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Tag Archives: Watershed
I attended an interesting presentation today that wound up being, in part, about how one establishes conditions that allow The Sacred to become more perceptible, especially in places where it might seem unlikely — the example given was of a dangerous neighborhood in urban Detroit. There was an informed discussion about how one begins such a process: should you do a cleansing, should you ground, what do you do first?
The answers were all worthwhile, but no one said what I think has to be the first step: ask the landbase. It has an opinion, it desires relationship, and it’s willing to help — if only it’s asked.
Too often we assume, even when we want to be magically involved with a place, that we’re acting upon a passive object rather than approaching a living landbase.
Picture found here
The first time that Gemmy rooted with her landbase, she found it cold and wet. The land was red Virginia clay and Virginia clay is red because it’s full of iron. Virginia clay holds water in between the tiny particles of iron and stays cool, even in Summer. Oddly — or, well, actually, not oddly at all, my sweet, my heartling, my best, good listener — Gemmy’s human body was full of blood that was also red. It was, perhaps not so oddly, red for the precise reason that Virginia clay is red: because blood, just like Virginia clay, is full of iron. And blood, like Virginia clay, is wet, but blood, unlike Virginia clay, is so hot that it steams, when, as it mostly should not be, it is exposed to air. And, so, Gemmy, with her warm, red blood, and the landbase, with its cold, red Virginia clay, met, and knew each other, and found, despite the differences in their temperatures, a point of connection.
As Spring came on, Gemmy learned to shut off office politics as she walked through the door of her home. It was a deliberate act, accompanied by an act of breath. Air-in, hold, suffuse the air with office politics, air-out. Insert key into lock, turn key counter-clockwise, step into home. Gemmy dropped her backpack, her housekeys, her fingerless mittens, and her coat at the door, walked to her kitchen, poured herb tea into an old clay goblet, one that her coven-sister Mari had made for her, and walked out onto the barren deck that over looked her barren back yard.
Gemmy took a deep breath, rooted, came into communion, and poured the herb tea, brewed each morning, onto the broken pavement that was her backyard. “Greetings, red clay,” she’s call, with all the irony that three decades, one divorce, a broken dream, and $15,000 of debt can teach a woman. “I am Gemmy, the Witch of this place. I want to be in right relationship with you.”
Somedays, the place was silent. Somedays, it answered back.
Gemmy showed up, regardless.
Picture found here.
I imagine my mother watching me from the kitchen window as I headed off into the woods once more, a sturdy, slight kid, dressed in old clothes and rubber boots, striding all by herself into the trees.
. . .
I was gone, and she did not see me drawing away the previous fall’s clotted leaves from the thread of water that ran through the springtime oaks and hickories. It was a self-appointed task I took seriously, digging my numbed fingers into wads of leaves, watching the water rise and pearl and run.
. . .
A number of years later, when I no longer went into the woods to clean out the leaves from running water, I read Robert Frost’s poem “The Pasture,” which begins:
“I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away.”
I thought he had been watching me doing what I needed to do then and that perhaps I had not been entirely alone. Or, I thought, perhaps helping water run free is something many people long to make happen. I discovered, reading the poem, that I had been right all along: stories are about us.
. . .
What will happen to us when our children have no connection with what is wild in the land, its depth, danger, generosity? What will life be like for children who do not grow up paying close attention to it and testing themselves against it? And what will happen to those children who ache for it, as I did, but cannot find it anywhere?
We humans evolved along with other species. We became who we are by figuring out who they were: prey, predator, and the thousands of other important things in between. We weren’t just looking at something, we were participating in community. We were the soft clay. The wild world was the potter’s wheel and the potter’s hand.
Who will we become, when only witchgrass, gray squirrels, herring gulls, Norway rats, and others like them conduct their astonishingly adaptable lives outside our houses? Will we live as hostages to what we have made, stunned by loneliness and homesick for what we can no longer imagine?
~ Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town by Susan Hand Shetterly
hat tip: @katgjovik
As regular readers know, I’ve worked to turn my morning commute from northern Virginia into downtown DC into a major part of my spiritual practice. I have several routes that I could use to go to work. I choose the route that runs past Spout Run, the Potomac River, and “my” homeless vet because, while not the quickest, this is the route that feeds my soul. I’m in love with every weed and scrubby shrub that I pass. I’m in relationship with a homeless vet whose life couldn’t be more different from mine.
This morning, as I sat in traffic (this turns what would be a bane into a blessing) I had time to be present with and to admire all of the holly berries growing alongside Spout Run. As Landscape Guy mentioned to me some time ago, this, for whatever reason, is quite the year for berries.
The trees between Spout Run and the road are stunted, broken, scrubby. But every holly tree is full of bright red berries.
And, so, as I head into another intense day of law, I spend a few minutes deep in nature, appreciating berries red as blood.
May it be so for you.
Picture found here.