The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

On Letting Go of Your Land and Leaving Your Homestead: Lamentations, Joys, and the Way Forward April 1, 2015

A scene from the land...

A scene from the land…

I’m in the midst of a major life transition. After six years of living in South-East Michigan (with five of those here on my homestead), I have made a big life decision to take a new job at a new university and return to my beloved mountains and forests in rural Western Pennsylvania. The pull to return to my homeland, to my family and beloved forests, has been growing stronger each year I’ve been gone, and was part of my decision to return. When I left Western PA at the age of 22 to go to graduate school, I had no idea if I’d ever return.  Now I’m 34, and 12 years have passed. In those 12 years, the landscape of my homeland has been desecrated with extensive amounts of fracking and logging, in addition to the mills and mines which were already so prevalent and destructive. I’ll be moving deep in the heart of fracking territory in Western PA. The fracked lands are my home lands, the soil where my ancestors lay, the trees that taught me this path, and I will not abandon them. My future work on every level: professional, homesteading/personal, spiritual, artistic, herbal, community building lay among these beautiful Appalachian mountains.  And so, I now face the difficult challenge of letting go of my land here in Michigan.

 

This post is part lament, part joyful, and part how to let go.  I’m sharing my process with you, dear readers, because you also at some point may have a decision to make, land to leave, a new path to follow.

 

On being one with the land.

The longer you are with a patch of  land–the more that you become reflections of each other. As I built sacred spaces, butterfly gardens, brought bees and chickens, established a huge garden, and began to do incredible amounts of reskilling, I was undergoing inner transformations and initiations at the same time. As I healed the land and transformed it, the land transformed me. I wrote about this blending of inner and outer work extensively two years ago–one thing it really taught me was that one can live in a sacred manner always, that each action and interaction can be sacred.  It taught me that we can set aside sacred time, build sacred space, and be one with our setting.

 

The same scene in the wintertime....

The same scene in the wintertime….

When you live on the land in the way that I have, there’s an exchange of energy that is difficult to put into words. When I started obtaining a yield from my land, eating what is grown on it, I began to take the land and its nutrients into myself.  My physical health and vitality improved as well. The land physically sustained me in the same way that the physical earth allows me to walk upon it. And I brought nutrients back to the land each season. When I made medicine from the land, the medicine healed me, becames part of me. When I toiled on the land, and I dripped sweat, the soft earth drank it up and my sweat become part of it. When I cried next to the pond upon making my decision to leave, my tears dripped into the water and became part of it. When I breathed out carbon dioxide, the plants breath it in and gave me life-giving oxygen. Every interaction, every action has a response, even if its not visible to the naked eye. The process of homesteading, of herbalism, of spiritual practices, of  inhabiting a landscape that you depend upon for survival ties you so innately and closely to the land that you feel like one entity. This is what I experienced in the five years on my beloved homestead. The question becomes–how can one possibly let go?

 

On the Power of Ritual in Decision Making

Imbolc Spiral

Imbolc Spiral this year on the pond.

What I have found through this process, and other vision quests and vigils that I have done as part of my spiritual path, is that decisions like this cannot be made in our “normal space” and time, where the demands of life press deeply and urgently upon us and cloud our inner vision. In “normal space” we are in a certain frame of mind, and that is often the mindset of immediate action and reaction rather than contemplation and mindfulness. In order to make such a monumental and life-changing decision, we must set aside sacred space, healing space, space to simply be, reflect, think, cry, feel, breathe….space that allows us to have a new perspective on the decision at hand. For those that study the tarot, the Hanged Man card (or in my tarot deck, the Inverted Tree) exemplifies this–hanging oneself upside down is a sure way to gain a new perspective.  And since ritual can provide us with that altered perspective through the use of ceremonial actions and intention, it served the purpose I needed it to–that of creating a space to ask the land about my decision.

 

Since Imbolc is the time of renewal and the first holiday of spring and occurred right at the time I needed to make the decision, I decided to use the ceremony to help me figure out the way forward. I walked the spiral that we had created as part of our ceremony out on the pond with some fellow druids, and thought much about the land, the beautiful land, woven into my soul. As I walked the winding spiral, I recounted about the gifts the land had given me, the tremendous gifts. As I lay in the middle, I opened myself to the land, asked its permission to go, let it feel deeply my feelings, know my thoughts. As I walked the slow walk out, I recognized the peace and blessing the land was sending me–and how the work is never done, and others will continue it here in Michigan, in their own way.

 

On Letting Go.

The one thing that has given me great peace through this process is this: I am leaving this land in such better condition than I found it. I am leaving it as a nurturing, healing, and bountiful place where many have come to seek rest, rejuvenation, and connection. Where the trees literally sing in the wind, where the stones hold the energies of the space, where the bees and butterflies thrive and grow. I’ve had multiple friends tell me that when they drive up my driveway, they didn’t feel like they were in Michigan anymore–they were somewhere else, somewhere sacred. I realize that this is such a gift, creating and honoring the land in a sacred way. When I arrived, as I detailed in this post, I found heaps of trash, pollution, and general disregard for all life on this property. But now, there are fruit trees, sanctuaries, abundance, fertility….and we’ve honored the land with ceremonies recognizing the passing of the wheel of the year.

 

I realize that this land has imprinted itself on me, that my very body has been nourished from its nutrients.  That even when I leave, I will leave a piece of myself always here in this land.  The land will remember me long after I am gone.  And I, too, will always remember this land–and it will still be here, long after I pass beyond the veil.  So I take comfort, in understanding while my years here were short, they were certainly meaningful.

 

I will miss this place so much!

My amazing garden….

And now, this beautiful homestead is ready for someone else to learn and grow–and they have a great start to doing so, since I’ve laid the foundation, preparing the rich soil, planting many trees, awakening it in a spiritual sense, and loving this land as best as I could. I am eagerly awaiting meeting the new caretakers of this land, whoever they may be, and sharing the secrets of the soil.

 

Realizing there is somewhere new, waiting

I know that out there, somewhere in Western PA, new land is waiting for me. I have been feeling its pull for several years, and now, it is pulling even more strongly by the day. Michigan is not my home–it is not where my ancestors are buried, it is not the land that birthed me, nor where I first heard the voices of the trees. I realize now that Michigan was meant to be a place where I would learn some of the deep mysteries of inhabiting the land, of being tied to the soil, and hearing its whispered secrets in the wind. It was meant to be a place where I had so much opportunity: to learn from some wonderful teachers and mentors in organic farming, natural building, herbalism, food preservation, permaculture design, and much more.

 

And the knowledge I have and the experiences I’ve gained are not common or much established where I am going…so I will have knowledge to share, knowledge that is wanted and needed. I’ve learned so much while being immersed in a great community here and living on my homestead. I’ve already been asked to share my knowledge of herbs and plants and have been told by many they are excited to have me come–and I expect so many opportunities will emerge in the coming years to share what Michigan has blessed me with.

 

Sacred Land, Unsacred Times

A friend who lives about 10 miles from here is also selling her property–she is getting older, and the property is getting too much for her husband and her to maintain.  Like me, she has worked spiritually with the land, hosted rituals, even built a kiva on her property for ceremony.  And so, like me, she has sacred, awakened land.  We had a long conversation about it–how does one sell sacred land?  How can one make sure the right people buy it, honor it, and love it?  This is the challenge we face–but there are many tools to make this happen.  My inner senses tell me that it will work out perfectly for both of our properties, but there is still the worry and concern.

 

How I will miss you, dear homestead!

How I will miss you, dear homestead!

The Way Forward…

Now that I’m leaving, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can out on the land, appreciating it, observing it, taking in these final memories before the property is sold and I am off on my next adventure. While I had felt, on some level, this transition coming for a number of years, I had no idea when it would actually arrive, and I realize that I’m working through some serious grief and feelings of loss.  As much as I have grief about moving, I’m also excited for the new opportunities this process brings–and the new experiences and energies that will be present. My home will be on the market and officially for sale in the next week, and I am already in the middle of making the transition to PA.

 

So, part of this journey and the upcoming focus of my blog will be my transition from a 3-acre homestead to renting again (and what sustainable and spiritual activities can be done in that situation) And part of the story will be finding that new land to call my own, and the story of my work on that land, deep within the heart of the Appalachian mountains.
And so I hope, dear readers, that these upcoming journeys are as rich as my last six years in Michigan have been. Thank you for walking by my side, for learning about this land…and for your companionship on the journey that still is to come.

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47 Responses to “On Letting Go of Your Land and Leaving Your Homestead: Lamentations, Joys, and the Way Forward”

  1. CWhitmore Says:

    I hope you have a smooth and peaceful transition. Congratulations on finding a way home. I think in this day and age, it can be difficult to return to your roots if you’ve left them at some point.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Its very true–I have been quite blessed to find a way home. The universe has swung the doors wide open for me, allowing me to find a job that is not only in my field, but fitting of my skills and experience–and literally an hour from where I grew up. Opportunities like this don’t happen every day, so I decided to take it :).

  2. adruidway Says:

    A deeply moving account — spirit(s) sending you to the next place that desperately needs you, from what you describe. My wife and I are looking at a possible move as well, though nothing as dramatic as yours. This is where we really live our Druidry each day. Keep us posted and show us through your blog what forms it takes for yoou — a powerful witness to practical green spirituality.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Thank you for your comment :). And you are right–this is where we live our druidry each day. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves. I’m going to see it from a new perspective now, a way that so many others have to contend with. Living in a small town, in an apartment or small house that isn’t your own–I fear this land has spoiled me! 🙂

  3. Linda Says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, as you heped me to “On Letting Go of My Land and leaving My Homestead. less than a year ago. All of your words are exact in how hard but Joyful life can be when change is involved. It is no simple task, and what you feel inside says a lot of what you (I) had to go through. We will stay connected through our friendship and sacred care of the earth. Love you always…….

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Yes Linda, seeing you leave your own sacred land less than a year ago–and forcibly so–was moving to me. And it was certainly part of my thought process in this blog post and in what is happening in my life! Thank you for reading and commenting :).

  4. laurabruno Says:

    Reblogged this on Laura Bruno's Blog and commented:
    This is such a beautiful, tender, multi-layered post, and I so relate to all of it. Wishing Willowcrow the perfect landing spot and sending heartfelt thanks for all you have done to honor your land in Michigan. Having grown up in Penn’s Woods myself, I have also felt the pain of that heavily fracked land. Thank you for following your call to spread your healing touch to the hurting places.

  5. nancy carpenter Says:

    Greetings Willowcrow,

    I was born in 1951 & grew up in western PA, north of Pittsburgh, Wexford, down a 1/4 mile dirt road on 8 acres with 2 lakes, farm land all around. Most of my family still lives in that area. Farmer Grubbs moved to Florida & all his land turned into postage size lots of big houses. But there are still charming out of the way places to live. So I do understand your attachment to the land. I now live in western MA, farm land all around & love the Pioneer Valley.

    I hope you have found yourself a sweet spot in western PA with all those rolling hills! North Park is a great place to exercise & be outside. Blessings on your journey.

    Nancy, Hatfield, MA

    PS I recently found your site through a friend & really enjoy your writing & spirituality!

  6. The challenge of leaving a place on has engaged in as sacred is age old. Most Native American tribes have faced this repeatedly, as have untold millions of people around the world. The experience can be excruciating, even when the leaving is voluntary, yet it also allows us a glimpse into the experiences of our Ancestors, and innumerable others who lived NOW. May you moving be easy.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Thank you, Michael. I can’t even fathom the forced relocations that my ancestors and others have faced….this is so hard, and its a willing relocation.

  7. Lotusdragon Says:

    You will be greatly missed my friend. I wish we had more time to share together.
    I too am working through the process of letting go for i know i must one day leave my land. Only mine has been in my life my entire life. How does one let go of that? It is a difficult process.

    I wish i had met you sooner. I knew of you long before i knew you. You were a legend, and will remain so, only on a more personal level.

    Thank you for coming into my life. you have given me profound gifts, so many in such a brief time. I love you Dana Driscoll and I am proud to call you friend. You will be dearly missed, more than i can express.

    I need not wish you luck. You have mad skills! LOL.
    missing you already.

  8. Magnus Says:

    Your shared experiences on the land in Michigan has been truly inspirational to many. Now, as your transition home, I look forward to bearing witness to the emerging relationships of new land and new spirits of place. I am sure that you will be warmly welcomed by your new place. You are a wonderful role model.

  9. soulspeak2013 Says:

    Reblogged this on At the Table, On my Plate and commented:
    new beginnings..and the endings that are inevitable ..what a lovely sharing..empowering..

  10. litebeing Says:

    Such a powerful post. It reminds me of what Michael Pollan said about food: Eating is taking the world into your bodies. I live in SouthEastern PA and our state is beautiful. I understand your grief and concern over who will become the new steward of your sacred land. May you take the love with you wherever you are and use it during your transition and beyond.

    peace,
    Linda

  11. Karen Fisher Says:

    Blessings on your way. /|\

  12. As a new member to the community it is comforting to know that I will not lose your mentoring. As an OBOD student and follower of an “Awen Alone” practice, wordpress has gifted me the ability to maintain a circle of mentors to assist me on my journey. Thank you for being part of that circle……

    And as a senior in life I have found that to grow, one must embrace change. To the Spirits of the Land, Sea and Sky, know that you are honored ………
    May God Bless your Journey

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Welcome to the druid and OBOD community, Celtic Fisherman! I think we all have much to learn from each other, and its nice to be able to connect online, even when we are all so far away from each other :). Blessings!

  13. Laura Larsson Says:

    The good news is that once you have eaten of the bounty of your land it will always be part of you. You can take it with you as part of your cells.

  14. Wonderful story; thanks for sharing it with us.

    Are you bringing anything to physically connect you to this part of your life and land?

  15. info office Says:

    Thank you ,

    My favourite tree :

    http://www.tree-guide.com/cut-leaf-beech

    kind regard

    Peter

     

    Gesendet: Mittwoch, 01. April 2015 um 14:39 Uhr Von: "The Druid's Garden" <comment-reply@wordpress.com> An: freesolarkids@gmx.at Betreff: [New post] On Letting Go of Your Land and Leaving Your Homestead: Lamentations, Joys, and the Way Forward

    Willowcrow posted: " I'm in the midst of a major life transition. After six years of living in South-East Michigan (with five of those here on my homestead), I have made a big life decision to take a new job at a new university and return to my beloved mountains and fores"

  16. Dear Willowcrow — How bittersweet is the path before you. I have passed this post along to two young souls in MI who may contact you. What an example you are setting for all of us in your sacred transit. Ahoya, Alia

  17. From a druid in central PA, many welcomes on your return home.

  18. Brooke VanDyke Says:

    Where is the land? I have young friends on the east side who are on similar paths. I could pass the word along.

  19. Happy travels! Wonderful adventures await you I’m sure!! If ever you find yourself back to visit Michigan, you’re welcome to stay with me, my goats and sheep… and we shall make cheese and forage in the woods. I’m a bit further East (Armada).

  20. Donovan Says:

    You probably wouldn’t have guessed it considering how long it’s been since we last saw each other in person, but the main reason I chose to stay in the Detroit metro was because of you and the Permaculture community around here. For work-related and personal reasons though, that didn’t pan out as I had hoped, and I too have been seriously contemplating leaving this area to return home (I miss the greater abundance of Nature there, and it would be much more affordable to find my own patch of land, besides being closer to old friends and family).

    I know how much you have invested in your land and community here, and it is sad to see you go. At the same time though, I’m happy for you since I can sense that you have a longing to return to PA and be closer to family. This is a great opportunity for you and I know your next chapter in life will be just as amazing as the last because you’re the one who’s writing it.

    I still wear that pendant you gave me when I attended one of your Crescent Birch Grove gatherings, and I have continued studying and practicing Druidry solitarily. I also think I’m ready to get together an application for AODA here in the near future!

    Sometimes I feel like Druidry is the only meaningful thing in my life right now, and I really don’t know how I could properly thank you for showing it to me. I’m really lucky to have had such an open and active teacher like you.

    I hope to still stay in touch by blog, at least 🙂 Congratulations, and happy journeying ahead! /|\

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Hey Donovan! I’m glad to hear from you :). I do miss seeing you–and have been wondering what you’ve been up to! I think you should always follow your heart (with guidance from your head) and if your heart is pulling you home, then maybe that’s where you will be at some point in the future! If you do decide to join AODA, the grove can do an initiation for you before I leave! We should get lunch or something before I go–send me an email and we’ll talk!

  21. Willowcrow , I have spent the last twenty years working and living on our land. I have spent so many hours on my knees weeding and planting. I too am an herbalist and grow the herbs here that I make medicines with. I feel like I am as much a part of the land here as the trees , the deer and the bees and butterflies also. I can only imagine how hard it must be to say goodbye. I am glad you found a good new job, and are leaving to go home, and not having to go to a strange place to start over. But it does sound like it will be an adventure, and it’s good that you’re excited to start a new chapter of your life.
    I just wanted to write and wish you many blessings for your journey home. I also am a practicing Druid, a member of ADF. One wonderful thing about being a Druid is we will always have the trees if we stick to settling in places with woodlands. May the Ancestors and the Nature Spirits of your homeland welcome you home, and may the gods bring you good fortune.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments and blessings, Niniann :). I would love to hear more about your land and your work with it! Blessings!

  22. Leeby Geeby Says:

    Wow. What an amazing space, it must have been hard to make that break. Although I can do a lot of healing work in the urban area where I am, the simple act of bringing people out and reintroducing them to natural space like the one you describe would be the best part of my work done.

  23. BrieAnn Says:

    Hello! I’ve just recently begun to explore the druid path and I found my way to your website. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far and will definitely be spending some time reading some more past entries. As someone who lives in Western PA, I just wanted to say Welcome!

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Awesome! Where in Western PA are you? I’m heading to Indiana, PA 🙂

      • BrieAnn Says:

        I’m in southern Butler County. So, it’s not right next door to where you’ll be, but it’s somewhat close. One of my favorite things about living here (apart from family and the memories of growing up here) are some of the great local parks. I hope you have the same in Indiana! (I’ve driven past it on 422, but haven’t ever really explored the area around there.)


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