30 Days for the Land: Prologue

GreensburgSunset

My photo of Greensburg as seen from the hill at St. Clair Park near sunset.

As you may have gathered through intermittent posts since last October, it’s been a very difficult year for me. I’ve gone through a lot of painful changes and losses, and struggled to rebuild myself and my life. Thanks to my hard work, the support of a select few very loving people in my life, and the blessings of the Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits, I’ve been able to come a very long way.

Recently, I’ve been on the road a lot, and my tendency is to contemplate things as I drive. I think so much better when I’m occupied with something, like driving, walking, tatting, knitting, or even showering. One day, while heading down the Turnpike, my mind turned to some of my recent grief. I sighed, resigned to spending the rest of the journey preoccupied with my sorrow, as had happened already quite a few times before.

But then something incredible happened.

The land seemed to expand around me, becoming bigger and bigger, older and older. It swept me up and took me in, and I couldn’t help but to be dwarfed by its immensity. Its age. The way it holds all the bones of my ancestors, who have lived in the part of the world where I was born for some 300 years. The way it holds the People I serve, the Ancestor Birds, as well as all the ancestors of every animal and plant, and all the people who have ever lived. The way it holds all the events of history that we have ever known, and all those humanity has forgotten, and all that happened before we were even here.

roadcut

Some of the layers of rock by the highway leading to Pittsburgh.

As this incredible immensity enfolded me, I felt my troubles retreating. Every pain I have ever felt has been witnessed by the land. Every sorrow I thought I’d never survive has taken place here, and every time that I’ve pulled through, I’ve been here. Even this terrible year is just one in a life that started long before, and will hopefully go on long after. And all of that together is just a breeze passing by compared to this enormous land that was holding me and soothing me like a child, yet without words or even particular emotions. I just felt an indescribable sense of relief as the very big, very strong, very old land, a piece of the very small corner of the world I have lived in my entire life, lifted the pain off my shoulders, off my heart.

It’s hard to decide if I have ever felt as grateful as I did at that moment. I decided right then that I needed to do something to honor the land spirits and show my gratitude, and even more importantly, strengthen our relationship in a tangible way.

This has taken the form of my 30 Days for the Land project. I have taken inspiration from other 30 day projects devoted to different deities and such. The rules I’m laying out for myself are simple: I’m going to make a physical offering of some kind to my local land every day for 30 consecutive days, beginning September 1st, and I’m going to blog about the experience. I’m defining local land primarily as my hometown of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, my home county, Westmoreland, and the surrounding areas that I travel to regularly in the course of my day-to-day life. I’ll make specific offerings as I feel moved to during the month. In my posts about this project, I plan on talking about some of the personal aspects of the experience, the significance of the land and land spirits, Wichde, in Urglaawe, and also things that I love and find interesting about where I am from.

In preparation for this project, I’ve obtained some offering items, including handmade incense, bread, eggs, and alcohol–I chose some Redd’s Apple Ale just because I’m fond of it, and because the more traditional offering, mead, is not easy to come by where I live. (Pennsylvania has some very strange liquor laws that are changing at roughly the speed of a sleeping sloth.) I generally follow the guideline that I offer the same quality of item I would use myself or serve to guests, so a beverage or food item I greatly enjoy is something I would consider an appropriate offering, at least until the Spirits Themselves indicate other preferences. It was really important to me that I give physical offerings for this project because I want to get out of my head and into physical practice. I definitely spend too much time reading and thinking and planning, and not nearly enough getting hands on! I also wanted it to be very clear-cut as to whether I had met my goal for the day: have I made an offering? If yes, great, if no, time to get on it!

carvedfishI’ve also been coming across some animal and plant allies to help me with this experience who are native to where I live. The first of these, brook trout, actually showed up as a hand carved fish at the county fair last week. It practically leapt up and declared its intention to be a spirit house. One of the characteristics of my home county is that there’s lots of water here. We get steady rainfall throughout the year, there are a number of lakes, reservoirs, and streams, and the county itself is bordered in part by rivers. So it actually does make sense to have a trout as a “land” guide here! I’ll be talking about other native species in my posts too, but brook trout is the one who stood up first and said “me, me!”

I’ve been planning this project for about two weeks now and I’m really excited that it’s finally time to get started. Woohoo!

 

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