A sense of place is important to me. Being the Witch of This Place (wherever This is) is a large part of my spiritual practice.
And, so, of course, moving from one Place to another Place is a big deal for me.
And now that I’m (mostly) moved in and organized (well, there’s the garage, but, still), I’m trying to spend more and more time every week getting to know This Place.
And, Holy Bajoley. The Powers, and Spirits, and Beings of This Place are — intense. Alive. Awake. Aware. Insistent. Some mornings, I wake up feeling ridden over by the Wild Hunt. I don’t mean that metaphorically.
And I drink coffee, put on sunscreen, and go outside to walk the hills of my immediate neighborhood. I spot the brown caterpillars, the geese and cows, the datura and shallow ponds. We’re all out early, we old people, walking the 45 minutes our doctors have told us to walk, trying to do it before the day heats up. And we call “hello” to each other and say, “Gee, it’s nice and cool today,” or “Your mums look lovely,” or “Will you be at the ceviche demonstration today?” Everyone up here waves when they walk or drive past. It’s nice, although I told DiL that I think it’s partly because we’re all old people; we can’t remember exactly whether or not we’ve met that person and we don’t want to seem rude, so we just wave at everyone.
Do you know Philip Pullman , author of the His Dark Materials trilogy? I recently read his book Lyra’s Oxford , which turns out to be a fun parable of being in relationship with a place. I won’t give it away (it’s a very short read and your library can get it for you), but it has some good lessons on listening to the land, paying attention to what’s actually being said rather than what you expect, and ornithomancy (bird divination).
It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,
for hope must not depend on feeling good
and there’s the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
of the future, which surely will surprise us,
and hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
anymore than by wishing. But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.
Because we have not made our lives to fit
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields, eroded,
the streams polluted, the mountains, overturned. Hope
then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
of what it is that no other place is, and by
your caring for it, as you care for no other place, this
knowledge cannot be taken from you by power or by wealth.
It will stop your ears to the powerful when they ask
for your faith, and to the wealthy when they ask for your land
and your work. Be still and listen to the voices that belong
to the stream banks and the trees and the open fields.
Find your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground underfoot.
The world is no better than its places. Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them. When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.
You can listen to Mr. Berry reading the poem, and it makes a difference, listening to his inflections and watching his face.
Importantly, he says that we should:
Hope then to belong to your place by your own knowledge of what it is that no other place is and by your caring for it as you care for no other place .
How do you do that? How do you develop that “knowledge of what” your place is “that no other place is”?
You have to do what Mary Oliver said :
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? *********** Picture found here.