Of a place

Every so often the Universe takes me on a thought-train ride. Do you understand what I mean by this? I encounter an idea or a passage of writing that captures me, and then for several days I keep finding the same idea everywhere I turn. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say the idea pulls me, leads me: here, then here, then over here, then deeper, deeper, deeper still. When this happens, you can practically hear a voice whispering, “Pay attention.”

This particular train ride started the other day when Theresa Kishkan described her writing. She said she writes about places she has loved,

“what they’ve meant as loci of interconnected histories. Relationships. How people are shaped by plant communities and vice versa. How stories are told and held in memory, not just our own but the earth’s. What is held in the layers of stone and sediments. How bird song is part of that. Pollen records. Grass distribution. The architecture of honeycomb.”

Photo source: morguefile, peachyqueen

Photo source: morguefile, peachyqueen

Theresa Kishkan’s words evoked Derrick Jensen, who writes about

“a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies,

Photo by Austin Ban

Photo by Austin Ban

of body on body,

Photo by Quino Al

Photo by Quino Al

wind on snow,

Photo by Jerome Prax

Photo by Jerome Prax

rain on trees,

Photo by Christopher

Photo by Christopher

wave on stone.

Photo by Luca Bravo

Photo by Luca Bravo

It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory.”

We have forgotten this language, Jensen says. We don’t even remember it exists.

Martin Shaw remembers it exists. It’s the language he speaks, a language composed of “slow words, words flushed deep with water and boulder vast.”

Shaw is the author of Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia (White Cloud Press, 2016) which, in his words, is a book about the dream time of Dartmoor—his home—a place he says is “not just mineral deposits and old bones, [but] the flank of a dreaming animal.”

(Watch the video promo for the book here. It’s lovely.)

In a time when we are all confronted daily with seemingly endless opportunities for “growth,” Shaw wanted depth. To go deep, he “effectively drew a chalk circle” encompassing about ten miles around the place where he lives, and said “these are the song-lines I will walk; these are the stories I will explore.”

Scatterlings tells what happened when he walked this land, when he listened to its stories, when he “walked out of this century altogether.” The stories he tells in Scatterlings “have the ghost-memory of when we were still caught in a deep courtship with the earth.”

Shaw says his book is a rallying cry to hold up the corner of the earth that has claimed you.

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Readers of this blog are familiar with the corner of the earth that claimed LW and me, fourteen years ago now. I’ve said that I came here to write a book, that I was lured by a story. My former teacher, Alan Hedley, cautioned me, when I was leaving Victoria to come here, not to rush into writing my book. (Alan, you’ll be glad to know I haven’t!) Wait, he said, until you are of the place and not just from it. Martin Shaw makes this same distinction about stories that are not just from a place, but of it.

“Of a place means that you are tuned, or listening, or in service to it. To be of a place is that moment where, for a brief pocket of time, you are the eyes of that place looking back on itself when it is pleased with itself. You’re no longer the landlord, but you are caught in a delightful stewardship and entanglement with that place.”

July_garden

“We’re not here for long,” says Martin Shaw. “We’re not. So find the place that has claimed you. Dig in.”

That’s what I’m doing today, this month, this year. I’m digging in.

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to “Of a place”

  1. carin

    I want to savour this… Simply beautiful, Leslie. The links that take us on your thought train… all of it, exquisite. And, yes, I know what you mean about the way things suddenly appear once we’re tapped into a ‘thing’, be it a thought, a mood, a need… I call it The Cedar Hedge theory. But it’s the same thing. The universe never fails to delight and amaze. Thank you for the loveliness you put out there.

    Reply
    • commatologist commatologist

      Thank you, Carin. I am really captivated by Martin Shaw, and I’m so looking forward to reading Scatterlings. Thanks for taking the time to follow the links. It’s lovely to have your company on the train ride.

      Reply
  2. theresa

    This is very beautiful. And that sense that one has walked out of a century altogether – so apt for whatever it is that happens. It takes time. To enter the stories, the lives that we are also part of, to do what we need to do to stay in place, it’s a life’s work. I look forward to your book.

    Reply
    • commatologist commatologist

      I love the idea that it’s a life’s work to stay in place. And I look forward to reading the one of yours I ordered yesterday, Winter Wren.

      Reply

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