High Summer

Teaching-RoadHeat and humidity have settled in for the week, and severe storms are rumbling around just to our south. The Air Conditioning in our office is overwhelmed and the office is steamy.  In the fields, many species of wildflowers are blooming. This is high summer in Vermont.

One of the plants that came into bloom this week is St. John’s Wort, a traditional marker of mid-summer as it is often abundant in late July. It has an extensive history of use as a medicinal plant in Europe and North America.  The milkweed and mullein are also blooming. Milkweed is the prime food for Monarch butterflies, and it’s decline in much of North America has been linked to the decimation of Monarch populations. Increasingly, we see milkweed being added to local perennial gardens.

I’ve been thinking about the many ways that, for Indigenous people, the ecological is both spiritual and political. We arose from the land; one can say the landscape sang us into being. We came into this new world through springs, caves, or other exits from the interior. We are made of the soil, water, and air of our birthplaces, and of the places we now reside. We cannot separate ourselves from the landscapes we inhabit. We are every plant, animal, rock, or weather that lives here, that has abode in this place. It has been so for many thousands of years.

At the same time, we are separate beings, each with our own path and destiny. We each, every single being and landscape, desire our lives; we want to live. We are united by interconnected molecules and by our hunger for life. We are each priceless, and to take a life is an act of great importance. That mosquito I swatted last night desires life as fiercely as do I.

We live in a time when people prefer to forget our interdependence with all creation. We imagine our extirpation of hundreds of thousands of species has no effect on us. Yet we also know deep within ourselves that a world without Monarchs, or song birds, or bees, is a world filled with grief. We know our lives are reduced by the death of each species, our knowledge and experience of kinship and companionship diminished. I have witnessed the erosion of our relational world in my lifetime, and in my children’s lifetimes.

Given this, one must not be surprised when Indigenous people around the world stand up to corporate and governmental attempts to steal Native lands and destroy whole ecosystems. The destruction of the Earth is a direct assault on Indigenous people. The Earth is our mother and our church. The great weathers are kindred spirits. The plants and animals are our soul partners, holding equal right to life and happiness. We realize that to take another life, even out of necessity, has import. Destroying entire species and ecosystems is evil.

Where an Indigenous person stands is sacred, because all Earth is scared. Yet it is also true that for each tribe or band, some places are more sacred than others. Our lives, our spirituality, and the stories and ancestors that make us who we are arose from our sacred landscapes. This is simply the way it is. We desire to honor our Mother Earth and the sacred places of all people. This remains a spiritual task, and in a world of greed, a political and cultural necessity.


23 thoughts on “High Summer

    1. Vera, this is something my Australian friends taught me. I have come to love it, too, and to realize it fits our North American experience perfectly. It is a blessing to be sung into being by the landscape and the ancestors.

      1. Vera, It often seems to me the teachings really have the same roots. That said, I like your side by side metaphor more. It seems so very respectful of both similarity and difference.

  1. Reblogged this on wild rice dreams and commented:
    “I’ve been thinking about the many ways that, for Indigenous people, the ecological is both spiritual and political. We arose from the land; one can say the landscape sung us into being.”

    The land and water is always on my mind, thoughts, prayers, songs. And my fellow human beings, I sit here and have to wonder why so many have abandoned what makes us human – our empathy, compassion, and love (there are more positive and negative attributes but these three are some of our best qualities).

    Reblogging this post from “Dreaming the World” and my fellow blogger, Michael Watson. Enjoy the read.

  2. thank you for saying these things. i echo them ❤ . and this is sheer beauty, "one can say the landscape sung us into being."

  3. I love the sense of connection you evoke. I get that kind of feeling when I am out outdoors, walking the land, but not that I am ‘living’ it in any authentic kind of way. I feel I’m missing out-posts such as yours call me back.

    1. Hi Andy. Perhaps it is just practice. Living our indoor lives makes it challenging to keep connected with the Natural world. No judgements, just practice I think.

  4. Hi Michael. I love this post. A beautiful reminder of how everyone…every THING, every animal…is CONNECTED. The harm we cause…whether it be to others or the mosquito you mentioned or to the sacred earth, it impacts us…personally. People who create destruction with their words and actions and disregard do not honor this sacred connection. I love that you bring this to the forefront in this post (and all others 🙂 ) Thank you…you have put me a loving mindset to care for everyone and everything I come in contact with on this beautiful day. Blessitude ❤

    1. Lorrie, I am glad my words have touched you. That is rewarding. I am grateful to you for sharing your thoughts with me. This work of caring and loving is difficult work. The elders of my youth never suggested it was easy; indeed, I think they were amuse (if not horrified) at my ideas about the ease of loving. Only as an elder myself have I fully appreciated the immensity of the challenge.

      Yes, it is a lovely day! We are so very blessed to witness it. blessings!

      1. Yes Michael…I agree. It is an immense challenge…but even through the difficulties of it I have never felt more alive and fulfilled and content knowing that I am finally on the right path. Love to you Michael. Hope Arthur wasn’t too destructive where you are. He skirted us in NJ…and today looks to be another fantastic day!! ❤

  5. Yes! Songlines are important to Aboriginal culture. In traditional times, they were the transmission of knowledge through song and dance and story and art, for survival. This is a very harsh landscape and how people survived here for 60,000+ years is testament to their ingenuity and determination.

    I think that the term “songlines” came into popular use through the British writer Bruce Chatwin and his 1986 book ‘The Songlines’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Songlines). I hadn’t heard it used before then.

    Our songlines have been erased or broken, and there are people now who are working hard to try and piece them together. Much of that piecing together has been aided by caring and diligent whitefellas who took the time to learn about Indigenous Culture and Language and write it down.

    I met a young woman this week who knows her family group’s stories and totems. She knows her Culture and her family history. She can read the scarred trees and tell you what type of food is about. She can read the land. She participates in women’s business and gains more knowledge with each ceremony.

    It was both wonderful and sad to have met her. Wonderful that she knows so much and is receiving and participating in Culture. Sad that many Indigenous people fumble around trying to regain something of what has been lost to them, many not even knowing which clan they are from. As one of my Aboriginal colleagues said to me after a trip to Uluru – the Elders called her one of the “lost people”.

      1. Of course!

        Your posts always make me think and reflect.

        Your blog serves to bring me to the center.

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