Black Hills Solstice

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Originally posted on June 22nd, 2022

I came with the assumption that I needed to heal the land because it was one of my gifts. I again got my ass handed to me by the land, because they showed me they didn’t need the gifts of one human to show up and start paying attention. How grandiose was my thinking that I, as a single person, could heal a big, beautiful land spirit as resilient as the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The land speaks to people in dreams, ideas, and inspirations. When I spoke to the land, I saw how it helped animate the people who lived there. Time and time again, I have seen people who don’t do any shamanic practices at all, follow the will of the land just by paying attention to their dreams.

I originally made a plan to travel through this region to meet up with someone very dear to me. We’ve known each other for many years, and I choose to keep in contact because they have become (and still are) a great teacher for me. They are very fundamentalist, and it can be hard to connect on many levels without moving into judgment myself. I saw how they are in living in such disharmonious ways with the earth, and how their practices of fear keep them stuck in some of these mental loops. The question was not how can I change them, but the real question was: How can I love them just the way they are and still be present in this relationship while still honoring my boundaries?

Thus I felt called to get an AirBnB instead of staying with them. I depart from their place to land here at a lovely home where I get to rent out the basement (my son and I both have food allergies, so it’s difficult to travel. We prefer having our own kitchen, especially since he is injured and on crutches at the moment) of a lovely couple. The husband in the relationship is an army veteran. I have a soft spot in my heart for veterans because my dad is one.

I felt so motivated by how this original person was living in such disharmonious ways with the earth, that I wanted to offer some healing to this land in apology, on behalf of humanity. The land shoved it back in my face, saying it didn’t need to be healed “in that way”. But I was called to this particular plot of land for a reason. I was shown how the land owner here has been such a good steward of this property, that the land has gotten to know his heart. Even though this man uses grasses that aren’t native to this area, trees brought in from different countries/regions, etc. The land loved him anyway because he tended the land and the garden here so well. No, it wasn’t perfect, but the man listened to his heart and dreams.

In that process of the land getting to know his heart through his actions of tending, the land noticed that something was missing. This is common for veterans who come back from war and get diagnosed with PTSD. They are missing vital parts of their essence that don’t get returned to them because of the trauma they experience while in service to our country.

So I reached out to the land, compelled by my compassion to heal the land for how heartbroken I was to see humans living out of relationship with the earth. And instead the land asked a favor of me to help heal the man whose property I happen to be staying on. I felt how deeply the land cared for this man, and how honest the ask was to help because it couldn’t understand the human complexities of war and PTSD. So I did a soul retrieval for this man. Instead of giving the soul parts back to the human (which is what I get paid for and what I do for my clients, but I had no consent from the human in this case), I gave it to the land as a custodian. The land agreed this would be the best fit, for as he tended the land, the land could slowly gift him back his soul parts as he was ready.

This whole interaction reminded me of this excerpt from a book I’m listening to with my son as we travel across country together. The book is, “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” by Kent Nerburn, in which he writes a book based off of his relationship with a Dakota elder who asks for his help to write a book. To protect his identity, in the book, he refers to him as Dan.

Dan thus writes, “Hello, my friends. I am going to speak to you now. I have thought about this for many years. I have always tried to follow the ways of my grandfathers. In my ears I have heard the words of Sitting Bull, telling me that white people are not to be trusted. But I have also heard the words of Black Kettle, who told us to reach out a hand of peace. I have carried them both in my heart. Now that I am old I have decided to speak. There are many of my people who would have me keep silent. They feel we must continue to hide ourselves from the white man. They say that every time we have offered our hand we have been destroyed. But there is no more place to hide. The white man controls the air we breathe and the water we drink. He comes among us for good and for ill. Our numbers are small, but we are strong in heart. The Creator did not put our people here to be destroyed and forgotten…The voice of our people needs to be heard. If I remain silent, our voice is silenced by one. So I choose to speak. If at times my words seem angry, you must forgive me. In my mind, there is great anger. No one who has seen the suffering of our children and the tears of our grandmothers can not be angry. But in my heart I struggle to forgive, because the land is my teacher, and the land says to forgive. If the mountain can forgive the scarring and the mining, and can cover over her gashes with the fresh grasses of summer, should I not, too, be able to cover over the gashes with the fresh grasses of kindness and understanding? If the forest can survive the murder of all her children, and rise again once more in beauty, should I not, too, be able to survive the murder of my people and once again raise my heart toward the sun? It is not easy for a man to be as great as a mountain or a forest. But that is why the Creator gave them to us as teachers. Now that I am old I look once more toward them for lessons, instead of trying to understand the ways of men. They tell me to be patient. They tell me I cannot change what is, I can only hope to change what will become. Let the grasses grow over our scars, they say, and let the flowers bloom over our wounds. If I have spoken too much, or spoken wrongly, may others speak out to make it right. If I have spoken truly, may others hear the words and take them to their hearts. I am only a man. I was not given a seat at the head of my people and I was not raised up to speak for them. I say these things because I believe they must be said. Others may come who can say them better. When they do, I will stand aside. But I am old, and I cannot wait. I have chosen to speak. I will be silent no more.”

How fitting that quote comes from a man who has generations rooted in this very land that I stand on right now.

The land taught me a lesson that I needed to hear. It knocked me down a few pegs, and I am filled with gratitude at how life is already working, we just need to get on board and be in the flow of healing. I am here for it. I am grateful for the opportunity to sit and listen to what is needed at the moment. And I’m also happy to step out of the way.

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