Unbreaking and Re-membering

Photo of a woods with a downed tree in the center of the image

I’ve been up on my land.

A brief, last minute trip.

Ostensibly, because there was work to do. Truly, because there was work to do.

And also, because I was called.

The land had a message for me. For us.

I did as much of the work as I could, then headed out from my treehouse for a walk.

All the way up the valley to Margaret Meadow, a gadfly chased me.

I don’t know if gadflies are a literal thing in North Carolina. I don’t know. It was a little striped fly thing, and it kept buzzing at the back of my head, driving me farther, farther. At one point, I stopped and it bit me on my hand. Ouch.

This has never happened to me before.

I kept going, faster and faster, thinking I’d leave it behind in its territory, but no.

It kept driving me.

I don’t know if gadflies are a literal thing in North Carolina, but gadflies are metaphorically a literal thing on my land in North Carolina.

Whatever it was literally, metaphorically it was a gadfly.

Anyway.

Eventually, when I reached Margaret Meadow and realized that I would not be allowed to stop there or have any peace there, I headed up a trail toward the top of Wolf Ridge, the ridge that marks the Eastern boundary of my land.

The gadfly stopped chasing me, but there was no turning back at this point. Upward, there was only one path. Downward, was only back to the gadfly.

So up I went.

There’s also no way, in my condition, for me to make the climb without frequent breaks.

Frequent breaks in which I discovered that I was not only out of breath, but also profoundly sad.

SAD?

Sad but without tears. Dry sad. Stark sad. Sad without relief sad.

I know enough about my land, about me, about my relationship with the land, about the way the universe and my own deep self communicate with me to know that if I’m on my land and I feel something that I don’t understand, I will do well to sit tight and listen a while.

So I did.

And here’s the thing about sadness. It’s a hard emotion. Especially when it’s without tears. Especially when it’s without discernible reason. It sucks.

It feels unproductive. Useless. Pointless. And uncomfortable.

It’s hard to sit through.

It’s much easier to distract.

To ignore.

To bypass.

But I have been teaching and preaching a lot lately about not bypassing.

So I sat my butt down on a log and I DID NOT BYPASS.

I said to my land I said, “Why am I so sad?”

And my land said nothing.

Or rather, my land said, “Just be sad.”

Which is the same thing.

I sobbed a dry sob and sat and waited and felt.

I put my head down and I heard noises. The sound of a chainsaw in the distance. The sound of an airplane overhead. The sound of a road, the sound of engines, the sound of modern life.

I don’t know if you know, but several years ago, the way my land told me it was mine was through Abigail. I was looking for the right place to belong to.

And we had hiked this parcel up to Margaret Meadow and were standing in the middle of it and Abby said, “shhhhh.”

And I shhhhh’ed.

And let me tell you what I heard.

Nothing.

Nothing but… wind. Birds. Nature.

Nothing but the land itself.

Exactly what I was looking for.

So I took the steps to claim stewardship through the legal process colonizers like to call “ownership” but in which I belong to the land as much as it belongs to me.

Back to the present moment. I am perched a short distance above Margaret Meadow, still deep in the woods, deep in the interior of my land.

And I hear airplanes. Chainsaws. Road noise. Civilization.

And I hate it.

It makes me so damn sad.

The trees are sad too.

I hate that I can’t change it.

I hate that I can’t control it.

I hate that I can’t protect it.

I hate it.

So I sit with that a while.

There’s no fixing it. It’s unfixable.

There’s so much that’s unfixable.

And the land speaks at last. At last. It says:

“You’re sad because so much has been lost.”

Have I ever told you that ghosts are near the veil when I’m on my land? They are very present there.

What I mean is, it is always possible to feel the presence of those who have lived and loved in a place that you now occupy. Always. But some places make it easier. In some places, the “veil” between now and that other time in which those people lived is thin.

At Dragon Hollow, I often hear their voices. Feel them watching me. Most people who visit and who are at all sensitive feel it too, at some level.

Former human occupants, and also the animals and trees and others who have lived here.

And in this moment, I feel how many have been lost. I feel how much has been lost in diversity. I feel how much has been lost in wildness. So much. Infinitudes of much.

I feel how much we have lost as a society, as a people, as a species. How much we lost when we divided ourselves from kinship with all.

I feel how much the woods have lost.

I feel all the pain of those who once inhabited this area, the Indigenous people for whom it was sacred, the children who once played in the woods, the wildlife that once thrived, the trees that once lived in ancient communities guarded only by themselves and not by the logic of the logger.

I feel my own losses. Family. Friends. Things. Ideals. Illusions.

Illusions.

And the land says: “You are sad because so much has been lost, and because the illusions that kept you from feeling the loss have also been lost.”

Sheeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Yeah.

Right?

You are sad because so much has been lost, *and because the illusions that kept you from feeling the loss have also been lost.*

The pandemic stripped away our illusions of control, of safety, of connection. It stripped away our distractions. It stripped away the idea that breathing is always free and easy.

It’s stripped away our illusion that everything is fine, just fine, if we just don’t look too closely.

The present time has stripped away any illusions we may have had that the government will save us. The protests have stripped away any illusions that we’ve made “progress” and that our society is fine, just fine, if we just don’t look too closely.

So I sit with that shit for a while.

There is no fixing it. It’s unfixable.

After a while, I stand up and continue to climb. Some things are unfixable, so you just keep climbing.

When I sit down to rest again, I hear the voices of children playing nearby. I feel the presence of an Indigenous hunter nearby. I feel the presence of ancient oaks and hemlocks that once were here. I feel the earth under my feet.

The earth where all the memories are stored, where everything that lives returns to be recycled.

And I hear a word: Remember.

This word, “remember,” and I have a long and storied history.

The first time I met my Holy Guardian Angel, who I later understood to be an old, far ancienter, wise and whole version of myself, she said this to me:

“Remember. Remember. Remember who you are.”

And I thought, for YEARS I thought, this meant I was supposed to uncover some previous version of myself who was just really extra special and extraordinary and that unlocking the truth of my former identity would give me enormous power to enact my will upon earth.

Or some shit like that.

And I don’t want to make fun of younger me, because younger me was nothing if not EARNEST.

But younger me was wrong.

Sort of.

But younger me was also right. Right to keep looking, to keep trying to remember.

Over time, younger me found bits and pieces. Clues and fragments. Hints that helped the remembering.

And eventually younger me discovered the wise words of a wise person who pointed out that the word remember is literally “re” + “member.” As in “to put together.” As in, to find all the bits and pieces that have been *dis*membered and to *re*member them.

And right about that same time, younger me read about a practice called the “inner council,” in which one enters a meditative state and steps into an inner council and meets all the parts of oneself and works with them to establish inner peace and to bring them all into right relationship so that you can be WHOLE in the world. RE-membered and whole.

The first time I walked into my inner council room, I thought I was ready for that wholeness. I was wrong.

The first time I walked into my inner council room, I screamed at the first person I saw there and told him to shut up and sit down. When he refused, I swore at him and everyone else and stormed out, slamming the door behind me.

Why?

Because I was fractured. Broken. My inner council was at war with itself.

Later that day, I went back.

Because that is the work. The work of re-membering.

The work of going back and back and back as far and as often as necessary to re-member yourself.

(“Remember, remember,” she said. “Remember who you are.”)

And I remembered.

I remembered myself.

I am still remembering myself.

And I sit here on the trunk of a downed tree, in my woods, on my land, sad, and I remember.

And I know.

The world is fractured. It’s broken. We are divided from each other, divided from our world, divided from ourselves.

We are at war inside and out.

It is unfixable unless we remember.

Remember who we are.

And then it comes to me in a flash. From the land, from God, from inside my own self. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all inside my own self. Does it matter?

This:

I’ve been telling people they’re not broken. That they just need to align with their own true, deep selves. That they’re okay.

But I’ve been wrong.

People ARE broken.

We are not okay.

We are broken.

We are dismembered.

Like all the world.

Dismembered.

And when a friend or a client has come to me and said, “I wonder what I could have done, what I could be, if I had just not been so broken by my childhood, by my traumas, if I had not had to claw my way up and out just to breathe, just to live,”

I have said, “I know, I know. I know. I’m sorry. It sucks. I wish I could fix it. All we can do now is the best we can with what is left. We can’t fix it, but we can make it mean something. We can make it worth it.”

And I believe that is all true.

But also.

What if our brokenness is also our superpower.

What if, because the world is broken, it needs people who know how to unbreak things.

What if everything we learn from re-membering our Selves is exactly what we need to know in order to help re-member the world.

What if the work is the same.

What if re-membering is what we’re here for.

What if the absolute most important thing we can do now and always is to re-member ourselves, so we can learn to re-member the world.

I get up off the log I’m resting on and climb the rest of the way to Wolf Ridge. Then I walk down along it, making a large loop back toward the treehouse, but continuing past it a little way to visit I Watch.

My beautiful guardian goddess tree, with her branches arching out over the mouth of the land, watching everything that comes and goes and all that happens there. Guiding the life of the land. Teaching and holding and guarding.

I Watch is her name.

I sit down above her, in the little ledge area that is formed above her trunk before the earth falls precipitously away below her. We sit in companionable silence. I love her.

I have a question, but I can’t remember what it is just now. It doesn’t matter. The answer is “yes,” anyway.

And also the answer to another question, a new one, is the same. Yes.

Yes.

You’ve got it.

The world is full of sadness and loss. The illusions that kept us from feeling it have been stripped away. The reckoning has come.

The reckoning has come.

And it’s okay to be sad. It is necessary to be sad. It is well past time to be sad and mad and all the impossible, uncomfortable, unfixable feelings.

We are all broken. Every one of us. Everything is broken.

All broken in our own unique, tragic, horrible, sad, terrible ways.

And that is not okay.

We must not be content with pretending it is okay.

But it is also not over.

Learn to re-member yourself, and you will learn to re-member the world.

Learn to unbreak yourself, and you will learn to unbreak the world.

Those who were broken hardest and have worked the most to re-member ourselves have a special role to play in the collective unbreaking and re-membering.

You are not behind just because you have worked so hard to unbreak yourself.

You are exactly where you need to be right now.

Re-member yourself. Re-member your relationship to the world. Then, together, may we re-member the world.

And may we all one day be whole again.

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