Foggy Pacific NW scene – Ryan Couples Therapy, Tacoma, WA

Coming Home to the Pacific Northwest: Land of Ghosts, Spirits, and Re-Wilding

Coming home to the Pacific Northwest, “the land of ghosts, spirits, and re-wilding”, my beloved home for 26 years, has been a long journey, but worth everything it took for me to arrive here.

I was reminded of the sacred essence of this place, when I woke this morning to ghosts surrounding my beloved fir, cedar, hemlock, and pine trees outside my window. Fall fog, the season’s ghostly apparition, has always reminded me that I live in a sacred place.  A morning message to pay attention, today and always, to the things beyond the material world.

As the Veil Thins…

We are entering the season when, the veil between the material world and the sacred world, thins.

We are entering that most potent time of the calendar year, when our ancestors‘ whispers become louder. It is as if they are imploring us to make the most of our time here on earth, to leave behind our materialistic, one-dimensional, consumerist focus. And instead, to receive the magic, the wisdom, and the mystery offered in all of nature: the trees , the chilly fog-drenched air, the call of the owl lulling us to sleep at night, the grey churning of the restless ocean, the full harvest, and the full harvest moon.

The very essence of cosmic and Mother Earth energy, leads us to discover the enriching power of a life deeply connected to soul, to the mystery, if we listen. And when we listen, we are practicing a returning, a remembering, a re-wilding, and a reclaiming of our instinctual, wild selves; the selves that are an extension of the sacred feminine mystery.

Remembering My Journey

This morning, with much gratitude, I remembered the journey I embarked on to make this numinous “land of ghosts, spirits, and re-wilding”, my own home of sacred, wild Belonging for the last twenty six years.

After years of being buried underneath family chaos, childhood trauma, and messages that “love” was only available to me if I was silent, if I abandoned my truest self, and if I acquiesced with the group mentality, I moved as far away as I could from my family of origin. I moved from New Jersey to the Pacific Northwest.

For years as a little girl growing up in the stark emptiness of a home bereft of love, safety and nurturance, I dreamed of living in the Pacific Northwest.

I grew up in a small, blue collar town in N. J. My family was on the lower end of the economic scale. Resources were scarce. Stress was high.

There was not a lot of wilderness accessible to me in that place.

Externally, my surrounding spaces were crowded, congested, concrete, and not aesthetically appealing, in any way at all. Internally, I learned how to bury my true self in order to survive.

Once a year, my family would head up for a week on the ocean in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. And it was during this one week, that I would finally feel like I could breathe.

For some reason, during this one summer week, my family would leave behind the ugliness of our life, including the anger and abuse. For one week, I was allowed to come home to myself. I would sit at the ocean’s edge for hours, listen to the waves, and allow the ocean to heal all the hurt and deep loneliness of the past year.

Returning home to our small town and our small crowded house from this one week of reprieve, always left me with a depression that I neither understood or acknowledged. The return home, brought back the suffocating atmosphere of alcoholism, abuse, anger, fear, and deep sense of isolation and loneliness.

Within my family home, there was no space. Six people crowded into a physical space that left no privacy or solace. Six people crowded into an emotional space of no boundaries or respect for differences and separateness. So, not only was my physical space limited, I was consistently emotionally invaded by bullying, manipulation, criticism and rage.

Imaginings, Longings and Dreams

As a young girl, I would take my journal and sit outside in my back yard for hours, the only sanctuary I could find. Long after the sun set and the darkness settled upon me, I would write and dream of living in the woods, or in the mountains, or next to the ocean.

I imagined what it would be like to live a life that fed my soul and nourished my dreams, allowing me space to become my truest self. Connected, safe, and liberated.

I imagined being surrounded by beauty, by peace, and by open space.

I imagined being able to breathe, to speak my truth, and still be fiercely loved and deeply cherished.

I imagined a life in which I could connect to my wild self, the self that knew instinctively how to move to the rhythm and cycles of nature, flow with the energy of the life force, be in alignment with the sacred feminine.

I imagined cultivating a life that was deeply connected to the earth, informed by the moon and inspired by the water and the mountains who were so very willing to share their secrets with me.

I imagined a life in which my wild self lived in connection with my healthy ancestor spirits, and learned the “old ways” of my great, great grandmothers.

I imagined how my grandmothers’ clairvoyance guided them to become powerful healers, creatresses, skilled herbalists, and wise teachers, who understood that, in order to create a whole life, humans must be humble servants of the earth and life-long students of the sacred feminine.

I imagined that my grandmothers of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Hungary understood my unrest and unhappiness for they too were driven to flee their homes in order to escape abuse, oppression, poverty, alienation, and to seek a life of wholeness and peace.

Little did I know that all of these imaginings, all of these longings, all of these dreams were the voice of my soul showing me the way.

Healing and Leaving

When I was a young mother in my twenties, and no longer living in my childhood home of darkness, I continued to experience waves of depression and restlessness.

This depression, as I have come to understand it, was a manifestation of my wounds and trauma of the past asking for a tender, yet profoundly compassionate, acknowledgment and responsiveness that they had never received.

At this time in my life, having a bit more space to process and address my own pain, I sought out therapy and began to read Women Who Run with the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This was my first deep soul dive; my first descent into the caverns of my own dark shadowlands. And like all descents into the shadow, this was the first step toward my own re-wilding, although I did not know it at the time.

Shortly after this soul journey of healing began, my then-husband got a job in the Pacific Northwest. Without hesitation, we accepted the position. And so with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and being 7 months pregnant, I left New Jersey, the only home I had known for 32 years.

I left behind the messages that I was “not enough”. I left behind the messages that in order to be loved I must sacrifice my truth. I left behind the scars of my father’s rages. I left behind the even more painful indifference of a mother who merely tolerated me and certainly never protected me.

Little did I know then, just how much I was leaving behind. But now, 26 years later, I understand that my leaving was my own hard-won choice for liberation, freedom, and true healing; a choice that has continued to unfold every day of my life for the last 26 years.

Finally, I came home to the mountains and the ocean that I dreamed of as a little girl.

The land of Ghosts, Spirits and Re-wilding

My first trip to the mountains, shortly after arriving here, led me quickly to call my new home, “the land of ghosts, spirits and re-wilding. I named it this as I witnessed the ethereal quality of the landscape and the fog settling over the tree-tops, ghostly apparitions.

I also named it this because of my own liminal experience of feeling supported, encouraged, and guided by something other-worldly, as I crossed the threshold from a life of unrest and rejection to a life of wholeness and soul connection.

The landscape of my home is a testament to a life lived in awe and reverence to nature, the seasons, the earth, the water, the moon, the stars and the pulsating heartbeat of Eros, the sacred feminine energy. It is a land which heeds the call of the ancient whispers and awakens my soul’s expression. A land that is so rich with wildness, that the spiritual realm is as close as your next breath.

And for me it has become my land of healing, of transformation, of creating a life aligned with my purpose.

And so I have come to call my beloved home, “the land of ghosts, spirits and re-wilding”.

I suppose I could also call it “a land of healing; a land that has allowed me to reclaim my soul’s voice, return to my roots, and remember who I truly am; a home of wildness and wild belonging: a home that encourages me to express myself, and not only still loves me when I do, but offers me grace, compassion, and understanding for my full human-ness”.

I could also call it all these things, because it is all these things to me. But most especially it is “the land of ghosts, spirits, and re-wilding”.

It is the home that calls to me daily to remember the life energy, the enduring mystery which flows just underneath our worries, our fears, our numbness and our blindness. It calls me to remember all that is sacred and blessed in my life.

Especially during this season of the year, the energy found within this “land of ghosts, spirits, and re-wilding” calls us to live in  community. It reminds us all that it is time to gather (even if this year we must do it virtually or wearing masks and socially distancing). However we need to do it, it remains a time to share warmth and stories and a glass of wine by the fire. To remember our soul’s voice. To remember that we are all interdependent and connected to the collective energy, to that which is beyond the veil.

And if we listen very carefully, as the chilly fog settles in the treetops like ghostly spirits, we can hear the whispers of our ancestors, who have paved the way before us. Who have taught us, through their courage and resiliency, that we can all heal and leave behind the darkness. We can all create a life of wholeness and peace. A life free of oppression and abuse. A life that is an expression of our soul’s imaginings, longings and dreams.  A life of re-wilding and coming  home to our own wild belonging.

Every day, I thank Mother Earth. I thank the sacred feminine spirit as SHE flows from the moon, the stars, all of nature and guides my life. I thank my ancestors for being with me, inspiring and encouraging me, even when I was that scared, lonely, little girl in New Jersey.

Every day I utter a prayer of gratitude for the ghosts, spirits, and my soul’s re-wilding, guiding me back home to my own Wild Belonging.

As always, peace in your journey home,


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Jane Ryan

Jane Ryan, M.A., LMFT, is a Licensed Couples and Family Therapist with twenty years of clinical experience. She specializes in intimate relationships, sexual challenges, sacred sexuality, and helping clients embrace their true erotic nature. She supports women in discovering their most radiant, vibrant and powerful feminine essence.