Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘connection’

the sensual

The back garden is a carpet of bejeweled grass; each blade aquiver with droplets of dew.  The windows shine with condensation.   I open the door from the sun-room, and dozens of small birds scatter from the feeders.  I speak my normal greeting, “Good morning! Sorry to disturb.  I will only be a moment.”  The sky is a watercolor wash of gray and white. The air, chill and fresh. I pause as I head up the stone stairs to the barn.  I close my eyes and listen.

the Beara Peninsula : Cork

far distant tractor
bird
faint low of cattle
silence

This autumn and early winter have embodied stillness. While I witnessed some good storms, I most remember the uncanny silence.  Last year the trees in our garden were constant movement, as stormy winds danced over the ridge and buffeted our little stone house.  This year,  my attention is continually drawn to the quiet spaces.

the theoretic

In my last post I mentioned a nifty 10¢ word.  You may not remember it; in fact, you may not have watched the YouTube video about the word (which was linked at the bottom of my post).   Or, you may have.  I’ll remind you what it was: solastalgia.  It’s a term invented by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht to describe the sense of homesickness you have when you are still at home.

“How can you be  homesick when you’re still home?”

Good question.  In our technology-driven world, change happens quickly.  From one month to the next, buildings go up and what was once empty green space is paved over.  We innovate, building faster and more efficient toys that we chomp at the bit to play with.  Often we don’t entirely understand the consequences of our new toys, but they sure are fun and entertaining!  At the very least, they make our lives so much more convenient. Right?

the way home

When our Place changes in ways we don’t entirely like, in ways we feel an unidentifiable sense of wrongness about, it impacts us deeply, both emotionally and psychologically.  We feel sad, sometimes despondent and even angry.  This  is solastalgia in action.

When I returned to Texas, after my years of North American roaming, I decided to live in Austin.   I did not want to return to my rural home-town. It was, and is, an economically depressed area.  Once  abundant with small and medium-sized family farms (a way of life that  succumbed to market forces when I was still a girl), the area struggled to survive with limited industry, and offered few employment or social prospects.  Austin, on the other hand, with its liberal hippy vibe and robust arts scene, was just what a young rebel needed!

But while I was away, significant changes had occurred back home.  My parents had divorced, my grandmother  grown increasingly ill, and my father had – unbeknownst to me – sold the land his own forebears had worked so hard to tend.  Bit by bit, he had let the land go for housing development.  When I heard this, I  felt as if someone had stabbed me.  When I drove home to see it with my own eyes, I broke down in gut wrenching sobs.  Powerless.  Feeble.  I had no recourse, no way of changing what had been done to the enchanted land of my childhood.  No way of upending the houses that  now sprawled over fields and barns I once played in.  No  way of returning the other-than-human friends and loved ones of my youth.

The feeling we experience when we see yet another box store go up on land we love, or a dear tree friend felled because power lines get right-of-way, is solastalgia.  It is the profound sickness in the pit of our stomach that tells us something is terribly wrong in our world.  It was with this grief and anger that I began my relationship with Austin, Texas: a place of asphalt, constant noise, and the suffocating experience, common to all cities, of being watched (so speaks the introvert). Yet this place, this city with its hustle and bustle, was now home.

austin_hero

I have been fortunate; I have lived in some gorgeous remote (quiet) locations: from the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, to the great Smokies of Tennessee, to the deep wagon ruts of the westward trails through Nevada.  These places were very different from home, but they were all wild, and spoke a similar language to the creeks and fields of the Gulf coast plains.  I didn’t hear this language in Austin: at least, not at first.

In fact, during my first year in the city I suffered from numerous stress-related illnesses and gave up, escaping to a country hideaway 40 minutes outside of town.  But the Place wasn’t finished with me, and as these things often happen, I really wanted (or needed) to learn the language of Austin–the language of the human city.  So, within a few years I was back: in the heart of the city and learning how to find Place wherever I am–a journey that began with stillness.

Next week I will say more about this journey; which is convenient, because I will be in Austin for the holidays!

Do you struggle to find connection within the city? Have you experienced uncontrollable changes to your Place?

[originally published 12/13/2016]

Read Full Post »

It Begins….

Bantry Bay, West Cork

The road was steep, and I worried the brake would slip. I reminded myself that it held the last time I was there, which only prompted worry over the inevitable hill-start. We spilled out of the car reluctantly. It had begun to rain and the wind was fresh.  In other words—COLD. W.L. opened the boot to get our rain gear, K.L. began to unhook the Wee Síoge(my faery god-daughter), and I looked to the West, eager to see whether the rain was moving toward us or away. That’s when the sun peeked out from behind a grey veil, illuminating Bantry Bay in gold wash. The hills below were a carpet of russet and green; the water of the bay reflected a perfect path to the Honey Plain. I took a deep breath, and allowed myself to sink—into the land, into the generational line that spans millennia, and I smiled.

Does it get any more perfect?”

The brisk temperature and pelting rain shortened my reverie, and we quickly put on our rain jackets and boots. K strapped the Wee One snuggly to my back—you see, Little Miss had graced me with the honour! Now suited up, I led the way, my tour guide hat firmly pulled over my ears: past the gate and into the water-logged pasture. We were fairly far up the mountain and had a lovely view of the valley and surrounding hills. One distinctly marked low rise to our left was my landmark. I knew it to be aligned with the circle’s flat northern stone , and similarly shaped (an emerging theory regarding stone monuments wonders whether their upper surfaces were carved to mimic or reflect the surrounding landscape). I began to anticipate my friends’ response to what awaited them, and smiled again.

KealKill Stone Circle and Row

The first field was easy going. There was a good path that was only slightly muddy. We scaled the stile on the hedgerow one-by-one, taking care to avoid the thorn whips that snaked in between rungs.  Our emergence past the hedge and into the next pasture was greeted with an expanse of marsh land! Little clumps of grass floated in a watery reflection of cloud. Again, I led the way, searching out clumps that didn’t sink too readily. My advantage was wellies, my friends’ disadvantage was hiking boots.

Not far in I misstepped and water gushed into my boot. I struggled to pull my foot up, fighting to both keep my balance (baby on board) and keep my shoe on! There was a sense in that moment of being enveloped, and I felt a deep longing to roll in the mud. Behind me I heard a little shriek and knew K had encountered a similar problem. Tender step by tender step, watching the brown softness of earth beneath me, smelling the rich fecundity mingled with pungent manure (cows had roamed there recently), I made my way to the rise of the hill. Looming before us was the stone circle, with its majestic two-stone row and radial cairn. In the setting sun of a west Cork winter day, with muddy water soaking my feet, I breathed in the connection of Place.

…With Backstory

Hello! and welcome to the blog. This week you will meet each of us in turn, learn why we are interested in Place, and possibly glimpse where our musings and meanderings will lead. I am the Texan in the bunch. I grew-up on a family farm on the wide coastal plain of the Gulf and spent my youth roaming barefoot: a wild child with black feet and a mass of tangled brown hair. I now live in a 300 year-old stone cottage in the Avondhu region of East Cork, Ireland. In my back garden is a Neolithic standing stone, in the pasture behind the house is an Iron Age ring fort, and down the lane a Mesolithic burial mound: a very different place than the warm friend of my youth, or the lazy hazy groove of Austin (where I lived for a decade).

My relationship with Place began on the farm as I encountered wild and domesticated life, the solitude of the country, and the mental space afforded an only child. That relationship matured as I moved around the U.S., living in mostly rural environs, and finally ending up back in Austin—my first truly urban encounter. I struggled there to connect, not understanding how to find Place in a concrete jungle.

It was out of that conundrum that I began to qualify what Place meant to me.  I will be writing more about my deepening understanding of Solastalgia (Albrecht, 2010a), which helped me find meaning in my own disconnection, in future posts. As Gregory Bateson and many others have expressed, I believe our Western tendency to think of mind and nature as separate indicates a core level wound (I won’t go as far as calling it a flaw). Bateson (1972) once said, “…if Lake Erie is driven insane [by the dumping of human by-products], its insanity is incorporated in the larger system of [our] thoughts and experience.”

We are moving, however reluctantly, further into an urban, technological future of our own creation and away from the elemental forces that shaped our minds.  How we get back in touch with those forces and find our “heart’s ease” (Albrecht, 2010b)—our Place— is what interests me. I hope my musings here contribute in their way to a widening and important conversation within Paganism.

Albrecht, Glenn. (2010, May 22). ‪TEDxSydney 2010 was organised by General Thinking. Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/-GUGW8rOpLY

Albrecht, Glenn (2010). Solastalgia and the creation of new ways of living. In S. Pilgrim & J. Pretty (Eds.), Nature and Culture, Rebuilding Lost Connections (217-233). London:

Bateson, Gregory (1972). An Ecology Of Mind. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

[originally published 12/06/2012]

Read Full Post »

I have been writing at the new Patheos Pagan Chanel blog: A Sense of Place. It has taken me into a deeper exploration and understanding of my own connection to the geography around me, what constitutes “home”, and what various places mean to my spirituality and to my practice as a witch.

100_0065

the ring fort : Lissnabroc : Cork

Because it was such a sunny morning here in Cork, I went out for a run. As I passed the gate, leading into the pasture where the Ring Fort lives, I noticed a sigh. “blah, blah, Cork County Council…blah, blah…..planning permission for..blah, blah, ….a residential structure.”

What!?

The man who bought the pasture– from the family whose relations originally farmed it and lived in our stone house (that pasture had once been part of the farm belonging to the house we live in), a family whose relations had preserved the ring fort in tact (a fate not shared by two others on this ridge)–was now giving it to his daughter to build a new house. Right. Next. To. The. Ring.

46726-0906230725315520-l

the back pasture : my family farm : Wadsworth, Texas

Several things flooded my mind as I read the sign. First, that the new owners show an incredible lack of regard for folk tradition. In years past, no one in their right mind would have lived so near one of “their” dwellings (ring forts were seen as dwelling places of the Good Neighbors, and there were/are many prohibitions concerning them). This seeming lack of regard immediately had me concerned for the preservation and welfare of the ring. Secondly, I felt the trauma of losing my family farm all over again.

I am sure I have written here before about growing up on a farm in Texas. My experience of and deep connection with that Place forever shaped my present incarnation. Many times I have admitted that instead of human parents rearing me, it was actually the land. Nature herself, in all her forms, took a wild heathen thing, who used to run barefoot from sunup to sundown, and shaped her into the woman I am today. When my father got control of the farm, he sold it: bit by bit. While I know his actions were influenced by his Bi-Polar disorder, the loss devastated me.

So today, reading a simple white sign staked into the ground by the stone wall, I was struck once more with my own Solastalgia (Albrecht, 2010a): my own grief, pain, and trauma caused by the loss of Place. My post on Patheos this week was about snakes and sovereignty–specifically musing on the very local and immediate connection the ancient Irish kings had with Place. The right to rule, here in Ireland, was bestowed by a female agency and was intimately bound to the immediate environs of that tuath (The tuath was the basic unit of society and was based on kin grouping. At one time, there were up to 300 tuath in the country.). The king, then, was sovereign over his very specific Place–and nowhere else, as each tuath was independent (apart from occasional alliances, etc).

I no longer have a place. Uprooted and tossed on the wind, like many in western culture, I am a migrant. I am forced to carry my Place within me. This is both lonely and liberating. I learned, out of necessity and natural inclination, the tools to connect with my surroundings. These have served me well, as I have traveled–moving from place to place–the entirety of my adult life. And it occurred to me, reading the sign today and feeling the instant desire to flee so I don’t have to witness the infringement on the ring, that I’ve been running from deep connection my entire life.

Maybe we all do. In America, society has become disposable. Forces outside our immediate control have power and sway over our lives. So, whether due to economic or political forces, many are compelled into a migrant lifestyle, seeking work or fleeing destruction (another shopping mall or parking lot, anyone?). In ages past, we were subject to the power of a chieftain or tribal ruler. But at least that king was kin, and his domain–our domain–the same Place our ancestors had lived, perhaps for millennia.

a village by the sea : Ireland

a village by the sea : Ireland

Now market forces rule, and kingship is given to the profit margin.

I hurt…and because I can’t bear the loss of another Place, I will migrate once again. My face is turned toward the city. It seems my Fate is intimately bound with it. My academic interests include the psychological stress of urbanisation. It seems fitting, doesn’t it?

References:

Albrecht, Glenn. (2010, May 22). ‪TEDxSydney 2010 was organised by General Thinking. Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/-GUGW8rOpLY

Read Full Post »