Devoted to Place

DSC_0078
Verde River, A. Sato

Do you know what it means to love a place as family? To feel its presence course through your veins? This living land whose life depends on remaining natural…can you be devoted to its care? To know it intimately, like the lines on your hand or your grandmother’s quilt?

As a longtime roamer, I have struggled with settling into a home base. It is much to my chagrin that I have been in Phoenix for over 11 years now. I never thought I would stay past the first turbulent year. Yet, I remain.

DSC_0027
Vulture – A. Sato

But being rooted to a place has its demands. When I walk along the Verde River and see trash or the spur trails of ATV destruction, my heart aches. What is it about our kind that relishes violence? Trashing nature is an act of violence and greed thrives on this. Still, what can I do to help ease this ache?

Devotion to Place

To be devoted to place means laying my head down at night knowing that there is a place to pray for. It means gathering my tools and taking action. The call of the land is something I hear when I feel defeated by this culture. It calls me to awaken to my true spirit and rise up with the energy and passion to fight for the Wild’s survival.

Devoting oneself to a place isn’t hard. It is simply starting a journey of understanding, of forming a relationship, as you would any relationship. I have found my devotion grow stronger when I …

  • Learn about the local flora and fauna, including identifying native vs. invasive plants, tracks and scats, and local wildlife species
  • Start a nature journal where I write about, sketch, and paint the landscape
  • Use maps and GPS to learn the local mountain ranges and topography
  • Bring several trash bags to pick up garbage any time I am on a walkabout
  • Spend at least a few nights each month camping, listening to the sounds of the night and watching the stars glimmer above
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking and camping
  • Organize a habitat restoration with the Forest Service, nonprofit, or other agency
  • Gather like-minded friends to meet together in allegiance to the land, discussing ways to better protect it
DSC_0083
Tonto National Forest – Multiple trails

There are many ways to go deeper into the practice of devotion to the land. Like any holy undertaking, it requires practice, commitment, and openness to the process. Working with nature is a spiritual act, one of which I cannot live without. My hope is to return this love through the practical art of devotion.

 

Do something… but what?

verde_boxbar-1-of-1

Sometimes knowing what to do in the face of so much uncertainty, horror, and doubt leaves us feeling powerless. This is at least true for me. Our “calls to action” take us away from home and the animals and plants that inhibit our surroundings. When joining forces elsewhere isn’t possible, there is a tendency to read about and absorb what is happening “out there” and feel miserable. Maybe we throw a few dollars in aid, but there is this overwhelm that doesn’t leave.

To some extent, we are powerless… as individuals, at home, raging at the computer or television. I’ve started to feel like this way of being is depleting my spirit. I know that I personally will not solve problems by doing personal acts of resistance that are disengaged from others (wild others included) or what we are fighting: systemic and organized violence¬† (not joe neighbor who supports Trump, or your sister-in-law who still uses styrofoam).

But since I am not a great power, what can I do with the power I do have?
img_4652

I am not a marcher or letter writer. I’m more likely to go rehab a wild area where OHVs have done damage. Still, rehabbing that one area doesn’t guarantee it wont be destroyed again next Memorial Day weekend. It doesn’t eliminate the culture that says it’s macho to ride your quad over native plants.

So what do I do? What do you do?

I think that is where individual actions can feel fruitless unless you elevate them into more meaningful actions that can and do bear some results. Of course doing a river clean-up once and walking away from that river won’t have much benefit over time … But what about devoting myself to that river and the life it supports, and sticking with it? Even if it means bearing witness to outcomes that break my heart, or it puts me in situations where greater actions are called for.

To me, that is where these feelings of disconnect and uselessness begin to dissolve.

Back to the river…