Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our Connection to the Land


We live off it. We fight wars over it. We worship it. We take it for granted.
Each place on the planet gives off its own unique feeling. Oceans. Forest. Grassy fields with hills that roll in the distance. The stark power of a mountain. I've been living in a southern coastal city for seven years now, and the feeling of the place has got its hooks in me. When I first moved here I missed my shaded forests and storybook hills. And while I still long for those things, where I first saw the flatness of the Lowcountry I now see the huge expanse of sky. Any time of day here is all about the sky show - vast pillows of clouds and vivid hues of blue or pink or red or stormy gray like I have never seen. There is the smell of the marsh - the metallic, earthy stink of pluff mud and salt, and the silty murk of the ocean where alligators and snakes can wash onshore along with jellyfish and sharks are simply a matter of course. There is something primordial about living in the South - it is a reptilian place, but remember - the Serpent holds ancient wisdom and has so much to teach. Here too, is a world of birds - the usual back yard charmers, chickadees and cardinals and doves, but a whole new cast of black capped gulls and high trees filled with ibis, of pelicans and egrets and fierce-eyed herons.

I have spent the last seven years connecting with a sense of wonder to this land that initially felt so foreign, until I woke up one day and realized it had become a part of myself. The back yard speaks to me now - in the way the wind shifts when I greet it, sending the chimes overhanging the patio jingling, in the myriad faery lights I've seen on full moon nights in the shrubbery, in the animals that visit, each offering their own lessons. (Woodpecker says, "Quit daydreaming and get back to work!" Jumping Spider says, "There is creative magic here.")

We seek to own land so that we can control it, whether for good purposes like conservation, or sad, inevitable purposes like development. But I've come to realize that we don't ever own land, land owns us. In both a spiritual and a very physical sense. As Charleston has laid its claim on me, I have become her Daughter of the Marsh. I do not know if I will always live here, but I know now that a part of Charleston will always live in me. 

Watch this six minute video in which Aboriginal Elder Bob Randall talks about growing up in the Australian bush and how we can never be lonely when we understand our place in the Universe and connection to the land we live upon.
(Randall mentions being part of the "Stolen Generation;" he's referring to the policy of the Australian government in which indigenous babies were taken from their parents upon birth to be "assimilated" into white culture, a practice which took place from 1910 until it was finally abolished in 1970.)