The Druid's Garden

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

Coming Home July 16, 2017

Rocky shore of Maine at sunrise

Rocky shore of Maine at sunrise

My heart sings as I look out upon rocky shores where the clean waters meet the rising sun. I watch as the waves crash upon the bladderwrack-encrusted stones. Further inland, the land is vibrant, wild, and beautiful. The rivers and brooks rejoice as they cascade down from the mountains. The stones covered with lichen and mosses dripping with the recent rain. The lakes are so clear you can see 40 feet down. Visiting such pristine places are like a balm for my weary and tired druid heart. And yet, these wild places are not my home. The rocky coast of Maine is not the land of my blood and birth. Despite the singing in my soul, the healing and energy pouring into me from this beautiful landscape, I know I’m not home.

 

On my train trip back to Western Pennsylvania, my spirit grows heavy. I know that an invisible line exists between the states further north and my own state. In large parts Pennsylvania, including where I live, the land is far from pristine. Due to its richness in natural resources and lax environmental policy, it has been polluted, fracked, sprayed, and poisoned. This is an all-too familiar story for many such resource-rich places around the globe.

 

I know that once, that the Allegheny mountains sang in a way that the land still sings in the more remote and wild places I had just visited. Many centuries from now, it is likely that the Allegheny mountains will sing again after nature and humanity have done the necessary healing work. I have witnessed the potential of such healing in secret places, hidden places, places like an old growth Hemlock Grove that somehow was spared the destruction that ravaged these lands in the name of progress. I have also witnessed it in the regrowth of logged forests closer and dear to my heart.

 

However, knowing that nature can heal from widespread ecological destruction at a future point doesn’t change what I feel now, heavy. My heart is torn in two directions: both excited to be welcomed home by my beloved mountains and saddened to once again take up the burden of witnessing and living in these times. As the train rounds the famous Horseshoe curve outside of Altoona, I see new strip mines and logged areas appear since the last time I took the train several months ago. As the train nears my final destination of Johnstown, I feel the weight of the ongoing ecological destruction of my own home lands returning in full force. I am at ground zero: the extraction zone. This term that was told to me by residents of my area, friends who were working in envornmental activism for many years. It is, unfortunately, a fitting one. This is a place where the sacredness of nature is so far from the human mind, in part, due to the economic harsh realities.

 

Solastalgia is a term coined by Albreight et. al. that refers to the psychological distress caused by environmental damage. And the term fits well: there is a general distress (that is, depression, melancholia, powerlessness, hopelessness) that people sense when they see the environment around them being damaged, when they lose their sense of “home” because the “home” they knew is no longer there. The environment has been altered and damaged so much that it seems like an entirely different place, or the home site itself is gone due to mountaintop removal, strip mining or other tragedy. For someone who follows a path of nature spirituality and views the land as sacred, solastalgia isn’t just a psychological thing; it is a spiritual dilemma. One cannot only physically see the suffering of the land to experience solistalgia, but one can experience this energetically. It would be akin, perhaps, to someone burning down one’s church or mosque—an utter disregard for the sacredness and sanctity of life. A number of fellow druids who have visited me from other parts of the country have remarked on the “deadness” that is present here in what we call the telluric currents, that is, in the patterns of energy that run deeply within the land. This land’s deadness, from the many extraction activities, is particularly hard to those sensitive to such patterns. But I think, maybe on a semi-conscious level, the land is also hard on those who don’t have such sensitivities. There is a general “run-down” nature of folks around here, and it stems from many things, but I think this is one of them.

 

I grieve what has happened to these lands, but I don’t blame the people here who have sold their mineral rights or timber rights to prospectors in order to feed their families. Most who grew up in this region share a similar cultural ancestry—people who settled here did so because work was plentiful in an expanding industrialized economy that demanded timber, coal, and steel. I drive past the abandoned Bethlehem Steel Mills where my grandfathers worked. I drive past the old mines in the Alleghney ridges where my great grandfathers mined coal. They stripped the local forests bare to create support beams to keep the mine from caving in so they could go home to their families safely each day. This is where the old growth forests went. A century later, these minds, long abandoned, still pour acidic water into the streams, polluting them for hundreds of miles. The stripping and pillaging of this land, too, is part of my own ancestral heritage.

 

A typical AMD stream with no life

A typical AMD stream with no life

On my drive back from the train station, I lose count of how many conventional and deep injection/fracking wells I see. They dot the countryside, showing up in nearly every field and forest along the way. These wells are not only on private lands, but also on public lands, and so even a hike on a public trail puts you in close contact with them–there really is no escaping it. With a heavy heart, I think about the plans I and some friends have been making to possibly start an intentional community. It is devastating to be looking for land for a new home and see property after property with fracking wells, stinking of gas and toxins, pipes from each well under the skin of the earth. No mineral rights, they say. No timber rights, they say. The rights to these things long ago sold separate from the land, so land here is only for the surface and sometimes, even that has been sold as timber rights. After looking at everything available for the last few months, I’m not sure such a clean “refuge” exists. But maybe I will yet be surprised.

 

I say to myself: how could I live here and not be drained? How could I live here and not feel weary? How could I live here and not need a refuge? The solastalgia is certainly present, and acknowledging that and engaging in good self-care is certainly necessary.

 

But other questions, arise, as well. How could I live anywhere else when this is my home? How could I abandon this land when it has never abandoned me?  How could I leave when my own ancestors contributed to what is happening at present? I am not a powerless victim here. None of us are. We fight the hopelessness and despair with tools, knowledge, and spirituality. My path of druidry offers me tools to energetically heal the land and support my own self care. My knowledge as a permaculture designer gives me the tools to engage in physical healing and regeneration of the land.  I have everything I need to care for myself and for this land.

 

And so, as I round the last bend and come into the valley where Indiana, PA rests, I feel a growing sense of clarity, purpose, and vision. I might not be here forever, but I am here now, and I will continue to learn how to best respond and heal the land. I drive past the farm where I and some friends have been putting in a garden rooted in permaculture principles and hosting events. I drive past the community garden, a source of much light and activity in this community. I see a sign for an upcoming natural health fair. I think about our permaculture guild meeting this month, and the plant walks I’ll be hosting that will be full of people wanting to reconnect with nature. And my heart gets lighter.

 

And so, I must grow where I’m planted. Not wishing to be somewhere else, some distant rocky shore where the land is pristine and beautiful, not allowing the solistalgia to creep within my bones and lodge deeply in my heart. The pristine lands I visited were well loved, and that land has no need of someone with my knowledge and skills. But rather, I must be rooted in my own own heritage, be rooted in the lands where I live, be connected with my people who have done what was necessary to survive.

 

Hope

Hope

I can feel the blood of my ancestors flowing within me. They, too, know that it is time for this land to heal. They, too, knew the sadness of the crash of the ancient hemlocks, hickories, and pines. They, too, saw the tears of the river flowing as pollution made it too acidic to fish.  They planted apple trees and hoped for a better tomorrow. They too, wanted a better life for their children, and their children’s children, where black lung didn’t take them early and where they didn’t die of poisioning from the mills. Their spirits are here, in these lands, looking to set things right.

 

To those who are saddened by the deadness of the telluric currents and the raw destruction of the land present in this place and in so many other places, I say “go deeper.” To myself, in my tired and weary state, I say, “go deeper.” The magic of nature is still here, even if it is more hidden, more quiet, more still.  It waits. It has all the time in the world to wait. It is like the lichen, who can survive 100% desiccation. Lichen can literally survive the vacuum of space, being buried in a crypt for 500 years, living in the harshest and coldest places on earth, and yet still thrive when exposed to water and light. The lichen teach a powerful lesson of hope, of patience, and of nature’s incredible ability to heal all.

 

I, and others here, are finding ways to live, in the words of Wendell Berry, in this ruined place, renewing it, and enriching it. So that someday, the rivers will run clear as we will never know them, and someday, families will be singing in the fields while healthy forests once again stand. So that someday, this place will be sacred to all of those who live here again. The words of Wendell Berry resonate like an anthem deep within me. I realize there is still more work to do. The blood of my ancestors flowing within me, the land of my birth around me, the hope of a brighter future in front of me, I ready myself for the journey ahead.

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21 Responses to “Coming Home”

  1. heather Says:

    This. Recently Told the same thing for where I live by the Ancestors.

  2. I love this. And I believe this, too. But then I think, “What about climate change?” I don’t know how to deal with such a seemingly inevitable, scientifically proven, and so very catastrophic on every level – reality. In my heart, I believe there is so much about the spirit, consciousness, and healing ability of the Earth that we cannot say with absolute certainty that the planet cannot also heal from, and reverse, climate change. I believe that human’s have a very important, necessary, role in this, but must become aware of it, and share this awareness in ways that enable others to feel it too. But most people I know call this “magical thinking” and a symptom of denial. For me though, it’s the only thing that gives me hope, because logically, we’re doomed. I’m curious what your feelings are about this.

    • Dana Says:

      I am still working out my feelings and thoughts on the matter, but here’s what I have. Climate Change is nature’s response to what is happening. Nature responds, in her own way. We know that other rapidly rising C02 events were extremely destructive to life on earth. Yet those were “natural” events and did allow, over time, life to regenerate. We are living proof of that ability to regenerate. On the macro-scale then, it will heal. The question is, what will happen to us? To life and the diverse ecologies here? That’s the part that is scary to me. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do believe in the power of hope, of magic, and of healing.

  3. So there is a term for what I feel every single moment of every single day; of the grief I live with all the time. And unlike the grief of losing a human or even animal companion, it’s a grief that few understand or validate. The destruction of the environment — and the anticipation that most of the few remaining “live” places around me will be destroyed — has hurt my mind and heart for decades, becoming a chronic pain as difficult to manage as chronic physical pain.

    The Earth can recover from climate change or just about anything else, given time and space. If it can recover from asteroid strikes that killed off 98% of all living things, it can recover from us; but I’m not sure if it can recover from us in the presence of us.

    • Dana Says:

      I think it can recover from us in the presence of us, but only if we change our interaction and connect. We can be a force of good, of regeneration, of healing. ❤

  4. Thank you for this beautiful piece and for your love 💗 this hurts my heart, and yet I know, we must keep the spirit of the forest alive, everywhere.

    • Dana Says:

      Yes, exactly. We *must* help keep the spirit of nature, in all her wild and wonderful places, and even in her more tame ones, alive and well.

  5. Kelly Says:

    Beautiful and poignant. I feel it too, in the timberlands of Washington.

  6. Moony Says:

    I think instead of solastagia (thanks for introducing that word to us; it really captures how I feel when I see the environment being destroyed sometimes), the people I know in Singapore have a kind of ‘environmental apathy’ – not connecting to nature in a more holistic way, but instead seeing them merely as resources even when it’s all around us. And yet I feel as a race, humans forget how much nature has inspired not just art and literature, but also inventions and theories throughout history.

    • Dana Says:

      I think that there is environmental apathy too here. Especially when you grew up in an area that is already damaged–the rivers have seemingly always been yellow. Fishers and hunters know differently, of course, but the common folk don’t. I believe it is because we live *so* disconnected and don’t see nature as any kind of provider for us. Consumerism has distanced us. But that is starting to change, thankfully.

  7. laurabruno Says:

    Sending some Reiki and extra healing energy your way. Sorry my recent email was so joyful about place! I do know that feeling — although I never considered Goshen home, that kicked in the gut feeling of “how can I live here?” but “how can I not live here when the land is crying out for healing and I have the knowledge, tools and time?”but “how can I live here when it’s so depleting?”.

    In 2010, I spent 6 weeks in the boreal forests and waters around Thunder Bay, Ontario. Pristine trees, clear water, cliffs, clean air. On my flights back to Chicago, I bawled my eyes out, and it felt like part of my heart just died. I have never felt so rooted to the land as I did up there, and I’ve not experienced that level of grief leaving anywhere else before.

    Have you ever considered using orgone pucks? I found them so helpful in Goshen. Something about them being created largely from factory waste (metal filings) with a small crystal inside the resin seems to make them very powerful for mitigating industrial and electromagnetic abuse on and of the land. They shift the vibration so that it’s not as comfortable for those doing the damage to remain, and they function like place holders so that you don’t need to do all the energy work yourself, all the time. Once I added orgone to the mix of all my other permaculture, Reiki, Druidic and Faery work, I found it so much easier to be in that area. It creates a kind of force field, which yes, you can do with ritual and your mind, but I found it seemed to amplify and lock in everything else I did.

    I know other people who swear by orgone for transforming abused or crime ridden areas. I even have a blog reader who works testing water near Sacramento. During the drought, there was evidence of nano-aluminum majorly disrupting the aquatic life. Some people he knew started adding orgone up and down the West Coast, especially in the drought stricken areas. He had suspected chemtrails causing the nano-aluminum he was finding in fish. After the orgone project, the chemtrailing eased, the rains returned and the nano-aluminum situation resolved. Scientific testing, not just anecdotal. Anyway, it might be worth checking out, even though it’s a product. Here’s where I usually get mine: http://orgonia.bigcartel.com/

    Wishing you rejuvenation and continued success in your mission. Thank you for all you do and are.

    • Dana Says:

      Laura, Thanks for the words of support and encouragement. That was like it was–my heart was so light and free, it was like going back into the shadows of something else. It was a hard transition (I experienced the same thing going to Costa Rica for 14 days and then returning to the US!) But then, I realize, there is light here as well. The trees will hold me and keep me safe. I will check out the orgone for sure–I didn’t know a lot about it, but given how highly you speak of it, I will certainly take a look.

      • laurabruno Says:

        Yes, I was a skeptic about the orgone, but it’s very well researched. Wilhelm Reich was the pioneer. The orgonite or orgonia removes the need to dispose of the DOR (deadly orgone) and just seems to transform energies and then hold them in that positive state. 🙂

  8. A very powerful piece that really resonates with me. I fear for the beautiful wilderness areas I am experiencing right now, but at the same time I’m energised by them,

    • Dana Says:

      Hi Deb, I am so fearful as well, especially for what is happening in congress concerning our federal lands. But, yet, I have hope. ❤

  9. Reblogged this on Gentle Ignition and commented:
    I wept reading this. How strange! I haven’t done that for years.I hope you don’t mind if I archive this on GentleIgnition via reblogging?

    • Dana Says:

      Of course, feel free to archive it on GentleIgnition.

      This stuff certainly brings in many powerful emotions…thanks for reading.


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