The sky turned from clear blue to surly gray, and the clouds threatened rain. With a sudden change in the wind the clouds became darker. Freedom seemed uneasy as we rode at a fast pace, moving his head from side to side, snorting in between whinnies. I decided to take cover as soon as I saw anything that resembled some kind of safe refuge.
The forest was thick with trees and as we moved to the northeast, more hills and mounds appeared. I caught sight of what looked like an indentation in the landscape, and urged Freedom to gallop in that direction. The clouds opened up, pouring down heavy droplets that felt cold on my face, and before we approached an opening in the side of the earth, we were both soaked. Praying that no animals were inside, I directed Freedom to stop so that we could investigate. There were many tall trees surrounding this opening, and upon seeing it closely, there was what looked like animal skins sewn together in a patched manner to cover a significant portion of the opening. It was larger than I had thought, perhaps because of the distance. I breathed a sigh of relief, dismounted, and led Freedom quickly into the small crack to the right of the skin hanging. Holding it aside, I called out, “Hello, Hello, is anyone here!”
It was very dark, and the only light was the light that I let in by holding open the skins off to one side. I decided to go in…. grabbed Freedoms reins, and pulled him in behind me, letting go of the skin covering which was heavy.
When entirely inside, a soft glow emanated from the rear of this cave, and reflections from my eyes enabled me to see the inside of this sanctuary. It was a huge cavern, totally unexpected, as the outer opening was deceiving. There was plenty of room for Freedom to move about, as long as he stayed in the center of this space. I decided to investigate further and held Freedom’s reigns tightly in my hands while walking close to him. Slowly, step by step, we inched along. The walls of the cave continued to give off a glow. I could see that the walls of the cave wound around every so often. I was aware of objects that were located along the walls, but did not tarry to look. The air had a distinct odor, however, I could not recognize what it was. After some time, I smelled fresh air, and a natural light began to filter into the space.
There it was, a huge opening about 12 feet ahead! A broad expanse of sky showed through a large sideways oval onto a lush forest landscape. It was absolutely astonishing! Walking out to the edge of the cave, a substantial area in the front of it was hanging out into the air…. a ledge. On each side of the cave ending, there were ledge-like rocks built alongside it and the earth, so that access could be made either up or down to the earth below. The front drop from the ledge was about 50 feet straight downward. I could see a trail leading into the forest from where I stood on the ledge.
Climbing down carefully, I urged Freedom to follow me. The angle was doable so that he could make his way down without falling, unless he became startled. The skies had cleared and the afternoon cast heavy shadows on the terrain. I mounted Freedom, guiding him towards the trail, thinking that we were near the Forest Women village. This cave must be a sacred place, as it held an aura of quiet and mystery.
It was dark under the tree cover, and somewhat cooler. A spring lay behind a grove of trees, and Freedom pulled towards the water. As he drank, the stillness was uncanny. I had a feeling that we were being observed. I moved little and took a deep breath. On my out-breath, a woman stepped out from behind a tree. She was entirely naked except for a halo of green leaves twisted around a vine-like cord, worn around her head. Her body was long; sinewy muscles in her arms and legs were prominent. Portions of her body were painted in earth tones, olive green lines of leaves painted boldly, yet intricately, running vertically along her torso and legs across her back and over her breasts. Ochre, greens, siennas, all displayed: bold, yet sensitive. She looked at me and spoke–her voice like a melody of songbirds. Precious, my gifted songbird was aroused, and out she flew from my shoulder…. singing back to this woman standing across from us separated by the stream. With a look of awe, the woman slowly crossed the stream and approached where Freedom and I stood. She could not take her eyes off Precious, who was perched on the top of my head, now silent.
Continuing to stare at Precious, she said, “My name is Songreen, and I am Medicine Woman to the Women of the Forest, also called the “Winnowing Ones”. Come, follow me to our camp…I extend to you our hospitality.