Aging and Kinship by Sara Wright
When I moved to the mountains my children were grown and gone…
Finally I had land of ‘my’ own with a brook and mountains that was surrounded by forests. I felt protected by something I could not name. I was living on the edge of wilderness and a hunger I had been carrying for all of my adult life was finally appeased.
Although I had a vegetable and flower garden I felt a deep reluctance to cut trees and eventually lost most of my field to pines. When I finally built my log cabin, I did plant fruit trees, but every action was predicated on my need to give back to nature what she had given to me.
It was at this midlife crossroad that nature took me to her like the mother I never had. My little brother came to life again as my companion, although now he took the form of every animal I saw, and here there were many, bears and ravens included.
Nature became the Beloved… I had so much love to give. Today, allowing the land to care for herself, to determine her own fate would be called re- wilding.
In retrospect my kinship with this patch of woods and stream changed my life, turning me into even more of an Outsider because virtually no one I knew felt the way I did. I was labeled strange, different, crazy, and dismissed. I remember a stupid neighbor once telling me that he could never just grow flowers when I decided to give up my vegetable garden (except for herbs and tomatoes). The point of such a remark still escapes me but obviously being in love with flowers just because they were beautiful had no meaning for him.
Nurturing the land, planting flowers that attracted pollinators, trees that attracted birds and insects and eventually giving up my vegetable garden, created more space for wildflowers, wild grasses, mosses and ferns. I created a vernal pool around a small spring to raise frogs each April; I wildcrafted herbs to use medicinally most from my backyard and didn’t care if my grass was ever cut! Although I wasn’t yet aware of the sanctuary I was creating, I was amazed by the abundance of wildlife, rabbits, hares, foxes, coyotes wolves and bears that were regular visitors. With all this non – human activity occurring all around me I became an even more keen observer. I kept yearly records and wrote about the lives of the animals around me publishing my work in different venues. Most important I honed my observer skills…Every one of my ceremonies reflected the seasonal shifts. I followed the Celtic calendar but created my own rituals, all of which became more and more fluid as the years wore on. Professionally, I taught, wrote, and did counseling on the side. In this manner many years passed. Aging crept up on me slowly without much awareness. I did notice some changes. It became more difficult to keep up with the amount of winter shoveling etc. I started to fear the winter months. I was becoming an old woman…
Aging is a challenge. It doesn’t help that there is a great silence around growing old even among feminists. This creates a unique form of loneliness. Last year I broke my foot shoveling ice, and this second break terrified me and destroyed my confidence regarding my physical abilities. I put my beloved home up for sale in a panic only to discover that the trees wouldn’t let me go…
My problem remained unsolved. I had to make a choice to go elsewhere for my own safety, but I had so little money.
With this in mind I applied for an apartment for low – income folks. Finally, this January a space opened up. I was ready to leave for the winter until I actually started to move. The kind man who offered to help fell down stairs carrying the very first piece of furniture. The fall knocked him unconscious with me calling 911 and witnessing more blood than I have ever seen… Overcome with horror I went numb initially, but the trauma lives on… for both of us, each for different reasons.
Two more men I barely knew stepped in and by the end of January the five small pieces of furniture got moved in one afternoon and I did the rest myself in between snowstorms. A monumental task.
It was too late to drain the pipes for financial reasons, so I decided to leave the house ready for occupation and keep checking…
I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this apartment. I discovered I couldn’t write there. I missed my birds, my trees the mountain I lean against – oh a thousand things. I am too lonely for home, for grouse and turkey convocations, for sunrises and sunsets and a real forest of trees….My support system is gone.
My rational mind tells me that I am fortunate to have any place to go – but my body senses a death of soul – I cannot relax in this environment – it feels alien.
I feel alien. Puzzled by my state of mind it wasn’t until I was listening to Richard Powers talk about kinship that I finally understood that by leaving I had lost the only family I knew and loved. My land.
I am walking on air.
I am not like other people. My attachment to trees, animals, sunrises, one mountain (I could go on here) grounds me in my body. Nature is my family. Without that visceral connection I am lost.
Kinship is about relationship, it is also about belonging, being a part of a tribe. My tribe just happens to be made up of non- human creatures and plants. I am even related to all of them through my DNA! Every tree and bird reminds me that I belong to my land. When I stand on the wooden floorof my house I feel the earth reaching up through my feet.
Kindly people assure me I will make the adjustment but my heart- body says otherwise.
I have 11 months to decide if I can find a way to make this work. I am profoundly grateful that I don’t have to think about selling my house just yet. I am keeping an open mind – because if this does not work out – then what? Meanwhile I go home for days at a time – coming and going like nomad. When I get home all I want to do is sleep.
I have no answers, only questions – and the hope that some clarity will come. Meanwhile I share this personal narrative in the hope that some older women will begin to ask their own questions about how they will manage when aging overtakes them too.
BIO: Sara Wright is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.
Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Eco-systems, environment, Environmental Spirituality, General, Mother Earth