Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Makes a Place Sacred?

 I visited this place with about ten out-of-town guests this morning.  Lots of interesting discussion ensued about the special spiritual qualities of this place.  The words "spiritual" and "sacred" were tossed around quite a bit.  At one point there was a request for a few moments of silence so the spiritual qualities of the place could manifest.  I greatly enjoyed the silence.  In fact, I had the sensation of my ears "trying" to hear something, reach out for sound.  It reminded me of the visual counterpart I've experienced in caves.  Under conditions of total darkness, it felt like my eyes were reaching out for light.  I wandered around a bit, looking at the things I enjoy looking at, including checking what sorts of critters might be living under logs and in other hidden places.  While I was doing this, some of the others struck poses that apparently were reverent. 

I was very excited to discover a nest of carpenter ants under a charred log.  I watched as ants scurried about to pick up their eggs and relocate.  I only held the log up for a moment or two.  I wanted them to be able to change their "minds" and declare their present home safe again. I treated them much better that the so-called settlers treated the Indians.
 I am always awed at how easily ants carry things much heavier than their own bodies.
 A very large ant entered from the left.  I figured he/she/it was in charge of the operation.
 I spotted a lone Sugar Pine in the grove that was almost entirely Ponderosa with a few Incense Cedar and California Black Oak.  I felt the Sugar Pine was really special because it was the only one in sight.  I wondered what it would be like to spot a lone Ponderosa in a grove of Sugar Pines.  Is it the rarity that made it special, or would I perceive its specialness (sacredness?) regardless of numbers?
 I had a similar sensation when I spotted a small patch of very healthy-looking thistles blooming a bit down hill from the sacred site.  I thought it might be indicative of water close to the surface in an area that was otherwise bone dry in all directions.  Could this be the spot where the native peoples got their water?  Could it be that bad forestry practices have dried up an area that once had much more surface water?
 Then I came across what seemed like a spider crucifixion.  I realized quickly how easy it is to get carried away in a beautiful place.  I also realized that every thing I saw here was somehow connected to everything else and that what makes a place sacred, any place really, is my attitude toward it and my relationship with it. 
 I realized that I couldn't call a place sacred if my first impulse was to kill the ants or the spider.  Spending quiet time in a place like this makes it clearer why the native peoples would be horrified by the way the settlers treated it and them.  The native peoples never heard of Vitamin C, but they learned from centuries of experience beneficial relationships with the wild rose and many other plants of the area.
The California Rosa provides Vitamin C as well as a feast for the eyes in all seasons.  Best enjoyed in silence.

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