Searching for the Sacred: Part V
By Molly Murfee
Dear Readers: What follows is an excerpt from my book in progress, The Adventure of Home. As the draft Prologue, it sets the stage for the foundational topics driving the ensuing adventures, saunters and ponderings. You may read Parts I & II here, and Parts II & IV here. This is the final installation in the series, Part V.
It is time to recreate our mythology.
We must turn off our screens, step away from our jobs and our shopping, put aside our overburdened day-timers. We must step out of our shelters and into the light and the dark, under summer’s sun and winter’s moon, into the flowing current, the rapids and eddies of the seasons, practice awareness and attention. Move in their undulating rhythms rather than the ones we impose, composed of false night, comfort and crippling expectations.
We must feel the land, put our hands on her heart and feel her steady pulse, our ears to her mouth and hear her breathing. Stop being so busy and just listen. Be still. Watch the weather. Where the wind comes from. Observe what they have to teach us.
Nestle in. Spend some time.
Get a field guide, like the paper one you hold in your hands and doesn’t need a wi fi connection or a plug, and look up some stuff. Like the birds flitting in the air where your thoughts reside. The plants whose exhalations sustain you. Ask old timers and elders what they see. Compare notes with your neighbor. The coyote and fox laying down pawprints in your alley at night. The mouse scratching at your walls. The raven that won’t shut up.
Whatever it is – get to know it. Call it by name. Like you would a friend, a member of the family, a part of the community.
Plant a garden. Anything. A row of lettuce, for example. One tomato plant. Learn what grows where you live and how to take care of it. How much it needs the rain and your responsiveness.
Walk around in the dark and untamed woods looking under leaves and needles. On the wild shoreline leading to the plunging depths of other worlds. Through the releasing expanse of an airy meadow. Find out what plants heal and which ones feed. Learn the body language of animals, how to hear the calm whispers of the trees, and the silent musings of stone.
Roust around on adventures. Climb peaks. Run rivers. Get hip deep in a swamp. Do whatever thing in your place makes your heart beat fast, your breath suck in. Scare yourself a little, push your comfort zones. There are jewels to be found here, but in the downy much too comfortable and safe, you will never find them.
Root around in your heritage. What were your great, great, great grandparents up to? And theirs. Check out the traditions and stories and mythologies of their ancestral lands. What worthy relics lie there? An orientation to the rhythm of light? A divinity for all life? An exuberance of celebration? A ritual steeped in metaphor?
Have a potluck where you play card games afterwards. Share what you learned of your roots. Pop over to someone’s house for tea. Have your babies, get married, fight and love. Rejoice and struggle. Bury and mourn your dead. Together.
Tell their stories – around campfires and dinner tables, on saunters, in sits. Find morals, question assumptions. Create an honoring for the non-human beings of this world through tradition and physical practice, even the smallest of ceremony. Return to places again and again. To seek refuge, seek guidance, make pleas, offer gratitude. Establish a relationship with the very palatable place spirit that has been hiding in plain sight in your midst.
We need to establish systems that show respect to the generations following us by leaving them an intact world. Where our sense of self comes not from what we have but how we have treated the earth and each other. Where our self is manifest as an extension of the land, reeking of the personality and pulse of it. Where our communities model after the communities of species already circling us.
The need for these actions has never been more evident. A culture living in respect for this earth and each other would not have such terrors as mass extinctions and global warming, war and prejudice and persecution, fatal diseases following the trail of toxic pollution in our water, soil and air.
This rebonding with place and people must be an intimate one, an intense one, a personal one, a collective one - an essential building block in recreating a new culture of stories and ritual containing a knowledge of and a sacred reverence for this land, helping us regain our cultural and spiritual sense of place.
And then perhaps, there will be a hundred years from now where those following in our footsteps do not have to envy Mt. Kailash in Tibet or the place where the Ute emerged on the Colorado Plateau. They too will have their own sacred lands, encompassed in story. They too will have a home.