Monday, July 5, 2010

Stewardship of the Land

This post was inspired by a recent post over at The Alchemist's Garden. I decided to revise, and expand, my comments there as a post in their own right, here. The usual caveats apply - Your Mileage and Millage (as in treading the mill) may vary, your sensibilities may or may not be offended, and so on.

When I was in my early teens, shortly after I'd discovered "witchcraft", I used to spend a lot of my insomniac nights outside on the "lawn". To be honest, living where I do, there is nothing exactly like a suburban lawn. We have yards filled with clover, other assorted weeds, and lots of snails.

I felt "in tune" and "at peace" out on the clover-beds, sprawled out on my back, watching the stars reel while my old, little boom-box played cassette tapes, or radio broadcasts. Sometimes I would actively meditate, but more often I would simply soar - I'd daydream, journey, project and otherwise bi-locate, in and out of my headspace.

One night, I was laying there and felt a “thrum”. Everything seemed to buzz for a second, and go quiet. I reached out, physically and spiritually, and tried to weave as much of -me- into the landscape as I could. I've always "felt around" like a nest of snakes, or very fast-moving roots.

I felt it again. It was a shudder of pleasure that was running through the earth. Without being too terribly graphic, imagine that first "rush" of arousal - that's what I felt through every inch of me, body and spirit. I thought to myself – this means rain is coming, we needed rain – and then it did. Thunder came in, and the stars got obscured, and when the rain first fell - I felt the shudder again. The prior sensations may have come from miles away, rippling across the shared network of roots, soil and leaves.
After that, things changed. For one? My "Work" worked better. But moreover, I felt far more connected to this place than I ever had. And, in fact, far more connected to "living things" in general. I felt that I was part of the land, and it was part of me. We were each-other’s stewards.

Just as I had felt with stones, the "uses" of which I could pick out of seemingly thin air, the world around me suddenly flooded me with information. The oak, itself, was a habitat of magick to say nothing of the woods around it. Plants, y'see, seemed to start talking. My wormwood began to acquire her own voice, and it was usually testy and impatient. She was having to work with a moody, sullen, hormonal, teenager. I honestly feel sorry that she had to put up with that.

When I would drive to visit relatives I could feel the edge of where the land “knew” me, and where I “knew” it. I could feel where others had that special relationship, and where I was not wanted at all. But largely, I could feel vast, empty, tracts of land where no one cared for the it, and the it had no one to care for.

When driving up North to one of the larger lakes in the state, I'd see ditches filled with strange weeds, and have to make mental notes to look them up at home - they had spoken, and it would be very rude to ignore their message. At the lake I would wade with my ankles wrapped in water-plants, Ludwigia, abundant as an aquatic weed, yet no one seems to ascribe uses to it. It spoke to me "Who are you, stranger? You seem to be listening!", "I'm a witch from another lake in the South of this state.", "A witch! Oh, oh! I haven't seen one of your kind in so long! I am used for shape-shifting, for beauty-magick, and glamory. I am good for those who do not like the sun, because I give protection against it's fire - see how I darken where the water is the most shallow?"

I felt lonely stretches of highway plead for communion. I felt the land -cry- because it was so abandoned, and ignored, by the people crawling about on it. I have had the land itself tell me stories about the animals who once walked on it, or the people. All of whom have changed, or gone silent. Some of whom have become part of it - fossils hidden deep under my feet. They are waiting in the womb to come again in other forms.
Land which has been loved will be vibrant and awake. The trees will sigh, the earth will thrum when rain is coming. The weather will tell you long before it changes, and the flora and fauna will begin to speak. You and the land will care for each-other, and you will weep for each-other.

And don't think for a moment that I mean only "wild" land. In Dallas I spoke to the creatures in the soil which wrapped in, around, and under the pavement. I spoke to the trees and plants which forced themselves up through cracks in the concrete. I worked with the spirits of parks, and even with the spirits-of-place (who are rather different than what I'm talking about, and best left for another post).

Get out. Learn your land, become friends. Build a relationship. Grow together.


  1. I'm SO glad I came across your blog - it's fantastic, it just makes me want to keep reading and reading and reading. Y'know, when you have those sudden 'of course!' moments...
    I think my own path is going to be wildly different from yours and I'm in awe of you for the path you've walked, but I agree, it's not for everyone and I'll put my hands up and say it's not the path for me... but your posts inspire so many thoughts in me.
    This post excites me particularly - this is the path I feel drawn to, to the degree I'm not sure I could be whole with out it - the path of working with the land, but I'm still such a baby in this world !! Please, please write some more on this!! I'd love to hear how you went about talking with the spirits of the land and the plants and trees. I'm trying hard to work on this but at the moment it's usually just a fuzzy impression of things I'm getting. There are a few moments unexpectedly every now and then when I feel as if I'm rooted in the land and I can feel it feeling and beating all around me...but it's something i still need to put a lot of work into. Would really love to hear more about your experiences with all this. Pretty please?;)
    Nellie x

  2. Thank you so much for this. I'm just a passerby, but these words had a profound effect on me.

    After a whole life spent in deep woods I loved, I reluctantly moved to a new urban home with a patch of yard that didn't seem to want me. You've encouraged me to give it a more earnest effort.

  3. IME, urban land is some the most bursting-with-life land I have come across. Every little crack and corner has life coming out of it in the city. I saw a neat couple of photos recently in the cookbook "Tender" by a British chef who bought a row house in London with a small walled-in yard in back. In the before picture, it looked so bereft. Moth-eaten and tired out grass. What he did with that yard literally brought tears to my eyes. He made it into a very Victorian kitchen garden with little borders and gravel paths, not my kind of garden, but it was just so bursting with life and obviously so very happy. It just shone. He said a fox sleeps there at night. Can you imagine? A fox in downtown London. It gives you hope.

  4. Urban land and I don't get along so well, for one reason or another. I think it's because motor oil and I do NOT get along AT ALL, and the stuff just gets everywhere in cities.