You were the way I saw the World

Building a relationship, a true, nitty gritty, down to the bones relationship, is not easy. Nor is it immediate, always gratifying or automatic, especially once the honeymoon is over.

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Annual Sebastopol Parade.

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Finding a sense of home and place is a type of relationship building, more multi-faceted perhaps than the usual getting-to-know-you-ness between people. Or rather, getting to know place commands respect, patience and time, because the person you are getting to know is ancient, has a history you can barely comprehend, and comes from a big family. Also, you are not the first person to be in relationship to this place, so you can just forget about monogamy and instead you must work with your jealousy and displacement as you explore polyamory.

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First time.

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The concept of owning land is a funny one to me, given the inherent impossibility in owning a person unless we’re talking about slavery or captivity. Obviously, this is what land ownership often boils down to…the enslavement of land through destructive industrial agriculture or the imprisonment of space, surrounded by fences and no trespassin’ signs. Ownership can also be protection, as in the case of privately owned wildlife reserves, or national parks. However odd and difficult the topic may be, I currently am grappling with the dilemma of how to develop deep relationship to place when one’s station is temporary, when we are only passing through. We are transients on the Earth through default, and at some point we all leave. But while we are here, how do we commit ourselves to the bonds forged through delving deep, as a Non-Homeowner, without the shelter of the yard or the corner of the forest you can call your own, especially when the safety of a private container is required?

I have many favorite spots in the world, ones that don’t belong to me. But there are just a few that I belong to, and with one in particular, it is time to say goodbye.

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Lace Lichen

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Crane Creek, our new go-to spot.

We are currently in the last days of selling our home in Shasta County, a process that has been like the slow peeling of skin, and one I have already written about copiously on here. With ridiculous consistency, my experience upon setting foot on homeland this past weekend was one of validation, three dimensionality and acute missing-you-ness. I have faith in new beginnings, new connections that will deepen over time, but nothing…absolutely nothing…can compare with an old friend. The way I feel known and seen, and what I know and see, when I walk through the orchard and stand by the back fence, is incomparable to any other place and time. And I think, as a human-animal, as a child, overwhelmed by a volatile world, there was something very essential to being able to say This place is mine. Private ownership of place makes it feel safer (perhaps universally or perhaps just to me) to put down roots, and to open to the raw vulnerability of loving life. Fleeting, not-here-forever, life.

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I am tempted to couch my experience in philosophical, zen-ish platitudes, about the importance of meeting the starkness of impermanence with a warrior’s heart. Yet, I feel more honest in speaking from the grip as the yet-unenlightened. I agree with Mary Oliver when she said in her poem The Oak Tree at the Entrance to Blackwater Pond, What I loved, I mean, was that tree, tree of the moment, tree of my own sad, mortal heart. Because what feels important to say is that this is real, this love of home and land and place. The pain and grief inherent in saying goodbye, of leaving, of selling…is real.

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Storkbill

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Wavy Leaf Soap Plant

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Mystery fuzzy pods at Vulture Flats

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Another mystery. A lily I think. Any of my botany allies (Dolly? Mama Jax?) have a clue?

This weekend we go up north again, selling furniture, making trips to the Goodwill. My truck, Trixie-Belle, is up and running and in a surprising turn of events, I think we’ll be bringing her home. And would you listen to that…bringing her home. It might be a forced relocation, it may ring in my heart like an absolute lie, but my hope is that as we move our center of gravity, somehow, someway, someday I will be sitting beside Crane Creek with my daughter and I will laugh in sudden recognition and delight at the sense of familiarity, of being greeted like an old friend by water and stone.

In the meantime, I am turning my chest into a U-haul, or a Tardis (bigger on the inside) and filling it with the silhouette of that oak tree, that Tujhalo pine, the smell of my lilac bush, and the rest, the spirit and soul, I will graft onto my bones.

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My Black Locust

Last week I heard this poem on The Writer’s Almanac, and of course you know I cried,

ELEGY FOR A WALNUT TREE
by W.S. Merwin

Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world

It’s just true, this way of seeing, knowing, loving. There’s nothing more to say. Just to feel.

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13 thoughts on “You were the way I saw the World

  1. Oh, Mary. I feel for you, and I feel with you. Thank you for sharing all this with your vibrant honesty. It is so true, all of it… Seeing, knowing and feeling are one multifaceted experience.

    Expanding our hearts to contain it whole is the only way I found to embrace it, instead of being overwhelmed – and the living world around us is willing to help us do just that. Welcoming us into feeling at home wherever we are, even if we belong to some places for ever.

    xo

      1. Thank you for showing me the way in this amazing world of connectedness, Mary. Your perceptions shine clear and strong, and not just to my eyes. xo

  2. Oh! Your post came right after Milla’s in my reader and they just paired so well with each other — and so much with all the thoughts that were tumbling around my head when I was out in the woods today. I love the way you put it about places being people you build relationships with, and sometimes you get jealous of their past friends, it’s so true.

    And that stork bill photo is sheer gorgeousness.

    [p.s for Milla: if you happen to read this, I’ve been really enjoying your posts lately but for some reason Blogger won’t let me comment on several people’s blogs at the moment…. (annoying!) so I hope Mary doesn’t mind if I leave you a note here, since I found her via you 🙂 ]

    1. hi anna! absolutely understand and totes fine with me to leave milla a little message. i have had many the frustrating comment/blogger experiences. 🙂

      that stork bill photo was taken in early morning, after a light rain the night before. the whole ground was silver. xo

  3. I waited all day for my quiet moment, now, nursing my baby to sleep after Lucy is finally down, and I am glad that I gave this post the focus it required. Otherwise I may not have been moved to tears by THAT POEM. With your title, and your words, and thinking back on all the years now we too, as readers and friends, have gotten to know your Shasta county home and pictures of fern there on the rocks and creek bed, well all our hearts are breaking with yours sweet friend. With hope that Sonoma county will embrace you and your heart will be enraptured, I offer you heaps of loving energy tonight, understanding, and tears to water the earth and make new homes and old alive again. I am sorry for your loss, and I am feeling it.

    1. oh heather, you floor me everytime. you too, have this ability to reach right into the heart of people and hold them right where they need it the most. (i can only imagine how lucky your kids are in this regard!). tears. thank you.

  4. this is all so beautiful mary. your words, the pictures…i’m so sorry you have to go through this. i’ll be thinking of you this weekend. xo

    the photo of the lace lichen is amazing!

    1. thank you anne. i feel like i felt your prayerful spirit this weekend. oh and ps…I MISS YOU. i hope you and babe are thriving and loving.

  5. your blog identity photo is of you and leo. so sweet. I thought of you yesterday when watching ‘muscle shoals’- a documentary on the alabama recording studio. because of the amazing connection to land that is a main theme in the film. i think that’s why i thought of you. your new land, it’s as much a part of you as you let it be, right? this new place you root down in? i don’t know. i can’t imagine saying bye to a certain place forever. i don’t think you have to. i would never do that to arkansas. yet i own not an inch of land there. however, being born and raised there i feel as if i am that place. but it’s all very confusing.

    take care.

    1. “it’s all very confusing” is such the very best way to put it! i totally get what you’re saying and beyond the specific, i am forever a part of that place. but when it comes to the certain things, the finite beings, the particulars, it’s a true goodbye and thus so sad. i’ll check out that doc. love you h!

  6. oh…you were the way i saw the world.
    and i still see the world filtered through vistas of ponderosa pine, trekking down through the ferns to find the hound’s tongue before they faded, sitting on the hill and watching the sun set after another golden summer’s day, chasing steller’s jays from the plum trees.

    whenever i dream of myself at home, it takes place at the home of my childhood. if my parent’s were to *sell* i think the only thing i could do is just sit in a spot, or wander slowly, and try to suck in every trunk’s bark pattern and the slippery feel of pine needles and just know that in some way i mirror that landscape because it shaped me. and i know that perhaps that day will come sooner than later, because my dad is a self-employed aging man and the money’s hard to come by.

    your new creek friend will feel so good, fern will know it, be it.
    even the struggling swamps here outlying suburbia nestle my heart compassionately and i know i will miss those friends when i do leave.
    xo

    1. i think of you often, of those little suburban spaces that you root in, when i think about sourcing from place. i am so thankful you get it, and i hope that your pops and family are able to stay rooted in your own land for as long as possible.

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