Have you thought about your role as a caretaker of the Earth? That, to me, is to big to consider. So another way to look at it is how do I caretake a chosen, small piece of the Earth? If you have a yard or a patch of land you visit how can you be a caretaker? To start, we have to understand the concept of caretaking. This is strongly influenced by seeing (and trying to live) "Beyond Self". Meaning that our actions are driven without perceived personal gain. We are talking about actions that you consciously do without any expectation of reciprocation. We act out of rightness not a capitolistic take the benefits idea. So, first we would have to learn about relationships and the tangled "rootball" called nature. We can do alot of damage if we don't understand the relational tangle of the natural world. At least a little bit.
What is our goal of calling ourselves Druids? A primary one of mine is being a caretaker of the parts, no matter how small, of the Earth I live on. I'll continue in other posts.
Being a good observer is key to being a good caretaker. Understanding the patterns of nature comes from intelligent observing of nature all the time. I have often, during my observing process, picked up trash. Obviously trash left behind by humans doesn't belong so picking up trash is a great way to start your relationship with your chosen spot of Earth. It also often gets you to slow down and bend over so you'll naturally see things you wouldn't ordinarily. Picking up trash will befriend you to the spirits of a place faster than any other action. This is a great way to start a relationship with your space as the spirits will be thankful and open to you. In my experience it is an often subtle experience. It won't usually happen the first, second or third time you collect trash but after about the third time you'll "feel" a change in the energy of the place. That being said I have picked up trash in certain areas and had an immediate response. Somehow the air is clearer, the birds are louder or you'll have a strong sensation of someone watching you. Pay attention and look for these signs.
As a caretaker, when you choose to pick up trash, you are very likely to slam into what is called The Wall of Grief. When you realize the amount of destruction and pollution all of the spirits of this place you've chosen to caretake have to deal with, all caused by mankind, you can become full of anger and grief. But this isn't helpful. The anger that can build isn't solving anything. We must move beyond our grief and anger to be able to caretake our chosen place. Be prepared for hitting the wall, it's real and rough. Acknowledge it and move on when you can.
There is a designed system for connecting deeply with your chosen place. I credit The Wilderness Awareness School for these techniques. When you very first approach your chosen space, try to find a landmark that is " the gateway ". This can be a tree or bush or your front porch it only matters that you have a designated place to stop for a moment before going about the business of caretaking. This stop is called Owl Approaches Forest. My dog Trinity usually does this on the back porch when I let her out. She pauses for a moment and checks out the scene before going on with her business. When an owl is ready to hunt an area it doesn't just fly around willy nilly hoping to find a mouse. An owl will carefully probe ahead with its vision and hearing. To be successful, the owl is thoughtful in its approach to the hunting area. And that's what we will do at our gateway. We pause and reach out with our ears and vision. Sniffing the air we try and get a feel for what is happening at our spot. Listening for bird alarms and such before slowly and calmly moving into our space we're caretaking.
Before we move on please allow me to explain the idea of being a caretaker as it was taught to me. Before, I wrote about having at least a small amount of understanding of the tangled "rootball" we call nature before trying our hand at caretaking. When we quietly sit and observe nature we see immediately that diversity is the rule. There is an incredible diversity that overwhelms the mind. And the realization can be intimidating. Diversity has no room for labeled invasive species. It has no room for manicured plant zoo's. Diversity's language includes what mankind labels as weeds in a million different plants, insects and animals. How can we ever understand all this...tangle? It seems that man feels that if a species of any kind, especially "non native", is successful, it should be eliminated. Non native? That is a strange term when we talk about diversity. Every living thing on this planet is indigenous and native. And everything on this planet is living. I was taught to see all as equal. No hierarchy. Every being is important to the diverse, tangled rootball of nature. As a caretaker we don't make judgments of native/non native species. What our business is, is to promote balance. Well what if I want a vegetable garden or a flower garden? There is nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when we view the stronger, more successful "weeds" as enemies. As life forms that need to be iradicated. For one thing, a small amount of knowledge and a change in perspective shows us that most "weeds" produce more health and aid than any commercially grown produce. And most have beautiful flowers. But I digress. We are after balance as caretakers. No one wants monoculture, that isn't healthy. We want a balance in diversity. So pulling plants with the mindset of gratitude and intelligent balance is how we look at caretaking.
Caretaking from a Druid perspective.
We have discussed Owl Approaches Forest so now we move slowly and quietly into our space. I suggest getting to know your place intimately. Visit every corner closely. Look closely at the ground. What do you see? Look at the entirety of the bushes and trees. How do the branches connect, whats the bark like? Are there any nests? While you slowly move around your space notice the areas that are "feeling" choked by the plant life or stones, or whatever. Now as you slowly move around observing, is there a bird ahead of you on the ground feeding? We'll use the American Robin as an example. As you observe her you know it's a female because her breast is pale, not the bold red of a male. She has a pattern to her feeding. Standing alert, intently looking and listening. She runs over pulling a worm and then repeating the process. Now look closely as you approach you'll see her wing tips drop and touch the ground. This is your warning that you are getting to close. Your immediate response is to stop and turn sideways to her. Do not stare at her. Keeping her in your peripheral vision slowly bend over and with your hand mimick a feeding pattern poking and searching the ground. If you were successful she will continue her feeding pattern, and you have just participated in manipulating bird language. We DO NOT want to make the birds fly up and alarm at us. This sends concentric rings out in ever direction identifying you as a threat. Something we do to avoid sending alarms is The Honoring Routine. When we perform the Honoring Routine if we see feeding birds on the ground ahead of us, we automatically stop and turn sideways bending over and mimicking feeding. Then when we do proceed we go AROUND the birds, honoring their space. How much space they need is for you to experiment and practice with. I have noticed that Robins find this a fun game and will intentionally run in front of you testing your Honoring Routine over and over! Remember that while doing this have fun, and keep your mind calm. So why do we go SLOOOW? Because we are picking up trash, noticing areas that appear out of balance and honoring the birds all at the same time!
Finally lets talk about actually caretaking. As you slowly move around performing your honoring routine maybe you notice that there is an abundance of goathead (dramatic music). Goatheads produce a nasty caltrop as their seed pod and make it virtually impossible to walk barefoot. Goatheads definitely fall into the category of invasive as they will overtake areas completely. Annette and I have struggled with goatheads for several years but the one thing we've seen time and again is that if a plant continually catches your attention, they seem to be everywhere...you need that plant. This is one of the magical gifts plants give us. They will catch your attention if you need their help whether emotionally, food wise, magically, medicinally or whatever. You have to dig into researching what this plant offers. When you get connected to your space you can also sit with the plant, communicate and ask it. Now, back to the lovely goathead. Doing the process I just described, we found out that goathead is hormone balancer for people who are older (a hem) and an inflammation reducer! Yep, we needed it.
We need to study and research what plants live in our space. I.D. is an important start in unraveling the massive "rootball" that is nature. When we are absolutely sure of our identification we have a better understanding of balance. When we "weed our garden" we do it in thanksgiving to the people we are pulling. We do this gently and with love in our hearts. We should be asking ourselves if we can turn our weeding into harvesting. Can I use these plants to add to my salad? Can they be used medicinally? Remember that plants generally grow in families. Look to mullien to understand this. When you feel that you absolutely have to pull someone, if you can, find their chief within the group. Sit with him and explain what you are doing. Maybe leave an offering in exchange for the lives you take.
Be artistic and creative in your caretaking. Can the stones you're moving be artistically reset? A lot of trees are produced from runners from the mother tree. Look around and find the most mature version of that type of tree. She may be a good distance off. Go to her with offerings and ask permission to trim or cut first. Honestly listen to her, she may have a plan with her children that hadn't occured to you. If there is no mother to be found you can approach the nearest mature tree of any kind in the same fashion. And finally always explain yourself to the actual tree you are trimming or cutting and give it thanksgiving and offerings. If you are absolutely sure with your plant I.D. you can eat some (as an example) lambsquarter here, some clover there. The dandelion is tasty so is the purslane. When you ingest these beings from your space you literally become that space, it is in you, a part of you. Nothing edible or unsure of your I.D.? Find a small pebble and suck on it while you wonder your space. You are an active participant in a deep relationship, treat others the way you want to be treated. I always talk or sing to everyone in my space. I tell them they are beautiful, I caress and hug them and let them know how important they are to me.
I wish you great abundance in your caretaking.