A few weekends ago, some friends and I drove up to Michigan. I was born and raised in Nebraska, and I live there still – a land of wide brown rivers, a dome of blue sky stretching out overhead, and miles of open field in all directions. Of course we have cities; I even live in one! But when you go somewhere to “experience nature” or be in a natural setting, that’s usually what it looks like.
As we drove farther north, that all changed. The trees grew skinnier and infinitely taller. The grass, the underbrush, everything became greener. The sky was blue (or more often, gray) patches glimpsed through high-up branches that seemed stark and barren. Small rocks, bigger rocks, even boulders littered the landscape; and every once in awhile we glimpsed a glittering blue lake peeking through those thin trees.
For me, it was incredibly jarring. I liked those strange trees and the chill in the air well enough, but they seemed so alien. I didn’t know what to expect from the moss that crept across the ground, the bright orange mushrooms that sprung up underfoot, or the strange songs of the unfamiliar birds. It made me so homesick.
Not for my family or the people I love, though I certainly missed them, but for the land and the spirits I knew. I felt suddenly cut off from something I am usually connected to without being fully aware of it. I felt a little out of place, a little awkward, especially during portions of ritual where the nature spirits were offered to.
Of course I gave offerings and thanks to the wights of the lands where I was, but it was difficult to do so while not feeling that intimate connection. I wondered as I drove home – is this how some people who primarily connect to the Gods feel at another pantheon’s (or another deity’s) ritual?
Perhaps this is the reason I am able to connect with and get meaningful experiences from most Pagan rituals that I attend, be they Heathen, ADF, or Wiccan. Almost every ritual includes at least a cursory acknowledgement of the spirits of the land, whether they are called wights or just spirits of the earth.
When I am in my home, my land that I know and love, with these wights I have known since I was a tiny baby laying in the grass, I am a part of something wonderful. Not just the vague “I am a part of all things”, but like being part of a family.
I know the river, I know its tributaries, I know the color of the frogs and the fish that swim Her waters. And She knows me: my wrinkled baby feet years and years ago, my grandmother’s thin legs as we wade across, my children who gasp with excitement at wonders so new to their eyes.
This is relationship. This is Home. And while I love visiting other locales and enjoying all the beauty they have to offer, I don’t think I can ever leave this place for good. It has set down roots in my soul – or perhaps more accurately, I have set the roots of my soul in its soil.