Diary of an Earth Daughter: Where Do You Belong?

I saw myself waking up to the nascent promise of each new dawn, taking my morning tea outside, listening to birdsong and the bark of a vixen in the wood. I saw my hands in the soil, my feet cold and bare in a fast-flowing river. the person I saw wasn’t anxious, alienated, brittle. It wasn’t her job that defined her, but her way of being in the world. She looked as if she belonged. Not just to a star, and a hill, and a cottage; but to herself and the calling owls, and the wider world she inhabited.
— Sharon Blackie from If Women Rose Rooted; The Power of the Celtic Woman
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This morning I chose an oracle card to begin the day. The message was all about cycles, change and phases. In perfect timing with the new year wouldn't you say? It fits in with what's happening around here too. This post marks the beginning of a new feature I'm trying on for size at Circle Magica and within the pages Of Root & Raven Wing- Diary of an Earth Daughter. In it we will visit with others who are living lives close to the Earth, beauty, artistry; who are ardent lovers and caretakers of nature, her creatures, who have stories to tell that enchant, inspire, inform. I'll also be posting on how I am redirecting my energies to become the Earth Daughter I believe I am meant to be, and continuing my journey of discovery as a Saging woman. 

To get underway there's this. Over the summer friend, Valerianna Claff , introduced me to a book that has become a constant companion and mentor, If Women Rose Rooted; The Power of the Celtic Woman by Sharon Blackie. (The title has since been altered to, If Women Rose Rooted: A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging, as you'll see through the link). Sharon discusses the importance of crafting a connection to place and especially to the land in which we find ourselves as a way of re-enchanting, re-empowering, re-sourcing and rooting us firmly in our lives. She speaks of the Eco-Heroine's Journey:

"The Eco-Heroine's Journey which we 've followed in this book is a path to understanding how deeply enmeshed we are in the web of life on this planet. In many ways, it is an antidote to the swashbuckling action-adventure that is the Hero's Journey: it is a woman's journey, based on a woman's way of being in the world. This path forces us first to examine ourselves and the world we live in, to face up to all that is broken and dysfunctional in it and in our own lives. Then it calls us to change-first ourselves, and then the world around us. It leads us back to our own sense of grounded belonging to the Earth, and asks us what we have to offer to the places and communities in which we live. Finally, it requires us to step into our own power and take back our ancient, native role as its guardians and protectors. To rise up rooted, like trees."

I savored this book over the course of the summer and it spoke to that part of me that longs to tend land once again and to be with others that do so. In the nearly two years since we've sold the Hobbit House, I have felt orphaned and marooned. I realized while descending into Sharon's world and ways that I had made an assumption when we left our home; that I couldn't do what I wanted with someone else's land. That I had to neutralize my habitual pattern of interacting with my home-based surroundings. That I needed to step back from my instincts to be with this place. But within the pages of the book I found a message that contradicted this and made me sit up straight and think again. 

The directive here is one of immediacy and accessibility. No matter where we are, we are meant to be tenders of the place we find ourselves. Doesn't matter if it is alot of land in the suburbs, like our nearly 7 acres, or a balcony on the 20th floor in Brooklyn. Doesn't matter if we "own" the land. After all, does any of us really own Earth? Sharon drew me into wondering if maybe I could rewire my thinking and start fresh in my relationship with this place. I imagine going forward with garden plans, and fantasize about building that chicken coop or maybe making room for ducks.  Dreams of a wee donkey, pygmy goats and a greyhound to roam with. I think about herbs, for eating, magic and medicine. I notice a re-emerging interest in natural landscaping, permaculture, four season harvesting, and dipping my toes back into MeetUps to get back around earth stewards and champions who are full of wisdom, resources and passion.

Mary Reynolds, author of The Awakening Garden: Designs to Nurture Our Land and Ourselves, reminds me to make room for the land to tell me what it wants. I set out walking the boundaries, an age old practice of communion and connection, to listen and learn, to properly introduce myself with offerings, and song and conversation. What I heard was that like me, this land feels orphaned. Once it was a family homestead and horse farm. Over the years, the horses disappeared and the barn fell into disrepair. Brambles, bittersweet and invasive flora claim the space. The family rents out the Little House and tenants come and go. After once providing a tangible usefulness and purpose, and being appreciated for its value, it seems to feel abandoned and I even felt an anger and resignation with that. I could feel its depletion, like it has been stripped bare.

When we moved here the plan was to use our time renting to re-group while Niko finished his senior year in high school and to consider living options once he got settled in college. But with our lease up the end of this month, we’ve decided to renew and stay on. I wasn’t ready for the upheaval of a move just yet and we are comfortable for now, so we are committing to the Little House and her surrounding lands for a while yet. And as we do, I am reconsidering what it means to belong. I can’t say I’ve ever felt I belonged in or to North Andover. While it was a deliverance from an economically depressed and sadly dismal central Massachusetts town we lived in prior to moving here, and an ideal location to raise our child, it fails to quicken my pulse like other homes I’ve had. It misses the mark lacking the wildness, quirkiness and unique personality of the mostly seaside oasis’ I’ve been lucky enough to dwell in and visit frequently like Cape Cod, Ipswich, and Encinitas. My rhythms better sync outside of a frenetic hub spilling over with racing residents and the blur of luxury sedans, mini vans and high end SUV’s. I often feel like I need to armor up when I head out the door, the chaos and bustle, the quintessentially chilly and occasionally hostile New England persona is so palpable. The blind race to nowhere, the acquisition game, zip code comparisons are the norm and acutely alienating.

All that being true, thankfully we have met some lovely authentic folk who have become friends over the years. I ‘ve discovered a few spots in nature, my sanctuaries away from the manic, ultra-competitive, superficially and outwardly focused mindset so prevalent in these parts. Nooks removed from the big box chains, the strip malls, the McMansion cul de sacs. Quiet spots where I can hear my heart beat again, watch the sun set through bony fingered branches, visit with a sparrow who lands nearby, breathe salty air that moistens my upturned face. At the conclusion of If Women Rose Rooted, Sharon offers us an invitation to the Eco-Heroine’s Journey. In it we are welcomed to the Heroine Path.  Under “The Heroine’s Return” we learn that it is possible for us to create a deep sense of belonging. Sharon tells us no matter where we are it is important we “learn to belong”. She continues by suggesting we dive in and learn about the history of our place, ferret out the stories, unearth its secrets, educate ourselves on its geography, ecology, landscapes.  What are the weather patterns? The native flora and fauna? Do we know the phases of the moon? The position of the stars? She asks, “In the context of your own Return what do you think is the unique gift that you are bringing back to the world, or your community?”

I am not prepared to fully answer this question  right now. However, I think for me to rise rooted I would indeed explore this place with a new born enthusiasm and perspective. I would and will continue to ask questions and wait for responses from this land that is mine to tend. I will invest my energy and attentions on what might delight and teach me what has yet to be revealed. I will roll up my sleeves digging for answers and making room for roots that will sustain me for however long I remain.  This much I do know: belonging, in this next chapter has everything to do with the giving, coming together, creating for tomorrow, and for the days when I no longer walk this planet. Belonging to something much grander than this town or that neighborhood. Belonging to this Earth.