I am contemplating the power of DNA connection to lands, especially when those lands have not been lived upon by the person carrying the DNA. Essentially, how can one feel Scottish without having ever lived on the land of Scotland? This path of query requires an ability to process thoughts outside of materialist philosophical bounds – where man is a machine and matter is the primary cause of consciousness.
Explaining to most people what I experience when focusing attention to the spirit world is no easy task. Often attempted and often failed, it’s difficult to explain the process of focusing one’s attention to see, hear, feel, contemplate and understand the subterranean and extra terrestrial. Though we all possess the ability to place ourselves in these ‘other’ spaces, most people don’t have an interest in attempting such things, so the difficulty of explaining is magnified. Still, I consider it a good investment to attempt to explain this process as I practice it, so that others might find their way to this experience as well. To my mind, this is part of the educational process of becoming a competent human being.
Lest anyone infer that I consider my facility with this practice extraordinary, let me assure, unequivocally, that I am still a novice. Any student who desires to become master must always remember to take on the work in the spirit of a novice. I will always be a novice.
In this moment, I am contemplating the terrestrial composition that my house sits upon. Beneath me lie the rocks, soil, clay, humus, crystals, water, critters, microbes, toxins, gasses, bones, blood, roots, seeds. All exist under my feet, which are dangling from my couch. I can sense their presence. Dark, cool, moist, hard, soft. Thriving with an essence of life different from life lived above.
I move my consciousness to the air – and I call to remembrance an experience of Eagle, gliding the air above me as I drove a stretch of road perched high above the Salish Sea, under the boughs of madrone, fir, cedar and alder. I feel the spirit of the air that day, cool and moist, radiating with light as it touched my skin.
This morning, the birdsong pulls my spirit outside the walls of my abode. I often hear the voices of the winged ones we heard when we visited Supai. That beautiful song of dove. Their songs are now part of my soul. I am transported there almost instantaneously. I remember the night sky seen from the lands of the Havasupai people and I can consciously connect to the stars that are now hidden by the presence of sunlight. It is good to remember that they are still there, even though not visible. The planets, the stars, the asteroids, the cosmic gelatin and dark matter of space.
Why does this matter? To my understanding, we are in a critical and difficult time on the planet. Some would consider this somewhat of an understatement. We must remember and comprehend history, to see that we are reliving the lessons, the trials and tribulations, that have remained constant throughout the ages of this world. Our ancestors and elders have traveled these roads. They have grappled with wicked problems similar to those with which we grapple. They have made choices and taken paths that are very similar to the paths and choices before us. We still have much to learn – and we will keep making the same choices if we continue to think with the same mindsets that created these wicked problems. We will continue to make the same mistakes if we don’t get outside ourselves a little bit, if we choose to ignore the lessons of our ancestors. We must do the work of finding the alternative paths and choices that are seen with the eye behind the eye, sense with the senses that run in our blood.
I believe we are in an age of unprecedented alchemical potential. One of Webster’s definitions for the word alchemical is: ‘an inexplicable or mysterious transmuting’. We must be willing to step into the inexplicable and mysterious, but we must do it with intentionality, grounded in relationship with the mysterious (as grounded as one can be), and with some facility for navigating the spaces in between the spaces, the liminal spaces, of our known lives. The alchemical potential is only as strong as those who bring their unique version of magic and power to the work.
So, to the topic of blood, bones and spirit.
How can one remember an identity associated to lands upon which they have never lived? This is a very important question as we learn to become competent human beings. There is a difference between accepting and adopting a piece of our identity and appropriating a cultural way of being that is not authentic. I refer to this as ‘being more of who I am, not trying to be someone I’m not’. People who live in Scotland do not take kindly to people claiming to be Scottish, having never lived on the lands. I appreciate their caution, yet I contend that it is still possible to identify as such if done in a way that takes Scottish identity seriously.
It is my belief that this is possible to embody ‘more of who we are’ through the genetic material of our bodies and their ancestral connections to the air, land and water. I have relatives who have lived on lands that I have never walked, whose bones and blood are part of those lands. Their genetic material is my genetic material. I feel connected to those lands without having ever stepped foot on the lands.
I have experienced this on several occasions in my life. When I was a young mother, peering out the window of my front door, seeing the sunset in the West and hearing it call to me, not knowing that I would find myself in the West within a few short years of hearing that call.
When I moved West, it took me a while to connect to the land. It happened one day while driving through the Cascades. As I navigated the curve right outside of Index, I was hit with an incredible sense of homecoming. At that point, the trees and rocks, the birds and the waters all revealed themselves to me in a way where I no longer sensed them only with my eyes and ears. I was able to sense them more deeply. From that point on, I could no longer simply refer to this land as just the place I lived. I could say that my spirit had come home. This land is the home of my maternal nimishoomis. His bones do not rest here, but he drew his first breath here and lived on these lands.
I hope to visit the lands of Ohio one day soon and connect to those lands. This is where my paternal nookomis and nimishoomis lived and where their bones rest.
I was blessed with an opportunity to visit the Niagara river, and I immediately had a sense of familiarity with nbi as she flowed over those lands. I was able to connect with her in a powerful way. Even now, I can conjure up my memory of her and connect almost immediately to her roaring and rumbling in real time. I do not know the names of my ancestors who are connected to that land, but I hear and feel them in the spaces that lie just outside my physical awareness.
This process of walking in the liminal spaces is not to be undertaken lightly and it must be approached with the highest intent of integrity. It requires humility and confidence. It requires an acceptance of one’s sovereignty, commingled with a willingness to be submissive. One may enter the work with a certain degree of weakness but it requires one’s commitment to becoming strong of character and spirit.
I will continue to explore these ideas of liminality and connection to land. It is my hope and belief that, in this work, we may find an ability to smooth out the jagged lines of separateness and instead strengthen the web of communion and familial togetherness. In this strengthening, as we become more competent human beings, our compassion will deepen. Our hearts will no longer observe the straight line between sovereignty and submissiveness, and instead will see it as a wavy line.
Here’s an image for you to contemplate: a straight river flows fast, a curved river flows slow.