Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shaping and mapping: sacred and symbolic

Native Americans are said to treat as sacred the point of convergence of two creeks. I looked at some land with this feature many years ago, and I tried to breathe-in the sense of the sacred rooted in that place. Last night Joe explains this by saying that such convergences are sound map references. ("I'll meet you just past the fork in the creek.") How tempting it would be to think of the sacred as at least emerging with the discernment of a kind of natural writing, in which rivers draw lines on the land, and lines intersect, as in many letters of the alphabet. In such ways, the land begins to map itself. And in this doubling, this natural/symbolic laminate, perhaps we can find something of the sacred. (But what word did/do native americans actually use?)

This morning I started up the new road again, expecting (like last night) to find more clusters of deer, with their white flash tails marking their darting flight. Instead I found myself tidying up the rocks on the side of the road, forming a ring around the new rock cairn/roadside sculpture. Suddenly, chaos is turned into order, through minor rearrangement. And yet every rock I moved was the shelter for worms, beetles, larvae, and channel and tunnel patterns that would now be destroyed.

I could lament this, or celebrate the ongoing shaping and reshaping of the world that is our common task. Each rock in the new circle will provide a new shelter for insects etc. And out their windows, they will have an up-market view - of the cairn. Elsewhere at YB there are walls (stone fences), some of which seem functional (marking boundaries) and others not - just lines in the woods. They may have been made by gangs of slaves after emancipation who wandered around looking for work. Farmers would (I believe) have them clear rocks off the land so it could be ploughed, and these walls began at least as just neat ways of stacking them! There is a civil war 'monument' at the top of my neigbour's ridge. Or is it just a big pile of rocks, cleared from the surrounding area. Now a landmark. How the symbolic is born from the practical.

P.S. And why do deer exhibit their flight so vividly with those white lines on their erect tails. Couldn't a predator track them more easily?