Sunday afternoon, my husband Taylor and I went for a seven mile hike out at Multnomah Falls. It was the first time I’d been out there since last November, and I really had missed it there (it missed me too, apparently!) We went on a trail I hadn’t walked before, though Taylor had been there on his own. The weather was perfect, and I felt rested and energized–I didn’t really feel tired at all until the last mile. Of course, such a long hike called for a post-hike trip to Burgerville, the Pacific Northwest’s regional chain of sustainably produced, not-full-of-ick-and-grease, burger joint.
But I digress.
It being the first really nice weather we’d had in a while, and being a Sunday, people were out in force; Multnomah Falls is a popular place, and you have to do some hiking to get past the touristy areas. It took longer than I expected, and I started to get grouchy. For me, hiking is a way to get away from most people, not hang out with them. I started getting snarly after a while.
At one point I complained “I wish these people weren’t here. The sad thing is, they’re probably mostly just going to go back home and keep living their usual lives, never thinking about the connection between the pristine condition of this place, and their environmentally unfriendly actions every day”. To which Taylor (who is used to my rantiness on the occasions where my temper still gets the best of me despite my efforts to the contrary) replied, “So how do you know that’s what they’re going to do?” I think I sputtered something about the litter on the ground, and other such things. I tend to be territorial about places I like, even when I have absolutely no claim to them whatsoever (yes, it’s silly of me).
Tay then said, “You don’t know what these people will do. Maybe they are learning and gaining an appreciation for this place. And after all, if your role as a shaman means teaching people to appreciate the wilderness, maybe you need to remember that people need to have this opportunity. Maybe, like me, they’ll get it figured out in time”, and he had a point. When I met him, he wasn’t all that interested in environmentalism, though he wasn’t against it, either. However, I’ve had a pretty solid impact on him in our relationship, and he’s adopted a lot of the same practices and mindfulness I have. We’ve had some good discussions about it, and that’s gotten us both to think.
Then I decided to talk to the Land. I went on a side trail down to the river we were walking along, and opened myself to the Land. What s/he said supported what Taylor had told me. S/he said that hir role at this point was to teach people to appreciate what was still relatively clean, though a bit of pollution had taken its toll in recent years. S/he told me to bring people to hir and to help teach them that appreciation and to make that connection with their everyday lives, that places just like hir had been destroyed or were in danger from our everyday practices.
S/he talked to me further about the concept of teaching, and basically explained that I did not (as I had been concerned in the past) have to take on full time students at this time. Instead, I mainly need to be teaching various lessons through various means as I learn and become comfortable with them. So, for example, my Three Seeds workshop that I held a couple of weeks ago, wherein I brought paganism, environmentalism, and community building all together in the process of gardening, counts as one way of fulfilling this need. Another is a proposed series of animal magic classes I may be teaching later this year in Portland. I can start with relatively short-term, low-commitment things like this, and then work up to more intensive things as I go along. This is a huge relief, believe me!
So that was a good reminder to me, that if I am going to help other people to understand that the Land and all hir denizens are sacred, then I have to accept that they all have equal access, and that some of them unfortunately will still do dumbass things like litter, and break down saplings for no reason, and so forth–but others won’t. It’s a good reminder of one teaching of Wolf’s that really rings true to my experience–Wolf connects with all to connect with a few. One would hope, though, that more than a few would “get it”!
It is good to also be reminded that lessons come in many ways and many forms. (Another one of this basic things that is good to remember no matter how long you’ve been practicing!) Just another good reason to keep one’s ears and eyes open (and, sometimes, one’s mouth shut as well).
Later on, as we stopped at our usual crosstrails to rest before descending the mountain, I heard an owl hooting slowly and quietly maybe 200 or so yards away in the woods. at the same time, I felt the presence of the Animal Father. No, I don’t think it was a disembodied voice–I’d lay money down that there was a physical owl there. However, I firmly believe that deities, spirits, and other such beings may use physical phenomena to make themselves known. I do not think it’s nearly as common as people might think–just because a squirrel runs across your path, it doesn’t automatically mean that Squirrel is your totem. What separated this event from any other encounter with critters that day (including a chipmunk, a hummingbird, and a bunch of white butterflies) was that I definitely felt the Animal Father’s presence. He was pleased that I was there, out in the wilderness again. He likes being in contact with me there more than other places, and he simply dropped by to say so.
Since I’ve started my new telecommuting job, I’ve started my day with meditation. Wolf has made it clear that s/he wants me to start working with hir more intensely, so tonight I’ll go up and start working on a drumbeat and song for hir. I’ve been taking it easy because of all the changes recently, but the spirits are letting me know it’s time to get back to business, as it were.
The land is for all of us. It dismays me when I see my friends complaining about other people on the trails or in the forests or in the beaches. I know we all want some alone time with nature, but every single person there is looking for the same thing. Where can we find it if not in this place?
We have to share the space because there are so many of us. If it’s an important, special, sacred place then people are going to feel that, even if they don’t understand what they’re feeling. They’ll be drawn to it because they want or need that experience and to want it all to ourselves is a manifestation of the same problem with greed we see in our consumer society. It’s ingrained in us — we want to be special and have special places for ourselves. I’m really glad you got what Tay was saying and that you listened to the land.
The land is for all of us.
Erynn–I think a lot of it that day was just me being stressed and surrounded by a bunch of people. But it is a good reminder to share and share alike. (And not just with the other human-type beings.)
I’ll be moving up to PDX in the fall. When do you think you’ll be teaching those animal magic classes and can I get a basic idea of the curriculum/cost?