People who live in cities have different values and ways of life than I do. In the city I think you can become detached and distant from what really matters. And then you have to take tourist-y journeys into wilderness, probably at great expense, to have even the smallest and briefest return to the reality of who we really are.
Because I am a busy human being, in the rush of my life and the lives of those I know and love, I, too, can forget where I have come from and where I will return … at least in this bodily iteration.
But then, I live in a world—in a place— that by its very nature will bring me back to a full reckoning on a just-about daily basis. This is particularly so in these years where I am much closer to the end than the beginning.
There was a time in all our cultures when we were in touch with that reality of origin and end; and we took it up in ceremony and tradition. We remembered who we were and where we fit in the larger scheme of things.
Fortunately for me, I live near people who still celebrate a culture that carefully maintains that knowledge and manifests it everyday. I have lived on Haida Gwaii for a long time, and somewhere deep in my soul there has been a gradual flow of lessons to be learned. I don’t know how it’s happened exactly, or where, or when particularly. I know there are a lot of who-s involved. Those who have been my teachers have left their marks all over my field of memory. But perhaps they didn’t know it at the time, specifically, nor did I, because what was transmitted is so much part and parcel of Haida Gwaii life today.
This does not mean I have learned anything particularly secret, or magical, or esoteric. So don’t get all excited about that. Nor am I of an anthropological cast of mind at all. Nor is it about ecstatic revelations— although it could be. My understandings are pretty ordinary, and caught up in the ebb and flow of life, as daily and as inexorable as the ocean tides, and the revolution of the seasons.
When you live on Haida Gwaii long enough, the land and sea become everything in your day and night: the colours of the forest, the rhythms of the sea, the call of birds, the glow of the sunset, the flow of streams and rivers, the astounding colour of early herring spawn, the foods you eat, the water you drink, the mystery of the deep night sky, the coming and going of the ocean storms, the ground upon which you walk.
In the wildness, I am the shadow of a cloud falling across the mountainside, the rise and fall of a wave in the sea, a grain of sand on the beach, the glimmer of a star in the night sky, the breath of a sleeping child. – Charlotte Letitia Carleton.