In 1993, Fountain of Life’s Azra Bertrand answered the call of the wild – journeying deep into the heart of Alaska, and into the untamed wilds of his own heart to commune with the Divine Mother and Gaia….
The summer of my nineteenth year, I set out for the wilds of Alaska with only my backpack and an unquenchable thirst for life. Not the safe, packaged and manicured life I grew up with in suburbia, but the real thing – raw, primal life. Though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, I was compelled by a deep longing for wildness. As a teenager, my soul had been insistently whispering that some vitally important and alluring element was missing from the secure life my parents and society expected of me – and I knew I needed to leave ‘normal’ society to find it.
I wanted freedom; wildness; adventure; aliveness – not security and a pension plan.
Hiking up onto a glacier a few thousand feet above the forest floor – where literally no humans had been for many years – I set up camp directly on the glacial ice. As a storm blew in that night, gale force winds threatened to remind me of just how fragile a human being is in the greater scheme of the eco-system of Gaia. Completely alone, thousands of miles from civilization, on that long first night I was initiated by nature in all her rawness and wild power, as the storms raged around me.
Over time, sleeping in the raw on the peak of a mountain top, under the full moon, with no tent, no sleeping bag, nestled into a snug of a granite rock peak looking up into the infinite night sky above me, I also communed with the vast beauty of this wildness too; a magnificent beauty that etches itself into the depths of the soul.
Alaska is not just a little bit wild. It is not a contained National Park with orderly trails and boundaries, with parking lots and long lines of traffic in the summer, with motels, restaurants and RV’s at the exit to remind you that you are never too far from home. Alaska is untamed nature for thousands of miles – 99.9% of it does not even have roads or fences, it is unbounded. In these vast stretches of undisturbed land the humming energetic field of the earth can be felt in a way that is impossible in the civilized world. It is like the difference between trying to star-gaze from within a brightly lit city compared to the vast dark skies of a remote mountain top. When the background glow of civilization vanishes, perception becomes clear. Our primal senses switch on. An invitation is extended for you to join nature’s resonance.
During my adventure into the wild, sleeping on mountain tops and forest floors, I carried only toothpaste, a wool hat, a rain suit and two changes of clothes. It was at least a three-day hike into the woods from the nearest gravel road, which was itself many more miles from any form of civilization. I was literally a world away from conveniences we come to rely on – such as grocery stores, tap water, hospitals and bathrooms. So anything I ate was what I caught or had boated in.
If you’re the kind of person who pays attention, the first journey to Alaska is disorienting, if not downright shocking; it is the primal shock of feeling the true wilds for the first time, and the realization that something wild within us has been living in captivity – tamed, domesticated, neutered. Long dormant genetic memories begin to stir. You begin to sense for the first time, not at a cognitive level but at a primal feeling level, that you yourself are a part of this wildness, not separate.
There were few real trails in the area so much of the exploring I did was walking through untracked forests as an animal would, by their instincts and primal senses. One day, hiking through the forest, I came across a very large, dense bush that started shaking and moving as I approached it. I knew there was a very large animal behind it and very close to me, but I could not run in case it was a bear, as it triggers their prey reflex. Suddenly a bull moose stuck his enormous head out from around the corner, he stared down at me (they can be 8 feet tall) from only a few feet away – he looked at me, I looked at him. We stood motionless for about three minutes just looking at each other, before he determined that I was not a threat, casually walking off to continue his meal of tender leaves that I had interrupted.
It was also humbling and unnerving at times to palpably feel (just as our ancestors once did) that I was not highest on the food chain in those woods – grizzly bears were and still are, and along with them mountain lions and packs of wolves. As I walked alone in the woods, I accepted the reality that at any moment I could be prey. Although I learned to read tracks and signs and sing as I walked to avoid sneaking up on large animals, the truth was there was no way to predict or control bear encounters. Given this, it was a process of learning to surrender and relax to the unpredictability rather than to live in fear. On one occasion, as I was walking alone on a remote trail, I turned the corner to see an enormous grizzly’s backside about twenty feet away. He wasn’t bothered by me in particular and just sauntered down into a patch of blueberries off the trail. I was feeling generous so I let him have that patch to himself and I wandered back in the direction I came from.
Other animals were less intimidating. I formed a relationship with the local sea otters and seals who would swim up and greet me every time I came to the water’s edge. They viewed me with curiosity rather than fear. It was like they were trying to understand what kind of an interesting creature I was, as if they hadn’t seen many humans before, an interesting oddity in their world.
For more than two months I slept on the belly of the earth in remote forests every night, allowing Mother Gaia to infuse me with her energies, to take me into her rhythms, to take me into her womb. I bathed in the cold of her northern oceans, I ate her offerings of fish and game. I accepted her many gifts and allowed her to teach me. My perceptions altered, my sense of time warped, and the subtle, but consuming background compulsion that I had to ‘do’ anything or go anywhere other than just be a human creature vanished. My own primal nature had synchronized and merged with Gaia. What an incredible homecoming. I could no longer feel where my own boundaries ended and nature’s began. I became wild – unself-conscious and free. I was born again, alive for the first time. And in this my life was forever changed.
Walking down to Resurrection Bay every morning, seeing the glory of the snow-capped peaks that run down to the waters edge, and then jumping into that ocean water – so cold that it takes your breath away – I was immersed in primal aliveness.
It is only in retrospect that I began to understand what had happened to me in the woods of Alaska, and what drew me there to begin with. And it was only after years of unsuccessfully attempting to integrate those experiences into my ‘civilized’ life that I eventually learned that it was impossible. You cannot fit the wildness into a box of ownership, separated off by fences, roads, boundaries. Just as the wildness of our Soul cannot fit into society’s vision of what it shouldbe. Civilization itself must bend, not nature. Likewise, the civilized parts of myself needed to give way to my innate wildness. My Soul needed to take the lead. And this was only the beginning.
At the time that I left for Alaska, I was a solo journeyman, a lone wolf, independent; like many men, I thought that freedom was to be found in solitude, meditation and contemplation. Due to my youth at the time, I could not see that my longing for union with Gaia, and her natural wildness, was also a longing for Woman; for union with her Wild Womb, and for the untamed, wild, feeling nature of my own feminine self. I desired to trulymeet the Feminine in all her wild and beautiful elements, and to remember how the masculine was an integral part of this vast, dynamic beauty.
For it is this communion with the Feminine that truly births the Wild Masculine.
Over time I came to understand that separating myself from the feminine; from intimate connection and relationship, in a bid for true freedom would only create another prison on the inner realms – and sleeping in the arms of the forest, watching the tapestry of midnight starlight, could not replace the homecoming of sleeping in the arms of the feminine and her soft, embracing light. Love is our birthright, and within Love lies the greatest freedom. Love is the wildness.
At the age of 19, I was searching for what I now know to be the greatest human desire – the longing to merge, the longing for union. I wanted to be one with the Earth, and as it turns out, I wanted to be one with the Mother. I instinctively knew that. I was being called by the Divine Mother at the deepest Soul level.