Landscapes of Identity: Ancestors

A ragged sky greeted us this time change altered morning.  While days and, especially, nights remain well above climate norms, the extreme warmth of the past two months appears to be behind us.  After last weekends extreme storms, across the landscape autumn moves quietly towards winter, the trees stripped of leaves and each day’s temperatures trending downward.

The harvest is in, the Days of the Dead are past, and we settle into the season of the Ancestors. Throughout the circumpolar north traditional people welcome the Ancestral spirits into their homes and lives. We have yet to have a fire in the hearth, which seems odd indeed. Still, this week we invited friends to join us in acknowledging the presence of those who have passed.  As always, this gathering together and opening space for those departed we love, was a profoundly moving experience.

In inviting in the Ancestors we are reminded that our bodies are landscapes populated by innumerable beings, and by the experiences of those who came before us. We are descended from the plants, each a tall tree touching the three worlds of consciousness and awareness: lower, middle, and upper. The ancestors, human and other, are alive in us, and in the landscapes we inhabit; our bodies are literally houses made of dawn, rain, and the lives of unfathomable eons of living beings.

We are each a miracle! Who could have predicted that Pachamama would have birthed you, or me, or that goose flying across the stormy sky? What a magnificent gift is awareness, and how great our responsibility both to the past and the future!

I wonder: if we could hold our debt to all creatures, and to Pachamama (Mother Earth) in our consciousness, would we treat ourselves and the landscapes in which we live, differently? Might we see others as beings whose very existence is a mystery to be held close and honored?

Perhaps being human animals we are inevitably limited in our capacity to hold the complexity of self and other. Just maybe, our innate need to defend our territories and find sustenance in the landscape limits our capacity for empathy. If so, might those moments of grace when we are aware of the immense complexity and majesty of the world somehow nudge us towards a grander vision and a more generous way of living? Might such moments be a gift from the Ancestors?

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