The purpose of this article is to describe two books that, although each therapeutic, are different from each other in significant ways. The books are Nest, by Debbie Baxter (https://debbiebaxter.com/) and No Sticks No Stones, by Ricia Fleming (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09B4HP329/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0). In the interest of full disclosure, Ricia has been a tap-dancing friend for several years. Our common link is the classes we have attended through local senior centers. I have also participated twice in deeply moving experiences led by Ricia, creating and walking labyrinths on a beach.
Debbie, on the other hand, I met only last week, somewhat by chance, when she visited Massachusetts from Oregon for work related to her Nest project. (See below for the backstory.) That project is the subject of her recently published book, based on her work of the past four years. Her work is focused on her recognition of the many people, including herself, who suffered physical abuse when young, without recovering from it. Debbie has designed a technique for self-healing, then shared it with hundreds of others around the country.
It centers on making a person-sized nest, yes, just the way you’re imagining it, made from twigs and branches to form a bowl shape. Then she — and later, many others — shed her clothing and her hurts, entered the nest naked, curled into a comfortable position, and relaxed into safety. Photographs taken from above the nest captured the moment for the survivor to savor later.
This work became her book, Nest, an incredibly beautiful work of art, consisting of survivors’ first names, pictures of each in a nest, and their own words. Unlike many of the pictures of naked bodies that we have all been exposed to, none of these pictures is sexual or suggestive. Every one is beautiful, not because of perfect weight or shape, but because each displays an extraordinary innocence, calm, and serenity.
Let me contrast Nest with Sticks and Stones, Ricia’s book, which is available as an ebook on Amazon, for the small price of 99 cents. Ricia, a retired therapist, wanted to give it away, but Amazon wouldn’t allow that. Her desire was to share the information openly. The basic premise is that sometimes trauma develops, not from a particular event, but from ‘chronic covert trauma.’ One of the results is that the survivor doesn’t understand that it is not only physical assault or abuse that causes trauma; chronic actions from a loving person can unintentionally cause trauma, as well. There is no blame being placed here, simply acknowledgement that trauma has occurred and that it can be healed. Ricia calls this chronic PTSD or cPTSD, to differentiate it from the PTSD that is more familiar to us. One part of Ricia’s important message is simply this: it is not necessary to identify a particular physically traumatic event to realize that you experience trauma. The second important message is that it can be healed.
Ricia’s experience as a therapist and her clear writing enable her to present these ideas accurately and succinctly. I believe her book to be of potential value both to other therapists or to survivors of cPTSD, for their own understanding and healing. The strength and calmness that I have experienced from her personal presence, either tap-dancing or leading a group of us creating and walking a labyrinth, comes through clearly in her book.
These two books each share healing modalities, though in quite different ways. Nest is intended for survivors of physical abuse; No Sticks, No Stones for survivors of chronic, non-physical PTSD. Their prices are $75 and 99 cents. One is available only online, the other in a gorgeous hard copy book. I commend both authors, Debbie Baxter and Ricia Fleming, for their good intentions, excellent work, and successful outcomes.
Backstory on Nest
My husband and I have a lovely upstairs space that, prior to Covid, we rented through Airbnb. Now, we make it available to friends and family visiting the area, who need a bed for a few days. Several weeks ago, I got a call from my friend, Stephanie, who asked if I would make it available to another woman who would be flying in from Utah and would need a place to stay for four nights. After confirming that she had been vaccinated and did not smoke, I agreed.
The other information Stephanie provided was that my guest would be here to participate in a healing process designed for people who had been physically and/or sexually abused when they were young. Although Mindy offered to pay for the use of my space, I declined her offer, asking her to consider it as my contribution to the worthy Nest project. Mindy had flown from Utah without actually knowing anyone here, other than on Zoom. She had met some of the other participants during on-line writing with Donna, who uses writing as a healing modality.
Mindy arrived on Thursday evening and the local hostess for the outdoor healing event invited me to attend the $100 per person fundraiser as her guest. The book’s author, Debbie, was to be there from Oregon to describe the process, to read from her book, and to photograph participants in one of her nest creations. When I arrived at the sound-healing event, I was surprised to see someone I’d taken tai chi lessons from thirty years ago and for whom I had great respect. His current partner was the person in our center leading the sound-healing, using chimes, bowls, bells, gongs, and natural horns to create tones and sound patterns which induce natural healing, while we, as participants, laid down and deeply relaxed on our yoga mats surrounding her. I’d been part of sound-healing previously and knew that I loved the deep relaxation that I’d experienced.
In another part of the yard was a tent with Debbie’s nest and lighting set up, to be used the next day. So, we got to see a human being-sized nest and imagine it in use.
After the sound-healing, Debbie read to us from her book and answered questions before our hostess offered us wine, sparkling water, and beautiful, delicious pastries. When I left for home, I was completely relaxed with a full belly and awe at Debbie’s nest process. Mindy left my house for Utah a few days later, leaving me the book, as a thank-you gift.
It is more than a book. It is the personal record by dozens of people, men and women, who experienced healing of decades-old emotional wounds by climbing into a nest. Somehow, seemingly by chance, I got to bear witness to its power.
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