The Story of the Edge
“Come to the Edge.” “We Can’t. We are afraid.” “Come to the Edge.” “We can’t. We will fall.” “Come to the Edge” And they came. And they were pushed.
And they flew
Adapted from poem written by Guillaume Apollinaire
“How did this all begin?” I am questioned, by numerous guests that receive our usual tour. It is a long story that I tell in part, to some, and in full to others who have the time and the interest. I tell this story, in the hope that it will inspire others to follow their bliss, their dreams, and their heart.
My husband Todd and myself first came to Algonquin Park together while on our honeymoon, in 1982. Living in Windsor, Ontario all of our lives we respected the magnificence and beauty of this place, and felt the immediate depth of nature’s touch. At the time, we didn’t know that we would be revisiting the park and getting to know the park more intimately.
Three years later, we visited the park once again while participating on an Outdoor Recreation program for 9 days, with the University of Windsor. We left our 2-year-old twin daughters, for the first time. I remember crying on the entire 7-hour bus ride, feeling the pain of a mother separating for the first time from her children. I felt ripped, torn and shred, as we hugged and kissed them before boarding our bus. I didn’t know at the time, that the grief I was feeling was more about myself stepping out of my defined role as mother, daughter, sister, and wife. I was not only leaving behind my children, but the definition of who I was.
The trip was very challenging, and strenuous, and with time I let go of thoughts of my children, and allowed nature to embrace me. I learned a variety of new skills, and challenged myself to push through the interior canoe trip, I didn’t think I was capable of. I somehow knew that ahead of me, I would be presented with many challenges in the way of fulfilling my dream. The trip for me opened my eyes to what I had to offer the world. I retouched who I was at my very core. For the first time in many years I had the opportunity to just be “me”. This was the beginning of returning to myself, and the divinity within me.
I continued throughout my education, to help with the outdoor recreation program, thus strengthening my skills as an outdoor leader. My studies in school also reflected my interests in leadership, community, healing, and the environment. I entered into training as a teacher. It was here that I knew that I would be an outdoor educator. Shortly after graduating, my son was born. As much as possible, with a newborn, and twin daughters to raise, I started reading. I was very intrigued by books that bridged education, nature and spirituality.
In the fall of 1992, returning from an Outdoor Rec program, in Algonquin Park, I and my co-leaders dreamed of having a place of our own to bring students to, to connect them with nature. Once back in Windsor, I talked this over with my husband, who was teaching at the time. We agreed to start the process of looking for a place. I started calling various real estate agencies around the park, and stated what we were looking for which was: “property with easy access to the park, a log cabin on 4-5 acres, with no electricity and preferably on Lake Kawawaymog”, which is the lake that we frequently visited to go into the park. The real estate agents were not very encouraging as many folks don’t sell their property, but pass the property on to family. However, I held the intention of what we were looking for, and trusted that if it were meant to be, it would happen.
In March of 1993, I was invited to attend a drumming circle, by a friend who shared my enthusiasm of nature and spirituality. I had no idea that my life would take a turn at this point. At the circle, I was taught shamanic journeying, and was taken aback by what my experience was. I was introduced to a whole world, that I had no idea existed. Afterwards I immersed myself in many programs, and books about shamanism. Later I would become very involved in the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, founded by Dr. Michael Harner (www.shamanism.org) I found out later, from my teacher Michael Harner, that “if you don’t want your life to change, don’t learn how to journey!” I hadn’t been told that, when I went to that drumming circle, on that balmy march night.
In May of 1993, I decided to partake in a women’s weekend, to help me remove whatever blocks were preventing me from taking steps to fulfilling my dream of creating an outdoor education center. The weekend that I participated in was called the “Women Within” (www.womanwithin.org). This is an in depth program put on by women who have been through the program, and facilitated by skilled professionals. My experience was very profound, as I physically removed the blocks in my mind that kept me from stepping into my power as a woman. This weekend for me was an initiation into being a woman, and healing childhood wounds that kept me relating as a child, rather than as an adult. At that time, the most significant block that I perceived that I had, was the control my father had over me, at the age of 30 years old. Psychologically I removed this block, however this meant that I had work to do on my relationship with my father.
In the end of June 1993, we received a phone call from a real estate agent, in the South River area, who remembered our request. It was the first day working in his new office, and a couple walked into the office, saying they wished to sell their cottage. They had inherited a cottage in the Laurentians, and saw no need for 2 cottages. When the real estate agent called, he said that the couple was interested in selling “a log cabin on four acres, with no electricity, on Lake Kawawaymog”. If we wanted to see it, we had better come quickly, as it would definitely sell fast. As soon as Todd finished with the teaching year, we went up to see the cottage. We brought our son with us, who was only 1 1/2 at the time. It was our 11th anniversary, when we followed the real estate agent, to the familiar lake. Our hearts were pounding, as we tried to guess which cottage it would be. We barely drove into the driveway, when we questioned how much we would offer them. We found out that the couple had another prospective buyer, and were deciding what they wanted to do. It was very obvious that this place was special to them, and that they wanted to make sure that whom ever they sold it to, loved the place as dearly as they did. Seeing that we had a young family, much as they did when they first built the place, and that we had dreams similar to theirs, they sold the cottage to Todd and I. I knew that this was right for us, because of how easy it was. Somehow, I knew that Spirit directed us here.
That summer, in 1993, we hosted our first group: The University of Windsor Outdoor Rec. program. With close to 50 people including leaders and students, we did what we needed to do to make their stay comfortable, safe and rewarding. We learned from this and future gatherings what was needed to ensure the participants got the experience we intended. That summer along with our good friends, we attended a Tom Brown Jr. Standard Survival Course, where we learned about basic survival: shelter building, fire building, gathering water, and plant identification. We also were very touched by the intensity of the teacher, as he struggled to do what he knew his mission was, in order to save us all from our own demise. I understood the delicate balance of nature, and our role in helping to educate people to save what is left for our children and grandchildren.
In the fall of 1994, I unfortunately had a miscarriage. It fell upon the birthday of my son, and was another reminder that I needed to work on healing my childhood wounds and fears, before fully stepping into the dream I had for myself. I had a dream during this time, that a car came speeding towards me with headlights shining, and stopped just short of hitting me. The license plate read “6-9-95 DEATH”. I awoke from the dream sweating and shaking with fear. What does that mean??? At this point I knew that this was what some shamans would call a BIG dream, and that I was to pay attention to it.
As June 9th approached, I was crippled with fear of what might happen. My family went about their usual business, while I wondered who or what might die that day. The day came and went without any great challenges.
That summer I lead my first canoe trip for women into the park. It was a wonderful trip, however very hot, and I suffered from a mild case of heat stroke. I was not feeling well enough to co-lead the outdoor rec program at the end of the summer, so my husband Todd stepped in to take my place, while I brought our children back to Windsor to get ready for school.
While on the trip, Todd had an experience that changed something inside of him. He led students through the night by compass and stars, and came back a changed man. He arrived back in Windsor, for the start of school, September 5th, 1995. By the end of the first class, he knew he wouldn’t last the year teaching. By lunch he knew he wouldn’t last the semester, and by the end of the day, he knew he wouldn’t last the week teaching. All of his classes were changed, and not one of his three classrooms had a window. In his office, the only small window looked at a brick wall two feet away, the result of reconstruction of the ancient building. There was such profound change, that he knew he couldn’t survive and he didn’t belong there any longer. He came home very upset, knowing that it was time to make a change. He wrote his resignation letter, and handed it in, September 6, 1995 . . . the other way to interpret 6-9-95. It was the death of our way of life, up until that point. It was the death of who Todd was prior to that time. It was the beginning of a new life at The Edge.
Shortly after Todd returned from handing in his resignation letter, sitting in a stupor and wondering what he had done, who happened to drop by, but my father. Oh, no, what will we say? How do we explain??
My father sat with us, and said simply that he understood how it felt when you are not where you need to be. He said just to let him know how he could help, and he would do the best he could. Well, that’s not what I expected him to say, and I felt supported to continue on. However, had I really known the depth of his commitment to us, I wouldn’t have chosen to continue following my dream. Northern Edge Algonquin Retreat and Awareness Centre was incorporated in October 1995. Our mission was born shortly afterwards: to provide experiences in nature that help us rediscover ourselves, empower one another, and heal our connection to the earth. Little did we know, we were setting ourselves up for quite an adventure.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things are connected. – Attributed to Chief Seattle
When people come to the Edge, they look around them and see beautiful architectural creations, made of wood and stone. Flowers delicately planted, and paths groomed meticulously through the forest. What they don’t see, or could possibly know is what is behind all of this creation. I understand the term “blood, sweat and tears”, more intimately now. This is what is behind the Edge. Each of our family along with many friends participated in building this healing place. It was their belief in us, and in our mission, that spurred them on to helping us. This is the blood of the Edge: the veins that connect us, bringing life here. Birthing the edge, we laboured with sweat, knowing that every minute dreaming and creating this magical place was valuable beyond measure. With great belief and trust we continued to do what needed to be done to breathe life into the edge, because we knew deep down how much it was needed in our lives, and in the world. The tears of the edge continue to be shed, as we continue to grow into ourselves, leaving behind what we once knew.
A great deal of what Northern Edge is about is healing. I continued to struggle in my relationship with my father, as I tried to find a common language to speak with him. In February of 1996 I attended an advanced shamanism program in California. During this time, I had another BIG dream, in which my grandmother, my father’s deceased mother, came. She was relentless with a message that I must start to work with my father, as there was not much time left.
In June of 1996, my father had an operation on his aorta. He was very frightened to have this operation, and I offered to do some shamanic journeying on his behalf, if he found this helpful. This was the doorway that I was looking for. He was very open to this idea, and so I journeyed every 10 minutes, while he was being operated on. The most significant part of this journey was a question that I was to ask my father, which was “Dad, how is your life going to be different after this operation?” In my journey, my dad answered the question by saying he was going to do more “daddy time”. He was going to play more, dance more, go for walks in the forest, and play with the grandchildren more. He was going to go for more boat rides, and fish more. He was going to enjoy life more fully. I went to the hospital when I knew he was out of surgery. I sat next to his bed. When he awoke he reached over to the nurse and said “hey, don’t take life so seriously”, then he looked directly at me, and said verbatim, what he had told me in my journey. I knew something shifted in him, and my family also noticed a big change.
In August of 1996, my mother and father came to visit us at the Edge. We had just created a pathway up the hill, which took us the entire summer to clear. On the day of their departure, my father walked up the pathway, and down, and when his foot hit the last step, we heard a crash in the forest. We all came running to see that the old tree, we called the Indian Head Tree, for it’s lovely profile, had fallen right along side the path. The curvature of the tree matched that of the path, which was very strange. My parents left, and after they left I felt a deep, deep sadness. I journeyed to ask my teachers why I felt such sadness. My teachers said that the tree had sacrificed itself for our mission at the Edge, and so too had my father. Reflecting back, I now know that at some level my father was making a deal, when he went on that little walk. Exactly one year later, my father was diagnosed with Leukemia.
In August, 1997 I lead my first shamanic canoe trip. I knew going into this trip that my father was ill, but did not know the diagnosis. Before going on the trip I was instructed by my teachers in n.o.r., to do a dance to the full moon when the time was right. The moment presented itself as the full moon lay upon the lake. The air was cool, with tufts of warm breezes, and I disrobed and walked into the path of the moonlit water out into the lake. I howled at the moon, and a loon echoed a response. I knew somehow that this moment was preparing me for what was ahead. In the morning we got up very early to prepare to break camp. As we quietly sipped our coffee we heard a bone chilling howl coming from the direction that I had howled to the previous night. It was a wolf. This was a new power animal that had appeared to me in my journeys. Upon returning from the canoe trip, I found out the news and went immediately back to Windsor with my shamanic tools at hand.
I journeyed for my father, and worked intimately with him. I retrieved lost power animals, and soul parts for him. He embraced my work, and once said to me that I hit the nail right on the head. The work I was doing with him, was helping him resolve some of his issues before he passed. However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that the healing work he was doing was also helping his ancestors as well as his descendants. He was healing generations of shame, and so too was I. His diagnosis was that he would live from 3 weeks to 3 months, so we didn’t have much time.
I always journeyed to ask what was needed before I went to see him. On one occasion, my grandmother came to see me again, this time in a journey. She asked me to bring with me the wedding rings I had, that belonged to my grandparents. She said they would be transformed. I brought them with me, and went to London, Ontario where my father was being treated.
That night we celebrated my parents 44th wedding anniversary, toasting their love for one another, on that cold January night. The next morning it was apparent that my father would be passing soon. My younger sister then announced that she would be getting married, on that day, as she wanted her father to give her away at her wedding. She had already planned on being married, but it wasn’t’ for another 4 months. So, my other sister brought the champagne, one brother brought a video camera, while the other brother, a florist put together a bouquet, and I brought the rings. We had the wedding there in the hospital room, with my dad semi conscious of what was happening. I saw him mouthing the Our Father, knowing he was doing his last duty, of giving away his youngest daughter. The wedding rings were indeed transformed, as ancestral wounds were being healed. The rings signified new beginnings for our whole family.
The next day I journeyed once again, every ten minutes. I saw my grandmother, and father in an argument. My father was speaking Hungarian, which he doesn’t do, unless he is speaking to someone else. They were reconciling their differences. I then saw my grandmother embracing my father, as an infant. Then the party began, with all of the relatives, who have passed. Then the time came that they left through a door. I walked my dad through the door, to his boat, which was waiting for him. He told me that I could not go with him any further, and that it takes a while to get the boat ready for a voyage. So, I left him, and kissed his cheek, and went to my hotel room. I went back to the boat, in my journey and asked him all sorts of questions, regarding his requests for his funeral. He finally did something magical to make me go to sleep and I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing, with a message that my father had passed.
Trust the Process
With the passing of my father, a door of opportunity for healing was opened to us. Each of my family members went through a period of growth and change. We took inventory of our hearts, and took necessary steps to walk with integrity, discarding what no longer fit, and embracing our new lives. If it were not for the financial help of my mother and father, the Edge would cease to exist. I am very grateful for their assistance, although many times I wish I had my physical father here to ask for advice. I do know he is very present here, helping where he can, as he said he would.
The Edge continues to evolve, as we continue to grow into ourselves. There is so much more to share, about each person who has played a part here. Somehow, the thought that this project was pre-planned before arriving here on earth has kept me going. I know that at some level if I give up, I will not only be disappointing myself, but all those who are relying on me to fulfill this dream, including my children. When in times of doubt a saying rings in my ears, from my Woman Within Weekend, which is “Trust the Process”. May you, whoever you are, continue to walk your walk, and follow what is in your heart, as we are all connected.
Martha is co-founder of Northern Edge Algonquin Retreat and Awareness Centre. Martha and her husband Todd Lucier, co-founded Northern Edge in 1995. Martha is passionate about helping others re-discover their own voice, through immersion experiences in nature, and shamanic journeying. Martha’s passion for facilitating programs for women has been fueled by participating in the Woman Within organization, for many years.
Martha has been practicing core- shamanism for over a decade introducing many individuals and groups to this spiritual practice. She has completed the Foundation for Shamanic Studies 3 year program, founded by internationally renowned anthropologist Michael Harner, who’s mission is to study, teach, and preserve shamanism, worldwide.
Martha is also a student of Sandra Ingerman, author of Soul Retrieval, Welcome Home, A Fall to Grace and most recently Medicine for the Earth. Martha has been a student of Sandra’s for many years and is one of a small group of Canadian presenters of the Medicine for the Earth program.
“It’s not what we do, but who we become that changes the world.”
~ Sandra Ingerman,