The land gets inside of us; and we must decide one way or another what this means, what we will do about it.
I live in a complicated place.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how I came to be here, in this place at this moment in time. I am aware of much that transpired in this place before I arrived and I know my knowledge is incomplete. I am a work in progress. As long as I am here, I seek to connect with the whole of this place, to see things as they are, with open eyes and a soft heart.
I live on the stolen land of the Piscataway, Nentego, and Susquehannock peoples. The stories and the knowledge that passes through their ancestral lines is embedded in this Earth. This Earth connects these First Nations, through memory and history and ancestry and stewardship. I appreciate and respect their stories, and I honor and learn from them. I acknowledge and am thankful for the stewardship and love of this land by the First Nations, their deep roots that have nourished it, and their elders past, present, and emerging who continue to shine their light.
This land now also holds the successes and memories of the Europeans who came here, as well as the stories of the conflicts and suffering that they brought with them: wars, diseases, genocide, slavery, hatred, corruption, white supremacy. As a woman, I have a complicated history with this part of the story. Women as both perpetrators and subjugated. As a descendant of these Europeans I bear the weight of it all, and am responsible for it as a beneficiary.
I experience place as being rooted in an understanding of the natural environment and the cultural environment. When I lived on Smith Island (see blog post, January 2021) it was the immediate recognition of both that I sensed upon my arrival on the ferry that very first time. In a way I was remembering that simple formula – natural environment + cultural environment – as soon as I saw Tylerton. It all came down to the sweet spot where the human experience and the landscape were one. There is a feeling that arises when a place speaks to the depths of one’s being. Something churns. Something resounds. It’s not recognition, exactly. More like something awakens.
My adventure on Smith Island was to dive into that crossroads between the landscape and humanity. To discover all I could about the natural history of the marshes, beaches, sea grass meadows, oyster reefs, and open bay while diving into the culture of the community – the church, the language, the post office, the store, the tiniest sewage treatment plant, the one-room schoolhouse, mailboat delivery, cemetery practices, stories and folklore, culinary traditions, gender expectations, working the water. Along the way, the exploration changed. Tylerton was rooted in me.
This place where I live now, just north of Baltimore City, is different. I am sentimental about it. After all, it is home. My childhood memories are here. We’ve built a family here. The dead on my mother’s side of the family are buried here, going back to 1893. But that deep sense of connection to the Earth and this place does not come easily. It is something I have to strive to intentionally create between me and this place.
This place has seen it all. Before George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore and after. It knows all that has come to pass. And, it remembers, all of it. It is my responsibility to listen and learn from this place as a way of respecting and honoring our common humanity, and thereby creating a new relationship with this place, this point on the Earth that I call home. A relationship based upon listening to what this place has to teach me and then building my own deep-Earth-centered practices to be able to continually tap into the teachings it has for me. A relationship that entails responsibility for the place and the communities around me. A responsibility that is based upon recognition, honoring, healing, and atonement, to this place. A responsibility that grows into sacred connection and purpose.
I can only do this if I strive to comprehend the whole. This is a life-long process of listening, feeling, learning, and action. Some of the ways for me are:
- Engaging in humanity-centered work such as continuous food drives, supporting a women’s shelter, projects to support families and patients with developmental disabilities and disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system, and social action initiatives.
- Working with high school students who teach me so much about their lived experience, and afford me the opportunity to support them in making their dreams come true.
- Combining ancient practices such as blessings and meditation with aromatherapy based on the native plants of my ecoregion, thus connecting the past and the present.
- Engaging with the local native plant society, natural history society, and nature center.
- Identifying the stars, planets, and constellations that inhabit the seasonal night time sky, and striving to learn more.
- Acts of Restorative Kindness that seek to restore native ecosystems. More information: https://wearetheark.org/
- Creating and nurturing a backyard garden for wildlife that provides access to food, water, cover, and places to raise young. More information: https://nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife
- Growing our own food with sustainable practices
- More ideas are available in the January 2021 post.
As often as possible I get my hands in the soil. Digging. Feeling. Smelling. Listening. Doing so connects me not only to the present work I am doing and the future growth I hope to see in my garden and my self, but also to all of those who have called this place home before me.
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