Alright. A mixed bag today.
First a quote to remind us all the flux of observation, and the fallibility of any final conclusion:
A memory from a hike on the south coast of Java: It is a sweltering hot day, yet a strong wind is clearly stirring the branches and leaves of some trees across the field. As I step toward those trees, the wind rustling the leaves abruptly metamorphoses into a bunch of monkeys foraging for food among the branches. -David Abram
So deal with it. And get more dirt-time, Trackers!
The Okanagan word for “our place on the land” and “our language” is the same. We think of our language as the language of the land. The way we survived is to speak the language that the land offered us as its teachings. To know all the plants, animals, seasons, and geography is to construct language for them.
We also refer to the land and our bodies with the same root syllable. The soil, the water, the air, and all the other life forms contributed parts to be our flesh. We are our land/place. Not to know and to celebrate this is to be without language and without land. It is to be displaced.
To speak then means to embody the land.
I see how family is subverted by the scattering of members over the face of the globe. I cannot imagine how this could be family, and I ask what replaces it if the generations do not anchor to each other. I see that my being is present in this generation and in our future ones, just as the generations of the past speak to me through stories. I know that community is made up of extended families moving together over the landscape of time, through generations converging and dividing like a cell while remaining essentially the same as community. I see that in sustainable societies, extended family and community are inseparable.
Family doesn’t just mean some virtuous idea, or thing we should do; Family means our very survival. We die without Family. Painfully. Suicidially.
I know what it feels like to be an endangered species on my land, to see the land dying with us. It is my body that is being torn, deforested, and poisoned by “development.” Every fish, plant, insect, bird, and animal that disappears is part of me dying. I know all their names, and I touch them with my spirit. I feel it every day, as my grandmother and my father did.
For those of you who don’t understand Derrick Jensen’s message, this should clarify it: do not abstract your relationship with the land you live on right now. Someone who poisons it, poisons you, as surely as putting cyanide in your cup of tea. Someone who tears it, to build or to quarry stone, tears you just as surely as someone knifing your body.
I hear sometimes from people who think seeing the land as one’s own body means creating or breathing life into an abstraction, something that doesn’t exist. I demand that we see it differently, grounded in reality; we abstract when we disconnect, not when we connect. We cannot live without air. We cannot live without water. The living land succumbs to a gangrenous wasting, wherever civilization touches it. Thus destroying us.
Cast out the idea that a connection to the land means something unreal; cast out the idea of it as an other. The inseparability of your body, my body, from the land and each other, could not possibly have more weighty physical reality than it already does. It creates reality.
We can do no more powerful act than maintaining a conscious awareness of living and dying with the land and our families, and taking this fully into our bodies.