This Year’s Travels Across the US: History, Herstory, the Land’s Story

rainbow above the grand canyon

rainbow above the grand canyon

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
and
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.

wrenini

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.

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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.

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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?”

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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.

earth-child-woman-lover

I am not Navaho. Duh, anyone can see that. I am white. And what is my inheritance? Is it being able to read the wind in the trees? Knowing I sprung from the earth like so many mushrooms?

My plight is not the plight of so many Navahos today. Rich dad poor dad, learn the rules of the game. How to win. From birth, given the rich white mindset of entitlement, of the oppressor. I am given inherent privilege that cannot be won, lost or stolen and taught independence and one up manship. My inheritance says, Always go into business alone. You can’t trust people. Those streets aren’t safe. It isn’t safe to be a woman. God only thinks its cool if men lead and speak in church, and are heads of the households. Those people are poor because they are lazy.

And, to top off all of these shenanigans, This is just the way all these things are.

But I want the inheritance of understanding the wind, reading a rock, presence, intimacy with the external world instead of domination over it. The wind in my hair, the earth in my toes, my heart open, understanding of oneness. I do not want to be Navaho, but I do want to be earth-child-woman-lover.

So I went out and got myself a turtle rainbow family. I learned to trust people and absorbed the old wisdoms that people who live close to the earth and store potatoes know.

Now I am earth bridge spirit walker. Like all of us could be, sprung from this same earth like so many mushrooms. Human at last. My inheritance formidable.

thoughts on our collective evolution

Humankind as a whole is in a huge mess right now.

We’re out of step with the place we live.

We need to make major changes in the way we do business. We’ve heard, even scientifically proven now, that global warming is real and human influenced, yet why isn’t our behavior changing in the face of these necessary shifts?

Think of human kind like a great organism. It’s impersonal; it moves around based on the mass of its thoughts. In this way it’s like a well run riverbed. The mass of human thoughts dictate the direction of the rut that is formed. It’s impersonal. This is what we call the mainstream and in the past, it has taken about 30-40 years to incorporate the leading edge. An organism this big takes time to change its course- imagine rerouting the mighty Colorado river, for example- it would take a lot of energy to shift the inertia.

Yet all of the signs point to _We must change if there is going to be the continuance of human life on this planet_. We are not living in step with our environment and we may be thrown off the back of momma earth like so many fleas on a shrugging gorilla.

A lot of this has to do with our current religious paradigms which perceive humankind as “something other than or above the earth”- when in reality we are highly evolved self reflective consciousnesses of the earth itself. We are the earth- thinking in our human way. No separation there- think of human beings as the earth arms thinking and feeling and observing, reflecting on what is. Our body a hologram of what is around us (patterns of streams in our blood).

Media, the Internet, books, television all play a part in deciding where that collective consciousness goes. Yet there’s a small voice inside of us which leads us toward evolution. It’s the voice of the intuition, the instinct, perhaps the “voice of god or goddess” to some. This voice and our emotional feedback loops (pain, happiness, fulfillment, alignment) all lead us forward.

Entheogens (literally within-god; plant medicines like psychedelic cacti, leaves, roots and fungi) have been an extraordinarily important part of my path now, as well as being and sleeping outside. Any contact with nature is good. Eating nature in the form of the entheogen and taking its consciousness on for a time is a very fast and efficient path toward evolution. These open doors and can perhaps expedite or illuminate our evolving paths. But be careful, you may be pushed to start exceedingly more and more thinking for yourself after these experiences. It may not be as easy to fit into the mainstream after these awakenings. This can feel dangerous and perhaps it is, to the status quo, external and propped up within our internalized paradigms.

While culture, the collective mind would have you be stuck in stasis, in the flow of survival and the current “way things are”- its incredibly important that you listen to your own voice stream now. That’s how we shift and evolve.

The outliers must lead. They must use the media sources and Internet especially so that many people can catch wind of the hints of evolution. In this way, perhaps the main stream can shift in 10-20 years instead of taking the 30-40 it took before. If it is evolution, people will feel a resonance. The right people are looking for these words for it is our biological and holistically encrypted imperative to evolve, to take part in the evolvement of our species.

the mood for today: a soft breeze at the back door

If you could paint your current mood onto a canvas, what would that painting look like? What would it depict?

a soft breeze enters through the back door. you’ve been outside all day & the skin of your soles is covered with dirt. it is black and the hairs on your ankles are covered with dirt too after getting sweaty and attracting particulates that’ve gotten stuck. the gentle breeze caresses your chin; you feel its smooth demeanor on your lips. this wind feels like a kiss. and you, with your black-bottomed feet, hairy ankles and wind-kissed lips are a girl who does not shave, you are a person who believes in dirt, you are a person making love with life, a person who lets life have its way with you. you can have this mood any time that you want. you are alive & present to the earth. you are the earth & you know this in your bones, feel it coursing through your veins, celebrate it with your mind & heart. you are a child of the earth and your every cell knows this as true.

Respect is a Yes! beforehand

lately i’ve been searching the web to uncover more about what it means to be an herbalisti’ve been watching youtube videos, reading articles, looking at schools and perusing mentor profiles and specialties to see what’s out there. if you know me at all, you know i love plants! and i am enamored with the healing potential of plants in their relationship with humans. i’ve been pursuing this path (even unknowingly) for the last 5 years. as i am searching the web, of course i stumble upon the wise woman university website and start perusing the mentor offerings.

i follow my intuition in life; that mysterious inner guiding principle available to us all trusting that it will take me where i need to go. growing it stronger through practice. today i felt attracted to one woman’s offerings so i started to read her poetry. this one in particular touched me (found here),

“DID SHE SAY YES?

And did you ask her permission
As you poured thick slabs of concrete
Upon her fertile belly, kissed by the sun for aeons?
And did she answer, “Yes, of course I don’t mind, do as you will”

And did you ask, “May I?”
As you ripped ancient trees from her deep forests
Tearing their roots from her abundant womb
Where they long gathered sustenance from her underworld realm

And did you ask, “Is it alright if we pollute your sparkling rivers,
The flowing veins shining between your loins?”
And did she answer, “Yes, go ahead, I don’t care
I don’t need them”

And did you ask her permission
To trespass upon this sacred home of your belonging
Your beloved Earth
Who gives you so much?

And did you say, “Thank you!”
Falling to your knees in gratitude
Upon her verdant grass,
Her rich moist soil?

And did you say, “Sorry!”
For all you have taken
From this Mother Earth
Whose loving strength is your support?

And did you ask so gently
If you could touch her body,
The body of the Earth
In this way?

And did she open, yielding so softly, so sweetly to your axes,
Your bulldozers, your chainsaws, your bombs?
And did she surrender generously, without choice or complaint
To your greed, your plunder, your ignorance, your force?

And did she say, “Yes!””

~Roslyne Sophia Breillat © 2010


i see so much environmental disrespect as i travel through life. all of this that she brings up, i have seen. i have seen this happen to women’s bodies, too. i have felt the repercussions of this entitlement toward exploitation, toward possession: this thing is here for me, i should take it no matter the cost.

consent is an oft-used word these days. consent is an enthusiastic YES! in sex & relationship in the place of silence, or even at times NO! consent is changing how people communicate about sexuality & sharing themselves; how they relate to one another. i hope we can extend this conversation about consent to our relationship with our Mother Earth for we’ve been taking advantage of her body far too long without asking her first- is it okay if i take this from here? is it okay if i build this here? she is a living entity and deserves the same respect people do. time for a huge #paradigm shift. 

everyday magic of the herbs on the mound

today i cut lotsa stalks of oregano in my parent’s backyard. a few years ago when i was having a depressed time in my life, i had taken pieces of that oregano (& mint & thyme) over to another section of the backyard, one outside of the garden, called “the mound”. it’s called “the mound” cuz it’s a humped section with a few blank spaces on it, but filled with big lumbering pines. i also found an iron arch with two seats built into it on craigslist for about $20, if i remember correctly. i sanded that arch & spray painted it red. my mom was doing a master gardening course at the time & was learning how to start native plants & flowers from seed. she brought home some columbine & other flowers i can’t remember. today that’s where i harvested those herbs, enough for four large bundles worth, that i now am drying & will take with me, dehydrated, to sprinkle into soups & grains & vegetables. a little sprinkling of herbs is a great addition to a healthy diet. they add flavor & are a great source of nutrients // fresh or dried.

a few days ago, on father’s day, we also took a family picture on that mound which is wild with the yellow flowers of columbine, the sweet light purple shoots of thyme, the high vibrant stalks of oregano, yarrow my mom transplanted, mint, wood sorrel, wild strawberries. it’s a bright area in the backyard &, though i started it in a period of depression, it brings abundant fruits to many lives now (plus being a great place to take pictures!).

as i cut the herbs, i gave thanks for their simple beauty. many times i pass over common herbs, simply identifying them in my head & not seeing them for the wonderful, “everyday” blessings that they are. juliette de bairacli levy aka juliette of the herbs is a wonderful teacher in my life for living close with the earth, living simply & being in connection with the powerful “everyday” properties of herbs. sometimes life can get so “in my head” or “fast-paced” that i gloss over the simple gifts of herbs and artistic acts done even in times of depression, but this act of gathering & drying herbs today has reminded me of the ongoing nature of life, that even if our mood isn’t the best we can still create acts of beauty that can give & give to ourselves & others for years to come.

amid wild clovers

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Our first commissioned collection. It feels like such a gift… to me. Claudia, owner of a bulk food/herb/tea shop a town or two away wants us to collect lemon balm & red clover blossoms. Her parents are from Peru & as I am collecting the pink & lavender blossoms into the wicker basket, I am thinking of all of the cholitas (Peruvian women from rural areas still in traditional dress & engaged in indigenous wisdom and custom) who carted various herbs, vegetables, flowers from the campo (rural area). How they would bring their mantas (Andean woven textiles wrapped around the shoulders for carrying things in, like a sack) full of cosas (things), babies, extra clothes & food for the day at market and journey there and back. Many times they would simply unfurl their manta and make mounds of papas (potatoes), medicinal wild roots & leaves, and various other cosas on top of it resting on the earth.

 

How simple, transitory & divine those markets seemed. Those formidable women, sometimes so old it seemed as if they were carved out of the mountainside, sitting by their mounds from early early morning to late in the day – at times nodding off, chuckling with friends, imploring passersby to buy their cosas. And today I am doing the simplest act of pinching the spiked globes from atop wild clover plants.

Wild plants- how different they are in comparison to cultivated ones. The wild plants do not need me in the slightest. They offer a streamline connection straight to the source, our Great Mother Earth. They are feral & resilient &, in the case of clovers, packed with nutrients from deep in the soil.

 

I feel humbled as I pick these complex blossoms thinking of all the energy that went into their flourishing. I feel the abundance of the earth in such beauty, so freely offered streaming through my hand as I wander the mountainside finding patches beneath apple tree, beside blueberry bush, in swale & amid the wilder thickets of aster & ivy, locust & tall grasses. I feel humbled as I explore the land, basket in hand, feeling excitement pulse through me akin to how I felt as a youngin’ on an easter egg hunt.

 

I am here, we are here & I get to take part in the seasonal flowerings of wild plants – their harvest and distribution. I feel so blessed beyond rationale.