I’m not sure what keeps drawing me back to animism.
People have described the call as a profound connection, a comfort, a sense of holiness. Wandering any mossy forest or looking up at the cliffs of a waterfall, I do feel those things. Yet I remain unsatisfied with the language.
When I was thirteen, my mom and I took an impromptu road trip through Oregon. We spent one night at a cottage on the Columbia – a little ADU, essentially, of a farm. We arrived just before sundown to fields of tall, golden grass. The farmer greeted us with a basket of fruit, bread, and jams from local shops in town. My mom opened the windows to let the autumn breeze in, and chatted with him. I went outside to listen to the twenty or so new songs I had loaded on my iPod shuffle.
Perhaps it was the combination of a picturesque Oregon autumn and piano in my earbuds that moved me to tears.
Maybe it was a sudden appreciation for the quality time with my mom when she was in her best years.
Perhaps it was the growing awareness of myself as an aging human being who was no longer a child.
Whatever it was, as I walked through the fields towards a woodland, I felt older. I felt wizened. I felt grateful. I felt held by the landscape, as if she herself were observing me in this mundane yet sacred moment as a young woman at a bed and breakfast while road tripping with her mother.
It wasn’t the first time I was overwhelmed by a deep trust in nature, nor the last. I think most childhoods offer the experience of an unburdened trust in nature.
But it is the same time of year – early September – as the road trip we took so long ago. And I remember that farm, those golden grasses, my mother’s face, the shape of the clouds, and the colors of sunset. I remember the smell of water. I remember feeling the spiritual presence of these things at 13, a magically potent age, and the awareness of my own growth into womanhood. All in a moment. All in a place. All in the presence of earth spirits.
As I interact with my six month old daughter, I can’t help but imagine what faraway places I’ll take her to. I imagine tucked away mountain towns and charming agricultural communities. I imagine places with and without people. I imagine using my own best years to give her opportunities to love the land, and feel it love her in return.
Ah — maybe that’s the thing that keeps drawing me back to animism. Love. Love and reciprocity.