3. Freedom in the Land

Blog 3: September 18, 1996—It’s an ocean out here—the wind blowing through open fields in Texas as the cicadas scratch their way through the long grasses and overgrown yellow flowers everywhere. The flowers dance in the wind, their inside brown bellies bobbing back and forth. Stillness sits below and there’s a solid truth in this land uncluttered by billboards and ornate houses.

The field around this one is barren, shaven down for a new crop. A muddy stream of water runs down a dirt path with big tire tracks along it. There’s nothing here, it seems, but everything. I cringe at the idea of reaching the west coast, where billboards mark a civilized society—a place where constant sound and distraction make it hard to really listen.

Yesterday, before black filled the skies and the sun’s so-called “magic hour” arrived, I cried tears of Spain, of the mountains of Argentina (my father’s homeland), of America’s vast land. I could feel layers of my body speaking to me of its life in two lands, two places. I felt I would never belong to one place, that the land, omnipresent across borders, grasses, mountains, deserts, and continents, belongs to us all.

Like many indigenous cultures still understand, this land, wherever we are, is home (I remember the story of a native man who was asked, while in prison, what it was like to be imprisoned. He responded by saying that he was free because he belonged to the land, even in prison, and then went on to ask the white man what it was like to be imprisoned, to be so separate from the earth and life).

I can do battle. I can do so many things, but in the end I need to return home to the land, to a place where I can hear myself and the immensity of my deep connection to the earth.



22 thoughts on “3. Freedom in the Land

  1. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written piece. Indeed wherever there is nature there is home. But some lands are a little more homlier than others. I love the mountains close to where I live, they bring me great peace and solitude. But the smells of bushland from my home in Australia sets my soul soaring!

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    • Thanks, Leeby, for sharing. The picture you paint of the bushland and the smells are rich and make we want to be there and know what that is like. It is amazing how places are not only outside of us, but are within us too, deeply, no matter where we go. We are the places that we leave, and like parts of a body whose soul leaves, I feel we are those parts that come and go from the body that holds us on this earth during this time of our journey. That place, the land, feels the loss, and also the longing that we carry within us as we wander. Where do you live now? In Australia still?

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      • Hi Michelle. I’m in Japan at the moment. There’s so much that I love about Japan’s sensory experience. The smell of a freshly steaming rice field yielding up it’s deep frost as it is awakened by the spring warmth. Places have an astral signature too which we can visit in out of body experience. I do this during deep meditation or dreaming when I feel homesick. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I was inspired to do a bit of my own nature appreciation writing recently.

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  2. So pleased to make your acquaintance, Michelle, enjoy my blog as much as I have enjoyed yours. We are all indigenous people if we go far enough back in our ancestry, what went wrong with our development to become “civilised”? The native nations conquered by Europeans didn’t have to be slaughtered, we could have made peaceful progress across the planet. That’s why I worry about meeting a new species, will they do to us what we’ve done to each other through the centuries? The truth is out there.

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    • It is sad what we have done to each other to “advance”, as you say. We have a left a part of ourselves behind, lost, as part of that process, I feel. As you say, we are all indigenous, but so much of western society has killed or persecuted that part of ourselves that is so and we wander, further west, looking for that which once taught us how to belong or feel home. Do you think we’ll learn to make peace with ourselves and not need to keep taking and running?

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  3. Home on Earth for me is where my heart is, and I roam to where I am to serve, or where high energies beckon to me, and I come to their charms for that mysterious reason. Okay, enough wordsmithing for me haha! The answer is true. I am always traveling, whether its externally, or internally, like a fairy tale tinged with adventure.

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  4. More seriously, that simple statement speaks volumes of the difference between the adopted land and the dirt of the land that creeps under the fingernails of a child playing in it, enters their blood, and never leaves. There were days when I loved North Dakota: a crystalline 10 degree windless day snowshoeing in the woods, mastering the yogic discipline of turning around in old-fashioned wooden beavertails in the underbrush, discovering the mystery of ice whorls on the river. And still, even as the faith of my Germanic ancestors calls to me in mysterious ways lately, I am forever a child of the northernmost outpost of the Caribbean, New Orleans. I am more an Orleanian than I could ever be an “American”; the Gulf to my south is matched by an invisible gulf to the north, east and west of me, my time on the East coast and in the far north reinforcing my sense of Orleanian exceptionalism more than a match for the U.S.’s much vaunted exceptionalism, the sense of emigration when I lived in those other places. I don’t think you ever mentioned where you were from in Spain, but a quick check of the Internet makes me wonder what cues, what subtle correspondence of landform and climate tie the U.S. West to, at a guess, the Meseta?

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    • I love your image of the dirt below the fingernails entering the blood. What beautiful imagery and writing! It sounds like two places have been a part of you, and clearly New Orleans more recently. The earth in all her diversity offers such gifts. Thank you for your writing here. As for where I grew up in Spain, among other places…well guessed regarding Meseta, or mesa, as they call it here. I grew up outside Madrid just after Franco had died, before modernity and its pace had visited Spain and taken some of her ancient clothes off and replaced them with newer ones. The spirit there, though, is still strong in the land and the people for me. As you write, it remains a part of my blood from having dug in the earth and gotten “dirty” as a kid. Something there never left.

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      • New Orleans was always home. The 20 years ramble was just that, and convinced me that I was one of the few survivors of the homogenizing television generation to have not completely lost the bond to the old. My people have been here almost 300 years–a blink by European standards–but enough to be deeply rooted, damp soil and water and air like wated through every pore until my blood must run green.. All through my periplumb of the eastern states of the nation stamped on my passport I was a stranger in a strange land. It is good to stand again on my land in our dwindling Atlantean days. [Cue Donovan]

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  5. Home is where the road whispers “follow me.” Home is where the trees speak of their favorite kinds of people. Home is the stillness at the center of the dance. Home is where the waters of the world become one.

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  6. Michelle, beautiful sharing and question.
    I feel at home on earth when I feel earth in me and me in earth. When I feel her waters and air and fire. I feel at home in the womb of our dear mother earth. I rest in her womb and feel comfort and nourishment. I sink into her embrace and bow . This is my offering.

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      • It seems the relative affluence we enjoy in our culture is also a curse. It disconnects us from the earth, from the sky, from the water. It disconnects us from each other. And it feeds our illusion that we are independent of each other, instead of the simple truth that we need each other. Thus home, in our minds, becomes a function of the relative wealth we enjoy instead of the land we stand on or the people we live with.

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