Migiziwag (bald eagles) fly over my home often. If I’m lucky and paying attention, the neighborhood Aandegwag (crows) alert me to the presence of their enemy and I’m usually able to run outside to observe this beautiful and interesting interaction. But, if I’m inside and distracted by something other than my relationship to the natural world, I miss that opportunity. What’s important to note here is that the Migiziwag and Aandegwag don’t stop their activities just because I’m not observing. The life, the relationship, the beauty is always in motion, even if we aren’t paying attention.
Yesterday my love and I went on a walk in the mountains. It was a much needed walk. I took the opportunity to worship and build up that reciprocal relationship with our more-than-human-relatives. Many thoughts were in my mind when I started. Each thought turned to knowing that was radiating from my heart. Being in the presence of these relatives will do that for you. It was a much needed visit.
“Ceremonies large and small have the power to focus attention to a way of living awake in the world. The visible became invisible with the soil. It may have been a secondhand ceremony, but even through my confusion, I recognized that the earth drank it up as if it were right. The land knows you, even when you are lost.” – Robin Wall-Kimmerer “Braiding Sweetgrass”
I’m reminded of E. Richard Atleo’s words from “Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis“. In his chapter “The Nuu-chah-nulth Principle of Recognition” he says “The way a person walks in life is critical. Whether that walk is creative or destructive, helpful or disruptive, kind or unkind, depends on the choices that person makes in response to the demands of a seemingly polarized reality.”
I have learned to take care how I walk on the land. I will tell you, it’s not easy to always be present with how your feet land and where they land. But both aspects are equally important: where and how your feet land. We are called to be aware of what lies beneath the grass. The bones, the blood, the tears. More of us are awake to and aware of our connection to the land than perhaps have been awake for a long time. I hear it in voices of my friends and colleagues, even when their words are not able to fully express what they feel in their heart and soul.
When we are able to recognize the beauty in the relationship, the sovereignty in every living thing, we become more readily aware of how our feet land and where our feet land. We walk with more intention and a deeper respect for life. Each step brings us closer to a holistic way of being in the world.
“Native scholar Greg Cajete has written that in Indigenous ways of knowing, we understand a thing only when we understand it with all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion and spirit.” – Robin Wall-Kimmerer, “Braiding Sweetgrass”
I see that we are being called to remember and to remember well. That, as Cajete describes, we are becoming more open to engaging on all four levels of our being. Our relations have not forgotten us. We have also not forgotten our relations. The relationship has just gone dormant.
Not unlike the moss that grows on the summer oak and becomes dessicated when deprived of moisture, our relationship hasn’t been completely destroyed. When moisture is applied to the moss, it enlivens once again, and the relationship it shares with the summer oak is revived. (“Gathering Moss” Robin Wall Kimmerer) So it will go with our relationship to our more-than-human relatives.
Mr. Atleo speaks of a natural law whereby we can attain integrity of being, and thereby creating a virtuous relationship.
“The journey to attain integrity of being is a developmental process, a maturational process, and a process of discovering the integrative nature of creation.” (Principles of Tsawalk, Atleo)
As I learn to become an elder, I realize that my walk in the woods yesterday is now forever a piece of me, even when I may be distracted by the demands of a polarized reality. The water falls still run, even though I am not there to observe it with my eyes. The Devil’s Club and ferns are growing, minute by minute, fulfilling their role as members of the mountain community. I may not be observing with my eyes, but I can sense these things with my heart, because I have begun to nourish that reciprocal relationship. The heart that I spotted in the hills yesterday is imprinted on my heart.