Returning to the Forest

After two intense days of relentless conversation with a friend, I found myself boarding a bus.

I didn’t think about it, hadn’t planned it. I’d just seen my friend off to Portland and had three hours to live (never kill time!) before meeting another friend. And before I knew what I was doing, I was sitting on a bus headed to my old grove.

forest cleanI wrote about the place extensively early last year and late the year before. It was an unused city park, wedged between a playground, a school, an oil pipeline and high-tension power transmission lines. It was perhaps the most unlikely place; beautiful but really hard to access, feral yet created by late-capitalism, and placid yet sitting directly atop the Seattle Fault.

I left it last year, March 1st, actually, and hadn’t been back to visit for an entire year.

I can’t describe what happened when I returned very well.  I didn’t know what to expect. It’d been all magic, magic that slips directly from memory into myth without notice.  If anything, the experience of the place had become myth itself–I couldn’t access temporal reckoning when I thought about the place.

I don’t know why I stayed away so long.  It’s very far from where I currently live, sure, but I also traveled to Ireland on a pilgrimage, so distance doesn’t stop me.  I don’t know if I needed to stay away, but in a way I’m glad I had.

While it’s anthropocentric to say they were trying to ‘get my attention,’ so many other things happened in that forest before and during that visit that I’d be lying if I said I didn’t suspect everything was trying to get my attention.

Walking along a path above the forest I noticed a crow harrying a flock of smaller birds. They’d alight in a cloud, warp the air around themselves for a few seconds, and land back on the ground before repeating the process.

Entering the place, I started laughing. In all the time I’d been there, I’d never heard so many birds. Nor had there ever been a hummingbird, and one had definitely not hovering four inches from my nose for a full minute.  It’s hard to stay skeptical when that happens.

Further in, I found the stream I’d tried to restore, running strong, clear, happy. I cannot tell you how long I’d worked on it, nor how happy I was to see it run again. So much trash had filled the ravine where it was supposed to flow that I’d often cry as I cleaned it.  Further up there was a stagnant pond with a blocked culvert which took days to clear. Those were hard days, days I was already feeling blocked and stagnant myself.  It seemed the perfect time for the task.

I sat by the stream as it flowed for a long time, laughing relentlessly. And I found one of the tree-hollows where I’d left offerings to help the forest heal, and left more, stones I’d not even realised I’d been carrying.

Having been away for so long, I was able to recognise the changes better.  Paths had been cleared, there was no trash, and another ravine (depicted in this essay as filled with trash) had been completely cleared.

Don’t doubt that, when you lend your meaning and magic to a place, something Other awakens into it.


I’ll be quite busy the next two months. Lorna Smithers is currently editing the next issue of A Beautiful Resistance, and I’ll be doing layout. On top of fulfilling orders for the first issue, preparing to fill orders for the next, sending out copies of A Kindness of Ravens and A Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer, I’m kinda swamped.

But going back to that forest made me think on all the essays I’d written for Patheos on the shared blog, “A Sense of Place.”  And since I have many, many new readers now who probably haven’t seen those, I’ll be republishing a lot of them here over the next two months.

Speaking of two months, Alley Valkyrie and I will be going on Pilgrimage together to France and Spain.  There are many stories as to why (hint: dead revolutionaries and Mari-Morgans), which we’ll talk about soon.  She also has a book coming out soon, which will help fund the trip.

And I just learned I was selected to speak twice at Many Gods West in August.  One presentation is a joint panel on Fascism, with Alley Valkyrie along with Ryan Smith of HUAR.  The other is called “Gods, Rebels, and Kings” and is on the way the Sacred Other has been used both as justification for Empire and brutal oppression as well as revolution and resistance.  Both should be fun.



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