I see you, beautiful, layered ridges of the Appalachian mountains: your peaks against the blue winter sky, the mist arises from the snow while the Imbolc sun comes out to warm you just enough. Below that, your frozen bones await the spring’s return.
I look upon you with love in my heart. You, who have sheltered me since my birth.
You who have provided the nutrients that formed my blood, my bones, and my heart.
You, who I will return to when I die to once again rejoin the great cycle of life.
You are the most beautiful and wise being that I know.
You are one of the oldest beings on this planet: 1.2 billion years old. Your blue-green ridges spad hundreds of miles. You have been here since before all of the present rivers, the trees, and even before humans evolved. Dinosaurs once roamed your peaks, and ice ages and glaciers came and went. You still bear the marks of those ancient icy behemoths and the piles of stones that they left as they melted.
You have been here since before any modern notions of time.
And you have survived.
Men come and dig into your flesh and extract the coal in your veins. They come again and take the trees from your ridges. Not yet having enough, they come to remove the top of your peaks. They strip you bare and leave you damaged. They come yet again, to splinter your foundations and inject your bones with poison, fracking you to get every last bit of fossil fuel. And still, that’s not enough. They pillage you, taking all that is alive on you and leaving nothing but stones. Your forests are destroyed by fracking wells and oil roads and pipelines.
The last three centuries they have taken and taken and taken from you. Now humans have irrevocably altered the very climate that circles around you.
And they keep saying to you, give us more.
And still, you radiate love. And still, when I walk into the forest that was cut down so many times perhaps we’ve both lost count, what am I greeted with? The most medicinal and healing mushroom on the planet–the sacred Reishi. You respond with healing and love. Despite what they continue to you, you heal, you grow. You embrace me and others who visit in peace and love.
I love all of you.
I love your yellowed rivers with acid drainage and orange along the banks.
I love your damaged places, the places no one else wants to see.
I loved your regrowing forest, life springing up from the old stumps.
I love your mushrooms, transforming death into new life.
I even love the places the humans have killed, the forest that used to be there that is now a field they extract for soybeans.
I love you, and I chose to see all of you, even your most damaged places.
You teach me to remember through you. How things were. How things will be again.
I know how quickly you would reclaim that poisoned field.
I know how quickly your forests regrow with new life.
I know that these iron-filled streams will run clear, and they will be full of fish and life and joy once more.
The name of my home, the Alleghenies, stands true to those ancestors of the land who once lived here. Who loved and honored you before time began. And whose memory I carry into the future.
I am so honored that you speak with me. That you consider me your friend, your companion, your caretaker.
I choose to walk with you through this darkness. I witness how you have given so much, and you are still asked to give more and more. Understand that your children cherish and honor you.
We are holding space and making change.
We are the land healers, the guardians, the caretakers, the rewilders, the regenerators. We stand hand and hand during this dark time, when the wind bites our faces and the frost freezes our toes and say to all who will listen, “We are here. We aren’t going anywhere!” Please believe we are all working so hard to bring a better future into being.
All that I am is yours. I stand by your side through the light and through the darkness. I bear will witness so that you are not alone.
As I walk in your forests, we remind each other that life is a cycle and a season.
And while human civilization here has sold its future for a greedy present, we hold our breath and know change is coming.
Things may still grow darker and more difficult.
And yet we both know that spring will return.
Writing and Sharing Love Letters to the Land
One morning in mid-January, I was struck by the beauty of the land where I live, the land that I protect and call home. The mists were rising up from the mountains. I was driving through the beautiful mountains to visit my parents. While everything looked so serene and covered in snow, I knew of the deeply damaged places nearby. I was brought to tears and pulled out my journal to compose this–a love letter–to the Allegheny mountains right there by the side of the road! This love letter, a form of free verse poem, flowed out of me. Since then, I’ve taken the poem into the mountains to read it, share it, and converse with the Alleghneies. They have been most grateful, for this act of healing and hope.
I would like to encourage you to go out and write your own love letter to your landscape. Go to a place that you love and see what words or movements or songs flow through you. Write it down. Don’t worry about your grammar, spelling, or words. Just share your love letter from the heart, sharing your love for the land, your hopes, your fears, and your dreams. This is important healing work for all of us. Our beloved lands need to hear such things right now, especially in this time of growing darkness and death. And we, the people who hold space for the land, also need to share and grow.
As part of your love letter, might also meditate on important questions: How can I serve my land? How can I be a force of good during this dark time? What does the land need from me? What do I need from the land? How can I create conditions of mutuality and reciprocity so that we both can heal and bring balance? These aren’t easy questions, but they are the questions of our time.
Greedy, selfish humans will continue to do what they do here in these beautiful mountains and wherever you might live. But that doesn’t stop people like us, the healers, the nurturers, and the agents of change. Change is coming–can you feel it in the air? There is a growing new paradigm that is being birthed right now, and brining that positive future vision starts with all of us. Hope emerges again. And the earth rebalances itself. And we can be part of that beautiful movement.
So, write some love letters to your lands to remind them of the work are all doing and the hope that is in our hearts.
And when you’ve written your letter, go share it with your land. Shout it into the wind, let is spill from your lips like the babbling brook. Let the river carry it and the wind carry your love.
And if you feel up to it, share it here! Let’s create a beautiful set of love letters to show the land our care.
Announcements: Land Healing Book
If you are excited about this kind of work, I encourage you to preorder my Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth. The new book comes out in North America on March 28th and internationally on May 29th. I hope this book can help start or continue conversations about our role as human beings on this beautiful planet and the good we can do on behalf of all. The book has been written as much by the beautiful Alleghneys as it has by myself. All of my proceeds from the book will go to support land healing organizations including the United Plant Savers and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. As part of this work, I’ll also be sharing more about a new land healer’s network, a community I hope to build to do this work intentionally and meaningfully in many places.
Also, tomorrow (Monday, Feb 11th) I will be going live on Instagram with REDFeather and my editor Crystal Mannara at 12pm EST to talk about the book. Here’s a link to where it will be streaming!