As we make our way throughout the United States of America, I am reflective on the use and ownership of land- of the rigorous, insane (literally etymologically, unhealthy, unwhole) and whole sale theft and disrespect (can’t really find a fitting word strong enough for what actually took place) on the part of the pioneering and enterprising Europeans to the native groups of this land. Nearly everywhere we go there is the sorry story of some native group pillaged and removed from their homeland.
I feel a sense of loss for their vibrant and wise indigenous (of the land, of a place) cultures. Poignantly do I feel the absence of my own generational land-based heritage. Instead of being something intimately known and loved, land is a commodity, something to own.
There are two songs here that reflect well some thoughts/feelings I have journeying through this land, reflective on history. I want to share them here:
The Nightwatchman – Take Away My Name
Diane Cluck – Sylvania
Medicine for the People – My Country
2014, for us, started in Peru, in South America, which is, indigenously speaking, very related and in kinship with ancient native trade routes, customs and beliefs stretching all the way up to what is today North America. I cried many times then feeling the connection the people have with the land, with pachamama. In March, Ini and I went out to Massachusetts to pick up this veggie oil car we love and use so well. I distinctly recall sitting on the Boston Commons watching a squirrel scramble up trees, Unafraid of people or heights. The commemorative placeholders and memorials in that region are largely Patriarchal in heritage and remembrance. A very clearly delineated His-tory.
Then, an image of homesteading on an Appalachian mountainside. Fresh, cool mountain stream. Generations of people “eeking out a living” in this fertile land. At the local library, I read accounts from ancestors of people who neighbor the land we’re on who say, “Wake up, it’s time to hoe. After lunch, more hoeing. When I close my eyes I see corn and beans.” Their descendants now have a garden, yes with corn and beans, yet also with a motion-controlled radio to scare away deer. Living on the land is tough, they all seem to say. After a few months of dipping my hand in these waters, though refreshed by the mountain spring water, I realize I’m not quite ready to go “back to the land” in such a vigorous -or isolated- way quite yet.
So back to Indiana, my place of birth and raising. Will I follow the footsteps of my forebearers? Start a business, get a 9-5 working for the Man? I am not quite ready to start a large-scale alternative project to What Is. But we gotta eat, after all. Can’t live on idealism. Yet, the inner drive wants nothing to do with the machinations of my father. We do not see eye to eye; we hardly see the same world at all. Again, jumping the nest after touching base with the karma of birth, we are freebirds once again, taken by the travel.
Boulder, Colorado it is. Yet when we get there to meet some teachers who drew our attention, we find the land far commercialized from the initial hippy hay-day we heard it once was. No fodder for us, we continue on the travel. Well out of vegetable oil fuel for the car, we are now running mostly on the dinosaur bone and ancient fern slop that dictates the actions of so much of our warring and exploitive governmental system. It’s against our internal compass, but it’s “the way things are now.” We continue along on the highways, occasionally off-roading it, like so many others channeled and funneled along the main stream.
Yet we are not mainstream. For the first time in my life, I catch people stopping to stare at me, whispering about our rig (the car is full!) or possibly about me. I’m not really sure, but I feel the difference. And I continue to feel how far I’ve strayed from being a good daughter of the Patriarchy.
I am not loyal to my government or the mores of the cultures of this land. So much of it ain’t sitting pretty with me.
We continue on through the ancient dwellings of the Southwest, reaping inspiration each step of the way. Pueblos stretching across miles of desert aligned to star and moon, equinox and solstice. These people were in rhythm with the earth. Give me some of that old time living! And the living ancestors of the people of Canyon de Chelly, still farming and shepherding amid the deep canyon walls near the ancient petroglyphs of old. (And even these Navajos were originally removed from the canyon only to be allowed to return a few years later, most of them dead or ill, spirits sick.) So many times I catch wind of what the native peoples did (and at times still do) and I think, “That’s the way I want to live! How to do it this day in age of rentals and bills and impossibly expensive land?”
As Thoreau once said, perhaps the person who seems out of sync with the dominant culture is just marching to the beat of their own, privately heard drum. In the old days, this internal que could be called someone’s daemon, or creative spirit. Now the church, as in so many cases, has skewed the meanings of old words and daemon is too close to the evil in demon to be commonly employed, Yet it is this creative force which leads me into the future, into the bright realm of possibility, the unforeseen.
Now we are in California and I already, in some ways, feel “at home” again (though Ini and I have established a pretty good home on the road). The freedoms in the air of this most western point on the map are historical as well as current. Diversity is rich, as are alternative lifestyles and natural beauty.
I still don’t know where we’ll land for now; I remain curious about that. Until then, we continue following the trans-migrational rhythms of cyclical nomadics or seasonal workers from coast to coast.
So much of this country is in dire need of soul. And chances are it’s not going to be found on the TV. It’s so important that we can still see our night sky. It connects us Ineffably and magically with so much of what it means to be human. Spend more time outside. Breathe in the winds. Go hug a tree, really. Give thanks for water. Cities and waters are too often polluted. We need to start caring about the places we live, it’s our only way forward if we will pass on any beauty to our future generations. This is a message we so desperately need to hear, and the indigenous cultures, among other uprisings, have it.