This morning, there was sun-infused mist hovering over the beautiful Potomac River, the river of my heart. There was also mist covering the city of Columbia, mist surrounding the Washington Monument so that it rose like a single, giant tower out of Fairey, mist hiding the Capital and the statue of the Goddess.
As I leave the George Washington Parkway, which runs alongside the Potomac and edges T.R. Island, and head onto the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, there's a lovely stand of (now, dead) weeds and berried trees and, every morning, I roll down my window and touch the dried, dead weeds as the traffic creeps slowly into the city. As I enter the merge lane, I look for the Homeless Vet, with his swollen feet and fingers and his cardboard sign that says, "Always Proud." Sometimes I bring him hot potatoes in silver foil, crisp apples, bread with raisins. Sometimes, I bring him a package of tube socks, a few dollars, some bottled water. Later this week, I'm going to bring him a hat that I knitted for him. Once I'm across three lanes, onto the far left, I look at the old, dead tree where, sometimes, I see a bald eagle sitting, sunning, staring at the Kennedy Center.
Far across the Planet, in Tasmania, T. Thorn Coyle is working with forest activists. She writes:
Thus began a discussion of disconnection and being part of place. Some of the activists feel that they are not part of great Nature, but rather must work to stop this alienated human destruction of it. I replied that in sensing we are not Nature, we instantiate the rift that causes the logging and wood chipping of the old growth that they are fighting. Alienation and disconnection are the same, whether one thinks humans are superior or inferior to the land, the trees, the animals and the sky.
We need a deep realization that we are one with all of these. That we are the same. That the call of the koorawong is our call. That the rocky outcropping high above the Weld Valley, with its view of clear-cuts, masses of trees, the glorious white of the soaring grey goshawk over the appearing and disappearing shine of river is a vision of the connectedness and disconnectedness of our very lives.
. . .
We are Nature. We are of place. We are born. We live. We die.
We are all indigenous to this planet and this solar system. I am indigenous to the state of California. My practices of religion, inspired though they may be by the magic of the ancient tribes of Europe and rooted in the folk practices of the US and the ceremonial practices of the late 19th century are also informed by my animal body responding to the ocean near my home, to the particular quality of light reflected upon hills or buildings, to the strange quirks of weather on the little peninsula at the Golden Gate. Place informs me and I inform place. My practices are no more nor less indigenous than those of any other migrating people. Something that was invented to root us in this particular place or contemporary time is no less authentic for being 40 years or 40 minutes old rather than 4,000.
I may be a nutty old woman. But doing magic in a place weds me to that place, and being in relationship with a place increases my ability to do magic, aids my daily practice, makes me become the witch I am meant to be. It's not complicated or esoteric, really. It's mostly paying attention. I pay serious attention to the weeds, I notice them every day, I think about them, I touch them when I can, they show up in my dreams, I bless them for absorbing as much carbon exhaust as they do. I pay attention to the people, the birds, the shape of the city. And, in return, they pay attention to me. I am who I am because the Potomac River is who she is. I don't understand how it can be anything else.
I am "of this place." Whether than makes me "indigenous" according to the definition of some person who finds value in dividing things into categories doesn't change who I am, what I do, how effective my magic is, nor does it change my relationship with the misty river, the shining city, the dead, dry weeds. It doesn't change the antiquity of my practices; witches have been doing "this" for aeons. And, tomorrow, I'm still going to be in relationship with the same river, the same shining city of monuments, the same Homeless Vet, the same trees. I'm going to come home and feed the same demanding cardinal by hanging suet in the same euonymus bush that I've been tending and loving for over six years now. I'm going to be a witch, loving the world into magic and magicked into love by the world. Somebody has to do it.
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 . . . ."