September 6, 2014

The Water Of My Life

I know why the soft animal of my body loves what it loves*

Moonrise Over Gaylor Peak
Upper Gaylor Lake, Yosemite National Park
The Gaylor Lakes, with their pretty streams and stark lands, are on the eastern edge of the Tuolumne River watershed which provides drinking water for the city of San Francisco, held at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir at Yosemite National Park.

Seventeen years of living in California, and I still had not been to Yosemite until last weekend. When I got there, I felt an instant familiarity and bond to the land. It was as if I already have a memory of this place being like home. They were not memories like thoughts, images or words… it was memory known in my body.

It's strange because usually when I go to a new place, engaging with the land's spirit is sort of like a first date experience. I don't come on too strong. I feel out as we go whether or not my spiritual engagement is welcome. Humans have an egregious record of doing terrible things to the land, and some places are dubious about our intentions. Some spirits of the land have retreated far beyond our purview… I have felt this message in some places, "You are still one of them, we don't care how spiritual you think you are. Let us alone, human.  Just let us be." And I've also enjoyed being joyously welcomed by a place as a long lost son. Those are extremes, but most experiences are pretty neutral and every place is unique. Since I choose to be a healer of the land and not an aggressor, I let that place decide whether I move forward or go away. I always respect any boundaries admonished.

"How do I already know you?" I asked. And the answer was… "Through the Water that makes you."

The waters of this land are the same waters that have nourished my body for many years. I have literally been taking the memory of this land into my body- as its memory is stored in the water I take from my tap everyday. These are the waters of my life and I remember and honor my place in the sacred order. I know why there is a deep love for Yosemite in my body. And Hetch Hetchy, the Tuolumne River and its watershed.

* The above "the soft animal of my body" is a reference to the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Middle Gaylor Lake, Yosemite National Park

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

Wild Geese

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