My father always had a connection with his land and property that could be called shamanic, though he would never use or approve of that term. One of the key characteristics of shamanic practice is that it is rooted in the Earth and implies a relationship with the “spirits of the land.” For that reason and many others, shamanic practitioners can be called caretakers of the land.
My parents lived in many places in their years together. In each one, my father always enhanced the look and feel of the landscape and took good care of the buildings. He almost always constructed some structure–a shed, storage, or workshop sometimes complete with a couch and air conditioning.
He remained alert for needed repairs and took care of them right away. When they decided to sell (a choice that is always up to be changed), my father said that the only thing of importance he knew of that needed to be done was to repair a strip of joint paper that had come loose in a corner of the garage. It was about two feet long.
I spoke with the next door neighbor while visiting last weekend. Dan had previously expressed interest in possibly buying the house when my parents put it on the market. Because he had asked, I told him that they may be close to deciding to sell, though for reasons of the VA assistance application and possibly Medicaid funding it would be quite a while. He remarked about how well dad had taken care of the place.
One time a family that had walked the neighborhood for more than 20 years told Dan that the house did not seem to have changed since the first time they saw it. The only difference they noticed was the improvements my father made.
Such care and improvements were always couched in the language of value. It made no sense to my father to let his property fall apart and decrease its value over time. He sees a property in terms of its investment value… or so he says. I also see that he is proud of what he has done, and I believe that he loves the places that he has lived in, regardless of what he expresses about property value.
Perhaps “property value” is his best expression of caring for the Spirit of the land. Yet, I know that his feeling for it goes deeper than what he admits. He just doesn’t have acceptable words for it.
Of course, this is my view, a view of a shamanic practitioner in this contemporary social context. And from that worldview, I believe we — all humans — have a deep, thousands-of-years-old relationship to the Spirits of the land, whether we understand or even acknowledge it.
Humans have had a deep connection with the land and nature for well more than 100,000 years. Is it reasonable to believe that our current separation from them by concrete, asphalt, and steel can erase that animistic core? I think not. I cannot even imagine how our species can completely sever that most precious relationship.
My father has what we all have: an innate shamanic connection to the land. It may show up for many in various disguises and descriptions over time. Still, I do not believe that we can survive without it any more than we can water and air.
I can easily envision an alternate future in which my father meets the many Spirits of all of the places that he has lived. And in that vision, I see him accept their gratitude.
Follow the story from the beginning. Previous posts:
Elder Parents: The Journey Begins
Elder Parents Journey: Making Plans
Elder Parents Journey: Heart of the House
Elder Parents Journey: Meeting House