Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spirit of Land

Out behind our house there is a forest. It isn't particularly large, being only 25 acres or so. It's owned by people up the street, who have a small entrance with their house, which then opens onto the forest behind them. As near as I can tell, that 25 acres is pretty much untouched, and has been for quite a number of years. It occasionally hosts kids running through it (as evidenced by the occasional candy wrapper I've seen), but I don't know of any buildings or structures beyond those created by the land itself.

When I look out my kitchen window, I look out onto this "backyard" we have. Our land goes a mere ten paces or so past the back of our house, being long rather than square or wide, and beyond an old stone wall lies the forest. In the mornings, I enjoy sitting and drinking my coffee, watching the several chipmunks playing there. They scamper up and down a few trees close by, and I can observe them quite closely without disturbing them. I find it very calming. Mornings are sunny back there, bright and warm and full.

By afternoon, the light has faded. It's not dark, per se, but it is somewhat shady. The forest is quieter, and there's less activity. It is as if everything takes a pause before the children return from school. The shadows are very long, and there are many darkened places when I look from my kitchen perch.

Evening comes fast to the forest. The afternoon's shade rapidly turns into darkness. By the time I have dinner on the table, it's pitch black out there. Nothing to see... except...

Tonight it was starting to rain, and I was in the process of curing some new cast iron cookware when it decided to smoke abominably. I had to open the windows in the kitchen, despite the autumn chill, to let the smoke out. I found myself sitting on my perch again, examining the forest from a completely different viewpoint. After a few moments of listening to the rain through reflecting windows, I got up and turned off all the lights in the room.

I carefully felt my way back to my spot, and curled up with my arms on the window sill. With all the interior lights off, I could finally SEE into the darkness, which wasn't really completely dark after all. The moon is full, and its light stained the sky. I could see the black outline of treetops against its glow. Before me, directly in front of me in fact, was the hollowed out stump of an old tree. It looked as if the tree had fallen rather than been cut, just judging by the look of it, but I hadn't gotten close enough to it to really examine it. Now, I found myself staring at this silhouette and noticing there were ... lights.

They weren't really lights, of course, but spots of numinous energy. They were like eyes, almost, and I felt as if I were being watched in return. I got the sense of an interested curiosity toward me, as if the forest inhabitants hadn't had anyone around before who could sense them. What a thrill, to be so close, separated only by a thin screen! I knew that if I went outside, the moment would be lost. Instead, I stayed sitting, perching, watching, feeling, sensing, drinking in the sensations of curiosity, interest, even love of a sort (although not the type of love we think of).

The children began moving around in the house about that time, and the sensations drifted off. Things were too noisy and full of youthful exuberance to allow that shy, quiet presence to stay. I felt invited, though, and welcomed. I felt joy, too, and an expansiveness that has eluded me for a long time.

Tomorrow, I will go out back and make a small altar or shrine in the hollow stump. I'll leave some barley, some fresh water, perhaps some milk or wine. I might leave some flowers, too, as there are still roses blooming in our front yard, tiny though they might be. I will say thank you to the spirits that graced me with their presence, and let them know that their attention was appreciated and desired. Sometime soon, I will introduce that spot to the children, too. I remember how excited they were to make offerings to the river nymphs at our last house, and this is a similar place, though not quite the same. These are earthy spirits rather than watery ones, I believe, and there is a whole different FEEL to them.
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