Loving the land, leaving the land

Loving the land, leaving the land

This post is by Alison Mee, who has been part of the EarthSpirit community since 1999.  She lives near Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.

photo by Alison Mee

photo by Alison Mee

A year ago, as events in our lives unfolded, both logic and intuition told my husband and I that we needed to pick up and move our family from our home of 18 years, to somewhere new.    We felt about as sure as we could be, that the move was right for us, that we were moving toward greater joy.   But that didn’t make it easy for me to leave the land.

I had allowed myself to fall in love with the land on which I lived.   I had connected to it as deeply as I knew how.    One summer, I decided that every single solitary day, I would eat something from my land.   I started with the chives and the fresh onion grass of spring.   Then, with my relatively meager gardening skills, I grew some vegetables, and brought snap peas with me when I traveled, keeping them carefully and eating one every day.    By autumn’s figs, I was feeling the land as part of myself.

I went through retreats, of staying on that land for a week or so at a time, spending time outdoors, but not going beyond that piece of land.     I composted the story of my life, into the soil:  apple wood from the home where I grew up, branches from the woods behind my grandmother’s house, flowers from funerals and weddings.   The first time we placed each of my children’s feet on the earth, it was there.   I brought bits of the land — soil, moss, pine needles — with me when away from home.

How could I leave?    I could leave, I found, with love, appreciation, and intention.

As soon as we knew we were going to be selling the property, we had a family ritual with the land.     We thanked it for it’s support of our family, and rejoiced in all the great years we’ve had there.   Then, I opened up the thicket, the space that I had set aside some years ago to be mostly free from human intervention.   I wouldn’t be protecting it in the same way anymore.   Our relationship would be changing.

Then I sought to use my connection to the spirit of the land where I had been living, including the local river, to reach out to the land I was moving to, to help me find my correct path.    Somewhere, I knew, was a place that could give me what I was needing, and likewise, could need me.     I wanted to let the land  reach out to me, as I searched for it.

When we were looking for our new home, I paid as much attention to the land as I did to the houses.     We explored all over the county, and I smelled the dirt.   At first I was shy and kept trying to do it when the realtor wasn’t looking, but eventually I got used to his attentiveness and he got used to the fact that I spent more time on the land than in the house.   I stopped worrying about his opinion of me.   Finding the right land was more important to me than not weirding out the realtor.

If I weren’t going by smell, I’ve since learned that I could have gone by field guide maps.    It turns out that what smelled so good to me was biodiversity.   Where we live now has a huge variety of plants and animals.

Now that I’m here, I’m falling in love again.    Instead of plowing in with what I think should be here, I’m waiting and letting the woods show me their paths.    I’m watching to see what’s going on.   Who has been living here before me?    What needs to be done?   What’s been waiting for me?   What would rather be left alone?

I bring water from my old home, to my new home.     And earth.   And sap from the white pine which used to be my meditation spot.    If I were moving very far, I might worry about bringing non-indigenous plants, insects or microorganisms.    But it would still be acceptable, generally, to bring vegetables grown in one home, and then compost them into the land in the new home.    And in this way I’m bringing the story of my life forward, weaving together the connections.

Now it is spring, and I am seeing the emergence of new flowers, hearing new birds, connecting deeper with the spirit of this land.

And tasting the sweetest onion grass in the world.     I’m home again.

Journey, Story

by Alison Mee

(photo by Sarah Eaton)

I have my story and I realize, indeed, we each come with our own stories. Sometimes, it is the time for the sharing of stories. But this is not that time. This is the time to look in each others’ faces and acknowledge and nod and slip quietly together into the whispering hush of trees, the soft openness of water, the deep slow being of stone.

For thousands of years, our ancestors have used the drum to guide us in and out of shamanic journey. Feeling the drum entwine with the pulse of my blood and the sense of this air against this skin, wraps me in an agreement. I will journey, she will drum. Wherever I go, the drum will follow; wherever I go, I will bring the drum. I will not leave the drum and the drum will not leave me, and however far I journey I will return to the drum. I will allow it to call me home to my tribe when my wandering is done. It is an ancient and sacred trust.

With the drum to keep me safe, I drape my body over the rocks by the water. I am the person in the body on the rock in the water. I am the body on the rock in the water. I am the rock in the water. I am the water, lapping rhythmically against the rock, against the body. I am the bright warm star beaming against the skin. I am but the motion and the rhythm of the lapping. The pattern. The relationship of all these things.

I follow one molecule of water as it exits the lake with the lap, lap, lap, lap, rhythm, to lay on my skin for a moment and then rise up in the warmth of the sun. I fly swirling without destination, without focus or care. No concerns, no attachments, floating freely on the breeze. Time and thought recede. Colors wash away and I am without sight. There is only motion and a relaxed dance with the sky around me, as I rise and fall in response to a thousand different rhythms of connection.

(I am unaware of the passage of time and I am without worded thought.)

Awareness reawakens in the knowing that there is something in the distance calling to me. Don’t go further, it says. Don’t get lost. Return. Return. Return. Return. It is the drum.

My first conscious act is to resist this return. For several breaths, perhaps, I am in dual awareness. I am both this one molecule of water, on a breeze high above the lake, and I am the woman on the land dipped into the lake’s edge. I am aware of the reality that from another perspective, all my story is mostly irrelevant. It’s just a story. It’s just the way humans are. Daughter? Parent? What does that matter, when I am floating free in an eternal rhythm of change, from liquid to gas, back and again…? What of one particular human existence being a bit shorter than had been hoped? What of hope? It’s all as distant to me as the lake would be, diagrammed in a textbook, viewed from my human perspective.

Beckoned gently but firmly by the drum, I slip back into my skin, allowing my bones and blood and eyes to close in on me, the air moving through my throat as it does every moment of every day for years upon years. And as my body comes over me, so, shockingly, as plunging into an icy lake, comes grief, and love, and sorrow… comes knowledge, relationship, and sweet, sweet attachment. I am not a water molecule. I am a huge complex relationship of water molecules in living community with metal and stone and oils and bacteria and all the parts of me. Like a wave flowing gently across an ocean until it hits the shore, I crash into being human again, with tremendous emotion and care for not only all beings of the earth, but for some beings in particular, for no reason other than our blessed human connections.

My story matters. It matters to me. And it should. The shift in perspective serves to allow me to return and feel everything with raw edges, like a child again. I am in the love and the sorrow long before I search around in the recesses of my brain where I keep rational thought, where I use logic, reason and stoic resolve to tell myself everything is OK, to frame my story in some way that is easier to sit with, but diminishes it in the process.

By allowing myself the ecstasy of becoming other, I force myself to seek out my self and when I find me, I embody me, more fully than I had before my journey. I shake off denial and pity to find acceptance and compassion. I am grateful for my form of being, being human. Knowledge that my weeping, laughing, desiring, dreaming, dancing, loving, longing, raging emotions are simply my own perspective, makes them truly all the more precious. I am right where I am supposed to be.

[Editor’s note: Thanks to Alison and Dick for sharing their experience as members of the Kodiak Clan this year at Twilight Covening and to Starwind for encouraging them. Do these experiences evoke feelings you would like to share, similar experiences or questions? If so, please contribute your comments.]