Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Importance of Local Landscapes

Yesterday I was thinking I’d chop my response up into 2 posts. One on mythic Ireland and one on the Bay Area my Place. Now I think instead I’d like to write a more complex entry interweaving both of these instead. I don’t think I’ll come close to conveying my complex feelings towards these landscapes, but I try.

I’ve grown up and lived in the Bay Area my whole life. For most of it (all of it but 8 years, but I’m only 27 so that’s still a large chunk) has been in the East Bay. The hills, weather patterns, bay, ocean, flora and fauna are part of who I am. Not only have I paid more attention to them as I grew in my own paganism, but they are what inspired me into paganism. I can feel the land singing to me and I know how to tell the weather by smelling the wind. I know what order plants bloom in through the year. I know when to go hiking and where to see all sorts of beautiful landscapes, each different from the next. I’m tied to this land, much like people used to be tied to land, before we moved around all the time. I don’t feel my way is better; certainly, I would still like to live elsewhere – if only for the cheaper housing. But I feel I’ve been given a rare and special gift. Not just that I’ve lived in one geographical region for so long, but that I was interested enough to become emotionally invested in it and to learn the wheel of the year through all my senses, not just on a calendar. To drive home through rolling green hills with clefts and valleys filled with Oak trees, to see the willow trees at work bud their leaves, or to see goslings parade on the paths by the lake near my house, these sights bring me joy each day. They speak of magic and power that I often fear no one else pays attention to.

Oddly enough (or maybe not so odd) because of this intense connection to my own area, it’s been hard for me to connect to mythical Ireland. The land has much in common with my own area – mists, fogs, green rolling hills, massive Oak trees, large lakes, bays, and the ocean. Yet it’s still so different. When I think of mythical Ireland I overlay the landscapes in the Bay Area that most fit it. For example Point Reyes Seashore in Marin does windy grass landscapes by the ocean better than no other place I’ve ever been. It’s been through this connection to my own land that I’ve even begun to access the ideas, tropes, and feeling for mythical Ireland. My gods walk through land that looks suspiciously like Point Reyes or Mt. Diablo.

However, Irish myth is so caught up in place, as much or more than I am caught up in mine, that many of the events of the tales name places in Ireland. I often feel as if something is missing from my practice by not being more interested and drawn towards a mythic place that is more Ireland and less the Bay Area. I don’t feel any less connected to my gods, but I do wonder sometimes if I’m missing something by not investing more time into Ireland, mythical or not.

This post was inspired by the synchroblog going on.


Pitch313 said...

I was born in the North Bay, in Vallejo, and that's where I grew up.

Over here are rivers, wetland, and estuaries. Over there are hills, mountains, creeks, valleys. I could find my way around by looking for Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Diablo, Mt. St. Helena. And I could knda feel the moods of the place.

Mythical lands are, I think, different from lands where we grew up and live. And Ireland is a far ways from California, farther than just the miles. I didn't realize this until I watched a full moon rise over the Atlantic Ocean, and realizing that moon rising over the ocean was not where I came from. Ireland is where my forbearers came from, but California is where I come from.

Danielle said...

Thanks for commenting.

Mythic lands are different, and there is always a tension inside of me to remind me of this. Ireland is also a place of my Ancestors, but you're right, California is where I am from.

Sia said...

Lovely post,

As a Green Witch who grew up in California and lived in the Bay Area for many years, I can relate. My connection to the plants, trees, animals and land there was an intense blessing. Moving away was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I have found much to love here in Oregon, but it is different (oddly enough, I'm told it is a lot like Ireland) and I sometimes struggle to make the same intense connection, even though I am surrounded by so much natural beauty.

A part of me will always be in Northern California with the oaks, the valley grasses, the shore birds and the redwoods, even as I make our new home here among the firs, ferns and pines.

I find it is possible to love two places at once and I understand the celtic songs about love for home and loss a little bit better than I did before.

All good things,