I’ve had a few blog readers ask about how I ended up my path of sustainability and druidry. I wanted to post about that here, in the hopes that my story will help others find their own paths as well. There’s a few different stands to this tale, and not all are easy to unravel. So I’ll start at the beginning.
My family moved to a home on the top of a mountain in the rural mountains of western Pennsylvania, overlooking a
massive forest, when I was seven years old. Almost immediately, my cousins (who lived next door) and I began tromping about in the woods. We built cabins with fallen branches, ferns, stones, and bark, explored everything, and spent much of our time building water dams in the little crick. Every summer day for years and years we spent in these beloved woods. Every fall, spring, and winter day, after school or on breaks, we would enjoy the changing of the seasons. Spending so much time in the forest attuned me to the land, the seasons. As I grew, I formed this wonderful friendship with the forest, whom I now refer to as “the forest to which I belong.”
There was one mystery to the woods my cousins and I had not figured out—something we often discussed. All through the woods, these giant rotting stumps could be found everywhere. Many of the moss-coated stumps were massive—at least double the size of the current trees growing. The stumps were black with age and almost entirely or mostly rotted down—when you touched them, they would fall apart. As kids, we came up with all sorts of reasons that the stumps were there—aliens came and placed them there as a signal, a fire had burned much of the forest, or perhaps a tornado had come and ripped out many of the trees. The one conclusion that we didn’t even fathom was that they were trees had been cut by human hands. Was it childish innocence? Was it naivety? The thought that someone would do such a thing never crossed our minds. When we built cabins, we never cut or damaged the trees—not even to put nails in them. We used only fallen branches in our constructions. So it is no wonder that the one solution to the mystery—the correct one—had never occurred to us. Yet this “mystery” was soon revealed to us in full force.
When I was 14, everything changed. We heard the loggers before we ever saw them. Noises came from below—the sound of trucks, saws, and the occasional crash. At first it was barely noticeable, but after a few weeks, they were literally at our doorstep and our parents no longer let us into the forest. We watched with horror from atop the mountain—down below where our beloved woods were literally being torn apart by uncaring loggers. I remember laying in the tall grass behind the house and crying—I couldn’t understand what could possesses someone to destroy something that I so fondly cherished and respected. My friends were being mercilessly cut down.
After the loggers finished their dastardly deed, I went into the forest only once, in the months after it happened. The pain was too much. This was also a time in my life where repressed memories of trauma in my childhood surfaced–as the forest was cut, my memories returned and I suffered much anguish. The forest and I shared in our pain. After that day, I did not step again into the forest for 10 years; I could not bear the pain.
Ten years later, I took my best friend, Alfred, who was dying of a terminal brain tumor into that forest. I shared with him the story of it, and we discovered together that while the forest was difficult to traverse due to the left-over branches and understory, it was also slowly healing and new growth could be found everywhere. But it seemed so changed, so different and wild compared to the forest I knew as a child. It gave us both hope about Alfred’s condition. Unfortunately, my friend lost his battle with cancer a year and a half later. Before anyone else knew he died, his spirit visited me, and I knew he was gone. This, combined with the lesson of healing the forest provided me, lead me on a spiritual quest to better understand….well….everything.
After much reading, reflection, and soul-searching after Alfred’s death, I found druidry and knew that it was like I was coming home. Druidry was a term that described who I was as a human being in the many different spheres of my life: my connection to the land, to the spirit realm, to my professional career, to my home life, and to my creative pursuits.
Once I started down the path of Druidry, I again sought the voice of the forest where I had spent so much time as a child, where I had watched firsthand the destruction of the land at the hand of humans who couldn’t see its spirit and life for what it was. The forest had transformed, healed, magically and physically, back into the space I had once knew. Her scars were still there, the stumps from what had been logged, but she was strong, her gentle persistence in reclaiming what was lost taught me so much about my own loss and trauma–and how I might heal. After those experiences, I found myself particularly sensitive to the spirits of the land, especially the spirits of the trees–their joys and suffering–and was called to physically and spiritually heal the land. And that’s a primary part of my spiritual practice–serving as a healer of the land, working with the spirits of the living and the dead, and assisting them on their journey as they assist me on mine. Wherever I go, the land reaches out to me, and I reach out to the land; we grow and learn from each other. And this work doesn’t apply just to natural places; the land is everywhere, even in urban areas and under concrete, she still calls out to her own.
At the same time as I was discovering druidry, I also recognized the need to radically shift my lifestyle–how could I call myself a druid if I, like most Americans, was living in an unsustainable, environmentally-damaging manner? And so, with dedicated effort, I began making permanent changes in my life. I learned about permaculture, sustainability, and deep ecology, and embraced those principles as a central life philosophy. I take every opportunity to learn, to teach, to grow, and to help preserve. I joined two druid orders to help me along my path–their spiritual lessons taught me much about the long-standing spiritual traditions of nature reverence. This blog is a story of that path–thank you for joining me on my journey.