(See how that lovely path divides the two Sabbats? I think that’s where we are now.)
The Greenman recently sent me this great post about being in relationship with place, a subject much on my mind as I settle in here, in my new place. Here’s a taste:
But now I’ve realized that home isn’t really about the physical place: it’s about my relationship to the place where I happen to find myself.Home is somewhere that I make. It’s somewhere that I choose. Years ago, Dan Pearson gave a Sunday Sermon at the School of Life where he talked about commitment – how gardening, any act of landscape-making, is a practice of commitment to a place. To garden is to invest time and attention into a place. Whether it’s cutting back invading ivy or coaxing out the delicate twining tendrils of a jasmine vine, gardening is an act of commitment to place – devotion of time, attention, and effort. You make home, one humble act at a time.
Lots of people whose opinions I respect keep bringing up the need to ensure local food resources. We can’t all grow all of our own food (and, regardless, I’m going to need us to keep importing coffee because, well, coffee), but we can all do something. We can grow what we can, buy as much as we can from local farmers and producers, and support community gardening and the kind of sensible planning that ensures farms within a short distance from cities and suburbs.
I can completely relate to how silence overtakes us in summer, surrounded by flowers. The wildflowers up here have been amazing this year, in the true sense of making one mazed, enchanted, speechless with wonder and joy. Queen Anne’s Lace, chickory, teazles, grasses, daisies, black-eyed-susans, pussy willows . . . . Soon (and it will be quite soon if this drought continues) the leaves will begin to change color and I am looking forward to experiencing the famed Autumn colors of the Shenandoah Valley.
Quite some time before I ever thought that I’d actually move up here, I’d occasionally get up into the mountains — sometimes to see the precious American chestnut saplings at the Virginia Arboretum, and sometimes to see art at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, and sometimes just to drive up with a friend — and, driving home and watching cloud shadows shift over the mountains, I would think, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a little cabin up here and to be able to come, sit for a while, and compose my soul before I die?” And then I’d think how crazy it would make me to have two homes, and how crazy it would make Merlin and Nimue for me to move between two homes, and how I already needed more time than I had to maintain my garden and . . . .
Now, finding myself up here, I do keep stopping, staring at the mountains, and composing myself (I’m in good health; no need for worries! It’s just that I’m a Witch and we Witches aren’t afraid of the dark. I’m 63, my Son is raised, my G/Son is halfway to adulthood, I’m retired, and one of my final big jobs is getting ready to, hopefully, some time in the mid-distance future, eff the ineffable. I’m the traditional good girl, the one who always showed up early, learned all the lessons, prayed the whole rosary, made extra credit mint jelly in HomeEc, aced the tests — Law Review!, Moot Court!, Third in Her Class!, White Shoe Law! Appellate Wins! Souter on her SCOTUS Certificate! — cleaned her room, trained her replacement, and got ready for the next task. I bet I can ace this one, as well).
Terri Windling’s blog is one of the best sources of succor in these terrible times and recently she’s been writing about silence, and old places, and preparing for death. Here’s a snippet:
“Our culture is so fearful of the silence of death,” writes Parker, “that it worships noise nonstop. In the midst of all that noise, small silences can help us become more comfortable with the Great Silence toward which we are all headed. Small silences bring us ‘little deaths,’ which, to our surprise, turn out to be deeply fulfilling. For example, as we settle into silence, where our posturing and pushing must cease, we may experience a temporary death of the ego, of that separate sense of self we spend so much time cultivating. But this ‘little death,’ instead of frightening us, makes us feel more at peace and more at home.
“The Rule of St. Benedict, that ancient guide to the monastic life, includes the admonition to ‘keep death before one’s eyes daily.’ As a young man I found this advice a bit morbid. But the older I get, the more I understand how life-giving this practice can be. As I settle into silence, I draw closer to my own soul, touching a place within me that knows no fear of dying. And the little deaths I experience in silence deepen my appreciation for life — for the light suffusing the room as I write, for the breeze coming in through the window.
“So silence brings not only little deaths but also little births — small awakenings to beauty, to vitality, to hope, to life. In silence we may start to intuit that birth and death have much in common. We came from the Great Silence without fear into this world of noise. Perhaps we can return without fear as well, crossing back over knowing that the Great Silence is our first and final home.”
I follow a Twitter account that simply tweets, once a day, “Someday, you will die.” It’s really a liberating reminder. It makes me think of Carlos Castenda insisting that we must pay attention to Death, just over our left shoulder. In any important decision, we can turn and ask Death what he thinks.
Death is such a good friend to humanity.
And, of course, that brings me, as so many things often do, to Mary Oliver:
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility, and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular, and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence, and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth. When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world
And, so, when I stop on the way home from a local Dem meeting and lose myself in sunlit clouds over the mountains, or when I go the the lake and watch the dragonflies perform the great rite, or when I stand under the full Moon and hear the frogs intone the great incantation, well, I believe that I am, indeed, composing my soul.
May it be so for you.
Photo from the meadows of the Virginia Arboretum by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.