I particularly like this description of developing a relationship with a landbase from Derrick Jensen's new novel because it's so realistic. Sometimes I read about Pagans (nb: Jensen doesn't claim to be a Pagan) who have a relationship with nature and it sounds so effortless. It's not like that for me, at least not most of the time and it certainly wasn't in the beginning. I can be left feeling dejected: I must be doing it "wrong." Maybe I just lack the ability to do this, maybe I'll never be good at it, maybe I should go throw in a load of laundry. Jensen describes the incremental steps by which someone serious about having a relationship with the land can work past some of the obstacles that I think almost all of us face but that few of us discuss in such detail.
I lie face down in a small patch of forest behind our home. A fire swept through maybe a dozen years before we moved in, and the new trees have grown tall in the time since. I smell small plants, and soil and the calming brown smell of duff. I feel plants on my face, and a small stone against my cheek. I shift slightly so it doesn't poke me.
Almost immediately -- literally within two or three seconds -- I have to fight an almost frantic boredom. For all I've written about a relationship with the land, and for all I've tried to live in relationship with the land where I live, I still feel an overwhelming urge to get away to do anything but stay where I am, to do anything but touch the ground. I want to go back to the house, play some poker online, check my e-mail, call a friend. I think about the sound of distant cars on the interstate. I think about the phone bill I need to pay. I think about the celery I need to buy. . . .
I am anywhere but where I am.
It shouldn't be so hard to stay where I am, but it is. What am I afraid of?
I try to bring myself back. I'm not trying to meditate; I've never really liked meditation as such. People ask me if I meditate, if I sit silently with my breath and try to still my mind, and I always tell them I live with trees and butterflies, and I like to sit with them.
That's true enough, so far as it goes, but all of my time touching trees now seems superficial to me, as though I was looking at them and even seeing them as well as I could, but still not seeing them at all.
Lying here, I realize how very scared I am. My frantic boredom is not really boredom, but fear. Of what?
I hear a voice. Not Allison's, but the voice I heard in the forest when I first fell through time. The voice says the same thing it said then: "Don't fight it."
I want to feel Allison's belly against my back, her warmth and wetness against my him She doesn't have to move. I just want to feel that skin to skin contact
The voice says, "Come closer."
I want to feel my face tight against her skin, buried anywhere she can wrap around me, between her neck and shoulders, her arm and chest, her breasts, her thighs. I want to feel my cheek against her belly.
I know what's wrong. I don't know what's right, only what's wrong. I remove my clothes, lie flat on my stomach. I hold my arms and legs tight to keep my weight from fully pressing on the rough surface of the ground and the sharp pine needles.
I do. I open m arms and open my legs. I press down my hips, no differently, and no less gently, no less intimately, no less invitingly that I would with Allison.
If I am expecting some miracle, it doesn't come. I merely feel myself flat against the ground.
But I do begin to relax, starting with my shoulders, then m arms, then my back, hips, belly. I'm less stiff, more smooth.
I smell the soil, I smell the old needles, I smell the plants. And now mixed with all that are the intimate smells from between my legs, front, back.
And then? Nothing. Not yet.
I see the sun glinting off the torn leaf of some plant whose name I don't know, and hovering near my face I see a tiny gnat whose name I also don't know. I see a fly crawling on a rotting log not far way, and farther off I see a chipmunk take three lightning steps, then stop, tail flicking, then take three more, then stop.
I relax more. My face falls into the ground. I open my legs further.
It's quiet. I hear a blue jay calling as it flies overhead. In the far distance a hawk. In the small slice of sky I can see without moving my head, I see two crows dancing with each other.
I close my eyes. I don't know if I sleep.
When I open then I see a snake. It is maybe five feet from me. It is a garter snake. It doesn't move.
I watch it for a while, then close my eyes again. When I open them the snake is gone.
Finally, I know what I need to say to the land. I say, softly, yet out loud, "Tell me."
It doesn't. I know that it doesn't yet trust me that much. I don't blame it.
I go back every day. Every day I see more, every day I presume more sees me. Every day I lie body pressed flat against the earth and every day I say, "Tell me. Tell me who you are."
I think it's partly that listening at all, even to other humans, isn't a skill that we're taught or that's given much importance in our culture. And, I think it's also, as Jensen asks, a matter of Why should the land trust any of us?
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."