All My Relations
I have come to see everything around me as my relation. I mean everything. It took some practice on my part not to separate out the plastic bottle that I’m putting in the recycling container, the 'garbage' I throw away, the pen I hold to write this piece or the computer onto which I transcribe it. It took some work to see these, too, as having a spirit, as being natural, earthly, and therefore, my relations. The relationships are different, of course, depending on who we’re talking about. My children and husband, the cats and dog, plants that live in our home, the garden that dwells in the earth just outside our door, the gypsum boards that make our walls and 2x4 studs they are nailed to. The fiberglass insulation in the walls, the paintings and photographs, the frames, glass mats, the doors, windows, ceiling, floor and sump pump somewhere in the basement, the carpets from my mother’s home, the old wood table of my grandmother’s.The rings on my fingers and the wood box they rest in. They are all my relations. The difference lies in the conversations I have with each of them.
They all have a spirit. They all have a lineage. They are all alive in some way, carrying the essence of whatever elemental ones were stolen from their original places and used to make objects of our desire or need. I am in the practice of seeing all these as they rightfully are, as their own subjects. As ones, as beings.
It is noisy in this place, this place of relationship with all these ones. Somehow each of us has been called to this relationship, these relationships together in this one life. Every day I try to listen - what is wanted of me here? And here? And here...? What is mine to do? It is likely that the doing here, in these relationships, is largely unfamiliar to us Westerners. It is likely that there is nothing to do at all. It’s already been done. These relationships I have with these ones are more of a being-with. I feel called to acknowledge, to see, to perhaps name in a way that doesn’t limit or truncate but rather invites me, and perhaps others, further in, to allow my ears and eyes to find more of what is right in front of me but that I can’t see or hear with my all-too-numbed dayworld senses. Because my language doesn’t have a robust way of describing relationship, I have come to call these ones my ‘cousins’. In the English language, cousins can be first or second, they can be once or twice removed. The gypsum board is my cousin twice removed. The car that brings me and my family safely from here to there is a violent conglomeration of many relations, many different ones. For this reason it is several times removed. The purpose of naming a relation a ‘second’ or ‘third’ cousin is not to create a distance, not at all. But rather, to acknowledge the process, the removal from its original way, that each one of my relations has experienced, and this includes me and my experience of removal. For me, this acknowledgment is a vital element of our relationship. It’s part of the listening and honoring. It’s certainly part of the truth telling of my impact on the rest of my larger family. This truth-telling is a requirement, a first step without which I cannot be in right relationship with this world.
This morning as I write this piece I sit on our back porch overlooking the condos, the mansions beyond them, and then the mammoth mountains of the Continental Divide. Right next to me is the Cottonwood Tree, Populus Wislizeni, sometimes called the Rio Grande Cottonwood. None of these are true names. (It’s true name would have to include it’s purpose, which has something to do with holding the dry cracked earth together with its massive outreaching root-legs and the fact that it is the only noble mansion in this neighborhood, home to hundreds of others who rely on its pollen, it’s bark, it’s leaves, its shade and its height for their survival.) At the moment this one is a perch for a loud Blue Jay and young Brown Squirrel, neither of which called Colorado their home as recently as ten years ago. They are all talking Fall....their calls and daily routines markedly differently today than they were just four weeks ago. My relations tell me the cold weather is coming. Fall, too, is a relation with a beautiful spirit. To me, Fall is the coyote season of abundant harvest, of withering vines and necessary ecstatic decay. For a few months each year, Fall lives with me as a wild and prosperous cousin of delicious bacchanalian full-ness and impossible-to-bear loneliness and loss. With each year that passes I welcome its arrival with increasing terror and celebration. This morning, I notice that Fall is a dear relation to this Cottonwood, whose leaves are rustling and shivering in the breeze that is Fall’s pre-arrival messenger: harvest, gather...prepare....what is to come is unavoidable.
All of these Beauties, these ones, are alive with spirit. Each one comes from this earth, this finite yet extravagant enclosed ecosystem. It’s all ‘nature’ as Pattiann Rogers reminds me. Everything shares a common original source. One parentage. I am the daughter, sister and lover of all these ones. I am called into a deep sense of honor and responsibility through this heritage. This is my ReWilded lineage.