Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reading by lantern light

I read The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams during our late September stay amid the dark, burnished glory of Jay Cooke State Park.

It was drizzling and gray the three days we were there, but we were well tucked away into a snug cabin next to a wall made of jutting faces of dark slate, flanked by pines and quaking aspens.

I read into the dark by the light of the lantern.

The wind shivered the aspen leaves, and their soft, silvery clamor sounded like rain, too...even when it wasn't raining.

While we built a couple of soggy campfires and took a long, damp hike, we spent as many lovely, quiet hours reading.

St. Louis River

I've been reading books by women who are living and creating in dialogue with the landscape. Especially wise, powerful, authentic and flawed women who raise pointed questions, who challenge the status quo, who are willing to speak truth and take action for what they believe in.

I revere women like these. Their path-blazing inspires me in the best way. I am always seeking guru sisters and guru mothers and guru aunts, I think. Not of the same blood (though we are all related, really) but of like spirit and mind.

Which brings me back to The Hour of Land, which I recommend for lovers of wilderness and wildness and wild women. TTW's subject is Americans' relationship with our national parks. But her relationships, knowledge, curiosity and mind range wide as the continent, and The Hour of Land  is about far more than national parks.

It is about love, sacred rage, politics, right action and self knowledge.

It is about grief and beauty (are they always intertwined?). The sensate world. Wonder.

Terry Tempest Williams is a protector and a warrior. She, like many of us, is angry about destruction of the land, of our heritage, of beauty and quietude, of the rights of the people, the animals, the water and the earth itself.

"Our species is committing suicide—that is a choice—and in the process, we are causing others pain. Who cares? Who cares about this wilderness? This glorious indifference?"

"I keep thinking the essential gesture is to act, to respond, to remain true to our core beliefs, and not to be afraid to give voice to our anger. For me, the danger is silence and it multiplies into complacency and consent. My question remains, how do we take our anger and transform it into sacred rage?"

"Our institutions and agencies are no longer working for us. It is time to reimagine our public lands as sanctuaries, refuges, and sacred lands. Time to rethink what is acceptable and what is not."


"Wilderness is not my leisure or my recreation. It is my sanity." 

 "We believe in more, more possessions, more power, more war. Anywhere, everywhere our advance of aggression continues. My aggression toward myself is the first war...Wilderness is an antidote to the war within ourselves."

"The time has come for acts of reverence and restraint on behalf of the Earth. We have arrived at the Hour of Land." 

This quote from Darnell Davis, a Blackfeet elder, brought tears: "The last best place is our first place."

The land of the first Americans was, and is, their everything. And they have always understood this in a way that far, far too many other Americans do not.

They know this land as a deeply loved and intimately known Home. As the source of nurturing Food. Powerful Medicine. Meaningful Work. Sacred refuge and source of spirit. As a Place of ritual and worship. A Place of Story and Wonder. A Place of memory, birth, death, ancestors. A Place of Blessing, also Home to All Our Relations: Bison, deer, wolf, moose, salmon, fox, raven, eagle.

A Place to tend to and shape, renew and care for. A Place to love and honor like a father, a mother, a child, a beloved. A Place to hold the People forever in the cup of its hand.

This land is a place worth protecting, worth our love, worth fighting for. Even if who we are fighting is our own institutions, our own agencies, our own police and military, our own government who is not listening to our voices.

There is no one and nothing more important than this planet on which we dwell. We ARE the land, and the land is us. The people are right to say Water Is Life. The Land Is Life. It is that simple, and that enormous.

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