In my imagination I hear the land speak to me of things. This is not to say I make them up.
There are no phrases, no names - no words at all, but a spontaneous upwelling within that has me dancing on the trails, far from curbing eyes. Speaking back in the way life has always spoken; through the movement of form, the shaping of a hand or tail, or fin, the slide of rock into water, the dry cracking of soil under a Tuscan sun.
Sometimes it’s the plants that do the speaking. The great Oak with their broad leaves, their trunks dimpled in the dappled light of the canopy. Their magnificence neither tyrannical nor reticent, they stand tall. Their leaves, like hands, flap in the hot breeze and my heart lifts. Such jubilation is contagious.
The ferns beckon with curled fingers, through the blackberry brambles, over the soft Lodgepole pine and cone blanketed forest to the heart of their sweeping world. To have seen the Earth come alive as they have! First to root and multiply over the land. Then flowers, and dinosaurs! Glaciers! Mammals large and small! The marching of the mountains over the continents! The rise and fall of civilizations! And the steady fencing in of their world… Still they offer themselves to the dreaming of the earth, as they offer themselves to me.
I hear too the voices of those that once walked here. The grey wolf and her cubs, yellow-eyed and lean. Her tufted hair catches on the thorny bushes in the springtime. She turns and our eyes meet. Whole worlds shift. She is wary of the stalking future. All I can do is nod.
And the European brown bear, picking newly ripe berries off the vines. Bursting muscle and rippling fur catches water drops as it catches rainbows of light from the mountain stream. Surprisingly agile for his bulk, his paw darts into the water to spear a gilded silver fish. One of many. He is acutely aware I’m there… as I am aware he no longer is.
The forest seems louder without these voices among it, more hollow. Their footprints and steady gazes, their stalking ways, and rumbling bellies reverberate across the valley, bouncing off the granite bedrock and the mined marble veins of the Apennines, dodging tall Cypress trees standing like sentinels, past the olive, grape, and almond groves… A bell tower tolls noon. One little fig trembles and falls, full and ripe. It seeps white, sticky sap. The ground smells of day-old spilled wine, sweet and rotting. The echo is distracting.
More often now when I listen, I hear the whole community speaking at once. A symphony of thus-ness, a confluence of sound and taste and touch and sight. I hear/feel their wailing. Its rich endlessness. I respond with the Shrinking and Disappearing Dance. The Dying Sea Lion Dance. The Too-Warm Water Dance. The Helpless Dance. The Frog In My Throat Dance. The Holy Shame Dance…
Sometimes when I let my gaze soften wide the Others teach me to move as they do, and when that happens it is the Remembering Dance that comes. And always, always, even on the days I get caught in my too-small world, my feet pounding up the trail fast and forward moving and un-acknowledging, it is the Gratitude Dance that pours up and out in respiratory rhythms and dewdrops, then beads, then rivers and torrents of sweat. Anointing the earth, giving back what I can. Longing to give more.
I respond differently each day to this voice that never says the same thing twice, that has never known repeat. It is good to be with that kind of force. No dead ends, just endless experiments. Bold and subtle at once, I feel these voices within. To say they are wise would be to keep them small. Theirs are the voices of deep time. The continuous thread of all from the beginning to the end. Theirs are the rising and falling voices, the voices of the abyss, the bursting and sucking, mouth-smacking voices of creation. What they have to say keeps me up at night.
And still I, human, tarry in their world, reluctant to turn toward home where the game trail becomes a foot path and the foot path paved, and the paved path then becomes a road. Knowing that with each step a part of their magic can pass no longer where the imagination is at best underestimated. Fixed within a closed system of make-believe, its possibilities bleed under the knife of reductionism, commoditization, and power politicking.
I, just like you, am not exempt my part in the mess. But in the still moments in the center of everything with the cars flying past and the lights buzzing, and the screens harking the wares of a worn-out system, I hear our human voices, strong and noble and not at all separate. And I know, as you do, that past the static of forgetfulness an ancient way still lingers to catch us off guard. A tenuous flame unsoiled by our amnesia. It is this voice, (this one!), that needs our keen ears now, as it needs our warrior spirits and our wild imaginations. For it whispers the way that can pull the Others through the mists, back across the landscape of time to tumble the fences and the precarious walls strung up around our perception.
Cicadas live for a day and then die. The figs trees are ripe all at once. The village cat comes by at sunset begging for food like clockwork. The ducks in the pond past the vineyards are always laughing. We too have our time and place. When my mind is full, and I cannot see the way, I know this in my imagination… which is not to say I’m making it up.
There is an inner wisdom that has long been lost. Not only has it been long lost but when it pokes its head into our awareness we have all learned to shun it, deny it, and to discount it. That inner wisdom is not a book, as our present intellect would have us believe. It is not a bank of knowledge, or a storehouse of formulas. It is a living dimension of our very selves, and in its livingness it is in the moment, so that in order for us to tap that ancient deep inner wisdom we must engage it directly in its aliveness, we must be willing to be present with it on its terms, we must be willing to let it teach us its language rather than demanding that it speak in our own.
– E. S. Gallegos