Meeting the Land Where it Lies

Apologies for the silence the past couple of months. I have had a LOT of travel over February and March, to the point where I spent almost half of each month out of town. This shouldn’t happen again for a good long while, and I’m looking forward to being home a lot more in the months to come.

As I’ve gotten older, travelling has gotten tougher, especially cross-country flights. I still enjoy it, but the getting up early to catch planes, and jostling through TSA, and sitting in cramped coach seats, and often being in a different time zone all contribute to exhaustion. Add in that I’m away from my usual bioregion and neighbors of all species, and I don’t have the spiritual backup I’m used to. So I’ve begun making it imperative that, as often as I’m able to, I take time out of my busy schedule to connect with the lands I’m visiting.

My path is not an anthropocentric one; humans are not some supreme species, and we are just as subject to the laws of nature as every other being. So while I may spend much of my travel time mingling with other Homo sapiens sapiens, I need to also be in touch with others. And I’m not just talking about the animal, plant, fungus and other land spirits and totems, either. It’s important to me to get to know the physical beings that populate the land. At this point, after twenty years, the connection to land and its inhabitants seems almost effortless: I set foot in a place, and immediately we open up to each other. So it makes greeting my new, temporary neighbors a much simpler affair than it might have early on.

creekSome of them are easy–pigeons and crows are well nigh ubiquitous in urban areas, and gulls can be found wherever there are decent-sized bodies of water. Plant life of all sorts abounds in gardens, parking strips and parks, and the soil teems with fungus in all but the most polluted of places. But as an introvert, I crave quiet, and so I also try to make my way into more wild areas, even if they are tucked away in the hearts of cities.

So it is that over the past two months I’ve renewed my love affair with the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and Muir Woods, and paid a visit to a popular walking trail in the Bay Area. I met for the first time the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. And when I went home to visit family, I made sure to spend a bit of my brief time there with the creek that I grew up with. There were old friends, like the snow geese at Sacramento, and new surprises like my very first tufted titmouse on my parents’ back porch. I ate wild chives for the first time in years, and counted shelf fungi on a rotting redwood log.

I don’t think I would have gotten through all the busy human-centered activity nearly so well if I hadn’t had these moments of respite with more extended family. And that’s really the heart of my paganism: being a part of the greater community of nature. While others were going to well-crafted rites in the hotels where the conventions I attended were held, my most sacred times were surrounded by grasses and soil mycelium, attended by northern cardinals and jackrabbits. I can dive deeply into the anthropocentric, but I must needs always return to my more diverse compatriots of feather and leaf and stone.

And now that I am home I greet the scrub jays and flickers at the feeder, and say hello to my houseplants. Later this week I’ll visit my garden and see how it’s growing, and I have hikes planned throughout the month for more wilderness time. It’s good to be home, where I know everyone, and where respite is easy.

Did you enjoy this post? Consider picking up a copy of my newest book, Nature Spirituality From the Ground Up, right here on my website!

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4 Comments.
  1. Linda

    As always, I enjoyed reading your entry today. It is always a good reminder to me that urban areas have nature spaces, that even in the middle of a concrete jungle are what I’ll call “micro preserves”. There are weeds flowering in clusters from the cracks of sidewalks, attracting bees, ant colonies thrive, there are various birds and rodents. The soil beneath everything is alive with not only plant and bug life, but bacterias, spores, etc. I have not lived in a highly urban area for many years (over 30) and when I have to spend any length of time in a big city environment it is imperative for me to do exactly as you did, Lupa. Stay connected to the earth and it’s natural inhabitants. I make an effort to see the parks, animal preserves, natural spaces offered wherever I am. I love people, I am very social, but I maintain my spiritual center from the spaces where humans are mostly visitors and our egos have no need to participate.

    • Definitely! And Portland is a relatively easy city to live in, nature-wise. Three’s a LOT of life going on here, even outside of the human sphere.

  2. I wish my body could handle more intense hiking. Any day I can have my back to a redwood tree and face a flowing creek is a good day. Alas, they’re not as frequent as they should be. -E-

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