The sacredness of our world has been hard on my mind lately. We are cutting down trees and breaking ground on our land so that we can get the foundation of part of our building laid before the ground freezes. I often stress over what the spirits of this land think of our disturbing their place. On one hand I am very excited about the whole situation, having never had a home of my own before now. On the other, am I committing tree homicide for such a petty reason as we cannot currently afford a ready-made home.
So where does that leave me? Am I therefore a bad person?
I’m sure many pagans think so. I’m already a killer in the eyes of the vegetarians and vegans in the local witchy groups. I have already attributed to the human overpopulation by having a child. I see these accusations and the anger behind them even when they aren’t directed at me by name. So we shall add tree-killer and local eco-system destroyer to the list.
That all being said, our ancestors who honored place and Gods and spirits had to have ways of balancing the need to build homes with honoring the spirits of the place they are building in.
I think of this as I take my son out for a walk. How can I honor the spirit of the place where we plan to live out much of the rest of our lives? Can I explain my intentions of creating a garden and horgr and grove after we build? Will that be enough?
With all of this in mind as I push our stroller down the road towards the end circle, I noticed trash all along the way. Grimacing at the cold-coffee cans, beer labels, paper and chip bags and candy-bar wrappers, I figured I would start now. I turned around, went home, and grabbed a paper towel and a garbage baggie. Returning to our walk, I stopped every few feet and collected trash.
At first I grumbled – there is no reason there should be this much garbage on the side of this road. It is a residential area that ends in a circle, meaning no through-traffic. So all of this garbage was littered by people who actually live here. My grumbling went on to thinking of the manicured lawns as green and chemical laden as golf courses in front of these houses. Out abutting neighbors had the nerve to ask us about cutting down trees that were, previously, creating a visual barrier between our land and theirs and yet they have hardly a tree on their whole lot and take every precaution against weeds and saplings.
As a car passed and a neighbor waved at me while I picked up another candy wrapper, I smiled and took a deep breath. I had to change my attitude now or I would only build the whole situation up as a bad deal all around.
Instead, in my breathing and picking up trash, I tried my best to emanate a vibe of courtesy and openness. I sang to my son who grinned at every stop and even waved at trees or things in the trees I was not seeing. I turned my task from one of grudging labor to an offering to the spirits there and the land. I offered my care and work to make this area cleaner and free of human waste.
After this, I made note of other ways we are and can contribute to the land.
- Avoid using chemicals for pesticides and herbicides.
- Planting local wild flowers on the banks by the road rather than attempting to keep a pristine lawn.
- Repurpose the wood, rock, and dirt we remove and use it in other places on the land.
- Nothing is going to waste, nothing is done without thought.
- Even my husband, before cutting down trees, stands among them for a long moment, meditating. He shares with the trees and the land his intentions and gives thanks to them for providing shelter, heat, or the base for his craft as some of the birch here will be dried and used in his woodwork making bowls, pipes, mortars and pestles, statuary, and more.
I’m sure some people will think this isn’t enough. I am open to other ideas. This is simply a step on the path.