One of the requirements for working through ADF’s Dedicant Path is to cultivate a sense of awareness and appreciation of the natural world. This awareness should come from multiple standpoints – the physical geography of the land, its ecological health, one’s spiritual and emotional connections to it – and serves not only to connect practitioners with their surroundings, but also to introduce them to the multitude of spirits that also call that land home. Rev. Michael Dangler’s homework for this week was to go out in nature, plop myself down, and just exist for an hour with some questions in mind. What did I see/hear/feel, physically and with my mind’s eye? How did I commune with the natural world around me, or did I at all? What was my overall impression of this experience?
I’m pleased to say that despite initial concerns, I was able to hold my concentration quite well. The first spot I picked was beneath a large oak tree that stands across the street from my campus job. I’m familiar with this oak; fall semester of last year I sat beneath him to study and offered him libations from my altar in the spring. I call him Bruce. (Yes, I’m one of those people who gives names to everything.) For about ten minutes I sat at his roots and enjoyed the scenery, watching his branches sway in the wind and thinking about the flow of energy through nature. Everything starts with the sun: plants, animals, fungi, micro-organisms, the resources and food made from living beings. A ball of light and gas impossibly far away is responsible for sustaining all life on this planet. Trees are almost like the gatekeepers of this energy, transforming sunlight into something that provides breath, food, and shelter to other organisms. And for living things, they live a long time. Not far from Bruce is the only tree left from the original seven oaks planted at the founding of the college in 1842. That tree was alive in the Civil War era; it’s more than 150 years old. And here I am feeling ancient and decrepit at 21.
As I’m contemplating these things, I start noticing that an awful lot of ants and related critters are getting quite friendly with me. This is where I admit to being a terrible Pagan and wishing death and destruction on the majority of the insect world. With the exception of mosquitoes and exceptionally large spiders I don’t act out this wish, but I fervently dislike most bugs nonetheless. They’re just… icky. And they crawl on me. And they’re gross – I mean, distracting to the cultivation of a meditative mindset. So I had to bid Bruce adieu and went to sit at a nearby bench instead. For nearly my entire hour I sat and watched, my phone off, my attention on the world around me (and the other insects which still decided to personally deliver salutations). I saw:
- A windfallen branch amongst small bushes
- A hawk (red-tailed?) flying just overhead with some snack in its talons
- A dog rolling around in the sun, getting belly rubs from her human
- Human noises (cars, landscaping machines, voices, air conditioners)
- Bird calls (though I could only make out a crow’s)
- Wind rustling through the leaves
- Connected and welcome
- Eager and curious
- A little bored and fidgety at the end
That last bit isn’t a surprise; I have problems sitting still without some form of electronic input, so the fact I lasted 50 minutes was a good sign to me. For the last 10, I remained on my bench and leafed through some field guides I’d checked out of the library.
I’ll be revisiting the theme of nature awareness throughout the DP. For the first time since I left for college, I’ll have access to one particular natural spot for an entire year. There are plenty of “pockets” of magical space on campus – maybe there’s a ley line nearby, or maybe the chi just flows particularly well through an area – that, if given the quiet attention they deserve, can serve as wonderful teachers. If the goal of my Druidry is to create and nurture relationships between myself and the Kindred, then learning to open up to the natural world is a good place to start.