Sometimes the medicine we need is the medicine of place, journeying somewhere, not necessarily far away, but just far enough that it has a significant effect on one’s being. And this place, wherever it may be, will be found through an unseen magnetic pull towards it. For the longest time, I have always been fascinated by travelling the Canadian country roads that bridge the gap from one place to another. I guess whatever I’ve been feeling these past few months in particular greatly had to do with finding this “place”, another place different from the one that tugged at me last year which was in Costa Rica. This summer, another trip will be made to Ireland, but an unexpected, more local town had called me home earlier in the spring.
The past six months I have been deepening in my being by making the choice to solely focus on my medicine work and offerings of energy healing, herbalism and ceremony. There was a part of me that always knew I would do this, but as usual, the challenge was letting go to not knowing exactly how to get from one point to another. The metaphor of this, of travel, has always been with me since I was a child, and for me the past couple of years have come with greater liberation to truly understand how the idea of place interplays in my life.
I’ve always wondered. what is a human's relationship to land and place? Is it changeable? Is it about the people that once walked these paths, and the memories of the ancient roots? Or, is it something different altogether, something in the physical land itself that creates a certain indescribable something, that something which can only be felt through the heart? For me, Aspdin is a place such as this. It is a small community village right outside of Hunstsville, Ontario, tucked among masses of red Canadian shield rock and large hills that seem to create an invisible barrier, that once crossed I could feel an entire shift of place.
I journeyed to Aspdin with my partner to periodically maintain his sweat lodge and do ceremony. The first time I went there was in late March. The clouds were heavy and full, releasing big chunks of snow on the already white covered land. The hills were large and lined with trees still waking from their sleep, the bare branches the colour of burnt umber and burgundy. Lined in between were the deep green pines and cedars, the quiet guardians. As we continued to approach, I felt a widening sensation in my being, and a deep knowing that we were being watched, not by people, nor any one thing in particular, but that it was the land itself watching us. I’ve been to many rural areas in Ontario, and even in the city I could feel the presence of the trees, but so far being in Aspdin has been the most obvious and palpable experience I have felt without needing to first shift my attention to tune into the energy. Each motion forward in the car was not unnoticed, and the gentle pattering of the falling snow that day seemed to accentuate a stark quietness that added to the feeling of the weight of the Earth, the heaviness of the tree spirits and energy of Bear medicine.
It made me uncomfortable at first, I wasn’t exactly sure why at the time, but in order to make sense of it I had to put words to it, and thought that perhaps I was being confronted with feeling small and insignificant in comparison to the land. But being across so many empty landscapes in my travels, this idea didn’t seem exactly true. What I eventually came to understand is that this feeling was a confrontation of my wounds, wounds that had to do with my own physical presence and permission to claim space on this Earth, giving me in a not so gentle way, a major grounding and rooting in my being, because I could no longer pretend that I wasn’t there.
The energy of Bear teaches us how to be in material form, setting clear boundaries with confidence and grace. Helping us to live in our bodies and to enjoy the physical bounty of what earth has to offer, so that we be nourished. I have never seen the bears, yet I could clearly feel their presence. Even the trees had given me messages of their presence when I sat to connect with them. The trees seemed to echo the same messages about claiming space, because it was through their witnessing and recognition of me that I also recognized and witnessed them, and so there was a reciprocal exchange and respect created by being fully here. Another time I went there, the energy was so palpable that I was caught off guard by something that I thought had grazed my arm, and when I turned to look to the side I saw a large row of trees several feet away, and I knew this energy was coming from them. So this feeling that started out as uncomfortable changed into something beautiful and unexpected.
I'm very grateful to have always been connected to people that can aid me in getting out of the city, and my partner and I do a fair bit of travelling around Ontario. With each visit to Aspdin, the intensity of the discomfort or heaviness of the Earth feels less and less, so this is how I know I am healing. Always this gets me thinking about our understanding of life, of our humanness, in connection to the land. Our place with the land is what fosters our growth, how we heal with and from the land is entirely dependent on our environments, and each environment is completely unique. Not all rocks of the same mineral compounds have the same energy, not all plants of the same species have the same effect, because of their unique place. I also think about how we see ourselves in relationship to the land, and how often do we become consumed by our own monumental creations in the city? It may not be as apparent until you go to a place where the roads are old, and houses are few and far between, and the cedar and sumac you taste and smell in the hills are far different and richer than the ones growing a few hours south.
One night during ceremony in April, I was the last to re-enter the sweat lodge to take my position in the North. the energy of spring was still fresh, being a little further north from Toronto, the warming of the earth and the growth of plants was slightly delayed and so we were directly in relationship to the tenderness of the first sprouts beneath our feet. They were like the younger siblings of the old trees whose presence knew nothing of shyness. All around were seedlings of mosses, ferns, and trout lilies, with patches of exposed hard ground. My bare feet massaging the soil were aching from the cold, sending pain up my legs and uncontrollable shivers. Eventually I felt a subtle tug at my energy, something telling me to look down, and as I sent my attention to the earth below me, I could literally feel the ground warm up, just enough to keep my feet warm, and then the shivers stopped. I was astonished at this response from the Earth Mother herself, a response to a prayer to keep warm, that I didn’t even know I was making. And I knew, what would happen afterwards, that once I moved from the spot I would feel the cold ground again, because it was the ground that was warming me, not some physical response in my body. And so, after everyone entered the lodge, and when it was my turn to go, the walk back was cold, but I was grateful for this because this was to know that the Earth truly is alive, and she is generous.