Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Santa Cruz

NOTE: I'm publishing this same post to my other blog, Charlie and the Gods of Love. That's where my new writings and drawings are being published . . . but I want to say hello to the followers of this older blog and invite them to join me on Charlie. Best to all! Puny

Here's a picture of me and Charlie on the beach just north of Santa Cruz. Jack and I had the great good fortune to spend a week there recently, visiting our oldest daughter. [Hi, Sophie!] The ocean was wilder there and gave off an unfamiliar odor. The plants along the shoreline resembled our homeboys, but they didn't wave at me as I passed.

Because nonhumans have soul and intelligence, they express individuality. Each species has its own characteristics, and each individual—tree or dog or seedpod or starling or rock—is an absolutely unique expression of the life force, just as every individual human is a unique expression.

Place, itself, has personhood, as Vine Deloria eloquently argued in God is Red. "Land," he says, "must somehow have an unsuspected spiritual energy or identity that shapes and directs human activities." (p. 148) Christianity was the first religion to uproot itself and encroach on lands not meant for its ways, like Kudzu encroached on our native plants in the Southeast, and Deloria points out the social harm that can come from non-native religions.

This is one reason why the concept of bio-regional animism is so important. The experience of one place-person does not necessarily carry over to the next. What works on the Pacific Coast to grow vigorous artichokes—we saw them escaping from the fields to the roadside ditches everywhere we went—does not exist here, in our land of nuts and apples. And if we are not able to live in balanced and peaceful relationship with our nonhuman neighbors or with the sun and moon and tide and soil of the place on which we walk, we will eventually destroy ourselves along with our land.

So, I thought about these things as I flew across the country, on wings of metal and oil, to a place several thousand miles from my home. The people were different in Santa Cruz, and so were the nonhumans. I enjoyed the visit. Time moved more slowly. Patterns of weeds on rocks were different. The texture of the sand was new. The seagulls spoke a different dialect from the gulls at the Isles of Shoals. All of this variety stimulated my creativity and offered me new perspectives, but I didn't make any new friends there, not nonhuman friends anyway. Next time I go, perhaps they'll recognize me. Maybe I'll have enough time, next time, to get to know them better, well enough for us to call ourselves friends.

For now, though, as spring urges on the drunken dance of sexual awakening here in my Eastern Woodlands, I'm glad to be home.