I stand on holy ground

I do not have to go
To Sacred Places
In far-off lands.
The ground I stand on
Is holy.

Here, in this little garden
I tend
My pilgrimage ends.
The wild honeybees
The hummingbird mothers
The flickering fireflies at dusk
Are a microcosm
Of the Universe.
Each seed that grows
Each spade of soil
Is full of miracles.

And I toil and sweat
And watch and wonder
And am full of love.
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty
Dwell here.

–Mary de La Valette in Life Prayers

There’s definitely a theme in the poems and prayers that catch my eye lately. I love my home and where I live. I do not have wanderlust at all and while I do like to take occasional trips with my family, I’m not that big on travel and going other places. I like my own place.

When I took a class last year called Ecology and the Sacred, I was interested by the explanation in  our class textbook about how we typically, “tell the story of our cultural lives and our interactions with other people…” While I definitely share this tendency, I do also feel deeply rooted to my natural place—the land on which I live and on which I grew up. My parents homesteaded their property in the 1970’s and I was born at home and spent my entire childhood on the same piece of land on which I was born, playing in the woods. They are very connected to their land and literally their blood, sweat, and tears have gone into their “place” in the natural world. Nine years ago, my husband and I bought a parcel of my parents’ property and built our own home there. We live on a different road than my parents, but are still only one mile from where I was born, and our property is bordered by theirs on two sides. My husband and I have now invested a lot of time and energy into this piece of land, now our blood, and sweat, and tears are part of this piece of land and we feel permanent in this location. We do not—indeed, cannot—envision ever moving and living anywhere else. Sometimes my husband and I talk about whether this sense of permanence is binding or restrictive—i.e. what about the sense of possibility, about being able to “start over” anywhere—but we’ve concluded that rootedness has a great deal of personal value to us and we wouldn’t want to trade our roots for “wings.” While this isn’t quite the same as a natural history of place, I do feel that my own identity and social story includes an interwoven, personally important element of natural place. This part of the country is where I belong and I am invested in it. I feel safest in the woods, in locations surrounded by trees. It is my place!

During this class, I also reflected on how quickly the woods close in around human-made structures. When we built our house, it felt like we had scarred the land—we cleared some trees and had to dig for the septic tank and so forth. The ground looked stripped, some trees were damaged (or cut down), and our house was kind of plopped down there in the middle of the scar. We moved into our house five years ago and you can no longer see these environmental scars—indeed, it feels at times like we have to hold the woods back from taking the area back over and reclaiming the land. A variety of grasses and wildflowers grow in the cleared areas and trees stretch out all around our house. I feel pretty certain that if we no longer lived here, our house would be swallowed up by the forest within only a handful of years. This is reassuring to me in a strange way. No matter how we have altered the landscape by our human presence and ‘meddling’ with our ecosystem, Nature is waiting to reclaim and transform what we have attempted to mold and make our own.

I also reflected about how we, as human inhabitants of this patch of ground, are part of the woods and the forest ecosystem. I guess in some ways I feel like we are the invaders here, carving out a large footprint. But, while standing on our back deck, and looking all around me at the trees, grasses, and flowers, closing in…pressing in almost…on our house, it feels as if we, and our home, are a part of these woods. We live here in our—albeit excessively large–“nest,” much like any other animal inhabits its nest or burrow within the forest. And, we are within it too, not on top of or apart from it, mutually adapting to each other’s presence and all trying to survive and thrive.

Categories: family, nature, poems, quotes, readings, theapoetics | 1 Comment

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One thought on “I stand on holy ground

  1. Pingback: Holy Ground | WoodsPriestess

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