to that fateful day at my first SAS, when you looked into my eyes, with that keen, Minnesotan surety, and said,”This isn’t a YA book; it’s for adults: for the women who’ll buy it and the men they’ll share it with!”

    “Now, what do I do,” I thought, “with the pages and pages I’ve written for so many years?” The answer, of course, was to gratefully accept your wise guidance, and get going! Which I’ve been doing ever since.

    Thank you. Your guidance is enlivening, and I frequently feel it when I’m bending over a page. Be well.

    Reply
  21. Glenda Goodrich
    Glenda Goodrich says:

    Dearest Christina,
    I cried when I read this. So many wonderful memories, and the sadness that all things must end and be transformed into something else. Of course, we know that end is another beginning. I look forward to seeing what is next for you.
    Thank you for letting the light in and offering each of us a flame to ignite our own stories. You have been a wise and supportive way-shower for so many years. May you bask in the joy of what you have created as you carry on with this next chapter. A life well-lived is the greatest gift we can give this world!

    Reply
  22. Judy Todd
    Judy Todd says:

    Dear Fabulous Women,
    Both of your offerings this month have been such honorable and touching tellings, pulling the past and the now together in a lovely weave. I appreciate the distinctly unique oneness of you each, and how you’ve made your voices of differences like a choir, each having her own part strengthened by the other. I find myself in such encouraging and beautiful company when I dwell in your writings. It’s always been that way.

    Thank you for your constancy. And for knowing how to look back in time and make the looking a gift to others-this is my great hope and active engagement also.
    With love and wishes for a beautiful winter season to you both.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      The older we humans get, the more the past and the present become mirrors of one another, so we are glad that you have made this leap yourself. Meet you on some woodsy trail!

      Reply
  23. Marlys Cervantes
    Marlys Cervantes says:

    Christina—My heart still beats with the pulse of the sacredness the Aldermarsh put there. I cannot think of that space, of you, of our group and the writing and growing we experienced without such gratitude. I ache that I couldn’t be at your final session because I so value all you give and know how much it has meant in my writing and teaching.

    Will the Aldermarsh still be open at all? I’d still love to come back, even if to write on my own.

    May you and Ann have a joyous life going forward. You’ve done so much for so many. Whidbey will always be special to me, as will both of you.

    Marlys Cervantes

    Reply
  24. helga grout
    helga grout says:

    Dear Christina, I too want too thank you for printing in my heart your wisdom and knowledge. The retreats, SAS and vision quest and more. I echo what all your students in life and wisdom have said. My RubyTwoMoons became a reality because of the work I was able to unwrap in your skilled holding space so I could find my own way. I am forever grateful. When one candle is extinguished an other will be lit. And so it goes.

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      It always gives us delight to think of you at RubyTwoMoons… keep lighting candles in the heart of your family and community.

      Reply
  25. Alla
    Alla says:

    Dear Christina,
    It was such a blessing to be able to join you for the Self as Source of Story retreat exactly 10 years ago! It planted many seeds that are only now starting to bear fruit more fully. Thank you so much for your courage, your commitment and your incredible modelling of what it means to create, hold, carry, and now release a big vision! I am continuously inspired!

    Reply
    • Christina Baldwin
      Christina Baldwin says:

      Dear Alla, I know about things that take a decade to bear fruit! The novel I just completed got started in my mind 12+years ago, and then 6 years to write/revise. Here’s to all that creativity I remember in you coming to fullness.

      Reply

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